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Garmin Vivoactive Continued

So another article on the Garmin Vivoactive!

As you know, I’ve done a few other articles on the Garmin Vivoactive (here and here). However, I can add a bit more to the continued “series” now! I’ve tested the device on Android (a Wileyfox Swift, a British mobile phone brand) and can now compare this to iOS, which I had been running it on.

The Wileyfox is running Cyanogen OS, so results might be slightly different on other Android phones with different brands.

There are some differences between how the device is seen on Android and on iOS.

Settings

Settings is where the first difference is spotted.

iOS and Android Settings

The iOS menu doesn’t have an option for default music player and it doesn’t have the option for smart notifications.

The default music player setting is as you might expect – you can change what app the controls on the watch will adjust – as Android lets you change the default music player, this allows you to control Spotify or any other audio program.

The smart notifications section is a bit different.

Smart notifications

On Android, you can change the settings of the watch to only allow notifications from specific apps, whereas on iOS, it sends everything and the only way to prevent certain apps is to prevent certain apps from showing notifications. This gives far more control over the content that you want to see on your watch and perhaps be disturbed for. There are a number of default options built in but depending on the Android ROM you’re using, you might have to add in some apps you might consider as important – on my Cyanogen phone, it didn’t have the Cyanogen default email client or text message app included by default so I had to add these. However, be aware, you can suddenly swamp yourself with messages as well. I turned on Google Music so I could set it to download music and notify me when done or similar, yet it would inform me whenever Google Music changed track which was a bit to much, vibrating every couple of minutes whilst I was driving home from work!

Syncing

The Vivoactive syncs to the phone via bluetooth (or low energy bluetooth to be exact). This works on both iOS and Android.

However, the implementation of bluetooth between Android and iOS is different. On both, you have to pair the phone via the Garmin Connect app, which makes sense as you’re associating the app with bluetooth device. On iOS, this is then seen via the phone bluetooth devices list – iOS forces everything to be seen via the main bluetooth menu and can be shared between apps. It makes adding my Wahoo heart rate sensor fairly easy.

Yet, on Android, it seems that bluetooth devices can be linked to a specific app and don’t necessarily show up on the Android main bluetooth devices list. In the image below, the Vivoactive is paired to each device but in the Android one, it doesn’t show up as being attached or paired, whilst iOS is displaying it within the settings.

Bluetooth Devices

Perhaps this isn’t an issue in general, with the exception that one of the perks of using a smart watch with Android is that you can disable the lock screen if connected to specific bluetooth device. For example, my car is connected to my phone (when I’m in it) and therefore I can set the lock screen to be disabled whilst I’m in the car. Likewise, my smart watch, as a bluetooth device, could also be setup to disable my lock screen – a perk that’s worthwhile as the Android device I’m using doesn’t have the equivalent of the Touch ID sensor allowing access with my fingerprint.

That is the theory anyhow – as the device doesn’t show up in the standard Android menu, it cant be set to unlock the phone! It means that you’d have to use an Android Wear device (or maybe a Pebble?) – either way, the Vivoactive isn’t able to act as a trusted device to unlock the phone. This can be set for locations if you want, but I’m testing a third party app (Delayed Lock) that does it based on wifi connections, as well as other items, such as bluetooth devices.

One of the issues I had with the Vivoactive was that you could pull down to refresh on the iOS app but this wouldn’t actually force a sync – in fact, there was no way to force a manual sync on iOS. This meant that I would be limited to the standard iOS refresh rate, which seemed to be as and when it feels like it. On Android, pull to refresh works as it should and even opening the app starts a sync with the watch.

GPS

One comment I had was that at times, the GPS could be slow to acquire – once it’s connected, it seems to work perfectly fine (compare last weeks walk recorded on the Vivoactive and todays’ walk, using the Wileyfox Strava app). Zooming in you can see that the GPS tracks on the Vivoactive are a lot more accurate than the phone. Both were in similar positions (the watch on my wrist and the phone in my pocket).

It doesn’t seem that communicating with the phone helps the watch acquire GPS signal any quicker. It’s a shame as perhaps the Garmin app could help determine the initial location and then the watch could get a more accurate fix from the GPS satellites. After all, the phone is able to use mobile mast triangulation and wifi databases to help get a location before the GPS kicks in. I’d like to see Garmin bring the speed of the initial start down if possible. It is quicker if you enable GLONASS as well, but I think this drains the battery fairly rapidly – I’d look into testing this in the future.

Overall

It seems that either Android allows for better compatibility with a smart watch (which wouldn’t surprise me) or the Android app is better coded and doesn’t suffer some of the same issues as the iOS app. Either way, it seems that unfortunately, the Android phone I’ve got is just better suited to being used with a smart phone – I’ll just have to determine if I can leave my iPhone behind and go back to Android again!

In the week I’ve been testing the phone and watch, Android has been consistently better with the watch than iOS which is disappointing. It’s hard to pin down exactly where the issue is as well – iOS limitations or poor coding on Garmin’s behalf. Considering the Android app works perfectly, I’m almost tempted to say this is an iOS issue. Which is a shame, as I’ve begun to find a smart watch is a useful tool.

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