Garmin Vivofit 3 vs Vivofit 2 – 5 Key Differences


This post is old and new Vivofits have been released since. Why not compare the Vivofit 4 vs the Vivofit 3?

Announced at the Mobile World Congress in Barcelona, the Vivofit 3 is Garmin’s latest lifestyle tracking wearable and the natural successor to the Vivofit 2.

But can a major redesign and improved features win over fitness fanatics from the likes of Fitbit and Jawbone? Here’s my comparison of how the Vivofit 3 differs from the Vivofit 2.

Move IQ

Garmin’s new algorithm features on the Vivofit 3 and Vivoactive HR. Move IQ claims to automatically recognise different movements such as walking, running, biking, swimming* and elliptical training. Rather than having to log each activity separately, the Vivofit 3 will automatically add them to the Daily Details page within the Garmin Connect app.

If it sounds farfetched, Move IQ is similar to the SmartTrack feature already announced in the Fitbit Alta. No doubt both will need a proper testing to see how effective they are at recording activity accurately. If an activity is logged incorrectly on the Vivofit 3, you’ll be able to edit it within Garmin Connect.

Move IQ is also used to determine which sport is being performed whilst the Activity Timer is switched on. It’s a handy little time saver. Move IQ isn’t available on the Vivofit 2.

* Note – for swimming the Vivoactive will only measure time of activity, it can’t measure strokes or distance like a Forerunner 920XT can.

Intensity minutes

A recent revamp of the Garmin Connect app shows Intensity minutes are a much more focal point on the homescreen. Here, Garmin automatically splits out the more laborious movements from the basic standing and walking around to motivate users into being more active.

Intensity minutes also feature on the new Vivosmart HR, where users are encouraged to achieve 150 intensity minutes (2.5 hours) per week. Again, this type of tracking isn’t present on the Vivofit 2.

Read my in-depth review of the Vivofit 3 to see Intensity Minutes and Move IQ put through their paces.

Same battery life. Less batteries

Both the Vivofit 2 and 3 use replaceable CR1632 coin cells to power the wearable. These small, flat discs are the sort of battery you’ll find in standard digital watches (those normal watches which don’t connect to your phone).

Panasonic CR1632 Battery

Whereas the Vivofit 2 uses two cells to power the unit for a whole year, the Vivofit 3 needs just a single battery to achieve the same life span. It’s not a huge difference but does mean you get to save some pennies or cents on batteries over the course of using a Vivofit as your wearable of choice.

Smaller display, more data on show

The older Vivofit 2 was restricted to showing one metric per screen. You’d have to press the raised button to cycle through settings; time, date, steps, step goal, estimated distance, calories.


The new square screen does display numbers smaller, but allows for step counter and time to be shown at the same time, making it easier for a quick glance. The new shape also allows the option to display an analogue clock face.

The button remains underneath the screen but now appears flatter to touch. Once available I’ll test whether going through the options is more useable.

New Fashionable straps

Unlike the Vivosmart HR, you can pop out the computer part of any Vivofit into a range of design straps. You wouldn’t wear your gym clothes on a night out, so why wear the same band all the time? Save the sweaty one for the gym to preserve the quality of your wearable.

The Jonathan Adler range makes a return with exclusive Vivofit 3 designs in green, blue, purple and grey.

Jonathan Adler - Vivofit 3

In addition, a new Gabrielle and Alexandra style collection debuts on the Vivofit 3, which definitely looks more targeted towards the female market. Whereas the Vivofit 2 optional bands differentiated by colours, the new accessory line-up offers new shapes, grooves and textures.

Gabrielle and Alexandra - Vivofit 3

What’s the same?

Though I’ve listed some pretty major changes above, there are many features across both Vivofit models which haven’t changed. A quick run through these…

The Same Waterproofing

Both Vivofits have a 5ATM Water Rating, giving it the thumbs up for wearing whilst showering, swimming and even snorkeling. Neither are recommended to be worn during scuba diving or high-speed watersports.

The Same lock mechanism

The original Vivofit was a nuisance for falling off the wrist, to the point where a clasp or “Vivokeeper” was needed to keep the overlapping strap attached to the unit. It’s good to see the Vivofit 3 has kept the T-Shaped clasp which was introduced in the second release; it locks together when rotated 90 degrees so very difficult to fall off.

Move Bar

The “red bar of shame” also makes a return, albeit smaller in length. Stay stationary for too long and this bar creeps up every 15 minutes to max as a reminder that you need to walk around and shake those legs off for a couple of minutes. Both devices can alert you either with the visible red bar, or with a chime noise; a visual queue is enough for me though so I tend to switch off the audio.

Compatible with a heart rate monitor

Both wearables can connect to a chest strap heart rate monitor over ANT+ so you can layer beats per minute over your activity data. Could be interesting if you decide to go on the odd hike or bike ride to tell a more detailed picture of your workout. A bundle version of Vivofit 2 and Garmin HR monitor is available off the shelf, for the Vivofit 3 however you’ll have to buy this separately.

Activity Timer

You can manually select to log an activity. Useful if you’re going to spend an hour at the gym but doing a mixture of movements which a Vivofit wouldn’t recognise all as the same activity.

Automatic Sleep tracking

Usually kicks in within 20 minutes of lying down, it’s now common for most of Garmin’s devices to track sleep duration calculated through the amount of movement you made in the night.

Garmin Vivofit 3 vs Vivofit 2 Verdict

These are the biggest changes we’ve seen in the Vivofit range. The key improvement for the Vivofit 3 seems to be that Garmin are focusing on making activity tracking more autonomous; automatically recognising the exercise type and intensity without the user having to log it.

Order the Garmin Vivofit

Vivofit 3

Garmin Vivofit 3 BlackLinks to Amazon

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Vivofit 2

vivofit-2-whiteLinks to Amazon

Buy Now

About Author

I'm a super keen injured runner with over 20 years experience in races and endurance training. Get in touch with me over Twitter, G+ on in the comments below.


    • Hey Bev

      Do you own a Vivofit 3 already? The device doesn’t have one built in, but you should be able to connect a chest strap wirelessly. Garmin state on their Vivofit 3 spec “Optional heart rate monitor”. There were bundles of heart rate strap and Vivofit 2 butI haven’t seen any released for the Vivofit 3 yet :/

      If you’re after a Garmin activity tracker with a HR monitor on the wrist, you could always for the Vivosmart HR.

      Did that help?

  1. Hi Rob

    Two questions…first, is the Vivofit 3 waterproof. I assume it is but the write up doesn’t specifically say if it is.

    Second, I currently use a Polar chest strap HR monitor. I know that my monitor readings can be picked up by the treadmill at the gym. I was wondering if the Vivofit 3 would also work with the Polar HR monitor?

    • Hi Karen

      You’re right that the Vivofit 3 does have some waterproofing. Garmin have approved it with a water rating of 5ATM, which means it can handle showers, swimming and even a bit of snorkelling. It may struggle with some watersports though it that’s what you’re into. Full guide on how Garmin rate their water proofing across devices here

      Unfortunately I don’t own a Polar HR monitor to test this out for you. From what I can see is the Vivofit 3 connects up other sensors like Heart Rate monitors over ANT+ connectivity. From a bit of reading it doesn’t look like Polar uses this and uses Bluetooth instead. The Vivofit 3 can connect to a phone over Bluetooth but CAN’T use Bluetooth to connect to HR monitors. So I reckon the answer is no to your question.


  2. hello from Thailand

    thank you for your comparison. i have some questions here.

    i am currently own vivosmart hr. i use it for a running too. it normally track as a running activity and can be synced directly to Endomondo app. i wonder if this vivofit3 can do the same?

    thank you in advance


    • Hey Champ

      I’ve just written an in-depth review on the Vivofit 3 which you might be interested in.

      I’m assuming you’ve given Endomondo permissions to your Garmin Connect account? I’ve done similar with Strava, so when I used the Activity Timer on the Vivofit 3 to go for a run, the information was automatically pushed to Strava. I don’t have an Endomondo account, but I assume it will in the same process that you’re using for the Vivosmart HR.

      Note – You have to use the Activity Timer to do this. When I didn’t use it, and expected Move IQ to automatically detect my running, it added it to the Daily Details page, but not the Running activity log which sports apps like Strava and Endomondo will use for their activity feeds.

  3. I wanted to get one for my 11 year old daughter, do you think the original one would be ok? We don’t want anything fancy.

    • Hey

      The Vivofit Jr is a pretty good shout.It may be a better fit on the wrist with incentives which may be more appealing for a child, it’s also $10 cheaper on Amazon at $49.99 for Black Friday.

  4. I like my Garmin Vivofit 2 and have not replaced the battery since I bought it in 2015. Still runs like a gem.
    I lost the USB Ant Stick. Where can I buy another one in Colorado and will it be compatible to my Vivofit 2?
    Thank you

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