ASUS is no stranger to the smartwatch market; its ZenWatch is one of the classiest Android Wear smartwatches out there. But its newest wearable, the VivoWatch, targets a very different type of smartwatch user: fitness freaks.
The VivoWatch is all about health and wellness, monitoring: steps, calories, heart rate, sleep quality and even UV level. In fact, with the exception of caller ID and SMS alerts, you won't be getting any notifications from your phone. In other words, the VivoWatch is a fitness wearable first, and a smartphone companion second.
But with so many fitness wearables already available, can the VivoWatch find a place in the market? Let's find out.
The VivoWatch shares a similar shape and design to the ZenWatch, with a curved Gorilla Glass 3 touchscreen encased within a slightly rounded stainless steel frame. On the ZenWatch, the frame is brushed metal, but here it's a mirror-finish, which is a bit of a fingerprint magnet. It's not the most sporty-looking smartwatch, which jars slightly with its intended usage, but that might actually be a good thing if you're looking for a fitness wearable that won't look out of place in an office environment. On the right-side of the frame, there's a small squarish home button that lets you unlock the watch or to begin Exercise mode.
As a fitness wearable, the VivoWatch boasts decent protection against liquids and dust - IP67 versus IP55 on the ZenWatch - meaning it's both dust-tight and has been certified to remain intact under one meter of water for 30 minutes. The strap is also rubber instead of the leather used on the ZenWatch. Like the ZenWatch, you can swap it with any standard 22mm strap.
The VivoWatch uses a 1.28-inch monochrome Sharp Memory display, which looks very similar to the e-ink display found on the first Pebble smartwatch. It has a 128 x 128 pixels resolution (141ppi), which definitely isn't the best, but is suitable for the information displayed on screen. The display obviously doesn't look as nice as the ZenWatch, but the main benefit of a monochrome display is its fantastic battery life, which lets you wear the watch almost constantly, charging it about once every ten days - something that's vital for a good sleep tracker. Unlike some LCD displays, the screen also works very well under sunlight, and it's backlit for indoor usage.
Flip the watch around and you will find the back of the watch is made from plastic, which doesn't feel as premium or tough as the watch face. There's the optical heart rate sensor as well as the charging connector on the rear of the VivoWatch as well.
The VivoWatch runs on ASUS' in-house KoodOS. To use the watch, start by pressing the home button on the right to unlock it. From the watch face, you can swipe horizontally to cycle through the pulse reader, the alarm, the daily activity log (for steps and calories) and the UV level detector (a feature also found on the Microsoft Band and the Samsung Gear S). If you swipe vertically, you can scroll through the daily exercise log (total exercise time and period of aerobic activity), daily sleep log (total sleep time and period of comfort sleep) and a happiness index (more on that later) based on a combination of exercise quality and sleep quality.
As a fitness wearable, one of the main features on the VivoWatch is, unsurprisingly: Exercise Mode. You can turn it on by holding down the Home button for a couple of seconds. In this mode, the display will indicate whether your heart rate is within the optimal range (green) or is too intense (red, with vibration alert), according to your profile. In this mode, you can also swipe horizontally to see a live data chart of your heart rate, burned calories and steps. It's worth noting that, while it's called 'Exercise Mode' it's really just running mode, as it won't accurately track other forms of exercise. Unlike many fitness trackers, the VivoWatch also lacks built-in GPS, so it won't be able to track your distance covered.
One of the more unique features on the VivoWatch is VivoPulse, which measures your heart rate around the clock, even when you're sleeping. In order to view the stats the VivoWatch has tracked, you will need to install the HiVivo companion app on your Android or iOS device and set up your profile before pairing your device with the watch. The app provides you with all sorts of data like number of steps you have taken daily, your sleep log, and the calories burned.
Of course this data is only useful if you know how to make sense of it or have a plan in mind on how to improve your stats. For recreational runners, the app doesn't really offer you much information on how to improve your fitness or burn more calories.
However the VivoWatch does utilize, as a means of motivation, a statistic called the 'Happiness index'. What ASUS is trying to say here is that based on a combination of regular exercise and good quality sleep, you will score higher on the happiness index and of course, feel better. It's a pretty simplistic view of happiness, but of course it does help that regular exercise has proven to make people feel better in general.
The ASUS VivoWatch is an interesting alternative to the numerous fitness trackers available on the market like the Fitbit Flex or the Jawbone Up24 thanks to its smart looks and touchscreen display for quickly and easily checking your stats and progress. At S$249, its priced fairly similarly to top-of-the-line fitness trackers like the Jawbone UP 24. Don't forget that it comes with a built-in sensor that tracks your heart rate 24/7, which many fitness trackers lack. However, the lack of GPS and the ability to track the distance you have run will probably turn away hardcore runners.
If you're expecting more smartphone companion functionality, you will be disappointed with the VivoWatch, as it does nothing more than informing you of incoming messages and calls and, as such, the VivoWatch is definitely a niche product: designed for the man or woman who wants the styling of a smartwatch, but with the features of a fitness wearable. More specifically, a fitness wearable for walking and running.