Smartphones can be a great tool for many people to help them remember to do things, stay on task, and organize their lives. These mobile devices can make self-management possible for many people, especially those with brain injury, PTSD, autism, ADHD, and many other disabilities where self management is affected.

But what happens when you need help managing the one piece of technology that is helping you manage your life?  What do you do if you keep leaving your smartphone at home or in the bathroom stall (Yup, I’ve done that)? What if you keep missing those much-needed notifications because you can’t hear it ring deep, down in the cavern you call a purse (Yes, I am talking about me), or can’t feel it vibrate in your pocket (husband, this is for you)?

Enter the Garmin Vivosmart Band smartwatch. Although many would consider this wearable-piece-of-tech a sport band, it has just enough smartwatch features to really be helpful without being too distracting.  So how can this watch help a person with self-management difficulties?  Below are the Vivosmart features that I felt were pertinent to this discussion.

Physical Characteristics

This watch is thin,  lightweight, waterproof and comes in two sizes.  It has a LCD plastic screen that only turns on when it is double tapped, increasing battery life. These factors allow people to wear it for long periods of time without taking it off and then forgetting it somewhere.  The tap-on screen and limited smartwatch features of the Vivosmart also eliminate distractions versus a fully functional smartwatch with an always-on screen.

The Vivosmart comes with a little optional slider to prevent the device from falling off. I would definitely recommend using it because the one time did not, my watch must have caught on something and fell off in a store.  Thank goodness I was able to locate it with the phone’s bluetooth connection notifier.

To navigate through the main screens such as time, notifications, and steps, you simply swipe the screen as you would on your smartphone.  To get to even more features, you hold down on the screen with your finger and another submenu pops up, which provides control of many other items.

The watch connects to the phone via Bluetooth.  In order to receive calls, text, and email notifications, you must be on a connected smartphone. However, to receive most calendar and reminder apps, your phone does not even have to be connected to Wifi. It could be in Airplane mode, and it would still work.  For a child, they could use mom or dad’s old smartphone or an unlocked smartphone without service.


This Garmin App is compatible with both iOS 8.0+ and Android 4.0+; and the phone compatibility list can be found here.

Phone Separation Alert

When your phone and the Viviosmart go out of Bluetooth range, the watch will vibrate and display a message that your Bluetooth is disconnected.

Phone Locator

Normally we have to find another person to call our phone to locate it, but even that can’t help if your phone is on mute. When you realize you have lost your phone, the Vivosmart can locate it even on mute! Just go to the submenu, push the phone locator button, and when your phone is in bluetooth range, it will start to ring and flash.   See the video below for a demonstration of menu scrolling and phone location.


In addition to calls and texts, the Vivosmart can push notifications from almost any app that provides them.  You can pick as many or as few as you want.  When a notification occurs, the watch will vibrate. The messages stay in cue until you dismiss them on the watch or on your phone.  This device also provides the caller/text ID, the email subject, and it allows you to read the full messages on the phone. This is great for short messages of one sentence or less.  Any longer requires a lot of tedious scrolling and you probably will want to whip out your phone.

The best thing about these notifications is that you do not have to be touching your phone. Your mobile device could be across the room (needs to be within Bluetooth range), and you would still receive the reminder.  This is great for school, meetings, work, or other places someone should not be on their phones. For many people with attention difficulties, decreasing the amount of screen time means decreasing the number of distractions and opportunities to get focused in on to time-wasting activities such as Facebook.

Battery Life/Charging

The watch charges with a proprietary USB cable that clamps on to the device. The battery lasts up to 7 days, which will vary based on the number of notifications and other factors. I choose to receive a lot of notifications, and my battery life lasts around 5-6 days per charge.

Sleep Mode/Monitor

The Vivosmart will keep track of your sleep patterns and send the data to the Garmin Connect App, which can be great for many people with sleep issues.  In the app you can view deep and light sleep time, movement levels, and see when you were actually awake. It allows you to make changes to your regimen and see right away if it is working.  As you can see from the pictures, I have some work to do in this area.

The Vivosmart will automatically track your sleep without doing anything.  If you do not want your notifications to wake you, you can put it in sleep mode.

Things I Like

  • Over half my family owns this watch, so there are obviously just a few things that I like about it. The couple features that I have not liked in the past such as the way it used to track sleep or provide notifications, have been improved with a software upgrade, which happen automatically after each charge.
  • My favorite thing about this watch is that it helps me to not forget my phone and notifies me of tasks, calls and appointments without having to take my phone out of my purse.
  • For the people I work with, I think my favorite feature is being able to get the notifications without having to turn on the phone and then get knee-deep in distractions.  The fact that the teacher could actually have the phone, and the student could still get the reminders is priceless.
  • A feature I use a lot and am very thankful for-phone location with a ring and flashing light even though the phone is on mute.
  • Lastly, the Vivosmart with it’s vibrating notification works great for a phone and text notifier for individuals who are deaf or hard of hearing.

What I Wish for the Future

  • I wish the battery life was a little longer than 7 days only because I hate taking it off!
  • Interchangeable watch bands.

This video review from RizKnows does a nice job describing the watch and will provide further information. The video below demonstrates swiping and the phone locator. Remember that the Vivosmart is just one in a sea of smartwatches.  If this watch doesn’t fit your needs, there may be other technology that does.  Contact IPAT for help in finding a solution.

UPDATE: This watch has been discontinued and the Vivosmart HR is the replacement.  It has very similar features.

About Author

Jeannie Krull is the Program Director for ND Assistive (formerly IPAT). She is an ASHA certified speech/language pathologist and a RESNA certified Assistive Technology Professional, who has worked with people with disabilities of all ages since 1991.