Garmin is about to release a variant of the Vivoactive 3, this time adding Music. Here is the announcement: Garmin Vivoactive 3 Music
Here is some detailed speculation based mostly on the 645 Music and the Garmin Vivoactive 3 review
Heads Up: This post was published before the formal announcement – the info is correct but the MUSIC version has a new all-balck shell
What Music Will go on the Vivoactive 3 Music?
It’s likely that Garmin’s Vivoactive 3 Music will support storage of 600 songs, the VA3M will likely have total storage of around 4Gib (with 3.5Gb available for non-system usage). The special MTP connection introduced on the 645M will allow a new charging cable to copy music to the VA3M relatively quickly.
The Vivoactive 3 Music will support Deezer (‘soon’ at these locations) and iHeartRadio (USA, CA, NZ, AU) in ‘link and sync’ mode. Ie when you have connectivity to those services via your smartphone/wifi then you can copy tracks to your watch to playback later. When released, Deezer should link and sync over WiFi and I would hope it also supports dynamic playlists. I’ve been using Deezer over the last month while preparing the Fitbit Versa review , Fitbit does not seem to have smoothly integrated Deezer into their ecosystem so let’s see if Garmin can do better.
It’s reasonably likely that there will be a joint announcement soon for the Deezer support on the VA3. #Speculation
Garmin also supports iHeartRadio but….
iHeartRadio CIQ app on Garmin Connect ouch (Rating: 1/5, 250mb limit in April 2018).
The other option offered by Garmin will be to copy parts of your personal, computer-based library to the Vivoactive 3 Music.
On public availability, the vast majority of those of you who are reading this will have to manually copy files to the Vivoactive 3 Music as you won’t be using either iHeartRadio or, soon after, Deezer. #RealityCheck
And those music files MUST be on your computer. Not a network, not a memory stick, not a mapped network drive. Believe me, I tried with the 645 Music to get files from those locations. You can’t.
Do you have losslessly compressed, high-definition audio files in the relatively common .FLAC format? Well, you can’t use those either. But you will be able to use all of these; mp3, m4a, aac, adts, wav, m3u, m3u8, wpl, zpl and pls. That’s not too bad I suppose. You can play a pre-loaded playlist but you can’t create one on the watch or in Garmin Express.
The iHeartRadio CIQ app CAN be downloaded anywhere. It will only work in the correct regions. ie not for me in the UK, I tried.
You can try to store your logon credentials via the app on GARMIN EXPRESS. And they will be stored…
One final cheery musical note: iHeartRadio files for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection (Mar2018)
Get Some Decent Headphones
It’s also worth noting that some Forerunner 645 Music owners found that wearing the watch on the same side as the controls from your headphone reduces dropouts. Personally I didn’t have those problems.
From a personal perspective, I would suggest that a decent pair of headphones will work best. Although having said that there will reported issues with the Apple headphones on the 645M. My personal favourite would be JABRA who have spent many years addressing the issue of dropouts and whilst also introducing in-ear based heart rate monitoring, using a special Valencell HR module for generally good readings in models after the Pulse Special Edition.
These are all top-notch (aka expensive) headphones with the exception of the Sennheiser. If you get any one of these from Amazon and you have pairing issues or dropout issues…send them back within a month. Sorted.
- Jabra Elite Active 65t $170/£150
- Jabra Elite Sport £125/£110
- Bose SoundSport FREE $199/£160
- Jaybird X3 Wireless $120/£100
- Jaybird Run $159/£140
- Bose SoundSport Wireless $199/£180
- Sennheiser PMX 686G Sports $35/£30
- Aftershokz Trekz Air $180/£160
- JBL Under Armour Sport $120/£100
- LifeBEAM Vi $250/£210
- Apple AirPods $160/£140
More Music Commentary
The modern offline music offering which supports a cloud-based streaming service is somewhat ‘up in the air’ right now from Garmin. Their approach seems to allow the future integration of additional online music service via CIQ apps rather than tying themselves to one music service (eg Apple, although that may change)
Garmin’s screen is not high-resolution. This means that there are no pretty album cover graphics on the screen when you are playing music – and MANY other music playing watches will have that. That’s not a problem to me but it would have looked nice.
However, the legacy mode of copying files to your watch works well enough. BUT BUT the most practical thing of all is that the button-based interface on the 645 for controlling music is BY FAR THE BEST of any of the running watches that I tested to control music. You try skipping a track on Google Play Music on your LG Watch when you’re hot and sweaty and it’s raining. Garmin’s buttons are, well, buttontastic. Because they work.
Which brings us to the thorny issue of the pesky single button and touchscreen on the Vivoactive 3 Music. I haven’t used it yet but that touchscreen is going to cause problems, I reckon.
Running With Your Chosen Music Service
But what if you already use Spotify?
Q: Will Garmin support Spotify?
A: Maybe. But not right now.
So you have a quandry; if you need to match the running watch you buy with the music service you already use then you are never going to change your music service in a million years, are you?
This list starts with the music service and then tells you which hardware you could buy that would support it for your music-powered sport. Beware, geographic coverage is limited (Accurate April 2018)
- Spotify (*): Samsung (Maybe Apple, late 2018)
- Deezer (*): Garmin, Fitbit
- iHeartRadio (USA, CA, NZ, AU): Garmin, WearOS
- Apple Music (*): Apple
- Pandora (USA): Fitbit, WearOS
- Google Play Music (*): WearOS
* Links to show geographic availability by country
Summary & Opinion
Garmin has a sensible approach to integrating music services on their watches. On the whole, it works well with the 645M and will work well with the Vivoactive 3 Music.
I’ve spent a lot of time with various devices that playback music for runners and the 5-button interface with the 645M was the most practical (aka ‘best’, IMHO). It’s a shame that having delivered the ‘best’ approach to music for a runner that Garmin then goes and spoil it with the pesky single button of the Vivoactive 3!. Many of you may well disagree and may well get on well with touchscreens on running watches…in which case totally ignore me and go and buy one 🙂
In my opinion, you will do better going for the 645 if it’s music you want.
If you want to buy the Vivoactive 3 Music because it also supports contactless payments via Garmin Pay then do your research as it is likely that your current bank will not be supported. Actually, I’ve done your research for you… link to garmin.com.