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The Next Garmin Forerunner Multisport Watch

Without doubt, one of the most frequent questions I get around these parts is: “When will the next version of ____ be released?” – which is typically “When will the next Garmin Forerunner be released?”.

I should first say – I don’t have any insider information from Garmin.  Garmin is notoriously tight lipped when it comes to releasing specific product information ahead of release.  That said, plenty of little tidbits leak out, and perhaps more importantly is that Garmin is incredibly predictable.  Timeline predictable to be specific.

Garmin, like most other consumer product companies does this for good reason.  Timelines are all suited to ultimately have new product available when you’re both most excited about it, and when you’re most likely to buy it.  Additionally, product releases are also timed to large annual events within a given industry.

So before we talk about when exactly the newest Forerunner watches will be released and what it looks like – let’s talk about when they’re typically released.

Release Schedules:

On the Forerunner side of the house, Garmin used to release new running products timed to the big Consumer Electronics Show (CES), which is the first week of January.  However, they stopped doing that back in 2009 and instead let CES focus on the adventure/vehicle side.

The last time there were January CES releases was:

Garmin FR205/305- January 2006 (CES)
Garmin FR405 – January 3, 2008 (CES)

They moved the running and triathlon related releases instead into the February and April timeframe.  February was/is sorta random, though likely designed to catch runners training for spring events.  Triathletes aren’t typically racing until mid-late spring – whereas runners are mostly gearing up late winter.  Hence why we really only see the FR60 as being in the February release cycle:

Garmin FR60 – Feb 2nd, 2009 (Mid-winter)

Finally – the most predictable date for the triathlon watches is to release just ahead of the Boston Marathon.  This legendary marathon runs mid-April and the desire is to be able to have previously announced product with limited availability hand at Boston for folks to buy/see.  Thus why we see releases the first week of April:

Garmin FR405CX – April 2, 2009 (Pre-Boston)
Garmin FR310XT – April 2, 2009 (Pre-Boston)
Garmin FR110 – Mar 29, 2010 (Pre-Boston)

Just to also make brief mention that cycling devices are virtually always timed to Interbike.  Interbike occurs in September, though Garmin will normally release product details in August just prior to the opening of EuroBike.  Normally cycling products are announced in August/September and then made available in the retail channel in November-December – this is pretty well tried and true year in and year out.

Both running/triathlon and cycling products typically have a 1-2 month delay before availability.  More popular ones tend to drag on longer, for example, the FR310XT was still relatively hard to get almost 3 months after it’s announcement.

With past timelines in mind, let’s get into what’s likely on the way.

Expectations and hints:

Given the above noted release schedules, it should be expected that more than one new Forerunner will be coming on the market over the next few months.  There’s virtually no doubt that a new Forerunner 310XT variant is on the way (triathlon-specific watch), as this was inadvertently leaked last week.  Aside from the timelines above, it was also let slip last week that the new version is touchscreen based.  I suspect it’ll follow in the footsteps of the Edge 800 – which for a touch screen device actually works really well (and yes, with gloves too).  I think what we’ll see is them use the same technology that’s on the Edge 800 ported to the smaller screen of the FR310XT.

image

Given the new 2011 Forerunner line of watches product photos were just shot two weeks ago, I’d be hesitant to say that we’ll see a February announcement for everything – and thus suspect closer to an April announcement (per normal schedule).

By the same token, given there are confirmed/let slip that there are multiple Forerunners coming it’s quite possible they’ll separate out the two different categories of devices into two announcements – like they’ve done in the past as well.  I wouldn’t be surprised to see a FR60 replacement, as well as the 310XT replacement.  The FR60 remains an incredibly popular watch with a surprisingly loyal following – and it’s due for replacement per the normal timelines.

Either way – by the first week of April we’ll have a full batch of new devices to check out.  This will allow them to go to the Boston Marathon booth with devices in hand – an important launch event for them.

To wait or buy?

Of course, this triggers the question of whether or not you should wait for the next version to come out, or just go ahead and pick-up one of the current generation watches (FR305/FR310XT).  The first thing to keep in mind is that based on Garmin’s history, they don’t tend to make major changes between versions – it tends to be more incremental.

Additionally, if you look at the difference from the FR305 to the FR310XT – you’ll see that a significant number of folks are still picking up the FR305 – despite being 5 years after it was released.  So much so that Garmin confirmed back in November that it remains wildly popular and they had at the time no immediate plans to cease sales.  I suspect the same will be true of the FR310XT going forward as well given it meets the needs of the majority of folks.

As we look at new watches coming onto the market, key items they could look to address are to separate it from the FR310XT are:

1) Some form of indoor swimming mode, with ANT+FS HR straps supported for underwater recording
2) More in depth power meter options
3) Potentially see live tracking options (though, I think we may see this slide to next year based on how the new Garmin GTU Tracker works out)
4) Better mapping options for courses/routes on the FR310XT

Again – these are just areas they could improve – but there’s no guarantee that they will in this iteration.

Finally, the last item to keep in mind is that even after announcement it takes about 2-4 months for the retail channel to fill.  In the case of the FR310XT, they were still difficult to get ahold of in June/July – despite announcement some 3 months prior.  So you may want to look at your race season and see what makes the most sense based on your schedule and need.

The Timex and Polar Corner:

While I follow Timex GPS watches quite closely…they just don’t have a lot of history yet in this segment since they only released GPS based Global Trainer last year.  That said, they have committed to be releasing a new version of the Timex Global Trainer this spring (including footpod support) – so that’s definitely an option to consider.  Based on my conversations with them, they’ve learned a ton from the first go at it, and are really looking to be very competitive in the next version.

On the Polar front, they too have plans to release an updated suite of products going into the spring.  It’s not yet clear precisely when they’ll be available, but my understanding is that we should be seeing announcements in the February timeframe.

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27 Comments

  1. Bummer, now I’m going to wish I waited.

    Reply
  2. Limegren

    Oh dag nammit…

    I just bought a FR60..Love it, but I wonder if the new ones gonna be any better..

    Also, I’m pondering on buying a 310xt. I’m not particularly fond of touch screens, unless they’re like the ones on my zune. So would just going for a 310xt be good then?

    Reply
  3. juancraveri.com

    Probably another update for the 310XT might be a color screen.

    Reply
  4. Aaron

    Forgive me if you commented on the Nike+ GPS in another post?

    link to trijuice.com

    Reply
  5. I’ve got the 310xt and love it, but hate the fact that it will be old technology soon. Oh well, something to ask to get for Father’s day or something.

    Reply
  6. Don Goldstein

    It will be very, very interesting to see what features they put into the 310XT replacement. Based on the replies to your wish list post from a week ago or so, there are a lot of requests.

    Reply
  7. I just got myself a Powertap wheel, now i’m looking for a compatible device to train with. The 310XT was a primary choice until i discover the next generation is about to hit the market.

    I dont understand marketing policy behind the release dates, why would one get a new gadget just before the race? I’d never race with a device i dont know, i dont have trust in. Myself, and i’m dont think i’m the only one here, look at the market in the far before of the season starts. I need something to train with, not to “show off” at the staring line.

    Reply
  8. Where was the leak which was referenced to in the article? I can’t find it online.

    Reply
  9. i couldn’t find the leaked info on the next 310XT either :-/

    you can count me as part of the group that is still buying the FR305. i just bought mine a few weeks ago(my first garmin watch) and i love it!

    Reply
  10. Regarding the leaked information, Garmin had it removed from the athletes site in question shortly after my post. ;)

    (No, not my blog obviously…)

    Reply
  11. I’d love to see a FR70 XT with these features:
    - real-time gps sync with something like the GTU-10
    - waterproof
    - high res screen with at least 4 data fields (like 310XT)
    - sleek profile
    - power meter tracking
    - rechargeable battery

    Basically a 310XT with the GPS taken out to reduce cost, make it slimmer, and have longer battery life. Then allow users to add a separate GPS that also transmits position and other stats viewable on a phone app.

    That would be sooo much better than color touchscreens IMHO…

    Reply
  12. I’ve been looking for this kind of information for a while now and I just found your website: it’s great, congratulations!

    Now I have to decide between getting the 310XT or it’s replace, the only possible change that makes me think it could be worth waiting is the indoor swimming mode (with the old one I wouldn’t have a way to track my swims). Do you think it’s worth waiting just for such unsure feature?

    Reply
  13. I’m unsure if you’ll see an indoor swimming feature this time around, or if you’ll see them create a seperate product/watch line and then re-integrate it back into the next version +2 years. But…I can bet that you’ll have the answer in less than 5 weeks…

    Reply
  14. I have an unsealed (leaking) Polar 625x that I hate (which is working, except his new allergic to water).
    I wanted to buy the 310xt tomorrow – fo get used to it while training for my first Ironman on July.
    Now I don’t know if I better wait, and keep on using my crappy Polar, or to buy something which will be old tech 4 weeks after I buy it…
    What do you advice?

    Reply
  15. I just heard (from a Garmin sales person) that the new 310 (a.k.a 910 XT ?) will be slimmer and more sexy than the 310 – for “during the day” use.
    It will also measure distance while swimming (but I understood the 310 with the new firmware can do that too).

    Reply
  16. I’ve got a FR305 that I’ve had for just about 4 years now. It’s still running as good as ever.

    For those looking for a watch, wait until the new watch is released, and then buy the 310XT once it’s price drops! If I remember correctly, the 305 dropped about 50% in price shortly after the 310XT was released. I’d expect a price drop in the 310XT too.

    Reply
  17. Anonymous

    Any updates on possible announcement for the next gen 310xt? I am trying to hold out as long as possible to buy new GPS!

    Reply
  18. Anonymous

    Is now a good time for buying a 310xt or should I wait?

    Reply
  19. Definitely waiting for the new Forerunner to be released! Just when only..

    Reply
  20. Based on track record, tomorrow (4/7/2011) should be the new Forerunner release date. Sweet!

    Reply
  21. Anonymous

    Doesn’t look like a 310xt form-factor…

    link to google.dk

    Reply
  22. The New garni forerunner 610:

    link to runningwilli.com

    Run ON!
    Willi

    Reply
  23. Was the 610 the release that we were all waiting for? i.e. while we were expecting a new 310XT variant to be announced, what we got was a new 410 variant? Or should I still be sitting on the edge of my seat waiting for word of a new 310XT?

    Reply
  24. Brad

    The 610 is water RESISTANT to an IPX7 standard basically meaning it can be splashed and dunked, but not immersed for any length of time. So I would guess that the 610 is not a replacement for the 310XT.

    I did a triathlon with a 405 which stated it was water resistant and while it still displayed the time, I could not get it to start working again until I was halfway through the run.

    I may buy an 310XT for triathlons and use my 405 for running only.

    Reply
  25. No, the FR610 was not the watch that replaces the FR310XT. Based on some comments from Garmin in response to some of my question, I’m led to believe something is on the horizon in the summer timeframe. All the wording they’ve used to me has been very clear that the FR610 was thier “spring release”, when asked if they planned to release other devices “this triathlon season”.

    Reply
  26. Anonymous

    Any further updates on a new version of the Forerunner 310xt? I am planning to buy the Polar RCX5, but I am concerned that I might miss something better from Garmin.

    Reply
  27. a_circelli

    Hi Ray, as the last comment by anon, I’m going to buy a new multisport watch. I think RCX5 is great, but I’m sure that garmin is better…. So I ask you if you REALLY think that will be a summer release (or maybe september…) of new garmin tri-watch?
    thank

    Reply

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