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An In-Depth Visit Behind the Scenes at Garmin Headquarters

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Before I dive into the main focus of today’s post I just wanted to briefly note how saddened both The Girl and I are over the attacks in Boston on Monday.  I didn’t hear about it until some hours later, and was stunned and disgusted.  At this point we’ve been relieved to hear that those friends and family we knew personally who were running or cheering have all been accounted for as ok (thank you for all who asked us).  We continue to hope that the same can be said for any readers who may have been there running or cheering.  And finally for those who have been personally impacted, you’re in our thoughts and prayers. –Bobbie & Ray

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I had talked with the Garmin folks back in early January about the potential for adding a short Kansas addendum to one of my various US trips.  The goal of which would be to be able to spend some face to face time with the various Garmin product teams, all of which are based in Olathe, Kansas at Garmin’s headquarters.  While I have regular calls with not only folks from Garmin, but virtually every manufacturer in the sports technology space – being able to understand and see some of the behind the scenes aspects would be useful.  It would allow me to funnel your feedback to the exact people in charge, and eliminate some of the telephone games that occur within large organizations.  It can sometimes be difficult to accurately express ‘suggestions’ to other companies via conference calls – especially with so many teams involved.

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As I noted on Monday, I do and did cover all of my own travel expenses related to this side trip.  Same goes for another major sports technology company that I’m meeting with later this week.  As always, your support of the site helps make these sort of posts possible.

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I covered a LOT of topics and a lot of teams during my 1.5 day stay.  I’ve broken them up by product teams and areas – rather than actual schedule of my time there, simply to consolidate thoughts in the most logical manner possible.

With that, let’s dive into things!

Executive Team Meeting:

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While I often communicate with the many individual product teams, I do usually touch base with Patrick Desbois at most major industry events, who is a Vice President at the company that’s over virtually everything I talk about below.  He was most interested in understanding where I was seeing much of the feedback I hear from you focused on.

Keeping in mind that anytime you’re speaking with executives, you need to consolidate as much data as possible into a consumable slice of information.  In this case, that volume is consolidating upwards of 100+ comments per day on various product review posts related to Garmin, as well as e-mail that you send me, and feedback from other social media avenues.  Additionally, I often consolidate feedback and trends related to products and issues I see on the various forums.

Given that context, there were three key areas that I focused on:

1) A decrease in the quality of the products being produced
2) Lack of embracing the mobile and social platforms
3) Garmin Vector

With the first topic, the main line of concern centered around the lack of quality seen in products lately, primarily from a bug standpoint.  Significant recent examples of this include the Edge 510 and Edge 810 cycling units.  Aside from the disappointing feature set, the real issue is just how buggy the final versions of the products have been, especially for power meter users.  While the 810 has seen two firmware updates in the past 9 days, the 510 is still outstanding in this regard.  This came fresh on the heels of the Garmin Fenix outdoor watch suffering from similar quality issues, requiring near weekly updates this past fall.  We also discussed the lagging bugs that continue to be present on older products such as the FR910XT, and even ones such as the Edge 500.  He (and the Director of the Fitness and Outdoor division), acknowledged that this was a challenge for the division and that the focus really needed to be on delaying product releases (and announcements) until the product was ready.

Next was discussion around the mobile platform and social platform pieces.  The first portion primarily aimed at the disjointed nature of the different Garmin sites related to the Fitness and Outdoor divisions and how there’s a bit of both duplication and gaps there.  For example, multiple phone apps that have overlap (i.e. Basecamp and Garmin Connect Mobile), yet are missing useful features from each other.  On the web side, there exists gaps in areas such as Garmin Adventures and Garmin Connect integration.  They agreed that there is some duplication here, though it sounds like there’s work being done on the Garmin Connect side to help unify this story a bit better moving forward.

On the topic of Garmin Vector, obviously this continues to be a pain point for the company.  While there is cautious optimism across many of the teams I spoke with, nobody is willing to say this chicken has hatched yet – if nothing else to avoid jinxing their current progress.  Patrick noted that this was probably the singular example where Garmin has simply decided to hold off on releasing the product until it’s truly 100% ready.  We again spoke at length about the perils of going out with a product that’s buggy and/or not fully baked.  While most products (Garmin and otherwise) tend to rebound from a quality standpoint, the damage is done from a reputation/review standpoint.  Examples such as the Garmin Fenix, Garmin Edge 510/810 and Stages Power reviews were widely read internally and there appeared to be significant internal desire to avoid any of those situations.  An interesting theme I heard over and over again regarding Vector was a clear understanding (messaging if you will) on their part that the only aspect that will matter at the end of the day with Vector is if the data is accurate.  Obviously usability, durability, easy of use, etc… is important, but there appears to be very little interest in pushing any Vector units out the door until they can stand up to even the most in-depth analysis of power data.  This is probably the first time I’ve seen anything from Garmin indicating that data accuracy was the priority (over marketing/fluff).  This also is good in that their expectations are set clearly that the focus of such a review from me will be heavily on the accuracy of data – and like other reviews, making that data public and accessible for others to analyze.

In addition to those areas, we also discussed areas that he wanted feedback from me on.  These primarily centered around my thoughts about where the cell phone space was going relative to fitness devices, as well as how people consume data in that space from a fitness standpoint.  We had a good chat here, which I’ll touch on in other aspects later in the post with different teams.

Cycling & Edge Products:

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I spent quite a bit of time with different folks on the Garmin Edge team, in multiple meetings over the course of my stay.

My feedback was pretty direct and concise in this space: Fix the Edge 510 and 810.

In many ways they are already making progress on the 810 side, with last week’s and yesterday’s firmware updates.  On the Edge 510 side, all of the same bugs that were addressed on the 810 side will be carried into the next Edge 510 firmware update.  There was a truncated list accidentally published to the Garmin.com site a bit ago, but the Edge 510 update unfortunately won’t hit for at least a few more weeks.

With the ‘fix-it’s’ out of the way, we talked about areas where the product could innovate and advance.  One area I touched on was with the new ANT+ Resistance Control profile, which allows ANT+ devices to control trainers such as the Wahoo KICKR, and the Cycleops PowerBeam Pro.  Both of those companies are adopting the standard quickly for their trainers.

I suggested (again, not something they’ve agreed to), that an awesome new feature would allow one to control any ANT+ enabled trainer from the Edge 510/810.  Similar in ways to how the Joule units from CycleOps can do this today for their trainers.

With this new resistance control ANT+ profile, any other company could adapt it as well.  I’ve talked with Tacx about it, and while barely lukewarm to the idea of being open-standard, they at least did entertain the idea with me during a sit-down discussion we had a few weeks ago.  And even for legacy trainers such as the CompuTrainer (where the company refuses to innovate), 3rd party programs like TrainerRoad and PerfPro could actually emulate an ANT+ resistance control unit if they wanted to – enabling users to use their bike computers to control the trainer.

This sort of integration is the future of sports technology.  At least, if companies like Garmin want to stay in business.  Otherwise apps and phones will continue to eat away at their lunch (like they did for car GPS units).  Though at present many folks still prefer a non-phone based cycling head unit, primarily for reasons associated with concern of breakage or water/sweat damage.

Further extending this idea, one could then utilize the same functionality to re-ride routes/courses already on their Garmin device, which was jokingly dubbed “Ride your ride”.  Allowing one to control the trainer and emulate elevation/grade changes based on previously ridden routes, or routes downloaded from Garmin Connect.  With upwards of million uploads per day into the routes database, it’s a massive inventory of potential rides.

Again, they were mostly entertaining my ideas here – but there does seem to be interest.  Of course, any other head unit company that uses ANT+ could do this today.  For example, the O-Synce folks could add this (and have the organizational agility to do so very quickly).

I also asked about the potential to display the current zero offset information without requiring you calibrate.  This could be displayed just below the ANT+ ID sensor state on the Edge units.  I noted that the ‘Holy grail’ would be if the zero offset values were also recorded somewhere in the ride file – enabling folks to look at areas such as power meter drift.  They acknowledged this could actually be useful for even their own power meter work (i.e. Vector).  They did note that they do plan to support the latest ANT+ power meter specification (primarily adds additional data metrics for ROTOR power meters), though they didn’t share a specific timeline there.

We also did talk at length about significant customer pressure to add Strava integration.  It’s without question the most requested feature in the comments of the Edge 510/810 review.  The ability for one to have an option in the phone uploader app to push straight to 3rd party services would be well appreciated.  Be it Strava, TrainingPeaks, or some other service.  Like I mention below in the Garmin Connect section, there continues to be internal resistance around the competitive nature of other platforms.  Ultimately, people buy a Garmin device for the hardware, not the software (and this hasn’t changed in more than a decade).  Make it easy for users to use your hardware with other peoples software, and users will continue to buy your hardware.

A look at how products are designed:

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Garmin is somewhat rare in the sports technology world in that it controls the entire end to end process of designing, building, and manufacturing a product.  Most companies outsource (fancy term is ‘partner’) various components of that to other companies (especially manufacturing).  I got a chance to get a walk through of some of the pre-manufacturing pieces.

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Garmin has multiple 3D printing machines that can ‘print’ out plastic molded prototypes at varying resolutions.  This is done via CAD drawings, which are then fed into a machine that will literally print out a 3D object.

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Typical printing time takes a number of hours, so in most cases it runs overnight.  Below is one of their older machines that’s rarely used these days.

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Below is one 3D printed sample of a Forerunner 110/210 unit.  You can see it lacks any screws, but still has fairly complex areas such as the flexible strap, buttons and colors.  This is what enables them to immediately test out strap lengths across a few different employees with extremely small and extremely (uhh….) large wrists.

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Below, 3D printed Garmin FR610 charging cradles:

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They can also print with different colors – matched to the same production system they later use for mass production.  While it may sound simple – getting an exact shade of a given color to match between two systems (or vendors) can be difficult in production.  Even with standards such as Pantone, different materials ultimately can impact colors once produced.  The Girl and I actually learned this lesson when working to order the mass quantities of boxes she uses in the CupCakery.

Below are a bunch of prototype samples of the Garmin Fenix unit, working through options that never quite came to be.

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In addition, they have onsite the ability to create metal prototypes as well.  You can see some of these below for one of the car units:

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Below are various prototypes for the Garmin Fenix backing:

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Once they’ve got the different plastics and metals, they can create working prototypes as well – complete with electronics inside.  Below is the prototype case of the Garmin Fenix, which was then fitted with different screens they’d test out.

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At this stage, they’d be able to do electronics testing. Electronics testing is done in both controlled and uncontrolled environments (more on that later on).

It was interesting learning about the different antenna placement in the devices.  For example, on the FR610, the antenna sits right on the semi-thick portion of the edge of the band closest to the watch.

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Whereas on the FR10 it loops around the watch.  In fact, the reason the FR10 appears to sit up a touch bit higher than most watches is that during testing they found they got better reception by raising it just slightly higher.

Once everything is ready for production, the folks in Olathe hand it over to the folks in Taiwan to build.  Garmin runs its own manufacturing facilities there, which produce the majority of Garmin products (exceptions seen later in the ‘Odds and Ends’ section).  As noted, most technology companies partner with various companies in Asia to do the actual build – simply due to lack of demand to own and run a manufacturing facility 24×7.

The units are then shipped from Taiwan to Vancouver via ship (except rare occasions via aircraft for catch-up/late products).  From Vancouver, the products make their way across the border via truck to Olathe.  In Olathe, distribution occurs in the massive warehouse below out to various retailers (or external distributors).  The warehouse can house two 747’s end to end.  Below, only one half of it.

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Some product does get direct shipped from Taiwan to companies that may have substantial orders – such as the Best Buy’s of the world.  Though, even while there they were preparing an order to Best Buy.  They were taking standard Garmin unit boxes, and adding the anti-theft plastic clamshell packaging to them before shipment to Best Buy.

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The warehouse is a maze of product, conveyer belts, and forklifts running around.

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Upon departure from the warehouse, you go through a security scan similar to that done at the airport.  This is done to minimize theft of product by employees.  Thankfully, they weren’t too concerned about the flotilla of my GPS units I had in my bag from my testing on Sunday in California.

Garmin Fenix Team (and Outdoor):

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I had a really good discussion with the Garmin Fenix team regarding the direction of the product, based on some of the updates that have hit over the last few months.  The recent skiing update was interesting in that it signaled a new direction (as far as sports go) for Garmin.

It was interesting discussing some of the challenges though in expanding that product area – primarily due to the complexities of 3D mountains with ski area maps being a very different beast than GPS maps.

In the Fenix area, I gave my recurring feedback about wanting to see the standard runner features of Intervals and Workout support, as well as see the cycling speed sensor truly supported on the Fenix (right now, only the cadence sensor portion is used).  This would be advantageous for mountain bikers who may want to use it for long-distance mountain biking (a scenario they’ve seen some uptick in), and in particular for those on lots of switchbacks where GPS speed is iffy.

In turn I got to hear a bit of the backstory on Fenix and how it came to life.  Being a product of the Outdoor division rather than the Fitness division, the focus was initially more targeted to hikers and mountaineering.   Upon announcement they saw quite a bit of unexpected interest from the running community, especially in some regions where it was marketed more towards runners by retailers (and even some portions of Garmin).  That put them in a bit of a pickle, given the feature set at launch was more sparse on running than a $129 watch at 1/3rd the price.  This lead to a slew of near-weekly updates in the fall adding in running-specific features.

It’s clear that they understand the importance of the running crowd, especially given the adoption of the Suunto Ambit as a similar product (a product which took them by surprise, launching towards the end of the Fenix development cycle before Garmin announced the Fenix).  But while they understand it, I think we’ll continue to see some struggles due to the split across product divisions, being in Outdoor rather than Fitness.  That’s not to say that the Outdoor folks aren’t trying hard with Fenix, as they’ve done some impressive development sprints back in the fall to remedy as much as possible.  It’s just that there’s a lot of historical knowledge around building running products that lies within a different division.

One additional area of feedback I did give was around the lack of clarity on how exactly to get the most battery life out of the unit.  The Fenix has a slew of options related to prolonged battery life (upwards of 50 hours of GPS tracking time).  But for the average person (or, even me), nobody can get absolute answers as to how exactly the settings should be configured for different scenarios – such as long battery & less track points, short battery & high resolution data, or a blend of the two.  There’s some scattered guidance, but none of it lasts longer than half a sentence.  With at least half a dozen settings controlling battery-life impacting features – a table or two would be handy.

An Olathe Runaround:

We had a short bit of time on Monday mid-afternoon between meetings to head out for a run.  Nothing terribly long, ended up being about 5ish miles in total.

Given our time constraints we just kept things simple and started right from the building and out into local neighborhoods.

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About half a mile in we merged onto a running trail.  This trail goes for a heck of a long ways, since the point which we merged had a 17 mile marker.

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The trail was a nice quiet (and flat) ramble along a small creek through mixed woods and neighborhood backyards.

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We made good pace, at about 7:15-7:20/mile.  The trail actually hosts a portion of the Garmin Marathon this upcoming weekend, where the event is still small enough at 3,000 runners that by time they get here people are fairly spread out.

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It’s probably notable that if the weather hadn’t decided to cooperate, Garmin employees still can workout.  Downstairs in the basement of the building is a full gym:

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They have regular classes there as well, all free for Garmin folks.

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Additionally, they have what I hear is a pretty competitive ping-pong court setup.

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You know it’s competitive when they actually have branded banners surrounding the table.   Someone’s living room this was not.

With a brief workout complete, it was back to more meetings, demos and wanderings.

Garmin Connect:

I spent a short amount of time with the Garmin Connect team.  A chunk of which included watching them do pushups in the hall-way.

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At 10AM and 2PM they gather up outside the offices and do a quick set of pushups.  This is a bit of a tradition from the days in San Francisco prior to the group being acquired (used to be MotionBased.com many moons ago).

Our conversation wasn’t too long, but did touch on some of the newer areas of the site, which included recent updates last week adding new functionality, and new downloadable triathlon training plans that should hit the site in the next day or so (can actually be downloaded to your watch for a full season of training).  They may already be there by time this posts.

There’s a concerted effort around group/team based features, which you’ve seen lately (ability to create teams on GC and distribute workouts).  Expect lots more where that came from.

We talked about some of the areas I’d like to see, and some of the areas you’d like to see.  There’s still a bit of the aspect of seeing Strava as competition, thus some of the resistance we see around uploading from the Edge series straight to Strava.  And while there’s a competitive aspect there – the development rate of Strava adding new features far exceeds that Garmin Connect is able to execute on.  Nonetheless, I discussed my desire to natively (not using 3rd party sites like GarminSync.com) get activities to Strava.  Additionally, I’d like to see the swim export option return, as well as have a cleaner multisport activity display (one cohesive view for triathlon race with multiple segments).  And lastly, I’d love to see the heat maps feature that’s been recently introduced be able to show me just my heat map (basically, a heat map of where I’ve run).

In some of our other talks it does sound like they are focusing on a bit of a development sprint with new stuff coming near term on the web side though.  Hopefully that’ll not be at the expense of bugs and quality (see section #1).

Aviation:

While the focus of this blog is obviously slanted towards fitness, I as a person am somewhat also tied into aviation.  This comes in two forms – one being that I actually had planned to be a pilot and go into commercial aviation.  I was accepted into three aviation universities: University of North Dakota, and Embry Riddle Aeronautical University in both Florida and Arizona.  Computers sorta got in the way though, and I ended up going the IT direction.  I had done some work towards my private pilot’s license before moving to DC.  The other way I’m interested in aviation is simply that I spend a crapton of time on commercial airplanes (this year will likely be well over 250,000-300,000 miles).

Knowing all this, Garmin had set aside an hour for us to go check out the aviation side of the business.  As most of you know, Garmin is divided into a few core business units: Fitness (Running/Cycling), Outdoor (Hiking…and Fenix), Marine (boats), Aviation (Planes), and Automotive (Car stuff).  And like many of the people I met there, it turned out that the folks in the Aviation division are just as big of blog readers as anyone else.  They’re also highly competitive athletes.

So it might have been just as much of an excuse for them to go flying (pilots are always looking for a reason to fly), as it was for me to go visit them.  Walking into the hanger, they had a number of planes. Many of the 10 aircraft in their fleet were out on test flights, but a few remained:

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Unfortunately, none of the three business jets that were present that day were available for a flight (they were doing electronics tests inside).  So instead, we got this little guy and headed on out.

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Having actually flown before (piloted), I was pretty surprised at the state of the instrument systems.  It’s been a bit of time since I’ve flown, but even within that context, these are of course the highest end of general aviation flight displays.

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Without getting uber aviation-geek on everyone, it was pretty much like being in a video game.  I was literally flying through computer generated boxes in the sky.

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I flew around a bit (yes, me piloting), and did a few approaches as well.  Though a Garmin employee was required to actually finish the landing for the final touching the wheels to the runway part.

It’s nice to get back to flying.  It’s a bit hard to do now in France (just like it was in Washington DC with the air restrictions).  But perhaps someday whenever we move back to the US I’ll be able to pursue that again.

How product returns work:

While walking around the massive warehouse I got a look at how product returns work.  I figured this process would be interesting to everyone.  Or at least, it was interesting to me (as one who has leveraged the return process before).

First up, you’re package arrives to Garmin’s warehouse in Olathe (btw, it’s pronounced o-lay-th-uhh).  This is true for all North America folks.  For those outside North America the process is virtually identical, but in one of the handful of consolidated regional hubs (i.e. London for Europe, etc…).

Once it arrives, it’s unboxed and the boxes/papers are all recycled:

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At the same time, based on the RMA number included in the package,the system is triggered to immediately ship out to you a replacement unit.  If you had given a credit card to product support to speed up the swap, then the unit would have already been shipped to you (called a cross-ship, where your credit card acts as a guarantee until your broken unit arrives to them).  There is almost never a case where your specific fitness unit would go back to you.  It’s virtually always a different unit.  More on that in a moment.

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Next up, it hits a conveyer belt.  From here it then gets attached to work benches based on product types.  These benches run tests on the units to determine what’s wrong.  Sometime it’s an obvious physical issue (i.e. screen cracked), but other times it may be less obvious.

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And I thought I had a lot of charging cables.

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There’s also consolidation and sorting of customer returns and store returns.  For example, if a customer goes to a local running shop and buys a Garmin device, but then returns it – the running shop will ship it back to Garmin for validation/repackaging – even if it was in theory never used.  Garmin is then able to run a test to see if the device was ever even turned on (called a first lock test, as in first satellite lock).

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If it was never turned on, the unit is then updated with the latest software, run though the QA tests, and then re-packaged.

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For those units not so lucky, they end up being sorted into bins by product types:

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Note that there’s no implication between these two products being more or less faulty than the others. The boxes simply wait until they’re full before being emptied.

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From there the devices will get shipped to Taiwan to be repaired.  Though Garmin has the capacity to analyze and repair units in Olathe, it’s extremely rare that it happens.  Units sent to Taiwan are repaired/refurbished and made like new, but typically end up being used later as stock for return replacements.

For marine and aviation stuff, it generally gets repaired in Kansas, because of the high shipping costs of sending heavier marine/aviation units back and forth to Taiwan.

Odds and ends around the buildings:

There’s were a number of items around the eight-story, 1.3 million square feet building that I stumbled into that didn’t quite fit in any of the sections above.  So in no particular order…

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The above and below are chambers where they can complete various wireless interference tests that are ultimately required for certifications from governing bodies such as the FCC.

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Throughout the building there were bikes everywhere – offices, hallways, full bike racks in hallways, etc…  Even in this lab space behind the test chambers there were bikes stacked up:

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As did the TV studio space:

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Or near a random door:

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On various floors you’d stumble into product tests going on.  The below had car navigation units running software tests related to land-based FM transmissions – hanging out near the window for better reception.

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However, GPS reception isn’t a problem in the building.  There are GPS repeaters everywhere inside.  I’m fairly certain there are more GPS repeaters than there are fire escape exit signs.  Almost every hallway and workspace had them.  This allows them to get a GPS fix while indoors – ideal for testing of GPS units.  I need to get me one of these…

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In the basement near the workout facility and datacenter, is also a full TV production studio.  This is where you see most of the videos produced from.

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And last but not least, we’ve got these two.  You may recognize them from past Superbowl commercials.  The one to the right is a legit costume you can wear.  Though, it’s pretty dense – so definitely not ideal for a summer 5K run.

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With that, I think I’ve covered just about everyone on my visit.  Certainly like any other company in the space there will be things coming down the line.  And when things hit, I’ll be sure to cover them in the same ol’ in-depth reviews.

Hopefully this gave you a bit of a behind the scenes of not only the organization, but also of some of the conversations I have with them and others in the sports technology realm.

Thanks for reading!

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121 Comments

  1. Excellent look behind the scenes. Thanks.

    Reply
  2. James

    Hi Ray,
    Great read and thanks for so much info. Did you ask about any WP8 apps?
    Thanks again,
    James

    Reply
    • Rainmaker replied

      (Sorry for the delay on replying to comments everyone, the interwebs was not functional in my location over the the previous two days...so for those who have subscribed to this thread, you'll probably see a slew of responses from me here shortly).

      Regarding the WP8 apps, we talked about it briefly. I think you might see more, but Garmin is mostly focusing on creating WP8 apps that hit the biggest community of users. Right now, that's automotive.

      Reply
  3. Ganabu

    They didn't happen to mention anything about actually water proofing a running watch... A HRM with every day watch features.

    After drowning 3 Garmins, (with rain... yes some of us run it the rain!), I'm back on the good old 100m resistant Suunto T6c and wont be getting another Garmin until one is at least 50m resistant. As you say: the $10 cheapie is capable, why not the $300+ Garmin.

    Another interesting post. Thanks and keep them coming.

    Reply
    • Dan replied

      Yeah, the fact that Garmin doesn't make a 610-like watch that's actually waterproof has me on the fence about purchasing another product from them. How can they ignore this?

      Reply
    • Rainmaker replied

      For waterproofing, the FR10 was the first running-only watch (not tri focused like the FR310XT/910XT) that's fully waterproofed. I have a sneaking suspicion that any other watches that produce will also have legit waterproofing on them.

      They haven't produced any new running-only watches outside of the FR10 in close to two years.

      Reply
  4. Great to see inside such a company - any discussion about future Bluetooth sensor support or is that still being resisted?

    Reply
    • Rainmaker replied

      We talked a lot about it. A lot. It doesn't sound like you'll see additional BLE sensor (i.e. HRM or SPD/CAD/PWR sensors) support in the short or medium term, but instead see better utilization of the BT connection from devices to cell phones (ala the Edge 510/810/Fenix).

      Reply
    • Eli replied

      Will this BT connection be proprietary or open? (i.e. just for garmin hardware to talk to garmin apps or for any app to talk to garmin hardware)

      Reply
    • Rainmaker replied

      I'm referring to better utilization of the Bluetooth Connection already utilized between the Edge 510/810/Fenix and the various Garmin apps (i.e. Garmin Connect/Basecamp).. There was no discussion of making that open/available to 3rd party apps.

      Reply
  5. Tom Smulders

    How painfully for the Garmin Connect Team, but the Garmin Connect website is no competition for Strava. I haven´t looked at GC for a year now (have 3 Garmin's), while checking Strava couple of times a day.

    I spoke to a Mio developer at the Tour of Flanders and he said the coming with such a feature "on a long term".

    I still use a Edge 705, and I am ready to spend 500 euro for a new (Garmin, Mio, ...) device uploading my files directly to Strava with the use of Wifi.

    Especially when cycling in Belgium or France, I would love to go to an Internet café and uploading my ride to Strava. Now I have to wait for returning to the Netherlands before uploading my files. First company coming with such a device, gets my 500 euro.

    Reply
    • ifor replied

      Xperia Active only about 200 euros. Put a sim in and you don't even need the Internet café...

      Reply
    • Tristan replied

      Tom, you missed the Leikr on Kickstarter? That is supposed to have Wificonnection. I understood Ray has/will have one of the beta's so you can wait for his review and decide than.

      Reply
    • Rainmaker replied

      Indeed, but one should remember that while Strava easily slams GC for cycling - the same can't be said for other sports that GC supports (i.e. swimming, or routing or workout creation and downloading, or mapping, or...on and on).

      Just to put it in perspective.

      Reply
  6. Great post, thanks for the inside view.
    Nothing about running?

    Reply
    • Rainmaker replied

      Nothing new on running at this time.

      Reply
  7. FJ

    Great behind the scenes article Ray, as usual

    As per Garmin, you may want to ask them to sort out the Edge 500 while they are at it, because the list of issues I have with it is by no means short. By far the biggest being that doing a course and using the breadcrumb view simply _does_not_work_ which in my book amounts to false advertising. Last weekend in a 120Km ride I nearly threw it into a river in a fit of rage... when you spend your ride fighting your cycle computer instead of focusing on your training and enjoying the scenery you know something needs to change.

    Of the top of my head, this are some issues I've found (not complete! these are the ones I remember now):

    * wheel size defaults to "---" which means I had 200Km/h+ speeds reported until I found the issue (using cadence/wheel sensor)
    * Auto-zoom in breadcrumbs view does not work, makes the breadcrumbs dissapear
    * takes an insane amount of menu digging to swap bikes
    * At one point I couldn't do a reset any more. Only way was to start/stop the previous ride, and then reset. "Fixed" by doing a hard reset of the unit, but has happened twice already
    * Breadcrumbs view doesn't work with auto-zoom off either... often it either went blank, with the only way of getting it back to manually change the zoom setting back and forth until it appeared. Sometimes it would freeze instead (causing me to get lost a few times)
    * Cannot change the number of data fields shown in breadcrumb view. Can only have two, and cannot change them either (my edge 305 was far more flexible here, oh how I miss it)
    * Can show power in instant/3s/10s/30s averages, but not so with the power zone, which makes it too erratic to be useful
    * Cannot set power based alarms on anything other than instant power, so if you want to stay in Zone 3 for a tempo ride, you'll be driven insane by the constant beeping. Should be possible to set alarm on one of the average power figures (3s or 10s would be more useful)

    Even my Edge 305 was better (once they fixed the bugs), alas, that didn't survive a washing machine related accident

    Someone suggested I try the 800/810 to solve my "navigation" issues, but Garmin would be lucky to have me as a customer again. Eagerly awayting your O-Synce Navi2Coach review, hopefully I will get to throw this POS into the river after all

    Reply
    • Rainmaker replied

      Actually, we did discuss the Edge 500, including some of the items you mentioned above. I don't however think you'll see 'new feature' type items (i.e. creating power based alarms), but perhaps you'll see bugs fixed (though, on the Edge 500, I suspect not).

      Reply
  8. Monica

    What an interesting post-thanks!

    Reply
  9. Harrison

    Great post. It's cool to see the inner workings of a company I trust recording and storing all of my data with.

    On a side note, they aren't far from my house. They seem so cool to work for. Think they'd hire an engineering teacher? I could do seminars.

    Reply
  10. Very interresting.
    Thank you for the time you spent visiting (and writting!)

    for the part i'm interrested in... i don't really understand the positionning of fénix / 910, particularly vs Ambit...

    Garmin promotes trail running with Fénix cf. video with Sébastien Camus! (but the product lack of main running features as you said)

    So, the 910 is the good product for (ultra)trail, but lack ultratrack autonomie feature to compete ambit, and alti-baro automatic calibration via gps ;)

    Reply
    • Tisztul_A_Visztula replied

      "So, the 910 is the good product for (ultra)trail, but lack ultratrack autonomie feature to compete ambit, and alti-baro automatic calibration via gps "

      It's a good point. When I contacted Garmin support in January even some of their representatives thought there was a continuous automatic elevation calibration using GPS data provided that there was no manual elevation calibration, that is using waypoints with elevation data, at the very start of the activities.

      I guess it should be an option to enable automatic elevation calibration independently whether 910XT finds any nearby waypoint with elevation data. Maybe it was not implemented due to some limitation of the CPU of 910XT.

      On the other hand I don't understand why manual elevation calibration is excluded during recording activities.

      Reply
    • Eli replied

      Would be nice if Garmin had a more consistent feature set. Outside of form factor/hardware differences why should the high end device from one series not be able to do what the high end device from another series can do. Want r-r recording? Only on the FR 310,610,910. Want to support the temp sensor? Only the fenix. Want lifetime map updates? Only on Nuvi. Want a high dpi screen? Only the trail gps units. High end trail units have limited bike features but can't do what the edge can do even though they have the hardware to do it like the Ant+ chipset.

      Reply
  11. Bob Quindazzi

    A nice look inside of Garmin- once again thanks for your stellar work Ray. Really hoping they go for ANT+ control (and they don't foget the 910 while doing so)
    2 pet peeves/requests
    1. I'm pretty happy with Garmin Connect BUT I can't figure out how to make the map fullsize. There must be a way to do that, right? Surely they wouldn't keep their customers in that 1/5 size map on purpose.....
    2. As a vintage 910 user, I, like virtually every 50 year old, uses reading glasses which are not very practical on the bike. Generally, not a huge problem except for the "timer stopped" and "timer started" announcements. Abbreviating them as TSRT and TSTP would make them distinguishable. Don't laugh Ray- it will happen to you someday too!

    Reply
    • Leandro replied

      Bob,
      As for your #1, when you choose an activity and the maps displays in the "1/5 screen size", click on the button labeled "Player" at the top right of the map. It's next to the "Details" and "Splits" button.

      Reply
    • Rainmaker replied

      Hmm, almost like accessibility modes in some software apps (i.e. Windows). Something for the Garmin team to ponder (who I assure you is reading this post).

      Reply
    • Eli replied

      Just incase they think about actually using TSRT and TSTP, I would hope they would pick two things that at more different. The first two characters being the same and the last two just swaping places with a P and R looking very similar could confuse people like me (Dyslexia maybe but could be normal)

      Hoping for more use of inverting display (dark characters on light backgrouns to light characters on dark background. Could also make use of texture on the display as when you get used to the device you aren't really all messages so some non text things can stick out like:
      \\\timer stopped///
      ///timer started\\\
      (The change in direction of the slashes should make it easier to tell the difference even if you don't see it in focus)

      Reply
  12. Marcus

    Don't take that glass cockpit as the standard for small planes. It's the best of the best. Most of the aircraft I've flown still have analog gauges.

    Reply
    • Adam replied

      That glass cockpit is nicer that anything in the military as well.

      Reply
    • Rainmaker replied

      Oh fear not, I know it's not standard. That glass cockpit likely costs more than most older small planes. ;)

      Reply
  13. Great post, Ray, thanks for sharing. You mentioned the bug issue with the Edge 510 and power meters. Is this why my power reading randomly drops 30-45min into a ride? I've had to turn the unit off and on again and its fixed.
    Also - I was disappointed that the heart rate strap from my trusty Forerunner 305 does not work with the Edge 510, nor will the 305 read my new 510 hr strap. This means I have to change HR straps for brick runs. Is there a strap that can be universally read by all Garmin devices?

    Reply
    • Dom replied

      That doesn't sound right. The heart rate strap from the original Forerunner 301 used different technology, but everything they've released since uses ANT+ - the Forerunner 305 definitely does, although it doesn't say so on it because it wasn't a selling point back then.
      I used the strap from my 305 for years with a 310xt.
      So have you tried re-pairing the Forerunner strap with the 510 and it hasn't worked?

      Reply
    • Rainmaker replied

      No, the power bug is a every 2 minute thing, not every 30-45 minutes. That sounds like something else. Though, the turn on/off again is something I did see at one point in beta, but hadn't seen that issue since. I

      Reply
    • Eli replied

      Dom, in terms of the Edge units and most of the Forrunner units the old Ant+ strap will work the same as the new. But, and I know this is nitpicking, for the FR 610 and 910xt while the normal heart rate everyone cares about is the same, the r-r interval timing may be slightly different. The Ant+ standard for HR changed after the first HR straps so the main data page has better support for getting correct r-r times even if a page gets lots. This would only impact you if you depend on the activity level feilds that depend on r-r timing and if you use Firstbeat Athlete and only helps with dropped pages. (if no pages are lost then the r-r timing should be fine, but guessing in the real world there were enough dropped pages that they added this feature)

      I know thats nitpicking as I don't think most people care or will be impacted by it but just wanted to mention it.

      Reply
  14. Eli

    I partially disagree with having garmin's app upload to third parties. I feel like it would be better if they opened up the bluetooth communication so third party apps can talk directly to the unit. Seems like this would allow much more innovation.

    Would also be nice to be able to see others you're tracking on the screen vs needing to pull out a phone. So if I'm riding with someone but they are not in eyesight I can look down at the garmin unit and see where they are.

    Why does it seem like Garmin ignores their forums? People requesting functionality or reporting issues.

    Wonder how much of the equipment in the gym works with Ant+, I know that concept2 rower does.

    Reply
  15. THere is so much information here that my brain is buzzing. BUT! I sure am glad that you shared it!

    Sarah
    http://www.thinfluenced.com

    Reply
  16. Jackson

    Great post - Your write-up reads like an intro section for a funeral piece in Forbes on Garmin 10 years from now when they get bought up and rightsized. Unless they adjust....they are just slowly bleeding away.

    Reply
  17. Jason Uhlrich

    One feature that I can't understand why Garmin Connect doesn't add is gear tracking. Every runner I know tracks the mileage of their shoes and yet Garmin can't add a simple shoe tracker to their site. It seems so simple. The lack of this feature actually pushes me to use another site like Strava.

    Reply
    • Thor R replied

      The way I track gear through Garmin Connect is by adding a note to the activity (I code my shoes and bikes with simple letter/number combinations e.g. B2, G3, etc.). Then once a month I use the keyword search in the Analyse Activities section to bring up all the related activities, export to csv, and I import these into a workbook that I have macros for which spit out my mileages, activity counts, etc.

      It's by no means an elegant workaround, but since I'm a data geek I don't find it a chore like others might.

      Reply
  18. Ed

    Wow, that was depressing. They sound like they don't have a good organization for innovation. The Fenix stuff was a case study in the hazards of siloing a company.

    Unbelievable that they are indoor gym nuts there, yet a 210 can't capture an elliptical or indoor bike workout.

    Reply
    • Rainmaker replied

      Well, remember that some of those machines you see there are actually $10,000 treadmills that have ANT+ built into them (and the spinning machines), which mean they support sending that information directly to the watch. ;)

      Though, the FR210 doesn't support that. Most folks I saw though were actually headed outdoors. A lot of folks headed outdoors.

      Reply
  19. Hubert

    Ray, great as usual!!
    One product that would be a hit : integrate the Heart Rate Monitor in the watch.
    Let's imagine a FR910 with the HRM of the Mio Alpha integrated in it ! Awesome!
    Sure that I am not the first one thinking about it... hope in a few years...

    Reply
    • billM replied

      Me too, I like my recently purchased 910xt a whole lot, but getting rid of the HRM chest strap with associated spiking issues pre sweating up would be a dream. definately upgrading to optical HRM intergrated whenever they bring it out.

      Reply
    • Eli replied

      While it would be awsome I think there might be a major size issue. As in the optical heart rate hardware and the larger battery needed to power it would make a replacement of the 910 bigger. I'm also not sure if the optical sensor can do r-r recording which is used for training effects on the watch.

      So while it may be a good idea, there are tradeoffs to doing it.

      Reply
    • Rainmaker replied

      Given Mio has been looking to license the technology, I suspect you'll see it sooner than you think (in someone's unit).

      Reply
  20. Craig

    Off topic:

    But it supports Rainmakers rant

    " Line up above your ability level. “If you’re running 7:45s and you’re lining up with a bunch of Ethiopians … it’s probably not going to help your race...”

    link to triathlon.competitor.com

    Reply
    • Hubert replied

      In few years, electronic components will become lighter and will consume less. It may downsize the FR910 enough to add an optical HRM.
      However, they could add it to the FR610 first, which still has room for a lot of stuff.
      I also bet that a battery extension (on the over side of the wrist) may be an option, but well, there too there should be a drawback. The real question is : what is worst? chest HRM strap or larger watch? For me chest HRM is the pain.

      Reply
  21. this guy

    The most shocking part of the whole post for me:
    "Garmin’s warehouse in Olathe (btw, it’s pronounced o-lay-th-uhh)"
    I've been saying "oh-lah-thee". My world just exploded.

    Reply
  22. Wayne

    Consumers deserve user replaceable batteries!

    Reply
    • Rainmaker replied

      In a watch form factor replaceable batteries would virtually guarantee a size increase. Now for a device like the Edge 510/810 - that's different...

      Reply
  23. Vincent

    Thanks for the post Ray, did you ask about 910xt and swimming workouts. thanks

    Reply
    • Tisztuk_A_Visztula replied

      Yep, +1 for 910xt.

      Any hint from Garmin crew about the timing of next firmware release?

      Reply
    • Rainmaker replied

      Yes, we talked at length about it.

      It sounds like right now the focus will primarily be on fixing FR910XT bugs, more than new features. No timeline that they wanted to share for that however.

      Reply
  24. Shannon S

    This was really great, Ray. I also live nearby and I've biked by both the Garmin HQ and that stretch of trail many and many a time. I'm also an engineer, so I've wanted to see in there for a long time! Love the backstage tour.

    Reply
  25. kab

    Great post, Ray. Thanks for an inside look!

    Reply
  26. Paul

    I think you are absolutely right about the need for the 510 and 810 to be able to upload directly to other platforms such as training peaks.

    Reply
    • Eli replied

      The problem with this approach is it puts garmin in the position of blessing certain sites over others so those Garmin doesn't implement their upload code for won't work. I'd much rather Garmin open up the bluetooth protocol so anyone who wants to can write an app to upload to wherever they want. To me Garmin should be in the market to develop the best device they can and let everyone else (ok, everyone outside garmin connect) be on equal footing to process the recorded data.

      Reply
  27. John L

    I wonder if Garmin's internal cultural 'guardrails', as required to meet the rigors of the avionics market, are too opposed to the dynamic and innovative culture required by a 'consumer' market? Proprietary hardware, closed protocols, and lack of third-party support are all hallmarks of a philosophy that prefers control over flexibility.

    Perhaps Garmin should consider spinning out their consumer division into the hands of a more disruptive management team?

    Reply
    • Tom G. replied

      Companies have differing divisions. Garmin participating in avionics which requires rigorous testing and a rigid framework to operate in does not mean that translates over to their Consumer work. In fact, give the amount of complaints seen on this forum and others about different bugs seen at launch time of Garmin's products, clearly they are not applying that same kind of framework to those divisions.

      Reply
  28. kab

    p.s. glad that all of your loved ones are safe and sound after boston.

    Reply
  29. Tyler

    What's that all-black watch you're wearing, Ray?
    Looks like the 10, but without the red details.
    Muche better look as all-black.

    Reply
    • Rainmaker replied

      Funny...I wondered who might notice.

      Garmin's looked into a slew of color options for the Forerunner 10 and uses various color samples to asses whether or not to move forward, hopefully this one will make the cut. This was a small-sized FR10 (normally women's size) in just the colors shown. Again, no guarantee it'll be offered.

      They explained how they could do this when we went to the section with the 3D printing. Cool stuff.

      Reply
    • Dom replied

      My OH would buy a small FR10 in black in a heartbeat. She has tiny wrists but hated the lurid pink of the women's-size FR10 she tried on.

      Reply
  30. Luiz Filho

    Great post Ray! I really enjoy "behind the scenes" and this one is awsome!
    Thanks a lot!

    Reply
  31. Thor R

    Thanks for this Ray - I just noticed I missed the boat on a suggestion for you to potentially raise with the Garmin Connect team so hopefully they catch it here:

    The number 1 feature I want to see added to Garmin Connect is the ability to upload a workout from a csv or similar file. I create or get all my workouts sent to me in tables that I can & do put into csv files (data geek analysis) and I hate the repetitiveness of having to create a slew of workouts in Garmin Connect. Just tell me the format the data should be in and a tool to upload and I'm good.

    Loved the glimpse of the avionics side of the house and I would love to work on a glass cockpit like the little bug-smasher has!

    Reply
  32. Dan Lipsher

    Great post. I'm kinda surprised Garmin allowed you to take photos inside their campus. The company has some serious QA and deliverability (e.g., Vector/vaporware), but their customer service has been easy to deal with. Just too bad I've had to deal with them so often.

    Reply
    • Rainmaker replied

      Having a post without photos wouldn't have a post at all.

      To be fair, there were certainly plenty of things I couldn't take photos of. But, they were quite flexible in that regard. Sometimes moving things just out of frame or what not.

      Reply
  33. James

    Hi Ray,
    Thanks for this post. Is there any plans to add a temperature feature to the Forerunners, like is.on the Edges?

    Reply
    • FJ replied

      The problem with the forerunner is that, if you put a temperature sensor on it, you will be capturing a lot of body heat in the reading, so it will not be representative of environmental temperatures.

      The edge is mounted far enough away from the body for this not to be a problem though

      Reply
    • Eli replied

      Internal?, I'd agree with fj, but could support the external sensor

      Reply
    • Rainmaker replied

      We talked about adding it to the FR910XT (most common request). It doesn't sound like that's on the plate. But, it does sound like going forward on new products we'll see better support for Garmin's own accessories.

      Reply
  34. Best line in the whole post? "Refuse to innovate"! Priceless! Thank you!

    Reply
    • Rainmaker replied

      Glad someone picked up on that. ;)

      Reply
  35. Uros

    How about that, even Garmin's Group Fitness Schedule Calendar uses colors and looks much better then the new and "improved" Garmin Connect's Calendar.

    I've been actually waiting for your take on Garmin's Connect Calendar on your blog, but I guess you must be using something other than Garmin Connect's site to track your activities, care to share which ones, since I gave up on Garmin ignoring all the requests for a rollback of their recent calendar upgrade.

    Reply
    • Rainmaker replied

      As noted above (or, I think I noted it), we talked about the calendar. They've heard the feedback. Oh have they ever. Fear not, sounds like change is in the wind based on said feedback.

      Reply
    • Vlad Bychkov replied

      The new calendar on Garmin Connect was a disaster and I think Garmin received plenty of feedback. Not sure about their timely response though. In the meantime I wrote a little plugin for Google Chrome, that somewhat fixes those deficiencies. I posted the link on Garmin's forum and quite a few folks using it. Here's a link: Garmin Connect - Calendar Fix

      Reply
  36. Eli

    Was thinking about your request for zero offset recording. If they plan to do that it may be useful to also record the time since battery was changed that many Ant+ devices broadcast as part of their profile. This would be useful so that users can track when they would be more likely to need to change batteries through an app/website that interprets that data.

    Reply
    • ifor replied

      Battery use time where available is captured by my IpSensorMan Android app as used by checking now my Tempe looks to be at 102 days. HRM is at 5 days 14 hours.

      Reply
    • Rainmaker replied

      On the zero offset, it's funny, i got an e-mail last night from the O-Synce guys (make the Navi2Coach cycling unit). They've already started looking into how to do it. Right now it appears it will require a slight update to the .FIT file protocol from ANT+, but they've already sent an e-mail off to the Dynastream guys (ANT+ guys), as well as to the dev leads at all the major PM companies. Pretty impressed - all based on casual comments in this post.

      Reply
    • Eli replied

      I realize it needs a change to the FIT file format to add that data field, thats why I wanted to note that I hope they make it generic to be able to do more then just the zero offset. Standards being best if they are more generic then just the one issue someone is looking at and as far as my understanding of the FIT format is there is no support for saving data about a sensor and I feel like how this should be supported over some special zero offset data field. Then the FIT file would be useful for things people aren't thinking of right now.

      ifor, my phone doesn't support Ant+, and yes I could write an app that uses the Ant+ stick to read that data adding it into the FIT file would allow sites and apps that use the FIT file to be able to easily track that data automatically without needing to manually enter more data. Plus I don't think the raw data is so useful, but can be used to show a warning to a user that they should look into getting a new battery soon.

      Reply
  37. when will improve (fix) Premium Heart Rate Monitor (Soft Strap 010-10997-02). In 3 months I have a second heart monitor. DC Rainmaker tell me WHY?

    Reply
    • Rainmaker replied

      That's definitely not normal for a HR strap. Many folks go years with it.

      Reply
  38. Dezi

    absolutely love your website! I just purchased the Garmin 310xt based off of extensive reading mostly from your website and comparison. Seeing the Garmin behind the scenes was pretty cool!!! Thank you for all that you do!!!

    Reply
  39. Baptiste

    Hi DC,

    Are their indoor GPS locating their units inside their building or just replicating the position of the outside antenna?
    interesting things anyway...

    Baptiste

    Reply
    • Rainmaker replied

      Just replicating the outside location inside. I actually poked around online for GPS repeaters. About $200 for a base-level unit.

      Reply
  40. Harper

    Ray,

    From a Olathe resident, Garmin is a great supporter in the area of all kinds of fitness events and charitable foundations. Generally their are very good at "giving back" to their local community.

    They also host a yearly "Ride with the Pros" ride where they do a benefit ride for the local MS chapter where you can ride with the Garmin Team for a donation. Might be worth a trip overseas...I rode with Tommy D last year right after CVV won the US Pro Cycling Challenge. They were a bit hung over...

    Reply
  41. Don

    Don't count on the fixes. The 705 had/has a lot of problems and they never fixed them. Instead they eventually came out with the 800 and just dumped the 705 customers.

    Reply
  42. Phenomenal opportunity and thanks for sharing! I've really enjoyed many of your Garmin in-depth reviews!

    Reply
  43. Diplo

    I think Garmin listened to you because I was just able to export my swim workout. That's been the first time I have been able to do that since I bought my 910xt in December!

    Thanks for the great post!

    Reply
  44. Just in my back yard, literally on that trail. Hope you enjoyed all that o-lay-th-uhh has to offer. I drive by Garmin every day on the way to work. If you would have headed further south, then you would have found the sweet playground of country roads a lot of Johnson county people use for bike riding.

    It's sort of surreal when you think about the GPS giant and they built their complex on a cow farm across the street from a high school.

    Nice behind the scenes look.

    Reply
  45. Alex

    very interesting post.
    during the Q4 financial release, CEO announced that "Garmin wants to leverage connectivity capabilities and Garmin Connect to build community and social networking amogst users" ; but curiously, it seems Garmin is still reluctant to collaborate with Strava, TrainingPeak and others... Any idea about Garmin intentions regarding that topic?

    Reply
    • Rainmaker replied

      This is in reference to adding more social features to GC, not to other sport platforms. An example of this would be all the new GC follow/team/group functionality pieces you've seen over the last few months.

      Reply
  46. Jim F

    Another local resident and engineer checking in. Wish I had known you were in town, surely there should have been a Rainmaker meetup! I hope you got to experience a little more of KC and surrounding areas than just the few neighborhoods that make up Olathe and ate some delicious barbeque! Keep up the great work. :)

    Reply
    • Rainmaker replied

      I got some very solid pork. Probably some of the best food I've ever had actually. Really really good.

      Reply
  47. paulB

    I need to stick with what works. So I back tracked a bit and use the 910xt for swim/bike/run with Cycleops Powertap and Garmin HR monitor with Polar strap. But also use the Joules 2 bike computer because it has great realtime data and uploads detailed data to Power agent software. I also use garmin swim when training in pools. All Data eventually uploads to Garmin Connect for the interval and calendar views, but not social media. I am sticking to this until a better system comes out that works for swim/bike/run.

    Thanks a bunch

    Reply
  48. zac_in_ak

    my daughter saw the picture of the wireless testing room and said she wants a door like that to keep her brother out :)

    Reply
  49. tobor

    Ray, I'd like to get your impressions on how seriously Garmin is taking their competition. A few years ago they had virtually none, but now there are a number of players--big and small--innovating and iterating models. Did you get the sense that Garmin understands that releasing products with minor, incremental changes every few years might not be a good strategy? Also along this line, you previously praised the MotoACTV UI as the future of these types of watchs...any sense that Garmin will finally update their UI (it seems to have barely changed since the 1st gen FRs).

    Secondly, your article alludes to the fact that Garmin is aware that they've released some buggy products that don't perform as advertised (e.g. the 910XT). My opinion is that they've been extremely slow to respond--do you get the impression that they have the all the resources they need to deal with such systemic problems in the future? Since Garmin produces a variety of GPS lines, I have to wonder if the sports line doesn't have an adequate budget, resources, and personnel.

    Reply
    • Rainmaker replied

      On the first (taking competition seriously), it's a mix of yes and no. I think they see the competition, but it's not applicable to all products. Meaning, for running there is definitely serious competition in this space at certain price points (namely sub-$200). From both traditional companies like Timex and Polar with the RC3, and non-traditional competition like cell phones being the biggest.

      In the case of cycling, there's a bit of competition with units such as the Joule GPS, but beyond that, the other units really aren't truly competitive when you start diving into them. I think that's changing with companies like O-Synce that are making some very competitive products here, but the global reach is nowhere near Garmin, so that will take time.

      In the case of triathlon, there just isn't competition there yet for an equal device of the FR910XT that can measure across all three sports in both indoor and outdoor modes. As such, they seem less concerned there with batting away competition.

      Looking at the buggy aspect and resources - no, they don't have enough resources. Or at least, they're structured in a way that makes bug fixes tough organizationally. They don't have a "sustained engineering" team like many companies of that size in the software industry have that sits back and works on bugs, while the feature teams work on new products. Thus the choice is new product, or old product. Unfortunately, new product wins almost every day. The exceptions would be in cases where new product is so bad (i.e. Garmin Fenix) that it gets beat by competitive products (i.e. Suunto Ambit) - and that's where you saw significant resources being pulled into Fenix...but, for a short period of time. Then that team got pulled over to work on Quatix (the marine watch based on Fenix).

      Reply
    • He5x replied

      How about the HRM and strap competition? My premium soft strap that I got with my FR310XT finally crapped out, and the Garmin rep I spoke with today would not help me out since it's out of warranty. I might still have my old-school strap that came with my FR305 around somewhere, but it is frustrating to have an unreliable Garmin strap. The rep admitted to being a Polar user before he worked at Garmin, and I suspect he would still use a non-Garmin HR strap if not for the discounts....

      That said, I may still buy a new, non-Garmin HR strap unless they're planning to release a competition killer in the near future. Do you expect them to get into the BTLE/BT Smart tech? Is it feasible to have a dual-mode BTLE and ANT+ release in the industry, and if so, should I hold my breath for its release?

      I'm on the fence with a lot of tech purchases right now b/c, as an pure Google Android guy (maybe the next iPhone will convince me, but not likely ;)) and 310XT owner training for my first IM, I'm trying to make the most sustainable purchases possible while operating on a tight budget!

      Thanks for any input you may have!

      Reply
    • Rainmaker replied

      We talked about BT/BLE sensors. Don't expect to see any near-term (production of), though we will see wider adoption of BT chips in devices - but even though, unlikely to see support of BT senors either. They simply see it as eating into their ANT+ sensors.

      Long term of course, that's a losing battle - supporting both will be required as competitors do.

      Reply
  50. Neil

    510 user and just started using link to garminsync.com to get connect to sync with strava - not 100% perfect in that it is a 3rd party service with limited integration but sweet in that 510 uploads to connect via mobile and about 5 mins later appears on strava. Gets around the lack of strava support fairly painlessly.

    Reply
  51. Joel

    Ray - if you want to go and do some fixed wing flying in France then I highly recommend the Cosmo Flying School at the Aeroclub du Limousin at Limoges. I renewed my rating down there in March, the flying is fantastic and you'll have the only English-speaking instructor in France. Mail me if you want more details.

    Reply
    • Rainmaker replied

      Awesome, I've scribbled your note away...might just hit you up some day!

      Reply
  52. Vlad

    So do you think that since the team was moved from Fenix the development/bugfixing will stop?

    Would you by any chance have any knowledge regarding GPS firmware updates (it is heavily discussed subject in forums) Are they possible and are they WH bound?

    Reply
    • Rainmaker replied

      Not moved permanently, just back and forth. Multi-focused.

      I'm reasonably sure I saw a GPS chipset update at one point during the beta cycle. Digging around trying to find the screenshot of it (as I usually always take them)...

      Reply
    • Michael replied

      I saw it too. It was listed as an additional update for the GPS chipset M4. But when I did the update, I was still at the version 2.10.

      Reply
  53. Russ Brandt

    Any hope for text message "pushes" from Live Track on Garmin Connect to the 510/810? A "time for dinner" message, or "the kids are out of control" message when I'm tooling away on my bike would be nice (or not).

    Reply
  54. Larry

    Not being a user of the Edge 800/810 series this may be speculation, but I'll bring up something I've wondered about when reading reviews or seeing these units in bike shops... It appears they use traditional TFT screens with a backlight whereas many of Garmin's handheld GPS units (e.g. Oregon & Montana series) use sunlight readable transflective color TFT screens. On the surface it seems like a bike computer on steroids (i.e. Edge 800/810) would mostly be used where good readability in sunlight is important. Has there been any discussion at Garmin about lessons learned from the handheld group and why they're selectively using a different screen technology? If I want to squint at a display with less than great sunlight readability, I'd just mount my mobile phone and use it as a cycle computer. Apologies if the Edge 800/810 have great sunlight readability and I'm off-base here.

    Reply
    • Alfred replied

      They do use a transflective (sunlight readable) display very similar to (but slightly worse than) the old outdoors units (e.g. GPSMAP 60csx). I actually suspect the display itself is exactly the same and the touchscreen blocks a small amount of light entering / exiting.

      Reply
  55. Vlad

    Can Ambit HR strap be used with Fenix?

    Reply
    • Rainmaker replied

      No, the Ambit HR strap is Suunto proprietary ANT, but not ANT+. However, the new firmware for the Ambit does enable access to both ANT and the more common ANT+ straps.

      Reply
  56. Excellent walk through of the Garmin factory. Have always been curious how the factory would look like and how things like the Edge/Forerunner get designed. Very Elaborate and detailed post. Thanks.

    Reply
  57. dECEIT70

    What are the remaining bugs still plaguing the 910XT you're talking about?

    From where i'm standing:
    - the altimeter is broken (even the GPS one is with 1000 meters jumps in the beginning of rides) ;
    - the HR strap is not working properly (I bought a Cycleops Powercal and haven't had a peak yet!) ;
    - the swim algorithm should be editable in Connect.

    Anything else?

    Reply
    • laurie replied

      My biggest beef with the 910 is I have found it not to be as accurate/consistent as the 310. And I am not alone if you read the Garmin message boards. My 910 often has miles that are off by 2% as compared to my Edge 800 and FR310, or even to itself on out and backs. After a lap, it often takes a couple hundred yards to get a reasonable "lap pace" for the new lap even when I don't vary my pace. I saw this behavior on at least 3 different 910 devices.

      Reply
    • Rainmaker replied

      The pace being the major one. But, it's not for everyone. My pace is fine on mine, but others have issues. Export of swimming from Garmin Connect, and then some odd bugs here and there on the forums that folks have.

      Keep in mind, the FR910XT will still be around for years to come (on sale) even after whatever is post-FR910XT (again, nothing this season).

      Reply
    • Tisztul_A_Visztula replied

      Somebody in Kansas should be murdered. Not literally of course. In my language there is an expression saying that somebody is hiding like a sh*t in the tall grass.
      This is how I feel about this giant company with its latest 910XT fw dated back in Nov 2012.

      Reply
  58. Peter

    Nice article. I noticed that you had a silver/black forerunner 10 and I can not find those anywhere. Any tips at where to find em'?

    Reply
    • Rainmaker replied

      At this point it's just a concept color.

      Reply
  59. Thanks that was a great look. I have both a Garmin Edge 305 and 800. Love them both. HAd a crash replacement on the 305 and Garmin Customer Service was outstanding.

    I will say I miss Motionbased and it does not seem like it has been many moons.

    Also I know my Edge 305 and 800 both will use garmin communicator plug in to upload direct to RideWithGPS. Really I think Strava is at the point of growth they are like a Walmart--some people, me being one for example, will avoid it like the plague just because of being sick of its seeming ultra-popularity and mass acceptance.

    Reply
  60. Ray- I really like the in depth details of all your posts on products- features, pictures, comparison, etc. You don't leave out anything...I frequently forward your posts on to colleagues and clients. Thank you!

    Reply

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