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Counterpoint: Understanding why the Garmin AutoSync rollout isn’t necessarily great for consumers

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This morning’s announcement by Garmin of their Garmin Sync rollout is one that’s been long in the making – starting in earnest much earlier this year.  The culmination of that effort arrived today with direct synchronization to TrainingPeaks and runcoach.  But ultimately, those two companies are just the first two to take advantage of it – with a number of massive fitness/sports names in the queue, as Garmin and those other companies work through the technical implementation details.

A bit of background

So then you might be asking – why would this be a bad thing?  Well, because while Garmin has built a bridge that many users will love with automatic sync, they’ve also built a huge wall at the same time.  That wall was targeted at blocking the numerous app developers that used to directly pull data from Garmin Connect.  In doing so Garmin effectively completed a Strava-like blockage on a single night without any notice (that they since changed direction on).

Up until February, Garmin Connect had an API that was available to developers to use free of charge.  An API that was  built over half a decade earlier by the MotionBased team (which Garmin bought and eventually rebranded Garmin Connect).  The API had a very simple terms of service, that previously said (in total):

“You are free to access our API as long as you agree to create great things.”

Which, developers did.  There were cool apps that uploaded data, parsed data, viewed data, and allowed you to analyze the data.  Ultimately, they were allowing you to view your data that you uploaded.

When I first started poking around at this back in early January (before the data cutoff in February) when Garmin appeared to delete the welcome page for the API instructions (but not delete any other content, including all the details).  When I queried they responded with:

“Garmin’s API is not open to anyone. We are working closely with B2B partners who are looking to use activity data to validate a participant’s activities in their wellness program.  The API makes it possible for all activity monitoring and fitness device data to be shared with a wellness partner. You can find our corporate wellness page here, which will change on January 6 to reflect the new product announcements.”

I found this sorta strange given that they had an entire site dedicated to said API (still present even then), along with terms of service that still said you were allowed to do anything you wanted as long as it was great.

But things got quiet again and nobody screamed…until mid-February.

Garmin Connect Modern Rollout

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Fast forward to the week of February 17th, when Garmin started rolling out their new Garmin Connect Modern interface, also known as GC2.  This interface would be the long-term future of Garmin Connect for sports and fitness activities, but more pressingly was required to rollout Garmin Vivofit, their recently announced daily activity tracker.  Since everything for Vivofit was built with GC2 in mind, and since it was time to start shipping Vivofit to consumers – Garmin began the rollout of GC2 to consumers.

In doing so however, they immediately broke all 3rd party application access to Garmin Connect.  This meant that any 3rd party site or apps (mostly apps though) could no longer access data from the site.  Apps like ConnectStats, LogMyTraining, RunCoach, Sport Tracks, Training Peaks, Wahoo Fitness, and Altifondo, among many others.

Ironically, apps like Sport Tracks & Training Peaks broke not because of the Garmin Connect rollout, but because of a concurrent start of the Garmin Express rollout (to replace the Garmin ANT Agent for uploading Garmin Forerunner workouts).  The app without notice changed the location of the files, thus overnight breaking consumers ability to easily use those third party apps and forcing those companies to change their software.

After a flood of complaints I brought the API/site breakage issue up to Garmin, to which Garmin responded with:

“I spoke with our Connect team and it was unintentional and there is no new blocking policy. Any application developers that have run into an issue can contact us at [GC e-mail address]  to let us know what isn’t working for them.”

So app developers did.  They sent e-mail off to that address…and heard little back.  One has to remember when you’re a developer and your app or site breaks that’s generally a life-altering event (just like it was for apps that depended on Strava when it broke).

From my side Garmin appeared to be somewhat interested in sorting out the problem.  In talking with them later, they explained that they were rather surprised at the breakage.  And that given all of the things they had on their plate to deal with that week during a major product rollout – breaking a bunch of apps was not on the agenda of ‘wants’.

To that end, I’d agree that I don’t think they purposefully broke it.  But, I also think it’s somewhat naïve to not test at least a handful of 3rd party apps, given Garmin was aware of said apps beforehand (since some of them had been individually blocked).

But over the course of the next 5-7 days the messaging soon changed from Garmin.  Gone was the friendly desire to help out these apps, but rather to start restricting them.  Instead, the apps soon received information on their next steps from Garmin:

“The developer program will reply within 48 hours to the initial developer request to get the pertinent  information. Once all of the information from the developer is received they will reply within approximately 24 hours either denying their request or providing the Terms of Use for execution. They will send an invoice (a $5000 one-time fee) about a week after the signed Terms of Use is received. When payment is received, the FTP information will be provided to obtain the API and token.”

So instead of having an open access policy, they would be charging the apps $5,000 to ‘play’, along with signing of a legal agreement.  For most smaller apps, this would basically amount to killing the app.

The $5,000 Garmin Connect Access Program

So why put barriers in place?  Well, you generally want some sort of gateway to control access to your platform. That’s totally reasonable.  For example, Garmin noted that some apps had been so poorly coded as to essentially simulate a full on attack of the site while trying to pull data.

Most sites do this by implementing an API that allows authorization on both the 3rd party site/side as well as (in this case) the hosting platform side (i.e. Garmin Connect).  Except, Garmin didn’t really have that level of granularity – putting them in a bit of a pickle.

Their API was ‘limited’ at best, and didn’t really have any controls in place to easily authorize a specific application.  Adding fuel to the fire is that Garmin Connect never really responded to any such formal e-mail requests for such access from developers (many developers over the years had tried, and never received an answer).  So they couldn’t easily weed out bad apps from good apps.  In some ways, Garmin had made their own bed here.

So why the $5,000 fee?  Well, that was essentially a ‘get off our lawn’ move.  For most hobbyist developers and smaller companies, the $5,000 fee was an immediate roadblock.  And for large companies (like Training Peaks), the money wasn’t the issue – but the time integrating the platform and the legal agreements that Garmin wanted companies to sign would be.  Those would take months to sort out (as proven).  Thus effectively Garmin effectively solved their problem.

Why closed access isn’t actually good for Garmin either

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Lost in this entire debate is that consumers have lost easy access to their Garmin Connect activity data from other apps. So it used to be that I could easily access that data from a multitude of apps that showed and did cool things.  For example analyzing and visualizing my Garmin activities in totally new and innovative ways.  Sorta like what many of the Strava apps do today.

Garmin in turn argues that you can still access your data directly from your device.  For example, you can plug in your new Edge 1000 and download directly from USB.  And that’s absolutely true.  The raw .FIT data is still there, and still accessible.  And, you can still do that.

Except that’s not the direction consumers are moving to or wanting.  If it was, then Garmin wouldn’t have worked with Training Peaks to work out automatic sync.

Rather, consumers want access to their data from any device they have.  In the enterprise world that’s known as “Bring Your Own Device”, meaning that if you have an iPad you can connect to the service or platform.  In the case of the Edge 1000 for example, you actually couldn’t use an iPad to access the raw data and send it to Strava (or some other site) since you can’t plug it in via USB to an iPad.

Garmin believes that they need to restrict access to the API with a $5,000 fee and lengthy paper legal agreements because it’ll cost them money if lots of developers start using their platform, with those costs split between human support costs and increased web hosting (server) costs.

Of course, neither of those two really hold water to anyone familiar with the business.

Looking at the hosting fees first, the cost of running the API portion of these servers is minuscule at best, especially in an elastic cloud environment.  The load on the backend developer API piece simply isn’t there compared to the juggernaut that is Garmin Connect (actual user website).

From an API standpoint, large companies (Google, Microsoft, etc…) all offer API’s to a host of services: free.  And tiny startups also do the same.  As do competitors like Strava (these days), and even direct Garmin competitors like Suunto.  Surely, if all of these providers can do so for free, then certainly Garmin can?

But, I’m somewhat reasonable in this.  I think it’s perfectly fine for Garmin to instead offer a tiered approach.  They could offer a free tier with lower API limits and limited support, and then a higher end tier with higher volumes and full support.  This would solve all the issues at once.  Unfortunately, Garmin doesn’t feel the same way here.

Garmin feels like these apps are in many ways competitors.  Which is ultimately not at all the case, and an incredibly short-sighted view of things.  These apps are actually strengthening the Garmin Connect platform.  Taking Strava for example, with their API they allow developers to do ‘cool stuff’, and as such you see more people loading data into the platform – often to use 3rd party apps on their phones or browsers.  This in turn serves to further tie people to a service.

For example, this app below to chart out rides from my activity files:

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Virtually every one of these apps start as a hobbyist project first.  It’s usually one person doing something they love that slowly grows into something more.  Which is actually how virtually every company ever starts.  If Garmin was smart about it, they can harness the power of these hobbyists/apps to show off the power of the Garmin device ecosystem – thus indirectly making it more appealing to buy Garmin devices than competitor devices.  And as they grow, those apps could move up tiers in a Garmin Connect relationship – thus ensuring Garmin resources aren’t out of whack with demand.

Which ultimately would take them to where Training Peaks and soon others are today with Garmin Connect: A sweet sync service that consumers will love.

It’s just too bad that this new platform had to come at the expensive of a bunch of other just as cool apps and platforms.

Thanks for reading!

121 Comments

  1. David Manley

    Another move by garmin that tries to force me to use connect. I'm still smarting from the killing of the plug in forcing me to import manually into various tools I use.

    Reply
    • Paul S replied

      It's still around, and it still works. They just recently released an update to Communicator Plugin, although whether there'll be any more is a good question. It just doesn't work with Connect Modern.

      Reply
    • David Manley replied

      Ok, more that installing Express removed it for me. I've not actually experimented much with trying to put it back.

      Reply
    • Paul S replied

      That must be a Windows thing? It didn't happen to me when I installed Express on my Mac. I just got done using both Express and Communicator Plugin.

      Reply
    • David Manley replied

      Did exactly that on my mac. In fact I just reinstalled the communicator plugin to find it had removed express.

      However I put express back on and it seems to have left the plugin behind this time - obviously no more ant agent though so I can talk to my edge but not my forerunner.

      Reply
    • Tim Shesrs replied

      Spot on. Own goal by Garmin.

      I record my data on a Garmin Edge, but then upload it to Strava as it is the best platform and doesn't mess with your data.

      I then use Training Peaks, Veloviewer and Othercsites to look at the data in different ways by automatically syncing via Tapiirk.

      Garmin Connect is way behind the market momentum and this sort of move will push them further back.

      Reply
    • Adam replied

      I'd disagree with your statement that Strava doesn't mess with your data. Admittedly they've backtracked on the data lockdown of last year (so you can use whatever tool you like to analyse your data), but the way that they present data from your GPS devices is pretty dodgy too.

      The headline activity statistics on Strava (activity duration, average speeds etc etc) are all based on Strava's calculation of 'Moving Time' i.e. cutting out all the time that you are supposedly stood still. This works brilliantly for cycling and is entirely appropriate when you might spend a significant amount of time waiting at lights/junctions/top of hills.

      For running activities, these calculations are absolutely woeful. I don't know if it's struggles with the typical speeds being much lower, but my activities (recorded on FR110) are routinely boosted by 5-10% in pace and all of the km splits are shown in this fashion too. Absolutely useless for analysing run training in any sort of detail.

      I'm amazed by how few people are aware of this. This support thread highlights the specifics of the situation, but the response from Strava suggests that they think people want their data manipulated to make them look faster than they actually are:

      link to strava.zendesk.com

      Reply
    • Nick replied

      If you think they dont mess with your data - try and download all your rides in bulk form. Any trainer rides are downloaded as empty files, so you lose all your winter training info.

      Reply
  2. I agree completely, Garmin sells hardware. I now use my Wahoo RFLKT+ instead of my Edge 800 so I get automatic upload to Strava (and Garmin Connect) after each workout.
    I see no need for an Edge 1000 since it just gets me one step back in functionality.

    Reply
    • Camrunr replied

      I made the switch from Garmin to RFLKT+ recently as well. Aside from the battery issue, which they're working on, I couldn't be happier. For the bike it's a Wahoo Trackr HRM, RFLKT+ and a QuadLock phone mount. I only use the mount occasionally -- usually the phone is in my rear jersey pocket. I've done a few centuries with this config, and will be doing a double next week with the aid of an external battery pack/charger dealio for the phone.

      I've also been using the RFLKT+ for running. It works great. I'm using an old garmin quick-release wrist strap. Only hitch is that it's rotated 90 degrees from normal, but I just wear it on the underside of my wrist. Makes for a very natural glance down to see stats. The phone fits neatly in my RoadRuner compression shorts' side pocket, and I really don't even notice it's there.

      Reply
  3. RBQ

    Thanks, Ray!

    I've been waiting for a post like this for the last year or two. I wish Garmin understood how platforms worked and the importance access.

    I believe they are slowly setting themselves up for failure by creating all of these boundaries for both developers (people would be / could be embracing the GC platform) and end-users.

    I hope this article gets circulated throughout Garmin and is read by everyone who works on the platform.

    Reply
  4. Thanks for the Mesmeride plug again :) It's worth noting that Strava (eventually) came around after the barrage of criticism and now have a public API again. They burned a ton of developer trust, though, and I think have a long road before their app partners really feel like the platform is safe to invest in.

    Of course, Google have been at the forefront of deprecating and changing conditions for much-loved APIs and tools. Strangely enough, Strava were burned by this themselves with the Google Maps access changes (one reaction)! Surprising that they didn't learn from this, but there you go.

    Reply
  5. Graham R

    Wow, so yeah.. I've been using tapiriik with my tomtom to push to GC in the even i supplement the tomtom with an edge - i guess this makes that decision easy.

    Reply
  6. ThomasR

    Will this break the Tapiriik GC connection or do you know if they plan to pay?

    Reply
    • Rainmaker replied

      They're using a bit of a sidedoor right now. But I'd be reasonably surprised if that stays alive forever. And, to some degree, if announcements like the TrainingPeaks announcement continue (and they will), then Tapiriik will be less critical for most people.

      Reply
    • ThomasR replied

      Yes, I suppose so. Personally I'm only interested in GC to Strava, for my Garmin Swim. Could this be happening soon?

      Reply
    • Pete replied

      Mine is still working (Tapiriik) I don't think it uses the API, since you have to provide it with your account credentials.

      Thanks Ray for posting this and I fully agree. Garmin is considered a low IQ company... I haven't seen a single thing Garmin has done right in 6 years. Their hardware always makes turns in the wrong direction. sure they occasionally make a step for the better, but usually pepper that in 10 steps in the wrong direction and the one thing they deliver doesn't work like you would expect and Garmin support doesn't help, and they rarely actually fix anything. I'm speaking generically, but after having 6 Garmin Edge devices, I'm done. I actually think this is one company I have grown to "hate" and that's hard to do.

      Going forward, I am not supporting Garmin or purchasing any more of their devices/accessories. This is goodbye Garmin.

      Reply
    • Neil replied

      I agree with you Pete. Question though - what other competing products do you see as replacements for Garmin's Edge series? (and I am not leading you here, I am sincerely interested). I still use Garmin's Training Center as I refuse to upload my data to, or work with, Garmin Connect. But, when I looked around to find another head unit, I couldn't find anything even close. SRM is enhancing their unit this year I am told, but other than that, I saw nothing to move to. I would be very interested to know what others see as viable products to move to.

      Reply
    • Pete replied

      I still use my 810 after backing out of getting a 1000 based on it's poor launch. I think the RFLKT+ and the new Magellan MIO are competing products that from what I've see actually show commitment to cyclists and a development cycles that's far more rapid than Garmin's frozen molasses approach.

      Ideally, I'd like to see a new RFLKT+++ that does a lot more features and doesn't put so much stress on the iPhone battery, I'm in a habit of recharging devices every ride so I don't care about year long battery life. would love to see local storage, txt/call alerts, color screen, touchscreen, etc... I think it's worth $299 if it can save the phone battery (or go without phone for a ride and sync later) The US version of the MIO sounds really promising even though it appears rough around the edges both in HW & Software, I'd probably wait for another revision before I take the plunge on either of these devices.

      To clarify, I'm using and will stick with my 810, I have a PowerTap and do some good training and century rides so I couldn't deal with dead phone and device after 4 hours. I don't think there is a 100% viable alternative for me currently on the market but I have decided that I won't further support Garmin. My 810 should cover me until the next wave of technology hits.

      The market and technology is so varied, I can't recommend any device until I know exactly how someone wants to use it and what type of training and sensors they use. I still might recommend Garmin for a lot of scenarios until the other devices look like solid options.

      Reply
    • Luke replied

      With all this GC crazyness Tapriik has actually become more important to me. My workflow is this: workout, save to GC, edit on GC (quickly, before tapriik transfers to the world), get data to trainingpeaks, straava, and MOST IMPORTANTLY, dropbox.
      Once the .fit file is on dropbox I don't have to worry about any company messing this up in the future. That is actually quite priceless to me, and I'd be happy to help out with more tapriik cost-sharing in the future (once garmin inevitably messes with them).

      Reply
  7. FJ

    Way to go Garmin! as if I needed more reasons to stay away from GarminConnect!

    Strava + CyclingAnalytics runs circles around GC. Automatic uploads would be nice, then again my 810 is too temperamental when connecting with my iPhone. I rather spend two minutes on my computer to upload my ride than 10 minutes swearing at my 810+iPhone combo trying to get the two to pair, and stay paired

    Come on Suunto, release a decent Cycling Computer already!

    Reply
  8. Peter

    new GC API allows access only to last 30 days what is pretty useless, are they planning access to whole history?

    Reply
  9. There is really no way Garmin can win, on the hardware side they are loosing to bluetooth and on the software side they are loosing to better services and open APIs.

    Which is a shame, because I really like the Edge 800 with it's long battery life, robustness and reasonable size.

    But how long someone will offer something similar, with bluetooth, Open Street Map integration, Strava support, a better screen and maybe even cheaper? I would be gone in a second.

    I never ever used Garmin Connect, my FIT files go via my Linux computer directly to Strava and further with syncmetrics.

    Reply
    • Rainmaker replied

      (Responding in part to Christof and in part to a few comments above)

      I actually don't think Garmin makes bad hardware. In fact, I think that they make what is consistently the most advanced and generally reliable hardware in the sports/fitness industry (yes, I'm sure everyone can point to a story of a broken device, from any company). Where they generally stumble though is the software that runs on said hardware (firmware), as well as the platforms connected to that often lagging a bit.

      I don't foresee anyone yet in the ballpark of Garmin when it comes to the Edge cycling computers with maps. The closest right now is the Mio Cyclo units, but if you start talking performance (intervals/workouts/laps/power metrics/etc...), then that kinda falls apart for Mio. And, on their software/web side, it's nowhere near as mature as Garmin's is.

      On the multisport side, Suunto continues to close the gap, with Polar behind them a fair bit. And for running, it's a bit more complex of a picture because it has to take into account how you value different features (i.e. live tracking and the like).

      Ultimately, the biggest risk for Garmin over the next 12-18 months isn't companies in the fitness industry: It's the Apple's and Samsung's of the world. Just like it wiped out their PND (car GPS) business, an iWatch with app capabilities could very well do the same to their running business. Thus the importance of building a compelling and integrated ecosystems with lots of partners.

      Reply
    • Paul S replied

      I'm surprised to hear that about car GPS. I'd much rather use my old Nuvi than my iPhone to navigate in the car. It's the difference between using something designed for a purpose and something that can do it but isn't designed for it.

      Reply
    • weberunin replied

      Well stated. Unfortunately, I think stuff about "ecosystems" is just clicks and whistles to Garmin leadership. Look at the makeup of their Board of Directors - no connections to the world we're talking about. While their outdoor and fitness operating income are increasingly better and a higher portion of total income, they may be pointing to that to justify their current direction. I think in doing that they'd be mistaken, but I'll also bet only middle management and their tech workers see that mistake.

      This is a corp culture issue as much as anything, and cultures don't change quickly even when a rapidly evolving and risky environment demands it, Just ask RIM..

      Reply
    • weberunin replied

      To further back up a belief Garmin is on a completely different page, he're a quote from their 2013 annual report:

      "Garmin believes that its principal competitors for fitness products are Bryton Corp., Fitbit Inc., Nike, Inc., Polar Electro Oy, Sigma Sports, Suunto Oy and Timex Corp"

      Reply
    • Tim replied

      Ray, I think you are spot on about the threat to Garmin from Apple and Samsung.

      It will be interesting to see how much the sales of the lower cost GPS/fitbit-type watches suffer from the proliferation of the iWatch and Samsung watch-like items. I have no idea what Garmin's financial footing is, but I wonder if they can withstand a sustained assault on their market share, or if they will fade away like Blackberry.

      Reply
    • Andrée replied

      Ray, I think this comment is your most important so far. If Apple, Samsung and the other big ones can easily be part of this area and if the do I think brands like Garmin, Suunto and Polar will loose more than they can handle. In a few months Apple might (rumors) release their first watch, iWatch. Intresting times.

      Reply
    • lin replied

      I totally agree with you here.. The hardware is generally great. The supporting platform not so great, lagging a bit. GC2 launched in Feb. It's mid June and I still do not have the option to use GC2. It hasn't rolled out to my region (Taiwan). By the time it's available here, it'll be time for GC3. haha

      However, the firmware is horrible. While I can only speak with respect to the running watches (405,610,620), I can only imagine that it's the same across product lines. I really do not understand how they can release the firmware that they release. At a minimum, their QA is horrible. At worst, they need more and/or better developers.

      Reply
    • Read replied

      In terms of QA, what surprises me the most about Garmin in this regard: They are selling top-of-the line cockpit instruments that have to pass stringent QA before the FAA and other aviation authorities approve them for use.

      In contrast, with all my Garmin fitness devices over the years, firmware and software has been banana-type, i.e. to ripe with the customer.

      Reply
    • Chris Lukic replied

      Apple and Samsung will be the end of the fitness watch business. No one will buy a dedicated fitness watch when they can buy a similarly priced smartwatch with identical GPS capabilities. These moves are all just the death throes of a dying industry. But then of course I though that about cable TV 10 years ago. I guess anti-competitive, anti-consumer practices can work for quite some time.

      Reply
    • Matt replied

      Waze on iPhone > Garmin car gps

      Reply
    • Matt replied

      Spot on Ray.

      Reply
    • Matthew Johnson replied

      Absolutely right! Apple and Samsung are aggressively trying to take over all fitness devices, Samsung with their wonky S Health App and Apple is reportedly going all-in into health and fitness with the upcoming OS and even more so with the upcoming iphone 6. Garmin would be very wise to make their devices and their apps as user friendly and open access as possible , otherwise they wont even exist as a company in 4-5 years.
      The big game changer with phones is in the very near future- waterproof, highly durable, high powered devices with real 24-48 hour battery life are only a year or 2 away - Garmin should keep that in mind. I just bought a Fenix 2 watch, my last watch was a Suunto T6- the way things are going my next fitness watch might be an Apple or Samsung ;)

      Reply
  10. Turn The Damn Cranks

    Well said, Ray! I'd love to see that elevation graphing app tie to Garmin Connect. Based on your post, however, it doesn't seem like that day is coming -- at least not any time soon.

    Reply
  11. Alex

    Would be nice if I got the nice new Connect, front screen is dark blue but falls to the old style once logged in. Also Express has stopped working in Win 8 and Garmin is not replying after two queries so I have to dig out an old laptop to upload workouts with ANT Agent and Win 7.......

    Reply
    • Alex replied

      Forgot to add - It would be nice if connect also recognized those of us doing other sports. For a while all 'paddling' workouts disappeared and you cant set paddling goals etc on the site. It doesn't seem like it would be hard to extend the existing functionality to all modes.

      Reply
  12. Staffan

    The freedom to own my own data is key when I choose devices and software platforms. Garmin has taken a big step in the wrong direction here. Garmin used to be more open than their competitors, but that is changing now. It will be interesting to see if any of the competitors understand the possibilities to grow more competitive by doing the opposite to Garmin. I guess we'll see!

    I hope that DC Rainmaker continues to watch out for these aspects and regularly posts articles about the subject.

    Reply
    • Rainmaker replied

      Yes, a post for data accessibility and openness report card on the industry is something I've had on my radar since this story first started developing earlier this year.

      It would have been sorta tough to put together then given things were midflight, but now that things are largely where I expect them to be for the summer, it's a good time.

      Reply
    • simon replied

      looking forward to that - would also be interested in your thoughts how this is going to pan out in the future (if you think that is appropriate)

      Reply
    • weberunin replied

      Great idea for a data report card piece! If you think it fits and you have the time, perhaps include a comment or two on HealthKit now that Apple has announced it, and what it may mean. They'll be in this market very soon...

      Reply
    • Rainmaker replied

      Yup, I definitely want to put together some thoughts on it. It'll probably be a few weeks because I want to be able to talk to enough players in that space about their plans and be able to show a bit of what the larger ecosystem is doing there (since devs just got access to it).

      Reply
    • Chris Lukic replied

      This is something we've had on our radar as well. Smashrun is constantly subjected to the whims of the hardware providers, and to be honest we're losing badly. We're not a funded startup, and we made a decision early on that it was mistake to create our own app when there were already so many great ones out there. What we're finding from almost every major gps company is that the concept of open data is something they only give lip service to, while the wield every tool at their disposal to undermine it.

      In reality for whatever (I believe foolhardy) logic they think there's more profit from holding their user's data hostage than there is in serving their customers needs. I think the ultimate goal from many of these manufacturers is monetizing their user's data. Either through licensing (like Strava), a health sector big data play (RunKeeper, MapMyRun) or SaaS.

      As a startup founder, I think "well that's just business", I think it's a flawed concept, but that's their prerogative. But as a runner it really gets me in guy. I'm angry just typing this. The injustice of charging someone $200-$400+ for a piece of hardware and then at best being indifferent to their needs, and at worst trying to profit from their runs it just seems so contrary to the ethos of a community that I love.

      We've gotten a lot of traction from our running apps data portability analysis, and we we had just begun planning the same thing for GPS watches. I'd be happy to provide you with all our notes, and gladly help do any work I can to help you put together your guide. Education is the only way we're going to get anywhere.

      Reply
    • Paul S replied

      Wow, all this rhetoric.

      As far as I can tell from this article, Garmin isn't "locking up". They're making a stupid change to their API, but the data is still under your control, and if certain partners can pay the price, they're making it easier for you to share your data around with those partners. They can't actually "lock down" any data so much that you can't get to it with credentials, or else Garmin Connect would be completely pointless. So watch what goes over the wire, and do what your browser does. Don't like what Garmin Connect does? Stop using it, there are plenty of alternatives.

      Garmin, so far as I can tell, is right up there as the most user friendly of device manufacturers. Every Garmin device I have but one mounts on the Desktop and exposes the file system. You can do whatever you want with your data, including storing copies away forever. (For the 60CSx, which doesn't mount that way, it was easy to find free software that could communicate with it and get tracks off of it.) I just checked, and I still have a copy of the very first GPS track I ever took with my 60CSx on Nov 24, 2006, and all the ones after that up to yesterday. The file formats they use (.gpx, .tcx, .fit) are all documented, and the XML formats are even human readable. Far from locking up your data, they make it easy for you to use. I know that's not the case for a few of the running devices and the Vivofit, but it is true for the Garmin's I've owned (even the nuvi). Ray has much more experience with a wider variety of devices than I do, so he can speak to whether Garmin is worse than the other manufacturers in this regard, but that hasn't been my impression.

      For me, if Withings and Garmin partner up, that makes my life a little easier. If ConnectStats stops working (and I don't see why it should, since it has my Garmin credentials) that's annoying, but it's not "Garmin locking up my data". I still have my data, and wouldn't trust Garmin to preserve my data in the first place.

      Reply
    • slowpoke replied

      A heartfelt response, Chris. You probably have given it more thought, but it strikes me that the FDA could either hurt, help or be irrelevant (yep, covered the bases) to users' needs and interests. But I'd hope with some coordinated lobbying the FDA could help. Right now though, what's anyone's reward to try to collect and share info that encroaches into "medical data" (a muddy term)? That's right, crushing regulation and liability. Apple is spending heavily to work with the FDA to deal with that in whatever they are cooking. The likes of Garmin can either smugly invoke the FDA as justification to mess with users and third parties around data access and rights, or at least be comforted that no small third party could ever emerge as a threat because the FDA will crush them with a single complaint from the likes of Garmin. The complaint doesn't even need to have merit - just defending against it will silence or end many small firms.

      The FDA spent many millions on redecorating their food pyramid, why not lobby them gently on the merits of the FDA taking a user advocate position to encourage certain data access, or make it easier to share, or fund a common API or whatever to facilitate certain data access? Simply put, if a user can't get to their fitness data quickly, easily and in a flexible and insightful format, then the user can't use the data to improve their health. The previous sentence seems like a decent elevator speech to the FDA why they should care.

      Perhaps the FDA could create roadblocks for firms that restrict access to fitness data. In short, I'd love to hear what a huge government entity theoretically looking out for taxpayers in this space thinks about this, and what they are or willing to do to help. The answer may very well be "nothing", but I'm not that cynical Yet.

      If it would help, perhaps a community-based petition on change.org to the FDA or another government group to advocate for us on this.

      Reply
    • ifor replied

      Do you have an upload API with Smashrun? I did not obviously see one browsing the web site. I would like to add some upload support into IpBike if that is possible. IpBike is meant to be a Garmin hardware equivalent for Android. I don't do any web stuff I just want to easy the users getting there data to whatever web service they want to use. So as your not looking to do apps thing look like a very good fit.

      Reply
    • Chris Lukic replied

      Ah, the thing is Smashrun is running only. We just found we were making too many compromises to try and show data as a generic activity of type bike/run/swim/rollerblade etc. And building custom views for different activities took away time...so we focused. The Smashrun API will be ready for testing later this month. If you track running activities shoot me an email to hi@smashrun.com and I'll get you set up with access.

      Reply
    • weberunin replied

      ...and the other show just dropped: Google announced Google Fit and it will be launched and discussed at the Google I/O Conference on June 25.

      Reply
  13. Anton

    I don't know what has happened to Garmin but in my book they are heading down hill. The new Garmin Connect is plain aweful. It's bad to the point that I stoped using it and bought a subscription for sporttracks.mobi instead. Now there is a modern site with a responsive design that looks good and works on every device I have tried. Don't even get me started on Garmin Express and their customer support...

    My feeling is that Garmin is too focused on growth and profit. Maybe you can't blame them for this, but I think they are more interested in getting a new device out on the market rather than making sure that the ones all ready out are giving the users a great experience.

    They are bossing their users around in a way that definately will not do them good in the long run. In fact they should be incredible humble when they look at competitors like Apple and Samsung etc. Give it a year or so and these big guns will deliver smart devices that will wipe Garmin's fitness devices off the playing field. That is if Garmin don't step up their game and listen to their users. They still have a great head start to their competition, but even so I smell a "Nokia Phone scenario" at the end of the tunnel for the Garmin fitness department.

    Reply
  14. Agree with Ray's comments. It's unfortunate, as I like the Garmin devices I have owned/own now. Guessing the 810+510 I have now may be my last though. Untimately, restricting access to my data is enough of a deal-breaker that it will determine my hardware choices.

    I get Garmin's predicament, but it seems that the only companies who manage to survive and prosper with these situations see the data repository/access as a necessary "table stakes" to selling the hardware. In the end, Strava is what I care about most (for now, pending their fixing the flag as unsafe debacle) so I'll likely follow the hardware vendors who do the best integration with Strava.....

    Reply
  15. carlos

    If Garmin continues with this same path they will eventually loose the only advantage they have right now and that is the hardware.
    Once smartwatches mature a bit (BT 4, ant+, wifi, gps...) someone like strava could develop an app for them to use them running for example and consumers will be presented with the big question 'why should i buy a garmin device just for running when i already have an smartwatch with similar funcionality by installing a $5 app?'

    Reply
  16. Andri

    At the rate that companies like Wahoo are innovating Garmin has no chance. Garmin are to GPS what Nokia was to phones, except their situation may be worse as they are in many unrelated businesses, selling hardware GPS devices that have for most consumers been obsoleted/commoditized by smart phones. The only thing that seems to keep them going strong right now is that for critical purposes their hardware manufacturing experience makes them seem more dependable (although the Edge 1000 is showing that hardware is not enough anymore).

    In cycling, a slightly more robust RFLKT+ (RFLKT+++ as Pete called it) with a rechargeable battery and more solid feeling hardware cannot be too far off. And then after that internal storage and GPS receiver will make the ride-time dependence on the phone go away -- while retaining the ability for 3rd parties to build applications on for the RFLKT hardware and allowing users to use phone apps to customize the screen pre-ride (and of course use whatever place they want to store their own data, or share it real time, or whatever).

    And btw--the non ANT+ RFLKT is so cheap that Wahoo should be able to set up a mass campaign with one of the bike manufacturers (and maybe Strava) to package it with every new bike in the $1000-1500 category. Such a move would kill the low end market for Garmin--and allow Wahoo to get to the volumes they need to continue their innovation.

    Reply
  17. Josh Parks

    Taken in their entirety - the Edge 1000 review, the TrainingPeaks integration announcement, this article, and the Polar 800 review - this seems like a real inflection point for Garmin to be sure. I agree with you, Ray, that the $5,000 fee seems too steep. More importantly, they've got to get the Bluetooth connectivity sorted (I have issues with my 620 from time to time and can only imagine what the E1000 must be like).

    Still it's really hard to beat the facility of letting the watch or cycle computer do it all for you. For those who suggest that a cell phone is good enough - they aren't even allowed on many (MDot) triathlon courses, much less why would someone want to carry their cell phone on the front of the bike for hours at 18+ mph is beyond me...

    So there will be a market for a while here. Clearly Garmin needs to come to terms with all of this rather quickly. Time to live up to your marketing claims and make stuff work. Maybe I'm a dreamer but I believe that Garmin will make this stuff hum together. Seems like they've seen their Palm or Blackberry moment and are at least facing it straight up. Now let's see if the software/firmware geniuses can pull something together.

    From reading your Polar 800 review it doesn't seem like either company is launching products fully baked, and that's a shame.

    Still as a faithful TrainingPeaks and Strava users with too many Garmin devices, this is progress for me over the short term. All the manual syncing was getting to be a little much. And like you say Ray, hopefully Garmin sorts the cobwebs out, figures out the security/bandwidth excuses, and moves into something more reasonable. Clearly biggies like Strava and TrainingPeaks benefit hugely from this kind of integration, so $5k might be okay, but what about little people? What about tiered pricing with the ability to extract value later if the app provides something that benefits Garmin? Like a win/win.

    Yeah that's it - where's the Win/Win for the user Garmin? Why are we expected to beta test your products AND pay premium prices? That's not how it work - time to shape up or end up like Palm and Blackberry before you.

    All these are exciting times.

    Reply
  18. Shadowmate

    At the end of the day Garmin, and everyone really, should know by now that the way forward is obviously being as open as possible. Bluetooth and ant. Talk to everyone and everything. Keep good features of products and get rid of bad ones. Guture proofing, not fencing themselves in with GC.

    Reply
  19. Markus

    I was really sceptical about Garmin: Quality of products, reliabilty etc. I also own Suunto and TomTom devices and I think currently Garmin is by far the most "open" company if you compare it to most of the other players: -Devices accessible via USB -Fit files in devices -Data export via GC (TCX and fit) etc...

    Reply
  20. SteveT

    Thanks again Ray for your insight and feedforward to Garmin,

    Not only do you pull back the curtain but then you point out all the significant items and explain in a meaningful way why that matters to those of us who want to use technology to enhance/record/analyze our physical endeavors.

    I am one of those "consumers [who] want access to their data from any device they have." That goes for all my Polar and Garmin devices. Along with that, I want to retain a historical record of my fitness or recreational data and to be able to push or pull my data to TrainingPeaks for analyisis when I am training.

    I am also that consumer who will always use my iPhone and apps first since that gives me what I want-clean and simple. So far nothing Garmin is doing with GC compels me to buy any of their new hardware.

    I want and will make my future purchases that support an open system.

    Thanks for advocating for us Ray!

    Steve

    Reply
    • SteveT replied

      Just a P.S.

      Ray, I think Garmin settled the issue of whether or not they were going to "leverage" the CG website (as you recommended) or not. Their management said put up the wall with add a moat and toll bridge too.

      Now over to the marketplace to see how that works out for them.

      All this with travelogues and discussions about Reindeer sandwiches too-what a great website!

      Reply
  21. Michael

    Do you know if this will break tapiriik?

    Reply
  22. Robert Lendvai

    Interesting read. Pretty much validates my plan to use my iPhone 5s and various apps in place of any Garmin devices.

    Reply
  23. Brett

    If Garmin provides people with fewer incentives to put their data on Garmin's platform, Garmin will miss out on opportunities to monetize that data. Look at Strava, now I see they are approaching cities to help them with cycling route planning based on Strava's accumulated data. Not sure if Strava is selling that to cities, but you can be sure that if there is an opportunity to make money off Strava's database, Strava will do it (if nothing else, it helps to keep their basic level free).

    Reply
  24. Anon Anon

    Perhaps garmin should have spent more effort developing the edge 1000 rather than locking down their APIs.
    This smells like the behaviour of a company in decline.

    Reply
  25. Christos K

    I am very disappointed with Garmin. First, i had a lot of connectivity problems between my pc and my 310XT (note that before the introduction of Garmin Express everything worked fine). After wasting a lot of time and finally finding a solution....i, then, stumbled upon this new issue. Bless Ray's informative site, i, at least, know what is going on (Garmin didn't find worthy to inform us). But, i would say that to constantly improvising ways to trouble your customers is definitely a myopic behaviour for any company.
    Overall, I don't have any serious complaints about my FR 310XT. But when there will come a time to buy a new watch, i will give a chance to someone else, perhaps Suunto.

    Reply
  26. Frank

    Thanks for the great article. I fear that Garmin is on a long downhill slide. Come October, Apple is going to eat their lunch.

    Closed platforms simply don't survive any more and haven't for years. Garmin must not have gotten that memo.

    Reply
  27. Jon

    I'm really interested in the Fenix 2. But every time my frikkin' Garmin HRM strap pegs me at 200+bpm (run yesterday morning, ride this morning AND this afternoon), I'm a lot less interested. And I'm pretty frikkin' annoyed that I can't just bulk download my Connect activities anymore. It just adds up to death by a thousand cuts and my money staying in my wallet.

    Reply
  28. giorgitd

    Ray...Awesome, bold, on-point comments wrt Garmin. Very much appreciate your informed and thoughtful POV on issues such as this. I agree with an earlier poster - Garmin (and all other sports-specific hardware vendors) have the most to lost from a transformative shift toward Apple/Samsung. It's true that phones don't have the native battery life or physical robustness inherent in the GPS watch designs, but the development of phone 'accessories' opens many new opportunities...err...threats (depends on your perspective). This is a very interesting inflection point. There is no doubt that phones and accessories have built in horsepower to do things GPS watches can't/don't do. I don't train with a phone (well, I have an ancient GSM phone with a pay-by-the-minute plan in my seat bag for emergencies), so I'm not sure how interested I'd be in a phone-based platform. BUT control of my files is important and that might trump almost everything else. Polar's schizophrenic software worries me for that part of my data and recent Garmin developments are discouraging my thinking about expanding my Garmin hardware investment. Much of the hardware in these devices is off the shelf- where is the kickstarter watch that exports all the data in any of the (standard) formats currently available?

    Reply
  29. marc steingrand

    hmm, at first look i thought great integration with trainingpeaks makes it easyer dint need to use taipirik but know i understood that i can not use integration to strava and my thougts of having a link to trainerroad is probably just dead as welll..
    i defently not an IT expert, but when i apple nearly closed because it was like an island untill there opened it for more connections.. today i want all integreadt in different apps etc the way i think and not the way companys think it is best for them a shame that garmin is going the other way , but it is never to late....

    i have the fenix 2 and love the hardware, but having regulary connection issues

    Reply
    • Rainmaker replied

      In general, I wouldn't read anything into the fact that TrainingPeaks and Strava are seen as competitors. Nor, would I read anything into assuming that just because TrainingPeaks and Garmin announced something that it's actually a "partnership". It's simply that TraingPeaks was the first company (along with runcoach) to complete the required IT pieces to make it work.

      Said differently: This doesn't mean Strava can't or isn't going to do the same, or isn't potentially already working on it...it just means that on June 10th, TrainingPeaks finished their homework.

      Reply
  30. AndreA

    The fact is that Garmin is not one of these companies that count on cpc, cpa, and all those metrics so well known by Internet based services that live on a subscription x users business model... In fact they still pay their salaries with a sold device x unit price.
    So that's pivotal today: salling devices.
    And while it's a technology company, it has never been an IT based company, as Ray points out, rather IT was -as often happens- supporting the business full stop.
    They just happen to have the world's biggest information asset, a gigantic database of our workouts (ie. a collection of years of training data from athletes worldwide), without any strategy to leverage it to make money, today in the big data era... Until now, it seems, as this is a clear move towards this direction.
    And I don't think it's unfair: Apple is the closest platform ever made, and still we all own a few devices. They make great software to sell devices. Other people make millions of Apps for them to sell their devices, and they charge them on top!
    Who said that Garmin can't have their platform either... (Yet, they have to improve quite a bit on interfaces and design...). It's a live or die challenge, I think, and I don't agree with Ray when he says that apps are not all competitors, they are indeed, unless they make them sell devices: every app takes users, potential conversions, fancy metrics, a step away.
    If I were Garmin, I'd take the bet and build my platform, and have developers make great apps that sell my devices for every guy in the world who is (cit.) "serious about results".

    Reply
  31. Jeff

    None of this would matter to me if Garmin Connect gave me what I wanted in a platform. Really, I'm relatively happy with GC but, for the love of all that is Holy, would it kill them to give me equipment tracking?

    Seriously. How many years do their customers have to keep asking for this relatively simple feature?

    I guess I shouldn't complain, though. Thanks to Garmin's intransigence, I've discovered rubiTrack for my Mac and iOS devices. As soon as I find a way to directly import activities into rubiTrack, I'm done with Garmin. I'm tired of waiting.

    Take care,
    Jeff

    Reply
    • Paul S replied

      It's trivial to import into rubiTrack if you have a Garmin device that mounts like a disk on the Desktop. So I assume you don't have one of those? I've been using rubiTrack since it came out, and I've never synced it with Garmin Connect.

      Reply
    • Robert E replied

      The lack of equipment tracking infuriates me as well. Customers have been requesting this for years, they put all this effort into the "modern" GC and it still lacks equipment tracking?

      Reply
  32. Pete Newing

    I do not understand the Garmin stance here - I have been using Garmin devices since I gave up on Polar back in 2009, the Polar HR measurement was more accurate but lack of GPS and difficulty in uploading data meant i switched to Garmin.
    As a family we have owned numerous Garmin running and cycling devices and by and large I think that Garmin make excellent devices - I don't see them being replaced by Apple/Samsung devices anytime soon given the manner and the environment in which we use them - If (when) i crash my bike i don't want to destroy my i-phone at the same time but the Edge 500/700 is pretty robust, also my i-phone does not cope well with getting wet or covered in sweat and is too big to put on my bikes or to run with comfortably. Garmin products do what they need to do - measure, display and save the required metrics.
    With the importance of Strava - Garmin are making a huge mistake putting up fences - it is too late Garmin Connect will never overtake Strava that battle is lost - but surely all those Strava users need a reliable, accurate, robust device to record data to upload data to Strava.
    Suunto has already this year partnered with Strava - When it comes time to buy the next product - do I buy the one which allows me to easily sync with Strava or do I stay with Garmin and have the hassle factor. Over time the ease of sync will win out in the same way that I moved from Polar to Garmin.

    Reply
  33. Hubert

    For me, the main reason why Garmin keeps the data for itself is that the data are valuable.
    The habit of its users is of high interest and such information has a very high market value for any brand wanting to sharpen its marketing strategy.
    Take care folks, each activity you store online is on a server and the one who owns the server will use it, whether you like it or not.

    Reply
  34. Lior

    My FR610 finally broke last week, now I'm even happier that I ordered the Ambit 2s to replace it.

    Reply
  35. Ibeti

    While I am all for open solutions, I can kind of see the point in Garmin trying to keep people in the Connect ecosystem. Like you say - in a few years their business will have to change to reflect the new reality of smartwatches, or they will end up being completely irrelevant.

    As for the iPad not agreeing with USB ... thats hardly any fault of Garmins.

    Reply
  36. Richard McDowell

    Does this explain why the option to upload from Wahoo Fitness to Garmin Connect stopped working a while back? I use the Wahoo ap on my iphone/ipad with my Kickr and then upload to Training Peaks and Garmin Connect, but the latter stopped working.

    Reply
    • Rainmaker replied

      Yes, it's why.

      Reply
    • Richard McDowell replied

      Ah, and there goes the option to upload to Garmin with an ipad/phone using the Wahoo Fitness ap and an ANT+ key. You might want to amend your article on the various ways of uploading from different devices (assuming you haven't already)

      Reply
    • 6co2000 replied

      it 's working now. just did it again this morning. no problem there...

      Reply
  37. Richard McDowell

    This article: link to dcrainmaker.com

    Reply
  38. Blake Helms

    Fantastic post--your views on Garmin exactly echo my own. Generally great hardware, but lousy connectivity to others. Garmin could be the base of the mountain for the whole training community if they would just open their eyes on sharing data easily and freely.

    Reply
  39. Martin Wifling

    Thank you Ray for that post. In my understanding Garmin makes the same mistake Polar (and many other companies in the past, e.g. Nokia, Microsoft, ) has made, after they thought they have reached a somehow critical mass in the market. They build walled gardens as soon as they think they can keep the customer "at least almost happy" within their own world, forcing them to buy into their other stuff because it is more convenient to get everything out of one hand than fiddeling something which works for their specific situation.
    IMHO, they will fail with this attitude. Hardware becomes less important, it is the package between specific software and hardware which is important, therefore concepts with low interoperability cannot survive long (Polar has learned the hard way but at the end of the day they have dropped WIND and infrared). Surprisingly, Garmin should know better. They have clearly made their biggest move by promoting ANT, so third parties can join in. I think that customers will more and more decide for the software and then choose the hardware which is supporting best. At the moment I struggle with the decision for a new bike-computer. The question for me is really: ANT+ or bluetooth in the first (interoperability - see Stages for example!), the second is the software (I have 15+ years of data) but not Garmin or Polar or Suunto or ...

    Reply
  40. Henry

    Time for Polar to make it's move!

    Reply
    • jonhoffm replied

      But ironically, Polar just released the V800 which only syncs to Polar Flow which, as of today, does not allow any export of the data - anywhere. Furthermore, there is no access (by my understanding) to the raw data from the watch itself. Therefore, until Polar provides access which they estimate to be in September 2014, V800 users can only access their data on Polar Flow which is far worse than the Garmin situation.

      Polar will be Polar.

      Reply
  41. Everyday Fella

    I can see how Garmin would want to regulate its API. Their motivations behind the $5000K access fee are suspect, but I certainly understand that they probably have a greater volume of support cost issues than a startup. APIs are harder to manage than one might think, and the management cost scales with the number of partners who need to be supported.

    How do Fitbit and Jawbone manage their APIs? I believe they are all partner-based. If you want to make an app based on these two platforms, you need find the right person at the respective companies and work a deal.

    Reply
    • Rainmaker replied

      Nope, as a developer you can sign-up for both the FitBit API and the Jawbone API pretty easily. Details are here:

      FitBit API: link to dev.fitbit.com
      Jawbone API: link to jawbone.com

      Nothing fancy, nor any fees. And both of those companies are actually really open with how their API's work.

      Reply
  42. Turn The Damn Cranks

    Ray -- Have you invited Garmin to give a counterpoint to your counterpoint? They seem pretty quite, presumably by design, but it would be interesting to read their take if they were willing to give it.

    Reply
    • Rainmaker replied

      They typically tend not to respond. Though, they don't appear to be horribly upset with me given we've had a number of discussions over the past 24 hours on other topics...

      That said, I'm certainly not opposed to giving them the chance to respond.

      Reply
  43. David

    Thanks Ray.

    I feel for Garmin developers who might be reading this post, I am sure they are honest and hard working folks and to see criticism grow must be difficult, but it is what it is.

    I am not sure the reasons why firmware and online software has been such a weak point for Garmin but it truly is a fact and it grows worse year by year and month by month.

    Firmware? Every Garmin device launched today across their entire sports spectrum comes with significant firmware bugs that often affect even basic functionality and the fixes are slow or never arriving.

    Software? The "old" Garmin Connect began being trounced by newcomers like Strava and when Ray helped break the news of a new Garmin you could only assume that a modern, clean, easy to use UI with loads of new functionality and improved reliability was the entire point and Garmin had gotten the message... now half a year later as Garmin Connect Modern still remains only partially rolled out I hesitate to be able to point to anything about it I even like better than the old site.

    Garmin's only hope was an elegant ecosystem of sports hardware which targeted the advanced amateur athletes among us and combined it with a online ecosystem that while open would also be a true one stop shop, where your data merged between devices and gave a true glimpse of your health and sports life. Vivofit, Forerunner, Edge, Fenix all-in-one. Nothing like that has happened and now Apple (and Samsung etc.) are about to arrive.

    I paid $450 for my Forerunner 620. You can bet an "iWatch" from Apple will be in the same ballpark and do far more. The screen will actually show color (because I can't bring myself to call the "color screen" in my FR620 color) and it will be wide open to apps... apps that will replicate every function of the 620 and be beautiful, elegant and open. Time has about run out for Garmin, my current Vivofit, Edge 510 and Forerunner 620 will be the last devices I ever buy from (after having the 305, 410, 220, and 10 at various times) them baring huge changes at the company.

    Reply
  44. feens

    I've spent a little bit working on trying to reverse engineer the Bluetooth communication between my FR-220 and the iPhone for a few reasons (and I have some of the pieces working):

    1) Why shouldn't I be able to use bluetooth on a computer that supports it. For example, I often run from work, where my computer supports Bluetooth Low Energy and it's always on. I don't see why I shouldn't be able to come back in and have my watch automatically connect to my computer. It's a pain to have to turn on bluetooth on my phone, load up the app, etc

    2) Often, I want to upload to different platforms...i.e. I like my cycling to go to strava and my running to stay in either Garmin Connect or a running log platform that I've built myself. If I can get this working, it'd be easy to direct where everything goes without needing to rely on Garmin for everything.

    Anyhow, if anyone reading here has experience in this area, I'd love to collaborate to make things go quicker, as I'm kind of guessing my way around as I'm more of a web developer. Reply here and we can get in touch (and Ray, if you know of anyone who may be interested, perhaps point this out to them).

    It really bothers me that Garmin locks down the software in the way they do...it just makes me less likely to buy the hardware in the future.

    Reply
  45. Havard

    Closing down devices is a common thing amongst many old companies in the digital industry, and is usually a sign of downwards trends.

    Garmin is simply catering to their own known crowd, trying to squeeze every dollar possible out from their existing customer group. What they are forgetting, however, is that they are closing the door to the customers of tomorrow.

    Who are the new Garmin, Suunto or Polar customers over the next 10-15 years? Which services do they use? Which devices do they use? What quality are they used to?

    The answer is of course that the new customers will never have seen the likes of Windows 95, nokia phones or diskettes. They are used to Android devices, iPads and Chromebooks. They are used to Quality of Service as seen on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. They are also used to being bombarded with random new "social" or otherwise run-of-the-mill services that they will quickly dismiss as just another piece of junk in case the quality isn't up to par, or the functionality isn't radically new and appealing.

    The new pulse watch customer of 2018 can't be bothered buying a watch that won't work unless you download some software that only runs on Windows, or only works off of a "new and awesome garmin special social network", or locks up or looses data or traces, or has a screen likened with a phone from 1998. They won't understand why a company can survive when the devices they live off of selling have problems with simple things like keeping GPS lock, connections with its sensors or storing data.

    The new pulse watch customer of 2018 will pick the pulse watch that has the coolest analysis apps for its data, the fewest bugs and enables someone with more clue to write a better interface for the sensor hub the watch really is.

    If Garmin, Suunto or Polar doesn't realize this, then someone else will. Because honestly, making a pulse watch isn't really that hard. The only reason these guys are still in the market is that noone who is not inbread in the pulsewatch industry has had a look at their market yet. When they do, and Garmin, Suunto or Polar haven't shifted their strategy and culture around by then, they will be hitting the deck pretty hard. Nokia found it out the hard way. So did TomTom, and so did Microsoft.

    Reply
    • simon replied

      I agree with most of the comments above. In general garmin/polar etc are making good hardware, they just don't seem to be able to handle the software side. Time is fast running out before the phone manufacturers kill this market sector. In the short term this will probably hit the 'power users' as a first generation iwatch will never be as good as a current garmin.

      I don't imagine they would ever do it but they should open source their software of give users a development kit to install their own custom firmware. I suspect that the open source community could do a much better job. Can you imagine what a FULLY user programmable v800 would be like - they would sell bucketloads

      These manufacturers make money from selling hardware - they should stick to that.

      Reply
  46. Matt

    A few things I hate about Garmin Connect:

    -The scale on pace graph gets fouled up if you stop for a moment, like at an intersection.
    -The scale on the elevation graph is always fouled up and unusable.
    -The elapsed time on an interval run is always fouled up, it thinks you ran twice as long as you did.

    Reply
  47. Burgess Eberhardt

    I am evidently one of only a few readers who does not own or use a cell phone as my training device. While aside from the noted crash implications a phone might work on a bike, I can't see it for running and certainly not for XC skiing. I believe in the future there will still be plenty of room for dedicated wristwatch-type devices. Garmin may or may not be among them.

    Reply
  48. Anonymous

    You seriously have to wonder who is in charge of both product development and engineering at Garmin Connect and on what planet they live if there is an ounce of truth in what they communicated.

    Not knowing how 3rd party companies and developers are using Garmin API shows literally that there is zero involvement and understanding. "Oh, I broke something...we didn't expect that..." really ? I mean ... seriously ? NO ONE in the entire Garmin organization and "tester" was using services like Strava or similar ?

    The day they shoved Garmin Express down the throat of everybody, it wasn't even working for me. It actually took the upgrade from a few weeks ago to have Garmin Express to start to work reliably to download my workout, otherwise I needed to use the Ant Agent.

    As for the traffic and the DDOS problem... seriously this is what API keys and throttling is for, if they don't want to bother with this, then they should do what thousand of other companies are doing and use Apigee, Mashery, Layer7 or 3Scale as a proxy to their API

    Garmin, if you read this. You can do better. I like your products, but seriously, open your APIs and document your protocols, make it easy for people to use the data coming from your products.

    Reply
  49. Jakub

    Is uploading that will not pay the $5000 fee still be available via usb cable?

    Reply
    • Paul S replied

      They're not charging individuals $5000 to access the site. As Ray explains above, that's a charge for a back end API for corporate "partners" to exchange data. (Why would you use GC if they charged you, especially that much?) As of right now, there's still a way to manually upload to GC Modern, although they've hidden it pretty well (link to connect.garmin.com, click on "Import" over on the right). Whether that disappears or not is a good question.

      Reply
    • Rainmaker replied

      Of course.

      Reply
  50. marc steingrand

    quick question I found that taipirik is still working what about syncmetrics does it still work?

    Reply
    • Rainmaker replied

      Yes, there's nothing at the moment from stopping those working - but I've got to believe long-term that Garmin will probably close loopholes (unfortunately).

      Reply
    • Paul S replied

      I have a hard time believing that they can close the one loophole that anyone needs. If they destroy the ability for me to upload and download my data through a browser, then they've destroyed Garmin Connect. But it's easy for someone to mimic a browser (it's just information passed back and forth through a socket). So any small app developer can simply ask me for my credentials and then do the same thing that a browser would do to obtain my data from Garmin Connect. If they stop people from doing that, they've ended Garmin Connect as a useful site, and there are any number of alternatives to Garmin Connect.

      Reply
  51. Hear ye, hear ye, as I proclaim my technology predictions for the second decade of the third millennium. Respond IF YOU DARE!!!

    1) Garmin weathers the iWatch storm as billions of consumers ask "A wristwatch? Seriously? I'd rather keep my supercomputer in my pocket.". Sales of Swatch watches reach levels not seen since 1983.

    2) Google Fit ends 5-year beta program in 2019, immediately cancels Google Fit and launches Google Reader for Google Glass and Google Contact Lenses.

    3) Under Armour announces development of a smart fabric which will record and analyze physiological changes through skin sensors. Millions of aging baby boomers rejoice as Under Armour Adult Diapers hit the shelves. $100 million purchase of MapMyRun finally makes sense.... kindof.

    Reply
  52. waffles

    I bought the Fenix2 for its capability to wirelessly upload my workouts directly into the cloud, so I can easily import them in ConnectStats and SportTracks (I could care less about their GC. It pales against the 3rd party offerings). This has been working great for me.
    Should Garmin now follow through with cutting their API access to the developers for these apps/programs, I will probably return the watch to REI and look for a non-Garmin device.

    My wife is also due for another sports watch. A FR620 would have been a good fit for her. It also offers the same great wireless import feature - until Garmin closes the API access. We do not want to run the risk of spending the money ($450) for the watch and then not getting the feature, so we decided to hold off until there is a clear direction from Garmin.

    My wife and I have had numerous Garmin FR over the years. We basically jumped on every model update of their high end sports watches. This latest development lets us pause and reevaluate other options. I hear Suunto has nice offerings....

    Reply
    • Jon Zaid replied

      Yes, I've retired my perfectly function 910XT for a Suunto Ambit 2, which might not be as good as the Fenix2, but it looks nicer, has a 50 hour battery, and BTW picks up the GPS signal a hell of a lot faster than GC.. Oh. and BTW, automatic upload from Movescount to Strava.

      Reply
  53. Tim

    DCR, I just this week updated to the Fenix2. Then decided I no longer needed either the 610 nor the 620 so I sold them. Next I went through the set up for the Fenix2. I'm working with a Macbook Air but also have a Windows laptop. I could not get the Fenix2 to upload my runs from the watch to the 'Garmin Connect now called Garmin Express'. After I deleted my 610, 620 from garmin connect and enrolled my Fenix2 Garmin Express would no longer recognize my new Fenix2. I've used the USB because the blue tooth didn't seem to connect either. Now, I've NEVER had any problems with either my 610 nor 620 they worked seamlessly?? I'm going to give it another try over the weekend but like othersl I bought my Fenix2 for the workouts (physical) not mental. I want something that that makes logging my workouts like the OLD Garmin Connect EASY! Any thoughts??

    Reply
  54. Chris

    When Strava changed the access for other apps, I deleted everything from my Strava account and stopped using it (I have since used it again, but no where near as much as I used to).

    I have also more or less stopped using Garmin Connect now. I am not a fan of the new look anyway, but sooner or later they will force me to switch. I was kinda waiting for the new Tri Watch from Garmin, but maybe this is a sign that I should not wait any longer and simply go for one of the non-Garmin devices and make the jump now while I am disspointed ny Garmin anyway...

    Reply
  55. Ray, thanks for writing this post. You nailed it over and over throughout the entire post. I have had a 310, 910, FR610, FR620, Fenix2, and Tactix. Ultimately all of it feels too little, too late, and with a rabid disregard for being a good platform player. It's why Wahoo/iPhone/Viiiiva is my primary and any Garmin device is simply a backup capture device in case the phone dies. Too hard to use their hardware, too clunky to get the data, I'd never ever ever use Garmin Connect as my data hub (I don't trust Garmin). You're spot on.

    Also, good call not to pollute the TrainingPeaks post with this information. The fact that TP jumped in and was an early partner for the new GC2 API set was a good move on TP's part. But I agree with your overall assessment - this is bad for consumers and bad even for Garmin in the long-run.

    Reply
  56. I'm an app developer. LogMyTraining. I probably don't earn $5000 in a entire year of sales. My app connects to various API's including Strava, MapMy..., RunKeeper, SportTracks.mobi and until yesterday Garmin Connect. It looks like they probably have shut my app out.
    Ray's blog is factual and IMHO his analysis is correct. And it just a contrarian to todays internet of everything to shut down an API when everyone else is opening up their platforms.
    In the long run, bullies don't win. Garmin has an old way of thinking and reflect corporate thinking of the old IBM days.

    Reply
  57. I'm an app developer too (only in my spare time though), and have read a lot about the closure of the Garmin Connect API breaking lots of apps. While having a well-defined API is the cleanest way for things to communicate, it isn't absolutely necessary in many cases.

    I bought a Tanita scale and wanted to view the data on my phone. So I developed an iPhone app that allows me to view all health data my the phone, and it also allows me to manually upload the full range of metrics back to GC. All of that without an API.. It's called GarminHealth, it's on the app store and it's free..

    Some of you might find it useful, and, if you do, I'd be interested in hearing about any new feature requests you might have. A native iPad version is finished and waiting for Apple to review it. So that should be available in about 2 weeks..

    Reply
    • Aaron replied

      Nice looking app! Before you get too far you may want to rethink your name which would likely violate Garmin's registered trademark. It's a clear case of "likelihood of confusion" given Garmin's products in this market space. I'm not a lawyer and this doesn't constitute legal advice.

      Reply
  58. Thanks for the comment and advice Aaron. I did think of the possible name conflict, but was unsure where the legal boundaries are. I'm happy to rename it though if it ruffles any feathers.. I'm hoping they see the app for what it is though, namely a free app that promotes the use of their products instead of something competitive that pulls data out and loads it on some other site. Time will tell..

    Reply
    • Rainmaker replied

      Indeed, cool stuff. Though, I can say that in the past they asked another app to change the name when it had Garmin in the name of it (trying to remember the original name...). May just be worthwhile changing now.

      Reply
  59. Clint Lien

    Thanks for this.
    I hope you stay on top of it.

    Reply
  60. Ray,

    I made the switch to Garmin a few years back and usually put my notes in GC on how I felt after a workout, problems, etc. I am not using a coach currently but it has been helpful to go back and review historical data. I have always had a fundamental problem using a vendor based solution such as gamin as the switching pain is high... I lost all of my data from Polar when I made the chance (and PC Coach before that). I started using training peaks about a year ago to play around and was using a training plan for a 1/2 iron man... uploading data was a PITA so I did not do it on a regular basis

    Is there a way to sync notes across platforms? I really would like to upload, make notes and it goes into a few "buckets" such as GC, Training peaks and others... I have not seen this ability and to me this is as important as the training data...

    I recall you doing reviews of various software solution's in the past and might be helpful to review again... or have an easy to find guide :-)

    Thanks as always.

    Reply
    • Rainmaker replied

      Hi Chris-

      The best bet now are the options in this here: link to dcrainmaker.com

      Cheers.

      Reply
    • Aaron replied

      Is there a way to sync notes across platforms?

      *sometimes*

      The challenge here is not all websites:
      * have the ability to store that info
      * notify when updates are made to the info
      * transmit that info when exporting / pulling data out
      * allow importing that info

      Training Peaks is a great example - they obviously allow workout notes as most "serious" platforms do. However the sync feature they recently added is pulling workouts on upload as FIT files. Many people are asking for a delay, so they can enter notes on GC and have them shoot over to TP. But if TP is pulling FIT files (which hopefully they are), it's not likely any of that workout annotation would come anyway. So notes sync is a non-starter.

      The Strava API allows uploading FIT files (which don't have notes), but also TCX (which can have notes).

      I *believe* Tapiriik is pulling TCX files from Garmin Connect, which could include notes in theory, and those could be passed on to Strava, TP, SportTracks, Runkeeper. I'm not 100% sure if this happens (someone can chime in?)

      I don't know of any fitness platforms that have a subscription API for updates. So if you change those notes later, they won't synch. Once you've done the initial sync of a workout, it's basically a cloned copy.

      Apple will fix all of this (rolls eyes).

      Reply
    • ifor replied

      The omission of any notes from the FIT format in unfortunate. There is now a technical solution for adding this arbitrary size cunck of data into the FIT file that could be used to add notes to the activity file if the usage was properly speced but adding it in would put everybody's current reading code to a serious test as it encountered the new unexpected data which in theory should just be ignored but this sort of thing is always buggy in practice without serious conformance testing suites.

      In IpBike you can add your notes to the ride then upload and I try and get the notes uploaded to all the sites but the methodology for all the sites is different and it can be a pain with some as you have to effectively edit the ride to add in the notes which leads to potential issues if the first upload works but the editing fails due to connection loss.

      Reply
    • Rainmaker replied

      Just as a confirmation, TP is indeed pulling the .FIT file. The $5K API includes native .FIT file access.

      Reply
    • chris noland replied

      what is the consensus on the best solution out there to have as your main depositary? I have to admit that GC is fast and just easy...which is good. Some of the features of Training peaks are cool but the interface is horrible and when you finally figure out how to use it correctly it is still painfully slow. Trying to predict what device I am going to be using 3-5 years from now is going to be a challenge but the chances it will be another garmin are about 50/50... we will see if I can use their next tri device as a watch :-) I am having a hard time putting a lot of more effort into using GC especially if they are making it harder for developers to work with them and my data maybe stuck... which I understand they want to increase the switching costs to other devices.... with Android watches coming out...

      Reply

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