JUMP TO:

Garmin Live Event Sharing: Everything you ever wanted to know about it

DSC_0992

Over the last month as part of Garmin’s new devices extravaganza, there was barely a mention of ‘live event sharing’ for certain devices. It was almost listed as fine print, right next to ‘if you do something stupid using our device, it’s your fault’. But, it was listed – so let’s dive into it a bit.

First off – your moment of disappointment. Or rather, my moment. If you’ve got iOS – you need not apply. This is an Android only feature.

The reason? Blame Apple.

Well, sorta…kinda…maybe…not really. We’ll talk about that later.

The second is that at present it’s limited to just these new devices: Forerunner 45/S, Forerunner 245/Music, Forerunner 945, MARQ Series. However, Garmin didn’t close the door on what older devices might get it added (since the feature is entirely smartphone app driven).

The quick overview is that this feature will automatically text friends/family with specific race splits and estimated finish times when the lap button is triggered, as well as at the start/finish. Laps can be done via auto-lap of course. The idea here being that if you’ve got friends/family (aka: your peeps) following you out on the course itself, they can figure out when you’ll be done running and ready to start drinking beer.

Oh, wait, you want a quick overview? Great, I went out and put together a nifty overview video for you. Enjoy:

Or, you can walk through all the boring steps below. No scenic views there.

Setting it up:

Now this gets into a little bit of why the entire thing is Android only. See, on iOS, Apple doesn’t permit 3rd party apps (or even Apple apps to my knowledge) from accessing your text messages or sending text messages on your behalf. This is also why quick replies on both Fitbit and Garmin devices only work with Android, and not iOS (though, this is an area that Apple makes an exception for their own Apple Watch).

These are all due to security/privacy restrictions. While one can have an argument about that all day long, it won’t likely change Apple’s mind anytime soon. However, that doesn’t mean Garmin has to take the path they took. When it comes to quick replies for sexts with your BFF, sure, you want to keep it on your device.

But most other tracking platforms that want to leverage text messages will instead utilize a 3rd party service from Amazon Web Services, Microsoft Azure, or others. It’s super commonplace, and in fact, Garmin does it themselves for their new safety features. So why they went the route of requiring your phone send the message is a bit odd. When asked, Garmin says that for now it’s limited to Android, but that they’re always looking at other options. Ultimately, using 3rd party platforms does cost money (albeit, not a ton in this case). And in fact, Garmin leverages that same platform for their safety and notification features.

In any case, over on your Android phone whack the hamburger menu and scroll down to the Safety & Tracking menu. Here you’ll want to ensure your device is selected under the ‘Devices’ section.

Screenshot_20190528-141241 Screenshot_20190528-141306

Next, you’ll need to choose some peeps. You’ll select these from your local contacts list. They *must* have a phone number assigned to them, since it will text to them. It can’t be an e-mail address or anything. This is a text-only thing. You can select up to five friends.

Screenshot_20190528-141321 Screenshot_20190528-141530 Screenshot_20190528-141710

Then we’ve got two basic piles of options. The first is ‘Message Content’, which defines what your friends and family will receive in the text message. You’ll see in the middle screenshot below you can toggle four options.

A) Cumulative time
B) Current Pace/Speed
C) Last Lap Time
D) Estimated Completion Time

Screenshot_20190528-141731 Screenshot_20190528-141902 Screenshot_20190528-141743

Estimated completion time requires that you tell the app exactly what you’re planning on running. They’ve got some quick presets in there: 5K/10K/Half/Marathon, and then the custom option. The custom option is useful for wonky races that just wanna be special. Or, you can use it for a training route, like I did yesterday while cycling.

Screenshot_20190528-141902 Screenshot_20190528-141848

Also, fun tidbit I tried: You can actually change the custom distance value mid-activity. So in my case I tweaked my route after I started my ride, and it properly showed the new ETA’s.

And last but not least there’s the ‘Message Triggers’ menu, which tells the app how often to send text messages. By default all these options are selected. So it’ll send a message the second you press the start button, and then anytime either an auto-lap or manual lap is pressed, plus when you press the ‘Save’ button at the end of the workout.

Screenshot_20190528-141908

After that, you’re ready to roll. There’s *zero* configuration to be done on your watch itself. Note that the live event tracking option will remain enabled for 24 hours. So if you forgot to disable it, it’ll stop doing its thing 24 hours later.

How it works:

This section will be really short. It’s kinda really simple.

Now – to be clear, since none of the supported watches have cellular capabilities built into them, you’ll absolutely need your phone with you.  Only Garmin’s Vivoactive 3 LTE has cellular services, and that’s not on the list of loved devices. Somewhat odd given that’s like *the most viable* device for this concept. Of course, that’d require more of an app redesign since the functionality would have to live within the watch itself, rather than be offloaded to the app.

In any event, just press the start button on your darn watch. When you do so, your friends will immediately get notified that you’ve begun. This would ideally be used at the moment you crossed the starting line (which would happen if you pressed the start button then like a normal person).

2019-05-29 09.55.16

 

You’ll notice there’s no live tracking link in terms of map or anything, just what you see above. However, Garmin says that’s on the short-list to do, basically including the live tracking URL link to access the map like on a regular live track session.

Next, if you have auto-lap enabled, your contacts will automatically receive an update each time that triggers. For example, cycling yesterday I set it to every 5 miles (the default for cycling), whereas for my run today it was every mile (also the default). However, because I hadn’t had coffee yet this morning, I manually lapped at one point when trying to dismiss an incoming text – and thus that also sent an update to my friends/family. In any case, here’s what they get:

2019-05-29 10.37.25

You can see the information displayed includes:

Current Distance/Duration: .51 miles in 3:37
Average Pace overall: 7:05/mile
Last Lap (in this case, the .51 miles): 3:37
Estimated finish: 21 minutes and 58 seconds, as well as being 10:53AM

It’s honestly that last line that’s most useful to people, especially friends and family trying to figure out how you’re pacing. Here’s how it look as an auto-lap (spoiler, it looks identical):

2019-05-29 16.09.02

One interesting tidbit though as a result of being native texts versus a 3rd party platform is that your friends and family can text back messages to you and it’ll show up on your watch assuming you’ve left the defaults (you can turn it off if you want). Of course, if you do start hurling motivational insults back and forth, just remember to watch where you’re going while running. Hard to find a good comeback when you just ran into a ‘no parking’ sign.

When you do finish, after you press the ‘save’ button, your friends and family will receive a text message with your final finishing time (the lower of the two bubbles below). This isn’t tied to your course distance, so if you run longer, that’s fine – it won’t send this till you press the save button.

2019-05-29 16.09.02

And that’s that. It basically works exactly as it says it does. It’s actually kinda cool, and I found it slightly more useful to send to The Girl than the random blue dot tracking link, since this way she doesn’t have to keep loading a map screen. It just alerted her yesterday after 5 miles on my ride that I was still chugging along and my ETA. Of course, a bit more work to set that up for each ride having to put in my estimated distance, but – a handy option nonetheless.

Frequently Asked Questions:

Here’s a quick round-up of what I figure will be the most common questions.

What watches does this work on?

As of May 29th, 2019 it’s the following:

Forerunner 45/S
Forerunner 245/Music
Forerunner 945
MARQ Series

It seems likely any future wearables after this point in time would likely have the feature by default.

Will Garmin add it to older watches?

They aren’t saying no. In fact, they noted that they hadn’t decided on which older devices will get it. Which somewhat implies some older devices might get it. Given it’s entirely app-driven (or, presumably so – though there may be some minor ties to the actual pushing of the lap button triggering something on the phone), the ‘cost’ for Garmin to enable older devices should be relatively low (compared to new firmware for older devices).

Why doesn’t this work with the new Garmin Edge devices?

Not sure. Today is today, but tomorrow comes soon. Maybe the answer will change then.

What phones does this work with?

Any Android phone that Garmin Connect Mobile runs on. That’s Garmin’s smartphone app.

Do I have to take my phone with me while running?

Yes. Your watch uses your phone’s cellular network to send the text messages.

Will the texts appear from me, or from some random number?

They’ll show up as you.

If my friends text back, can I see their texts?

Assuming you have your watch configured that way (which is the default), you’ll see their texts mid-activity. You can disable this is you dislike your friends.

How long does it take for the text message to get to my friends?

In my testing it varied. It was as little as 5 seconds in some cases, and as long as 30 seconds in others. In general it seemed like it was faster in the city, and slower out in the countryside. In my case I was on two totally different mobile carriers as well, which would likely be normal.

Does this cost anything?

Garmin doesn’t charge anything, but you’ll have to pay for text messages just the same as texting your BFF eggplants and peaches.

Can I change it from miles to kilometers?

Yes, it’ll use whatever is setup on your watch as your preferred metric.

Does this work for cycling events?

Yes and no. I tried it out yesterday for a ride and it worked just fine in terms of the ETA and such, however, it kept showing ‘running pace (7;00/mile)’ instead of ‘speed (25MPH)’. A minor nit that I’m sure could be easily fixed by just adhering to the sport profile used (cycling vs running). The estimated time was within about 2-3 minutes of my actual finish time – not bad given I crossed the city twice.

Are you still doing a review on the Garmin MARQ?

Yup. In fact, if you look carefully in the video at the beginning…well…you’ll have to look carefully.

Will the app automatically use a loaded course distance?

No, not at this time, it’s totally manual.

Why won’t this work on my Apple iPhone?

Because Apple doesn’t permit 3rd party apps to send text messages on your behalf. Those apps have to use 3rd party SMS services instead (which doesn’t show up as you). That’s also why both Fitbit and Garmin have quick replies on their watches for Android users, but not iOS users. Garmin could work around this by using the same tech they use for their new safety notification features however.

Is this allowed in my race?

It depends on the race, but in general most running races allow phones for tracking (just often not wearing headphones). Triathlons however generally don’t allow phones, or if they do they don’t often allow two-way communications. Either way, check the rules of your race, but again, virtually all running races allow phones.

Wrap Up:

DSC_0978

If you’re an Android user planning on running a race (and have friends), then this is actually pretty useful, especially if you were planning on dragging your phone along. For many non-running focused people, trying to figure out the whole blue dot map tracking thing is a frustrating experience. Whereas just having it text you each time you cross a mile marker – that’s much easier to understand, especially with pacing and estimated completion splits.

Certainly there are some nuances to using this in a race. For example most people run long in a race (see this older analysis post I did on that), due to swerving around people and taking corners wider than the measured standard. And atop that, any GPS-related accuracy issues (which would be under or over), and there’s a tiny bit of imprecision here. Still, for people standing on the sidelines – being a few seconds later or earlier won’t really matter much. Especially compared to standing on the sidelines of a marathon for 3-5 hours.

Now we’ve seen Garmin re-focus on the live connected/tracking bits in the last few months, such as the new safety/assistance features rolled out. And now these live event features. I’m optimistic we’ll see more to come, and Garmin seems to indicate that’s the case. It sounds like this was basically ‘Release 1’ of a larger slate of ideas here. Given it’s been 8-9 years since Garmin first added live tracking to their platform and more or less never touched it again, I’m hoping we’ll see this receive a bit more love.

With that – thanks for reading!

Post a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked.
If you would like a profile picture, simply register at Gravatar, which works here on DCR and across the web.

You can click here to Subscribe without commenting

Add a picture

*

42 Comments

  1. Peter Höglund

    Have Garmin said anything about integration with navigation/follow a course. Then the watch has a est finish time without other configuration

    • On that specific question (I asked), they simply noted that they have a larger roadmap than what we saw with this first release but declined to clarify more beyond that. Hopefully that means good things (finally!).

  2. Raymond Wright

    No Apple = Sad panda.

    I remember a post you did on a CIQ app that “corrected” you distance vs the marked distance on a course. Can’t find the link. How would that effect when the notifications went out?

    • Ahh yes, that older post here: link to dcrainmaker.com

      In that case, it acts as a layer above things – so it doesn’t impact the underlying total distance. Said differently, the lap triggers would fire notifications to your friends/family, but those people would receive off-set values for total distance. So you’d see 5.00 miles, but it’s plausible your friends and family would see the underlying real-distance of 5.02 miles or such.

    • Raymond Wright

      Thanks Ray

  3. Andrew Burke

    If I’m on Android and have a 945 any reason this wouldn’t be showing up for me yet?

  4. Stefan

    Great to see some movement in this area. I like how easy it is to set up. If you are on iOS, you may check raceday.me. It requires you to upload a gpx track but it gives the viewers a very good live experience link to raceday.me

    DISCLAIMER: I made this app

  5. MICHAEL D.

    I hope they make it available for 645 🙂 as my wife is not willing to get into the link of live tracking sent to her 🙂

  6. Travis M

    Hopefully its more reliable than LiveTrack. My Livetracks fail like 75% of the time on a 935 and my iPhone.

    • Eric

      100%%% on this. Live tracking on my 935 has not worked reliably for quite a while and it is no bueno

    • Fred2

      That’s what I was planning to comment. LiveTrack is as finicky as the Edge 820 touchscreen, maybe worse. For example, I thought I had everything set up correctly this morning, but for no apparent reason, it didn’t start tracking (iPhone). Maybe the Android app is better and Live Event Sharing works better, but from my experience, this is highly unlikely.

    • Brian

      Agree. LiveTrack on my iPhone 7 (iOS 12.2 and Garmin Connect v4.19.0.11) with Fenix 3 HR has been extremely buggy. I’ve switched off the AutoStart feature and manually enable it which seems to improve the success rate, but still routinely get “LiveTrack Failed” messages during my runs. Would be nice to get that fixed.

    • Niels

      Android with Fenix 3 HR live track doesn’t reliably work either. As stated above, manual start mostly works. Garmin keeps adding features instead of fixing features. Looks better on the box I guess…

  7. Bill Cahill

    Great concept, but hope the execution is better than with LiveTrack, which has stopped working with Strava Beacon, and consistently fails for email sharing in the past couple of months.

    Any word on whether this is coming to the Edge series?

    • chris

      automatically starting live tracking has failed for me for a few months now. It works fine if I manually start it on each activity. I’m surprised that hasn’t been addressed yet.

    • Robin

      Plus one on the Livetrack/Beacon issues

  8. rclar

    Good to know my 645M is considered “old” now. I certainly hope they will be adding this to their “older” devices.

  9. Rob Eyre

    How working a triathlon? Would you just have to set the total distance? That’d probably make the estimated time out of whack since you go from fast on the bike to slow on the run so average would be inconsistent. Or is it really a single sport only feature?

  10. Richard Owen

    I literally invented this idea in my head on a long training run at the weekend. Hope it comes to the 935 in the future.

  11. Greg

    They need to just release a serious lte watch, fenix 6 or 945lte that will do this by default.

    I don’t run with my phone…why I bought a fenix 5 in the first place

    • Andrew

      Garmin introduce features like on board music and NFC payments so you don’t have to carry your phone but now they want you to carry your phone? I would’ve thought that most people who are utilising this feature are already using a phone app.

  12. iker

    quote:
    “Now we’ve seen Garmin re-focus on the live connected/tracking bits in the last few months, such as the new safety/assistance features rolled out”

    In my experience this focus has resulted once again in livetrack being broken with edge computers (as it has been intermitently for years now). It would be nice if Garmin took some time to fix and maintain existing features (and far more important for the vast majority of users) than to roll out these gimmicks.

    • chris s

      +1. Fairly typical of my experience with Garmin. Bugs get fixed on the newest units for a short period of time after release. Once any new hardware is out, bugs that pop up in the older units during firmware updates are ignored.

  13. Hussam

    This should be definitely be back-ported to previous watches / devices. I also can’t wait for Garmin devices to have its own cellular connectivity. This will open up so many more possibilities. Thanks for sharing DCR!

  14. Hugo Paredes

    I’ve been using Garmin devices since the 410. After I had the Fenix 2, made a quick switch to Suunto and then back to the Fenix 3, Forerunner 935 and Fenix 5. With every new iteration, new software features that aren’t hardware dependent, rarely make it to older devices.
    On top of that, the quality of the hardware is getting worse: the altimeter is very bad, HRM is highly inaccurate and the GPS has more turns in a straight line than a drunk.
    I’m even considering an Apple Watch, even though it doesn’t seem to have as many fitness features as the Garmin watches

  15. JR

    Why is this better than live tracking? I don’t run with a phone, so I’ve never used tracking, but this seems like it’s actually less functional. I guess I could see people liking the convenience of just getting the messages automatically, but it seems like it could also be annoying. Also, wouldn’t people who care enough to want mile by mile splits just want to go the whole way and see the live data? And it’s not like it’s hard to do a little projected finish time math in your head.

  16. A

    I felt discriminated by calling me Fatty in the public

  17. Amit Nowominski

    Does it work for swimming as well?

  18. Volker

    Really sad for some users that iOS is not integrated because Apple doesn’t allow third party messaging. But I even not know, if I would use this functionality, so I don’t care about it (and I am on iOS). But other Apple users would like to use it for sure…

  19. Chris

    I think it is a really interesting development and Garmin should definitely roll with it. Athlete safety is a big concern for many, though cycling and open water swimming are bigger targets than running. Also, in particular for Triathlon, the ability to track your athlete’s progress over the course of a long and varied race would also be super valuable (good for ultra running too). This makes me think there is actually a good case for a 945 LTE premium watch. It could handle open water swimming and be used during triathlons without the need for a phone. The fact this is based on text messages rather than more complex data is also useful for events which are challenging from a mobile data connection standpoint.

    The more I think about it, the more I think this is a definite winner for someone who does Triathlon. It would clearly be niche, but I guess the expensive 945/Fenix series is niche. And it is a real reason to get an LTE version (side note – of course it needs not to kill the battery life to the extent it can’t be used for an iron distance race or make the product the size of an SUV….).

    Chris

  20. Chris

    Does this work with phones that are set to auto lock after a few minutes? Many people have their devices configured with auto locking due to them having access to work email (or domain joined). I’ve had problems in the past with livetrack, beacon, etc… only updating when the phone is unlocked.