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Garmin’s Biggest Competitor Is Their Own Software Instability

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To the casual observer, one might assume Garmin’s biggest competitors are Apple, Fitbit, and in certain cycling circles – Wahoo. But in reality, I’d disagree. Garmin’s biggest competitor is themselves. Or more specifically, their lack of focus on solving bugs that ultimately drive consumers to their competitors. In effect, my bet is the vast majority of time a person chooses a non-Garmin product over a Garmin one is not because Garmin lost the features or price battle. It’s because that person has been bit one too many times by buggy Garmin products.

And sure – that intro paragraph might seem unfair, after all I do record the vast majority of my own workouts on Garmin products without issue. But the reality is that the ‘Garmin bugginess’ is also true, and everyone knows it. The sole reason Wahoo has slowly gained market share in cycling GPS computers isn’t because they have a technologically more feature laden or better priced product (they don’t). It’s because they have a product that seemingly has less bugs (and also as everyone points out, because you can configure your data pages via phone app).

The reason someone chooses a Suunto watch over a Garmin Fenix series watch isn’t because Suunto has more outdoors features or even better accuracy these days (they don’t). It’s because Suunto spends the time to ensure the vast majority of bugs are never seen by customers. Be it hardware or software related issues, the products are just more dependable.

Which isn’t to say these other companies are perfect. Far from it. But this isn’t a post about whataboutism. It’s not about some random bug that Apple, Wahoo, or Polar hasn’t yet fixed. Or Suunto’s site. It’s about the a cultural problem Garmin seems to have around software stability and bugs, that appears to be ‘features first, stability later’.

Understanding the Scale:

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Before we talk bugs though, we do need to talk scale to put things into perspective. Any conversation that skips this isn’t really truthful.  Said differently, when I evaluate the steady stream of issues that land at my virtual doorstep via comments, e-mails, tweets, and carrier pigeons, I try and question a few things (no matter the brand):

A) Was someone just confused?
B) Was this already fixed in a firmware update?
C) If this is a legit issue, then is it widespread, or a very limited edge case?

Whether or not people want to hear it, the vast majority of items do tend to fall into buckets A & B above. That doesn’t mean the company (Garmin or otherwise) is not at fault. Perhaps the product user interface was poorly designed, or perhaps the experience was otherwise ripe for failure. But if ultimately the user (even on a technicality) did something ‘wrong’, then that roughly falls into those first two buckets.

It’s that last bucket (C) I’m more focused on. There, methodology goes like so:

A) When was the last time I saw/heard of this issue?
B) What’s the rough frequency of how often I hear of this issue?
C) Is this a super rare combination of factors/environments, or something that should always just work?
D) What’s the rough ratio of units shipped to problematic units

The first three are pretty easy. I’m trying to figure out if this is a one-off, which may never be seen again, or is this something that’s happening super frequently to a lot of people.

The last question though, the ratio, is trickier. But essentially I’m mentally doing a numbers game. For example, I know that while I might see 5-8 cases of a given problem on a Garmin Edge 520 compared to 1-2 instances of a problem on an Wahoo BOLT, I know that unit sales wise, in that scenario the Garmin actually trends better. That’s because if we look at the numbers, Garmin absolutely dominates the marketplace in wearables for sporting events (obviously, Apple dominates overall sales, but we’re setting that aside from this sport/fitness focused site).

For example, here’s two major running races recently on two different continents showing Garmin wearables market share:

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This is especially true the further up the endurance ladder you get. In a 5KM event you’ll see higher Apple Watch market share than in a 10KM event, and even less Apple Watches from a marathon. Garmin typically has 10:1 adoption rates compared to Apple in 10KM and above events. And compared to Suunto? It ranges between 25:1 upwards to 50:1. Polar often half of that again.

From a competitive side, no matter which continent I look at the numbers from – the other brands aren’t even close. Again, we’re just talking people using these for sport. Obviously, if we look at total Apple Watch global sales numbers, they easily beat Garmin. But the vast majority of those watches are going on people’s wrists who aren’t running a mile.

On the cycling side, things are shifting however. In some cases pretty drastically in the last year. Previously Garmin dominated at about 90% of GPS head units on people’s bikes. But in certain events this past fall and spring, Wahoo is coming in at between 15-30%. Way higher than events a year ago. A bit of that tends to be semi-environmental and race-specific. Meaning, in other regions we see them at about 10%, especially when you move towards non grand fondo events (just picking various smaller races or stretches along the side of the road).

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So what’s the point?

Well, simply put: With more units in the wild you’re going to see more issues. I’m going to see on average 20x more comments about a Garmin issue than a Suunto or Polar issue. And on average about 4x-10x more comments on a Garmin cycling issue than a Wahoo cycling issue.

Same goes for forums. Garmin actually has their own forums (kudos), where people can post troubleshooting issues. And just like Apple’s forums, they’re packed with troubles. But that’s just like going to a hospital, that’s where you go to find sick people (and hopefully ways to get better). I’ve never understood the logic of saying ‘Their Garmin forums are packed with people with problems’.  Of course they are: That’s the point of them. Problems happen, the point is to resolve those problems. Something that Suunto, Polar, and even Wahoo all lack (Wahoo technically does monitor a Google Group you’ll never find though). Yet similarly, nobody says ‘The Apple forums are packed with people with problems.’

So, with that bit of data-backed caveating, let’s get to the meat of the issue.

Perennial Problems:

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Garmin LiveTrack.

See, you just giggled a bit.

Not because LiveTrack is funny, but because you know – just like I and everyone else – that Garmin LiveTrack is horrifically unreliable. It’s actually almost impressive how unreliable it is. I certainly don’t bother to use it. I know better. Almost every time I do use it, my wife gets more upset than if I hadn’t used it. She wants to follow me, not assume I got hit by a car every time the connection drops permanently.

And it’s been this way for years, and yet has somehow gotten worse in recent years. And it’s easy to pick on LiveTrack. But I can do this all day with other bits.

Garmin Edge Bluetooth to phone connectivity.

See, you just giggled again.

Because you know that’s a pain in the butt. You know that getting it paired can often be cumbersome, and when things go wrong, there’s more steps to the dance than the Macarena. And sure, there’s lots of reasons for some. Some technical, some just ‘because it’s the way it’s been’. None matter to most people though – it’s just architecturally broken.

But let’s go back to LiveTrack for a second. One only has to look at my Facebook post or my recent Garmin Live Event Sharing post to see that the vast majority of comments are on people’s semi-unrelated LiveTrack failures.

And I get it, as a technically minded person, I really do: LiveTrack is actually more complex than people realize.

You’ve got basically two levels of things that go can wrong: Edge connectivity to your phone (interference/dropouts such as being in your back pocket), and phone to cellular tower connectivity. At present, if the Edge to phone aspect breaks, the whole thing crumbles, usually permanently. Whereas it really shouldn’t. There’s no reason the phone can’t take over GPS position responsibilities until connectivity can be re-established to the Edge. Companies like Fitbit do a variation of this within their ‘Connected GPS’ functionality for certain devices. I asked Garmin why it doesn’t simply use the phone’s position instead, and here’s what they said:

“The phone does not perform any ‘backup” GPS position transmission if the Edge device connectivity fails.  From our experience, this is typically not the cause of dropped points.  Cellular network availability is believed to be the main cause of dropped LiveTrack points.”

I don’t have the underlying data that can refute that directly. However, I have never-ending data points from people. Even one comment barely 12 hours old posted to the Edge 830 review.

“Hi everyone. I have purchased successive Garmin edges…the latest being the 830. What is going on with the LiveTracking feature? Garmin heavily promotes it but Live Track has not been working for over a year!! I’ve downloaded, deleted the app numerous times, paired, unpaired the phone hundreds of times. NOTHING!!!!! It won’t even send out the Strava Beacon…let alone Auto Start The message I keep getting is “Cannot send invites at this time. Try again later.” This should be the EASIEST function for Garmin to get right being in the GPS business and all. Can someone finally get to the bottom of this. New 830, new IPhone….same old problem. Second, the sync function works only half the time….why does the Edge 830 have two different Bluetooth connections?”

Of course, I have no idea if this comment is fake. Or if the user is somehow at fault. I suspect neither though. Given our (The Royal Our) collective experience with LiveTrack, I suspect it’s an accurate and real issue. As it always has been. And in this case, they wouldn’t show up on Garmin’s ‘cellular connectivity is the issue’ bucket, because frankly they can’t even get to that point.

Now ironically, I’ve actually had pretty good luck lately with it, even while testing the new Live Event Sharing. And in talking with Garmin they aren’t seeing any meaningful numbers of failures – outside of period a few weeks ago where they had backend server issues. The challenge is reconciling that with the torrent of people saying a variant of: ‘It’s hopeless’. Heck, even trying to take the photo above (this morning) would crash my Garmin Connect app each time I opened Live Track. I’m serious.

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But let’s shift to something else near and dear to my heart: Openwater swim tracking.

This past weekend I did a triathlon (race). Nothing complex, just a simple sprint triathlon where it had to track my openwater swim for a mere 750 meters. I was wrapping up my testing of the Garmin MARQ Athlete watch, which is Garmin’s top of the line $1,500 GPS multisport watch.

Yet the watch lasted a mere 34 yards in the water before it forgot how to track my swim. The next time it started tracking GPS was when I exited the water.

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Now in the world of endurance sports, openwater swim tracking is among the hardest things to do. Half of the time your watch is under the water without signal, the other half it has about 1 second to gain signal and determine a location before being plunged back in the water. So yes, it’s hard. But it’s also something Garmin and others have been doing for almost 10 years. Yet somehow in the last year or so, Garmin has gotten really bad at it. An issue their competitors mostly haven’t had. In fact, Apple has laid down some of the most astonishing openwater swim GPS tracks I’ve ever seen (yet, they somehow can’t track a casual neighborhood run properly, sigh).

But my issue here isn’t my lost 750m sprint swim. It’s that I called out this issue a year ago in my Fenix 5 Plus review. Then again in an openwater swim video comparison video in July 2018. Again in the fall of 2018 in another openwater swim compilation piece. And more times privately and publicly since then. Yet it’s still not fixed.  And now it gets worse, this same issue is impacting the Garmin Forerunner 945 too – where some users are reporting 4 out of 5 swims are producing data that stops tracking after a few dozen meters.

Let’s be frank: The entire point of a multisport watch is triathlon (multisport is the politically correct term to not offend duathletes, but really it’s a triathlon). And yet it fails less than 60 seconds into the main event.

In discussing this issue with Garmin this past week they believe they have a fix in that may resolve the issue. Here’s what Joe Schrick, Vice President over Fitness said this Saturday when I asked what that timing looked like for both the new slate of products as well as existing ones suffering under this:

“We are working on releasing a public beta for the GPS software sometime next week for 945 and MARQ.  Pending positive feedback from beta testers and additional internal testing, we are targeting a formal release at the end of June.  We are also targeting a formal release for GPS software for F5+ and 935 at the end of June.”

However, last summer they said they had fixes in for it too. I refuse to believe people actually tested this functionality prior to this past week. If they had tested it, even just swam a handful of times, they’d have seen the issues that so many others see. In noting though, Garmin says they do work with a large number of people to trial units:

“Our test pool is significant in size and consists of internal and external testers all over the world in both hemispheres (to smooth out seasonal variations).  We obviously have more runners and cyclists in the test group compared to swimmers, but we are continuing to add swimmers to help provide better real-world test coverage.  We are continuously refining our testing procedures to provide the most comprehensive test coverage possible before public release.”

And while I don’t doubt any of that (and I know it to be true), it’s clear that population either isn’t large enough, or isn’t given enough direct guidance on what to test specifically. It may be that population is told to just use the device like normal. Whereas when I worked at one of the largest software companies in the world, for test devices or software that I ‘brought home’ to test, we were given weekly focus areas within the device to push hard on. And almost always with incentives for the people that filed the most bugs in that section.

My Proposal:

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My proposal is simple, at least on paper. In fact, it mirrors one of the most famous tech company driven initiatives to date: Bill Gates’ ‘Trustworthy Computing’ letter of 2002, sent to all employees. It was at that point that Microsoft made a significant mindset shift around security bugs/issues. Not everything was a bug per se, but rather, just a lack of focus on security. Whether or not you like Microsoft is besides the point, anyone in the IT industry will tell you the long term impact of this initiative was huge on/for the company. You can read the famed letter here.

But in particular, there are two small paragraphs that I think should resonate the most for Garmin:

“In the past, we’ve made our software and services more compelling for users by adding new features and functionality, and by making our platform richly extensible. We’ve done a terrific job at that, but all those great features won’t matter unless customers trust our software.

 

So now, when we face a choice between adding features and resolving security issues, we need to choose security. Our products should emphasize security right out of the box, and we must constantly refine and improve that security as threats evolve.” – Bill Gates, Jan 15th, 2002

In many ways, Garmin could replace the word ‘security’ with ‘stability’ (or bugs), and then press send.

But it goes beyond sending a pretty letter. I think Garmin needs three things to occur:

1) A CEO driven leadership letter that organizationally prioritizes stability over new features
2) A customer-facing bug reporting site that allows people to quickly and easily send Garmin issues
3) A team within Garmin that’s specifically (and solely) tasked with proactively finding bug/issue trends and getting them resolved

Since I’ve already talked about the letter, let’s talk next about the bug reporting site.

Today when a customer has an issue, they’re required to open a support ticket. In some countries/regions that’s as easy as an online chat session, whereas in others it requires a phone call or e-mail be opened, and in yet further countries the support is mostly just a digital shrug. One reader last Wednesday reported a pile of issues to their local country support desk and wasn’t assisted on any bugs or given a replacement unit due to lack of stock in that country. While other country support desks (such as the US and UK) are really good about handling customers.

Either way, the current support system doesn’t really focus on known bugs. Mostly because the vast majority of customers actually don’t encounter bugs, they encounter general issues. So funneling them through bug triage wouldn’t help if they just had a normal support problem. But ultimately, that current support system doesn’t appear to adequately compile the frequency of bugs seen by customers – often instead just applying a short-term band-aid to get the customer going again. I know from talking with these support groups that they do consolidate the most frequent issues back to engineering teams, but it’s clear that’s hardly global and even in those well-established support centers, many times the goal seems to be to close the customer case, rather than to close the underlying bug.

If Garmin had a simple customer facing webform that allowed people to describe their bug and include relevant files/etc, I suspect that might make it clear to engineering teams where the bugs actually are, versus depending on support desks that people either don’t want to call or get lackluster results from.

Next, and perhaps most importantly is a team that has ship-blocking authority within Garmin. Meaning, right now the decision for whether or not a product (or firmware version) ships is within the product team itself. And in most software development realms, that’s a logical place for it. But Garmin has consistently proven – product after product, year after year – that those software development teams are incapable of judging that bug bar. Now don’t get me wrong: Bug-free software at the complexity level of devices Garmin is making is a virtual impossibility. No different than Apple or Samsung, Microsoft or Facebook. But, the goal threshold needs to be moved up. Right now that acceptance gate is either too low, or too short in duration to be catching the issues people are seeing.

That team needs autonomy from product group organizational charts to act as a bit of a backstop for customers, and also support. They should be leveraging support division expertise, forum posts (in Gamin’s own forums), and the sifting the internet at large to ferret out issues and hold the product development groups accountable to fix those issues in the next firmware version before more features are added or new products are released.

And I know that this sounds easy on paper and is hard to execute in practice. But it’s also not. It simply starts with organizational direction from the top of the company. Once that ball starts rolling, a cultural shift can occur. It won’t be overnight, nor will it be painless. But it can happen. It took Microsoft years for that organization shift to occur around security (albeit in a vastly larger and more complex company), but the fundamental building blocks are not terribly different than what is outlined above.

Going Forward:

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It’d be easy for Garmin to dismiss this post as just a knee jerk reaction to a bad week or two of issues. After all, their Fitness and Outdoor divisions financially speaking are doing better than ever. The company is selling more units than ever before. But it’s also true they’re losing sales of more units than ever before to their competitors. Be it the obvious ones like Apple (which has arguably carved out new market areas), but also to Wahoo in the cycling realm.

It’d also be easy for Garmin executives to dismiss this post as an attempt to get clicks or views. But realistically, the views from a piece like this are inconsequential for this site in the scheme of a month’s worth of posts. Just like they could argue that James’ tweet (a very well respected cycling reviewer and journalist) would naturally become an echo-chamber of 518+ replies. But we’d all know that’s not true. We’d all know that what those 518 replies represent is paying customers’ frustrations with products they’d otherwise love. After all, Garmin’s social media team actually tried to respond to two people in that storm, before they realized they were driving their vehicle the wrong way during a hurricane evacuation.

Just like my tweet a week ago with swimming frustrations would be easy Twitter fodder, but it shows that some 59,000 people saw it, and more importantly: 13,374 people were interested in it enough to actually look at the images.

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Finally, some might ask whether I’d continue to recommend (or use) specific Garmin products. And the reality is that every product is different – and more importantly, so are the alternatives. The reality is that for my specific requirements, Garmin generally ticks all the boxes better than most other products. Further, it can be challenging to fit in a larger organizational/cultural arc (like software instability) into a given product review unless that specific product was impacted by it. Or unless I actually saw that specific issue during my review time-frame (such as the case with the upcoming MARQ review).

What I hope Garmin takes away from this is that consumers want the company to do better. They aren’t asking for them to reduce their ever-growing prices, or give things away for free. They aren’t asking for more features or swankier watchstrap materials. They are just asking for the things they want to buy or have bought to work consistently from Day 1.

It seems like a simple request.

With that, thanks for reading.

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770 Comments

  1. Michael

    in certain countries the support is very far from good. They insisted there are no problems with my VA3 BT for a long time. Then the altimeter broke and again they did not see it as an issue, fortunately amazon did and allowed me to return a faulty device. Overall the devices are pretty good but where for me they sail is garmin connect which seems user hostile with cumbersome navigation

  2. Deeko

    Unfortunately Garmin’s quality of software and levels of support seem to be inversely proportional to the unit price. I’ve had quite a few Garmin GPS watches (205,305,405, 910xt, Fenix 3, Fenix 5 x & Fenix 5+) and the worst supported seem to be last one I have in my possession!

    Thankfully I didn’t buy a FR 945 to replace my Fenix 5+ as it seems to be just a bad.

    Give these watches are starting to cost a fortune it is nit unreasonable to demand that the watch meets the advertised features. My F5+ for examples loses around 10% battery per hour with only GPS on and no OHR. Nowhere near the advertised figures and I’m not the only one. If it’s not fixed in the next firmware drop it’s getting returned for a refund.

    I think my next watch is going to be something else unless they start sorting things out.

  3. Emiliano

    I use my Garmin watch in isolation from reading about Garmin online. I had no idea the issues I had we’re quite widespread. Live track is nearly useless on my 235 and Bluetooth connection is always dropping out. I actually pinned those issues to my phone (a 3 year old Pixel). I cam imagine people who are having issues but think it’s due to something else. Damn, Garmin… Get your shit together.

    • Dave

      Hi Emiliano… I share your pain. I have exactly the same problems with Live track and bluetooth connection on my FR235 purchased in July 2016.

  4. Michael Harman

    I ride with a Wahoo Bolt and anytime anyone asks me how I like it, my response is along the lines of “it’s never lost one of my rides”. I’ll admit, I’ve never owned a Garmin bike computer. But I know plenty of people that do, and I can’t count the number of times they’ve had a ride disappear, their computer crash during, or right after their ride. I find it absolutely fascinating.

    • Louis Matherne

      For what it is worth, I’ve been using a Garmin (800, 1000, and now 830) since 2013 and I’ve never once lost a ride. I’m not saying that Garmin’s aren’t buggy, particularly at introduction, but I’ve never experienced this particular problem.

    • Grzegorz Zawadzki

      I lost a few rides – including 300km one (corrupted file). After recent lost ride at the beginning of the year (did 78km, Garmin reported some ridiculously high number) I’ve switched to Wahoo. I do like Garmin but didn’t want to risk unstable firmware.

    • Neil Mc Cormack

      I too use Wahoo element bolt, switched from Garmin after too many unresolved issues. Thankfully I’ve never lost a ride with Garmin and my problems were relatively small compared to what some people have been through. The only reason I’m happy with my bolt is that it does basically what it’s supposed to do, something which Garmin can’t unfortunately!! The next time I’m in the market for a new cycling unit I will look at Garmin first because they are the trendsetters but for now I need reliability, not magic just do the simple things ok!!

    • nate

      wahoo is not without its issues either. a friend i follow on strava has mentioned on a handful of occassions especially on longer bike rides where the wahoo just stops recording the ride and he is left frustrated where my garmin 520 is still going strong.

  5. Zeb

    What irony– I bought a Garmin because the TomTom I had failed to update maps more often than not.

  6. Dave Lusty

    Well said. Hopefully Garmin are listening because this could end up killing them in the long term if it’s not resolved. Something akin to uservoice would be awesome for Garmin, although I get the impression they are happy with the status quo.
    Now is a great time for them to make this transition though. They are definitely out ahead in a way that Suunto and Polar can’t catch up in a reasonable timeframe. As such Garmin have the luxury of time to really refine the software.
    Of note though, Suunto has a single software platform accross devices – could it be that Garmin’s artificial feature differentiation is causing too much extra work? The Garmin kinda sorta similar codebase approach must absolutely suck resources like there’s no tomorrow! We all get that no baro means no baro, but the artificial limitations need to stop to make development cheaper and easier which would in turn mean fewer bugs and more time for testing.

  7. garmin 830 fail

    Thanks for posting this. I’m having significant issues with my Garmin 830. The GPS Galileo is notoriously inaccurate (but at least there are two other options – GPS / GPS + GLONASS). Bigger problem was that on an 80 mile ride this past weekend, I lost access too all sensors – my power was frozen at 15 watts for several minutes. Every other sensor (except for speed) was disconnected. I did several restarts and this didn’t solve the issue. Based on the garmin 830 forum (link to forums.garmin.com), seems like many others are having this issue as well. So frustrating to pay up for the brand new unit and for it to fail so miserably. I think it’s related to the iPhone connection – that seems to be the common issue in the Garmin forums.

    Dare I switch to a Wahoo or back to my Edge 520 plus?

    • Louis Matherne

      Are your sensor connections Bluetooth or ANT+? ANT+ is more stable.

    • TODD

      The new 3.33 beta may resolve the connection issues. You can get it on the forums.

      I’ve lost connectivity to my power meter during my ride a few times now. Seems to be only on the 830. Very frustrating. I mean, how is this not found during testing?

  8. JDW

    Nice timing. This literally just happened when I went to check my tri data from this weekend….

  9. Sam

    Ive been running with Garmin for the last 15 years, as my running improved, along with my salary, I have upgraded and upgraded and 6 months ago culminated in me buying a premium watch, the Fenix 5s+.
    I wish I hadn’t bothered. My first Forerunner wasn’t great but st least it didn’t cost a fortune and disappoint me every time I did something other than run to the shops.
    Whilst still a Garmin user, if things don’t improve I’ll downgrade to their most basic running watch again. Lost revenue and no longer an ambassador for their buggy products…

  10. Alex Masidlover

    I absolutely agree on the principles here; although I don’t think its just prioritising features over stability Garmin also seem to try and release as many devices as possible as frequently as possible all with very subtly different feature sets – which has got to make testing and QA harder…

    Also Suunto now has some rather slick new forums: link to forum.suunto.com

  11. I’ve been all over the map with Garmin after years with the original Polar (way back when Polar stuff was the bomb). Recently however (2 years?) I’ve had a love-hate with Garmin, especially with the Fenix series and more specifically the crude/unstable/unreliable BT pairing architecture (both Android and iPhone). After finally exceeding my threshold a few months ago I took the claw end of a framing hammer to the Fenix and reduced it to silicon dust, felt great, done.

    After swearing off Garmin watches (520 stays because it works) and pondering the direction of my next fitness-watch foray, I took a chance on an Apple Watch 4, which is undeniably an impressive piece of technology. I had to figure out a way to not only get it syncing with my Sporttracks account but also to Garmin Connect as a backup platform. It took several months of testing and mucking around but given that GC does not accept automatic sync from anything but Garmin products, I realized that I had hit a bit of a wall.

    Long story short I’m back with a VA3 that more or less works, my multi-platform sync issues are solved, the Apple Watch stays as a backup and drawer gadget, and life goes on.

    But as Ray so eloquently says, Garmin needs to radically revisit their entire approach to product development, execution, delivery, and support, otherwise they are going to go away faster than they care to imagine.

    Kudos to them for at least making the Fenix 5 quite physically robust…it took about 8 full force smashes with the hammer to completely destroy the watch.

  12. Michael Prytherch

    Ray… I’ve been a long time reader of your blog and a DCR Supporter, never in all my time have your nailed an issue in one simple paragraph of text as the first one in this article, I don’t need to read the rest of it (clearly I did though), I hope Garmin sit up and listen, I’ve owned a lot of Garmin devices across lots of sports and navigation, I’m thinking of an 830 but I’m too scared to get one as I just know it is going to be a nightmare with software issues, I have an S20 Golf Watch which I want to throw into the bin due to crappy software, I hope somebody at Garmin sits up and reads this.

    • Paul S.

      Actually the 830 hasn’t been that bad. My first ride with my 830 was May 16, and since then I’ve done 21 rides with it. I lost 2 miles of a 20 mile MTB ride last Friday, and that’s it. I’ve had other minor problems, but I haven’t been affected by the sensor drops that so many others have had problems with, and it’s stayed connected to my iPhone XS so far as I can tell. Usually I won’t buy a Garmin device within 6 months of release, but I’ve made exceptions (Fenix 1, VIRB Elite and 360, Edge 705). With the 830 I wanted to try out the new MTB stuff and my 1000 was showing signs of age, so I took the chance.

    • Dave Lusty

      Said differently, 5% of your rides have had issues, and you’ve also had problems and niggles on top of that.
      It’s 2019, you should be seeing 1/10000 rides with issues not 1/21. FWIW I firmly believe sensor drops are due to the power being too low on transmission. If it’s a choice between changing the battery every 6 months instead of a year, sign me up to more power drain with dependability.

    • Paul S.

      Maybe now, but over the lifetime of the device, it won’t be 5%. It wasn’t with any of the others (well, maybe the 705, where I carried my 60CSx along with for a long time). And the 830 so far has had no problems with out and backs and loops during navigation, which wasn’t the case with the older devices.

    • Michael Prytherch

      Thanks Paul that is good to know, I want an 830 to get rid of the utter crap screen and slow performance of the 820, I use navigation a lot and Garmin are simply the best at Navigation (especially with detours and going off route) so I don’t want to move away from them.

    • Ed Felker

      And the photo at the top of the post should scare Garmin. When Ray displays the brand new Edge product with a hammer, it might be time to better address consumer frustrations. Interesting that James H. with Cyclingtips has a planned interview with Garmin’s software development chief.

  13. Harry

    Spot on, Ray. These longstanding problems will require a culture shift within Garmin to resolve, and we both know that changes in company cultures are disruptive to “business as usual” and the short-term bottom line. I suppose the questions are whether Garmin recognizes that their current approach as an existential threat, or if people will continue to pay them for the opportunity to be their beta testers and/or be willing to live with software with core features that may, or may not, work. I sincerely hope that they have the resolve to address this, but only time will tell.

  14. Dave

    Current livetrack status for me:

    Garmin Connect App (iPhone, IOS 12) says I need to allow the app to have access to Contacts before i can even use liveshare (even though it has worked in past versions). It directs me to Settings – Privacy. The privacy settigns don’t have any way to allow Connect access, nor has Connect requested access so it’s not disabled. In Settings – Connect, theres options to allow the app to access things such as location and calender. But not contacts.

    Not sure how the heck they broke it so well, but they did.

    • Michael Prytherch

      It’s been like this for ages in the App, same with incident detection saying it needs access to Contacts, even though Apple removed that feature a long time ago, Garmin are just shit at software

    • Chris

      I uninstalled and reinstalled the app, and went through the pairing process again to finally get this working.

  15. Hi,

    “Was this already fixed in a firmware update?”
    I am using an edge 800 user for navigation on long distance events (brevets). I absolutely avoid updating firmware for fear of worse. I prefer to live with bugs I know and have found cumbersome workarounds rather than finding out new ones far into an event and loosing navigation. It’s very hard to test for intermittent failure or bugs that appear after several hors and hundreds of kilometres. I stay with the unit for two reasons: 1) the unit I know best is more useful than the quest for the best unit. 2) Excellent hardware/build quality for this old Edge 800.

  16. Reginald Brown

    From the podcast, and the fact that there are isolated responses in this, I get the feeling that you gave Garmin plenty of time to respond. Instead of acknowledging that they have work to do, they’re defending specific instances. This is a sure sign that they have no desire to put in the work to fix the problem. I’ve been working to find a replacement for my Edge, though I’m giving them one last shot with the Edge 530.

    For a multisport watch, my Fenix 5 Plus is going to last me quite a while, but I’ve been strongly hoping that Suunto can figure out their online platform, or Coros can add a few specific features I’m looking for before I’m ready to replace it. Because I’ve come to the conclusion that I’ve worked with their product management team before, and they just don’t understand the nuanced stuff. Like alerts during structured workouts covering the whole screen, giving me total workout pace at the end of an interval workout, the list goes on. They don’t take the time to understand the best way to implement a feature. At least Coros, for all their faults, actually listen to their customers.

  17. Mxm

    Has Garmin more bugs than competitors?

    Comparing a Garmin 735xt gps watch I have been using since 17 months, GPS Lezyne bike computer (Mega XL) and Tomtom multisport gps watch I need to say that Garmin is the most stable and most reliable. This is exactly the reason I consider Garmin as the next watch/computer I would buy.

  18. Let’s not forget the barometric-altimeter issues with the 920xt and Fenix lines.

    • Marshall Spradling

      I was getting ready to post this before scrolling through and finding someone else already had. I’m on my third 920xt for the barometric-altimeter failure (Garmin has replaced under warranty each time), but everyone I know that has owned a 920xt or a Fenix has had it happen at least once.

    • It’s never been clear to me whether that was a hardware or software issue. I’ve heard arguments for both.

      There are absolutely known *hardware* issues with Garmin’s gear too (like the problems using crank-arm power meters with ANT+) but that discussion is mostly orthogonal to Ray’s points about software quality and design so I wasn’t going to drag it in.

    • Joel

      Not just the 920… Im on my 3rd 935. All have failed the same way…barometric/temperature sensor. I think is a chlorine water from the pool. Its a tri watch tho. They should know better!

    • Jordan A

      I had a F3, barometer died, but was out of warranty. Then got a Fenix 5X which had the barometer die, luckily it was covered (barely), and they sent me a refurbished. On my call with Garmin the tech even said to me that the swimming (salt or chlorine) causes issues with the Barometer. I was kind of baffled as this was a Garmin employee stating that doing one of the very activities this watch is created for will break one of the key features of the watch. Not to mention the F5X in Canada is nearly 1000 bucks. I swim 3X a week (8-12K a week) and I’m just waiting for the barometer to go on this one…. anyone know if I can get a warranty replacement on a warranty replacement?

      Can’t begin to express the frustration level, and add the on top of my Edge 510 that has bricked itself umpteen times. I have been in the endurance sports world for 6 years and have been Garmin loyal the entire time, but I must say, I have and am seriously considering switching to another ecosystem as a result of these frustrations.

    • Marshall Spradling

      Jordan A, I’m on my third 920XT, and it’s a warranty replacement of a warrant replacement. So yeah, they should honor it.

    • Marie Hughes

      They didn’t honor mine. Insisted it was “out of warranty” when the replacement watch was less than a year old.

      I ended up lending it to someone who didn’t care about altitude (just wanted pace and time) and getting a 935. Only minor problems with that watch but I find the button placement completely counter-intuitive and frequently press the start/stop when I mean to press the lap button. It also for a while wouldn’t pick up my speed & cadence sensors during group rides but that was minor and short lived.

      I develop software for a living and it’s clear to me that Garmin doesn’t have software in their DNA.

    • Norma

      I thought it was just me! After my altimeter/barometer failed on my second Fenix 5S, I googled to see if it was a general problem, but didn’t find many results. I’ve just resigned myself to the broken feature. It is still better than the TomTom it replaced. (Although it should be at 2x $).

  19. Andrei

    for the apple watch statistics in races: I presume these are from Strava; but there’s a major drawback there. If you use the native apple watch Workout app and upload via HealthFit (as I believe more than half of the people are doing) you don’t actually see that the workout was recorded with an apple watch.
    So I believe those numbers would only show runs done with the Strava watch app

  20. tfk the5krunner

    A timely post. VERY nice job. Strategically useful to refer to as evidence of non-Garmin bias too 😉

    This comment of yours sums it up for me ” I refuse to believe people actually tested this functionality prior to this past week”

    I agree “the acceptable bug threshold” appears to be too low with Garmin. I would imagine that the underlying drivers here are release schedules and the cash/profit they generate. Stock markets nearly always drive shortermism.

    Having said that, I suspect that Garmin could continue as they are and everything would be alright for them for several years to come.

    I agree that people use products like Wahoo because ‘they just work’ (I do). After a while, the niche features just become yet another time-waste for a time-poor athlete and you just want a nice set of features that do the job.

    Ultimately though Garmin are going to PROPERLY come up against Apple and Chinese low-cost competitors. Then the sparks will fly. I can’t see Garmin continue to grow whilst winning at both those extremes of the market.

    • Garmin already *has* run up against Apple, as have Fitbit and Pebble. The race-usage statistics bear this out; look at the Apple Watch penetration (keeping Andrei’s point in #24 in mind) vs Polar, Suunto, and Coros, and then think of how long it took Garmin to get their market share vs how long it’s taken for Apple to take some of it.

    • todd sparks

      It makes me wonder what would happen if Apple decided to release a ‘true’ sport watch and made it more rugged and added just a few more advanced sport features (like interval training). I for 1 know I’d consider it. Between software issues and the inconsistent build quality of their devices, Garmin has seriously frustrated me lately.

    • tfk the5krunner

      that’s a great point about the strava app ON the apple watch.

      I think the Apple/China point still has to play out tho. Apple’s watch is not quite a proper competitor for many user segments of the market, although i think last year’s iteration showed more serious intent from them when it comes to sporty abilities
      And some chinese companies are tantalisingly close to giving Garmin some serious problems on a cost-per-feature basis eg Coros/AmazfitStratos…the features on the STRATOS are extensive and generally great but the hardware was not quite up to it. Apparently, there could be a STRATOS 2 some times this year, if they have upped their game on the hardware front then that will be a great sports watch (but I bet they won’t have put in good enough ohr/gps components). so I think 2020/2021 is when it will be more obvious that there is ‘clear and present danger’ for Garmin.

    • JR

      Of course Apple could be a threat to Garmin, but that’s not Apple’s goal. Apple will never make an always-on display with multiple physical buttons. Apple will never make a product that can last much more than a day without being recharged Even as lower-power chips and better batteries are developed, Apple will just use that tech to make its stuff smaller and higher performance. A single day of battery is the threshold that matters in their market.

    • Charles Borlase

      Apple has some basic software weaknesses as well. Bugs that Garmin hasn’t made, or if the did, they made them 15 years ago.

      One bug: a coworker uses Apple watch for runs. He noted his average HR was 140 for a run, and the minimum was 60, mid run.
      It was clear they missed a beat, but didn’t do beat averaging, so they picked the value that was clearly abnormal as the minimum. (turns out the funny beat value can be deleted and recalculated, so there’s that)

      I’ve not seen my Garmin(s) do this, Garmin does a reasonable moving average to get it’s data.

      It’s clear Apple doesn’t have the fitness background, but I suspect they will improve.

      Just like Microsoft years ago. Don’t give me a new windows. Give me the same one but without bugs. That’ll provide real value to me.

    • Ward Yorke

      I completely agree with your thoughts. If Apple sets up a true sport division and aggressively chases this market, I think many people will give it a serious look before their next purchase. I’ve often wondered why they have given scant effort to a huge purchasing sector.

  21. I must say, it’s quite comforting to know that everyone else has issues with Livetrack. I thought it might be a two year old Sony Android phone, but it’s probably Garmin. Which is a pity, as the Fenix 5S is quite nifty. I use Livetrack so my husband knows where to start looking for my body if I don’t appear at the logical time at the end of my run, but when I see ‘Livetrack Failed’ more often than ‘Livetrack Started’ it seems a bit pointless. It’s even worse when it appears to me to be working but the email link advises that the Livetrack has not occurred, so he worries that something has happened.

    I still send my husband a text with a full body photo of my outfit and my expected route, and stick to places with CCTV so I should be able to be followed on video if I disappear, but surely Livetrack shouldn’t be quite so hard to get functioning? If it is so hard to get to function, why offer it in the first place?

  22. Anirudh

    My brand-new Edge 530 rebooted 3 times while navigating a road ride. Fortunately for me, it resumed navigation correctly each time.

  23. mack

    I actually have switch back to garmin (Edge 830 and forerunner 945)from Polar (v800) because of how bad Polar has been, losing activities completely, the indoor swimming metrics being completely unreliable.
    I did submit a support request a couple of weeks ago and the garmin website says 10 day turnaround (which is totally unacceptable), I did get a response in 3 or 4 days, but luckily had solved it myself first.

  24. Brad

    So what would your recommendation be for the best-ish non-Garmin running focused watch right now? Apple? Suunto? Which would you say is the most stable/reliable?

  25. Mick

    Ray, In summary, Garmin or Wahoo?

    😉

  26. Stuart

    I have a Garmin 810 and 1000 gathering dust on a shelf. After experiencing the ‘typical issues’ I side-graded to Wahoo, and have been happily using an Elemnt and a Bolt for the last two years. No problems.

    I’d really like a Garmin 830 or 1030 because of the extra features. But the primary purpose of a head unit (for me) is always to record my ride faithfully, and (often) to track a pre-prepared route.

    Unless Garmin can consistently demonstrate that it meets the core competencies, the fact that there are additional nice-to-have features simply cannot be relevant, unfortunately…

  27. Reu N

    I just purchased my first Garmin, the Edge 530 and while it didn’t lose the first decent ride, it did drop all external sensors, tell me my fresh power meter batteries were low, and drop about 10 miles of a 70 mile ride. It also locked onto the last read numbers telling me I did the most of the ride at 111 watts, 93 RPM, with no heart rate. I still have yet to hear back from support on how to handle issues like that. Maybe DC can do a video on mid-ride troubleshooting!
    I really wanted some of the new features and Wahoo’s new offering, Roam, was so disappointing I went with the Garmin. Even a small ride I took over the weekend dropped a mile or 2.
    I’m was just assuming it’s just new product bugs, but I have my doubts that the Edge 530 will actually be able to replace my older, less featured but stable, rarely fails, Wahoo Bolt.

  28. Roberto Cuadro

    If I was not already wrapped up in the Garmin ecosystem I would switch.

    Heck, I was a “proud member” of the Vector 3 beta test team and by that I mean that I paid a grand to be a guinea pig as they got them working properly.

    • The Real Bob

      like x 1 million.

      My vector 3 pedals worked for 1 ride, just 1!!! I got a new set of end caps. Then the pedals literally fell apart and I had to spend 10$ to ship them back to garmin to get a replacement. Garmin owes every vector 3 owner money.

      But don’t worry, they said the 3rd version of the endcaps work . As long as I buy the right batteries, use baby oil, say a prayer, etc.

  29. At this point, as a long-time Garmin user, I cannot get my head unit to be recognized by my computer or by my iPad or iPhone. I am technically competent but man, I cannot do it. I am not commenting here because of this current issue but because this type of problem has been consistent with all my Garmin my running watches, multi-sport watches and head units. As read your article and looked at my woes with Garmin both current and previous…I am questioning my own sanity…why am I still using Garmin? (Great article, as always)

    • Reginald Brown

      You’re probably still using it because the competitors tend to occupy niches that you don’t occupy. I have made multiple attempts to leave the Garmin ecosystem and come back reluctantly. But I think the competition is really ramping up. My Fenix 5 Plus and Edge 530s will probably be my last Garmins, though that 530 is going to probably last quite a long time.

  30. rkantos

    It is a wonder how they manage to produce GPS devices for aviation…

    • This isn’t entirely a fair point– they spend a LOT of money on their aviation work and those devices are *very* expensive, relative both to their competitors and to what non-aviators think of as reasonable. It’s also true that there are rigorous standards for how they have to write and execute test plans for various things, which perhaps they don’t do on the consumer-device side with quite as much emphasis.

    • Anirudh

      Those need to be FAA-approved, along with a bunch of other aviation-specific standards. Makes a big difference.

    • Fred Lee

      Maybe Ray could start a DCR approved certification process.

    • Greg Franks

      I wouldn’t put too much weight on FAA approval: link to spectrum.ieee.org

  31. Neil Jones

    I’d like to understand how Garmin identify formal issues from CS tickets. I call Garmin, say I’ve got a problem with X. They tell me it’s not a known issue, do a hard reset, goodbye. Next person calls up with same problem X, and is told the same thing. So you end up with lots and lots of people talking on the forums who all share problem X, but on reporting it to Garmin, each and every one of them is told they’re the first person to report it. It seems that it’s catch-22, your issue won’t be acknowledged unless it’s a known issue, but to become a known issue it has to be acknowledged.

    How long were people calling Garmin CS for about Vector 3 issues and still being told that their problems were unique?

  32. Chris Watson

    I spend a lot of time on the Garmin Forums. The recent forum software upgrade is a complete horror story. They should downgrade and the old software was far superior.

    • JD

      DCR – Would be curious to hear your opinion on the new forum format.
      I’m with Chris Watson. Old forum was at least navigable and searchable to some degree.
      The new forum format has been perplexing so far. I gave up trying to locate a thread specific to BT connection issues and Live Track. You could run around in circles for hours. I don’t have the patience for that. Plus your reset instructions resolved my problems (for now).

    • Charlie

      I agree. The forum “upgrade” is a step in the wrong direction because it makes it harder to see the full scope of problems for a given product.

  33. Peter Johns

    So this is an interesting problem that requires a different view than Ray’s. While he suggests a solution that is oriented to fixing the software, I would argue that nature of the problem might be much different. It lies in the mindset of the users. Think about Ray’s recent failure of his fancy new Garmin watch. If that happened to a normal user (mere mortals) we would just simply try again and decide down the line, if it continue to fail, to replace it with a different brand unit. It drives me crazy that these companies try to complete software changes (that are complicated) without simply getting the minor upgrades right first. Take the recent testing Ray did on the Garmin units for “Live Tracking”. They are trying to predict time for the race you are doing today, but have not yet conquered simple Live Tracking. Let’s try to walk before we sprint!

    In the interest of full disclosure, I am a Wahoo Element Bolt user and I use Live Tracking all the time. It works well most of the time. But I would never need or want them to predict my time for finish of some race, I think I can give my wife the right approximate time to pick me up after the race. On the other hand she can use Live Tracking to figure out if I crashed and will be delayed (like at the hospital).

    Ray is right, they need a new solution to solve these issues. I am a simple user, when it does not work three times, I move on to a new more dependable set of software and hardware. Garmin, are you listening?

  34. Perfect words of wisdom, and exactly the reason I stopped using Garmin…

    605 was perfect, 800 was good – Only replaced it when the battery life deteriated, 1000 after the first one randomly didn’t know where it was in the world, the warranty replacement also had issues, then got condensed inside descending in the Pyrenees… The battery life was shoddy anyway!

    Since moving to Wahoo Elemnt Bolt, it simply does what I want with no fuss….

    If they focused on a solid reliable product instead of a list of useless features that don’t work, I may have remained as a customer

  35. Mark J.

    Manually starting Live Track has been working for me lately. I still get the occasional drop out, but 9 out of 10 times it works. What’s driving me nuts is the “updated” Garmin forum. It’s horrible and has no forum for the Edge 1000, which is till a very viable piece of kit. Garmin claims they’re trying to finish updating the forum to bring back the missing sections, but as someone who runs my own forums, I don’t see that as a problem that would take weeks or months to fix. I almost wonder if Garmin farmed out the update work to some 3rd party who can’t or won’t fix their final product.

    • Paul

      Garmin deleted the edge 1000 forum a month before they new forums, which implies to me that they are done with it… It’s a shame, it’s finally stable, and would be great if my bloody power button hadn’t just fallen off.

  36. CJ

    Here’s another issue symptomatic of Garmin’s corporate culture: bugs labeled “features” that would take minimal effort to solve but aren’t.

    A personal pet peev is the lack of granular selection of units. link to forums.garmin.com

    In Canada, we use kilometers for distance, Celcius for temperature, pounds for weight, feet/inches for height. No option – we have to select between statute, metric, metric UK.

  37. jwk

    I think in particular they struggle when more than one thing is connected to another…ie power meter and phone, phone and radar; radar and lights etc… also when the N of connected devices is more than 1 the bugs seem to go up exponentially…. not sure if some of this is a bandwidth, memory, or computing power issue but it is very frustrating and i own a lot of garmin products….but if i had critical data needs would be looking elsewhere at this point.

  38. A

    I stopped buying my Garmin since Fenix 3 HR, not that I can’t afford anything latest from Garmin , it is just the exact issue that you pointed out above. Their software sucks and they can’t never seem to fix it no matter how many firmware they developed later on especially the ability to track GPS or the sync issue with iphone.

    I don’t need to buy Garmin Fenix 5 or 5+ to know that the users will have similar issues here and there that will be very frustrated to use.

    I think I will stick with my Fenix 3 HR, it don’t have a lot of features but at least It went throught many iteration of firmware updates to be stable for me

    • Zoltan

      I still deem that Garmin triathlon watches has ‘travelled’ on a reverse U curve. And from this aspect I consider Garmin outdoor wearables as some sub-sort of triathlon watches, because both of these groups have too many features.

      We could argue and disagree that which one was on the top based on the accuracy and stability (unnecessary to dispute about the number of features, because it is a monotnous function), but there must have been around 310XT-910XT or at the earliest Fenixes.

  39. Alvaro

    What a great article. Garmin I hope you are listening.

    What always surprises me, being in the Aviation industry, is that my buggy Edge 820 comes from the same company that makes the majority of Aviation Avionics. That is right, there are millions of airplanes flying out there with a Garmin controlled software! Thankfully, these software are WAY WAY better than the edge. How is it that this portion of Garmin can iron out their bugs but cycling and recreational can’t? Is it because the FAA is involve?
    Do we need a cycling regulation board that approves each software for Garmin to get on top of their bugs? If so, I vote for Ray to be president of the board.:)

  40. Chris

    100% agree. I’m about to switch from Garmin to Wahoo for my cycling for this same frustration. More stability is indeed needed by the Garmin product(s) I’ve used. And I’m not very fond of the software or UI – quite clunky.

  41. Alfred

    You hit the nail on the head. Nearly the only reason I’m strongly considering giving up on Garmin and going to a non-Garmin phone/watch combo for tracking is Garmin’s software. (The other minor factor is the charging connector on the new Fenix watches, which has been totally unreliable.)

    Garmin has a great hardware lineup, overall. They would do well to invest some effort in consolidating and cleaning up their software. Even as a casual user, I feel like I have a pretty good glimpse into the horrendous mess that most likely is their codebase every time I use one of their products.

  42. Hugo McHugh

    Nail. Head.
    Thank you.

  43. Michael Falk

    I do not seem to have these problemes – i have not used live track that much, but when i do i have no issues. Phone connectivity is also fine. Is there any statistic of which phones seems to have these troubles? I know huawei bluetooth implementations sucks. I have used samsung and Lg phones with no issues. (a huawei was returned because i did not work with my garmin)

  44. Paul S.

    Something I’ve always wondered is how much of Garmin’s problems with software might be due to H1B abuse? Are they not retaining programmers because they don’t want to pay them what they’re worth, and is that showing up in the quality of their software?

    • scott g.

      The crack Garmin tech goons work on avionics and radar,
      sport equipment is done by trainees and interns.
      IMUO

  45. Dmitry Pupkov

    Speaking about different Garmin support in different countries. Russia is not the largest market for Garmin, however it is quite large (fun facts – Russia has the largest amount of banks supported by Garmin Pay). However, Garmin distributor here is completely rubbish. They will never ever support you and your device, if you bought your Garmin outside of Russia.

    I’m not even to mention that Garmin MSRP price in Russia is almost twice price for the same devices in EU or US. For an example, Fenix 5 plus (non spahire, not X) has an MSRP price here at 68’322 rub (1’000+ US$), while F5X plus starts at ~1270 US$… And VA3 (sic!) is 24’390 RUB here (376 US)…

    So, many people have to purchase devices via US or EU distributors. I have several cases when I send my devices back to US, because Garmin support in US doesn’t care where you’ve bought your device, and will support you in any case.

    Funfacts #2. Suunto here in Russia is almost as popular as Garmin amongst sport people (definitely not at 1:20 ratio). Mostly because their pricing is the same as EU and US. And they will support you even if you purchase your device outside of Russia.

  46. Darrell

    Finally a review puts this print. Well Done!!!!

    I’ve owned several of the 500 series and 1000 series Garmin Edges. The software experience has been HORRIBLE. Actually its the worst I have seen from a well know company.

    My issues focus mostly in 2 areas.
    1) Upgrading software version can trash your Garmin. When that happens you have to reload the software, and load back setting files, courses, activities, etc. Its a long process and still you may not get all your setting back. I’s gotten to the point that I dont upgrade Garmin software until I see its been out for 1-2 months and others havent had issues.
    1a I had to slip another in. I used to check for this info on the Garmin website. They recently upgraded the website software and screwed it up. The site is terrible now and they haven’t even reloaded the Edge 1000 forum.
    2) Sometimes you “upgrade” only to find new bugs. This happens with other companies, but where Garmin is different, is that they introduce huge obvious bugs. And when you upgrade software they often over-write user settings. You set things up they way you want, then Garmin wipes out your settings. Sometimes the Garmin wouldn’t even talk to their own product (Varia,etc).

    Root Cause) The root cause in my opinion, of all these problems is that they don’t test their software after the developers make their code changes. I know it sounds cruel, but when I think of the Garmin Testing department, I visualize 3-4 moneys in a room flinging poo at each other. The testing (lack of) is the worst I’ve ever seen.

    You are right that Garmin, not outside competition is their worst enemy. Each time a Garmin product of mine stops working, I replace it with a non-Garmin product.

    I’m glad I started moving away from Garmin products. I want to get power meter pedals, but refuse to buy the Garmin Vector 3. I am so glad I went with another maker. The Faveros have worked flawlessly, while the Vector 3 has had huge, frustrating issues.

  47. Dave Lusty

    50 comments in two hours. I hope you’re charging Garmin for this market research, it’s worth a lot for their business!

  48. Justin P

    *Copied and pasted from my Facebook response.

    Ray, I’m glad a high profile person in the sector is commenting on this (finally). I’ve been vocal about this online and in particular, on Garmin’s forums for YEARS about this. I’m just adding my voice to the point here now because of it, but also to contrast one of your solutions (consumer side bug report site), which I don’t think is going to help.

    We have that right now, albeit in an obtuse fashion. Garmin, for some absurd reason, sends out Beta updates solely on the forums, a place not every user either goes to or even knows about. On top of this, the only way anyone can report a perceived issue either with beta testing or with live updates is via email or talking to customer support. I’ve done both; NEITHER are useful with speaking to a Garmin rep being the most useless, because in my experience they don’t have a clue about the device and tend to either funnel you to someone else they think will understand, or tell you to email the beta team.

    And that’s what we have right now; a makeshift, consumer side bug reporting system that doesn’t really work.

    How many people do you think download a beta update? How many of those treats that update as nothing more than an early update to the final release? How many do you think download the beta, want to bug test it, but have no clue what to share to the beta team? And then finally, how many of these people that download the beta, email the team consistently and actually know their info is making a difference?

    I’ve emailed the team for years with issues, all that amounts to is a bunch of words from me explaining the problem and either

    A: Get no response,
    B: Get no response for weeks well after the beta has ended or
    C: Get a response that only leads to more questions that they never conclusively tell you if they are looking into it or if they confirmed the problem.

    They also NEVER tell you what, if any internal files on the device, you should or could send to them so they can see if there’s a bug in the code or if it’s something isolated to your device.

    This, this system, this obtuse testing system is the problem and leaving it up to the user(s) to describe the issue(s) is not helpful. What I think they should have done is created an Opt-In user beta test program where they alone will get exclusive Beta updates that are tied to the user’s I.D and the device(s) S/N. You can have a different GC Express or option in the App where you consent to Garmin taking a snapshot of your devices drive while using the beta updates.

    You’re sending them actual files on a consistent basis so they can assess how their software is working in the wild. There also should be a built-in system that the beta tester can report inside the beta testing ecosystem any perceived bugs or general faults directly to the team and when it is sent it’s tagged with what Software build you are on. What config you are running and what files for the device you are reporting for to look at to confirm the perceived issue.

    With this, you’re getting dedicated info from dedicated users using a beta-testing system for you to fine-tune and correct all these problems from the ground up and automating the system for those users to send you real-life data regularly.

    What they do now though, contributes to the never-ending confusion of Garmin device releases. They are dealing conflicting, piecemeal info from users across devices and no intuitive structure to help fix the products, so future releases don’t have to deal with this.

  49. Geezer Geek

    It’s about freakin’ time! This issue has been the elephant in the room since I started with Edge units in 2010. I spend 3x the time screwing around my Garmins trying to get it figured out and working than I do riding…and I never really get it working. I don’t even know where to begin.

    The fact that something my be difficult or tricky to implement is irrelevant. It’s feature, they’re selling it and taking your money, it should work.

    As a systems engineer, I don’t understand how it’s possible to run a project like this. I can’t imagine working in an environment where this is possible.

    But what do I know. Look at their market share.

  50. Gennaro

    I am not going to repost what I wrote a few days ago regarding the Garmin Forerunner 645, but it’s good to remind that:
    (1) It has a widely reported problem with barometer and altitude during runs, when it records high elevation gains and skyscraper floor counts on flat runs
    (2) IT HAS NOT RECEIVED ANY FIRMWARE UPDATES SINCE THE BEGINNING OF THE YEAR
    (3) The 645 Music is getting firmware updates, whil the 645 (non music) is getting NOTHING.

    Other than that, I’m not very happy with the support. It is very difficult to make the problem understood (and Garmin should know it well), and after weeks of useless suggestions (reset, clear the barometer hole etc. etc.) nothing gets solved.

  51. Ian S

    Good article, sums up the problem well. For me it’s basic product development methodology, Garmin have a consistent track record of releasing products without adequate testing. To give them credit, they seem quick to address issues when identified but anyone who buys a Garmin product in the first year of release is basically signing up to being a beta tester. And that’s not acceptable.

    I like the idea of moving the ownership of go/no-go. I would add to that a clear incentive and measurement of problems reported post go-live and frequency of firmware fixes required post launch. It’s very clear that there is no assessment of the huge amount of post launch fixes that always happen.

  52. CharlesAtBc

    It would be interesting to see the market shares (as provides on 10k road race) on trail races. My bet is Suunto has a larger market there, and even larger if you only take into account the leading runners.

  53. John Kissane

    Garmin’s UK support is pretty good if a little slow, going by the post guess they’re busy. I’m about to have a 645 replaced for the second time(!) due the jagged elevation graphs it produces turning the stair climbing stat to garbage. Of course given lots of others on the Garmin forum see the same thing, I’m dubious that a second replacement will make any difference.

    Apart from that the watch is pretty good although does drop the connection to an external HRM & footpod every now and again during events. Both at the same time so can only blame the watch.

    It did cross my mind as to how much testing Garmin do on their products.

  54. Davis

    They should focus on collapsing their product line too. When they have 2x to 3x the products of their competitors for the same segment and it’s hard to decide which is truly the better watch (cycling computers excluded). I couldn’t decide between the Vivoactive 3 or the Forerunner 245… so I bought an Apple watch! I wanted a barometric altimeter but I also wanted the longer GPS battery life. Now I know the Apple watch doesn’t have the longer GPS battery life, but my thought was it would work until a better Garmin unit came (and I didn’t want to spend 600 for the 945, and the 645 didn’t have PulseOx which the lower 245 had). Not the most logical choice, but Garmin’s line-up doesn’t give me easy choices.

    If they had less models to play with it would probably be a lot easier to focus on making bug free software.

    • Brandon Gittelman

      I agree they have too many products. Why does the Forerunner 45 even exist when the Vivoactive 3 does at the same price?

      IMHO, they need 4 products –

      Entry level: Forerunner 45 – $200
      Mid Level: Forerunner 745 – $350/400(Music) – Essentially what the 645 is, but with multisport mode
      High End: 945 $550 – Adds in mapping, barometer, etc
      Premium: Fenix 6 (essentially 945 with metal case) $600

      There’s next to no point for the VA3/45 to coexist, same for the 245/645. It’s also sad that the 735XT was pretty much identical to the 235 but with different software, giving it more features than the 245 and 645, except for Garmin Pay/Music.

    • It’s a tough thing though. At a basic consumer level, I agree: The product lines are getting too muddled and hard to understand/explain.

      However, at the business level, it’s hard to agree. Garmin is selling more devices than ever before and at more price points than ever before. And from a sales/etc perspective – they’re dominating there. So it’s hard for someone (me or otherwise) to be like: ‘Garmin, I know you’re having your best years ever in the fitness/outdoor categories, but really, I think you should make less products’. I don’t really have any proof that reducing SKU count would make it clearer. Especially as you get into the FR245 vs VA3 type discussions. For most athletes, I suspect they skew towards buttons. However the general public tends to prefer the allure of touch screens. Garmin seems to understand this.

      Sure, one could look at the Apple Watch, but even they now have 2 core Active SKU’s (Series 3 & 4), plus size and LTE/non-LTE SKU’s. And that’s also a different market (as much as we all like to compare to Apple, not everything can be compared to Apple).

      I’d insert a shrug/confused emoji here, but I’m too lazy to lookup the right character codes on my keyboard.

    • Bob

      vivoactive and 45 have very different screen sizes. Makes a difference to many.

  55. Harris

    Great and helpful article for Garmin. I was one of those faithful Garmin users, who had just had enough. I owned multiple devices for both running, cycling and navigation, and after the continuous problems with my Garmin Edge 510, I went over to the Wahoo Bolt. There have been no issues with the Bolt, and it just works. The ease of set-up was amazing! I am now looking at the Garmin Edge 530, which seems like it has some great new features, which the Bolt doesn’t have, and also seems like good value for the money, but I am definitely gun-shy with the Garmin software. Thanks Ray for bringing this to Garmin’s attention, and I think I’ll wait awhile until I hear about the issues with the 530 before buying one.

    • Johann

      I think Garmin has to learn from History here. Remember Nokia they had too many devices and a Software eco system which was too complex and worked terrible Music being one. Nokia got killed by Apple and Samsung devices which offered less features but essentially provided more ease of use that worked.

      Sadly I think Garmin is going down the same path we have just not seen the new killer device but based on new players and existing players we might see this sooner rather than later as getting 10% or Garmin’s current market is a substantial motivator.

  56. Pat

    I have an 810 that i absolutely can not use for auto-navigation- it constantly tells me about the slightest turn with repeated warnings. This drained the battery on a 125 mile in under 100 miles, leaving me to navigate back to the car using the maps on my phone. Not a good day, now I just set a route to be always visible so i can manually follow it. It also loves to crash if I keep too many activities in memory- that was fun on a ride down the length of Long Island and into NYC to meet my ride home with a unit that went down twice. A few more crashes locally and i started to empty it every time i sync it to the computer. I haven’t had a crash or freeze up in years as a result of keeping the memory empty. Live connect has never worked for me beyond 5 minutes and the bluetooth connection the phone randomly comes and goes, lately it stopped syncing for no apparent reason.It likes to drop the ANT+ speed sensor as well and revert to GPS speed in the trees, even with fresh batteries in the sensor. Meanwhile the F5x stays connected perfectly…

    Garmin tech support offered me a different serial # 810 but could not guarantee it wouldn’t also drain the battery navigating/crash randomly or stay connected to the phone and speed sensor so i passed. Better to stick with the devil i know than to get one i don’t.

    My Fenix 5x has been mostly solid outside of the optical HRM crazing/cracking 6 months in and of course the barometer that’s utterly useless- I live and pretty much work at sea level, walking across the flat parking lot into work usually trips the stair climbing goal. I did get the replacement pretty fast and the 2nd watches HRM is doing good but the barometer is still garbage no matter how many times I calibrate (manually and with gps). Meanwhile the 810 is pretty accurate despite being significantly older and beaten on much harder. It just can’t navigate.

    While the 830 has my interest as a replacement (my battery is starting to fail), I going to wait till at least September, maybe October before ordering one. I’ll know by then if the initial issues are getting resolved, what new ones are popping up and if Garmin is making headway on resolving them in a timely manner. I had a Karoo briefly last year but there were still too many issues to consider it as a replacement, especially at the price being charged. The Sigma Sport ROX 12 also has my interest as a potential replacement unit.

    • Meredith

      >I have an 810 that i absolutely can not use for auto-navigation- it constantly tells me about the slightest >turn with repeated warnings

      That could be caused by map issues. What maps are you using? Have you tried maps from a different source? Are the maps up to date?

    • Pat

      I have the (now very) old garmin city navigator maps on it for road riding- not a lot changes out on the asphalt year to year where I ride.Navigation worked fine for the first 2 years of the devices life, the persistent turn warnings started about 55 miles into a 125 mile ride for no apparent reason (it was perfectly fine up to that point). Garmin had no idea why it failed nor any possible solutions beyond the usual hard reset and update the OS. None of which ever worked on resolving this devices various issues.

      My solution to the navigation failure is to change the route display to “always on” in the map section and change the color to red. Now i memorize the next two turns ahead and refer to the map a little more frequently as i get close the turn. It’s not perfect and not what I payed for but that’s life with a Garmin device for ya.

      When my 810 finally becomes unusable due to battery issues, I’ll be looking around to see what is available outside of Garmins messed up ecosystem. The competition has come a long way since I got my 810.

  57. Ben Udell

    Thank you for writing this and if it helps, I fully agree. I’m savvy enough that I simply shouldn’t have confounding tech issues with products such as this. If I have issues, I know many others will as well and they won’t be able to solve it in a timely manner or with limited frustration.

    I’d echo that their tech really struggles between units. With a 235 and 520 it’s amazing how their mass market products simply can’t always connect with an iPhone, do wonky stuff that requires a hard reset to fix (like broadcasting a heart rate), or can’t sync data and maps. And at the heart of it, these are basic tech requirements.

    I’ve tried to make my life easy be sticking with Garmin products to stay in the ecosystem, but I’m not sure that matters anymore. If I need the basics to work all the extra feature rich options aren’t worth the hassle of simply downloading a map to my Edge.

    Thanks again for the great commentary and though process. Hopefully this is one more voice that further validates your article.

  58. B Silva

    Truer words about Garmin have never been spoken, Ray.

    Ironically, I had a Forerunner 945, which I just got 2 weeks ago, freeze up on me a few days ago while I was traveling in Portugal. It would tell the time, but HR was frozen at 47 (I have a low resting hr), GPS wouldn’t find satellites, and it wouldn’t connect to Garmin Express. I tried to power cycle it but power down would take more than two minutes and rather than going to the off state, it would restart. I tried a to reset via the menus but it wouldn’t do anything. Luckily since the Forerunner was so new, I brought a backup watch (Fenix 5X) and had a watch. I spent hours trying to sort out the problems. It wasn’t till I got home yesterday and in my jet-lagged, can’t sleep state, I figured I’d have another go at it. I was able to press and hold the power button for >15 seconds which caused a full device reset, wiping out all my configurations and setting. As you know, setting up a Garmin device is a pain in butt but at least it’s working again.

    I had switched from Garmin Edge 520 to Wahoo Bolt for a couple years because of the bugginess in the Garmin software, which too often caused me to lose activities. But Wahoo has failed far behind feature wise and I have switched back for my bike computer to a Edge 520 Plus and now a 530. (Better nav, radar tail light, Xert FTP, etc.) They’ve been better than my past experiences with Garmin and I was getting optimistic that they’d (FINALLY!) improved software quality. But then the problems with the Forerunner 945 and I see their software is still super buggy.

  59. Ed Felker

    After using Garmin Etrex, Edge and Forerunner products for the last eight years, some trends have emerged. It’s best to give the Edge and Forerunner products a year or more in the market, while Garmin releases firmware updates. I moved up from a 1000 to a 1030 this spring and it’s been solid. It’s best to check the forums before buying any Garmin device. Some are just better than others — the Edge 510 was a notable turkey, while the Forerunner 920XT has been solid.

    Turn-by-turn routing still takes customer knowledge of Garmin quirks, and I’ve given up trying to explain it to fellow riders who want simple functionality. They buy Wahoo and live with the relatively limited map functions.

    Under the hood, it seems that most Garmin devices have about a three-year lifespan in terms of battery capacity and memory integrity. Garmin looks to be using the same years-old file structure across sports devices and a corrupted file leads to crashes. It would be nice if they could figure out how to quarantine a bad file for instance.

  60. IanM

    Totally on the money. It is a culture thing: Function & Feature vs Usability & retro-fix support.
    A cycling term “The Damn Garmin” and he had a Wahoo!
    Getting a tick in every box only works: when you are at the bleeding edge of Functions and Features.
    A key issue moving forward at market saturation is ensuring repeat purchases. I must have over 10.. or is it 15 Garmin products. Yes I have had issues but the serious ones Garmin has replaced the units. My Edge 705 cf 2008 still works but during its 3rd trip through the washing machine a button fell out. The rubber housing was worn out. And the dran thing works. Yes I am a very loyal Garmin customer. My non-cycling friends just do not get why I do not just get with the program and strap on that Apple watch! I have to say I am tempted more with each turn of the apple watch. As I read your reviews I see apple GPS/Battery balance is compromised.
    Yep Apple and Garmin customer base is different but with each year they overlap more and more. Garmin must protect its’ loyal base by working all the issues to ground, before the simple solution is Apple/Wahoo/Whatever!

  61. Paul

    You are absolutely spot on here. I have many garmin products, but will not buy any product until they are at least a year in the market.

    In most cases Garmin do eventually fix the software (excluding livetrack and swimming), but by the time they have, the hardware is expired.

    Take my Edge 1000 as an example, it was almost three years after I bought it before navigation of routes over 70km was stable, shortly after which the bloody on / off button failed.

    I’d like to replace that unit with a 530, but God alone knows how many software issues there are with that.

    Coupled with the fact that almost every firmware release breaks something that was previously working, I would suggest that Garmin has NO IDEA how to do software, nor does it really care about the customer experience.

    One day, someone will come along who knows, who cares, and is suitably funded, and Garmin will disappear.

  62. Jimmy S

    Excellent post Ray!! I bicycle commute to work and have had some very upset phonically from my wife because of LiveTrack failures. Seems ridiculous that a product “feature” has been so problematic and un-corrected by the company. I seriously home that some Garmin execs are reading these comments and taking them to heart.

  63. David Walker

    From the outside it appears that every Garmin product has the same basic bugs as every previous product . Including bugs that were long ago fixed in previous products. For example, some people are having sensor dropouts with the Edge 530. Previously, the Edge 1030, Fenix 5X, Fenix 5S+ all had the same sort of problems that were eventually fixed with firmware updates. Why is there not a single group in Garmin that is responsible for sensor connectivity and produces a common code base for all products? Why isn’t the bug-fixed code base automatically included in new products? Why does almost every new product go through the same set of problems?

    Another example is Edge phone Bluetooth connectivity. I have had the Fenix 5X, Fenix 5S+, and now the FR945. Every single watch connected easily to my phone with no issues. With my Edge 1030 and 530 there has been an endless sequence of pairing and unpairing to try to get them to talk to each other. My latest problem is that Garmin Connect says that my 1030 is connected and is syncs just fine with GC while the Connect iQ app says it is disconnected and won’t download anything. WTF? The edge guys ought to talk to the watch guys. Also, having two BT connections on an Edge just makes the problem worse. The justification of this supposedly has something to do with activity upload speed. However, I can record the same activity on my watch and Edge and the watch uploads just fine with just a single connection. The whole thing makes no sense.

    • Klaus

      Somewhere (possibel old Garmin Forum) i read about the 2 Bluetooth Connection modes they use. BLE and “normal” BT (not low Energy).

      The Edge is connected all the time with BLE (less Energy on the Phone and Edge) for less Data . And if they need to send more Data to the Phone (or get from Phone), they open the BT (high Energy) Chanel.

      Then the Implementation on differnet Phones (Apple iOS, Android Models form Samsung, Huawei, .) is a mess. i rembemer Apple did change Bluetooth implementation 1 or 2 Times in the iOS-Version

  64. David Walker

    Just another comment on Livetrack- use the RoadID Ecrumb app instead. It works flawlessly.

  65. M3V8

    Unwittingly bought a non-North America FR935….contacted Garmin and they replaced it with North American FR935 for free. My Edge 1030 started to stop recording elevation. After a few emails, I’m now getting a replacement for free, even though I’m out of warranty.

    It’s too bad that they can’t combine this kind of great customer service with better SW.

  66. Brian

    Ray! Are you living inside my head? My last purchase was specifically NOT Garmin. Three things you said that apply to me and my decision to go away from Garmin:

    1. I KNEW a new Garmin device would have bugs. Ok, but

    And

    2. I KNEW there would be bugs around connectivity (device to phone, device WiFi, device to computer… you name the connection…) which would be a frustration every time I worked out making it difficult/impossible to get data on/off the device.

    And

    3. I KNEW Garmin would do nothing to help me permanently fix the problem…if I could get them to help me at all…they would do the minimum to get my case closed.

    So, I went with a different company, even though I knew my post-workout workflow would be harder as I had to compile my data from two different sources (one Garmin and one non-Garmin).

  67. kaz

    And take all your comments about bugs – and then multiply by a factor 10 for APAC device users – who ALWAYS are left out of timely releases and beta participation.

    My 5X+ APAC took 7 months to get Power Meter spike bug fixed. Non-APAC took a while as well – but Non-APAC watches could use the beta software from late December to crush the power meter bug.

    Garmin “fan boys” claim that it is all because Garmin is running Agile software development practice to give us new features as quick as possible. But Agile (or SCRUM) development practices are not an excuse for leaving bugs in the code for ages and not doing builds.

    What Garmin needs to do in no particular order:

    1. Take ownership of bugs – and get them fixed

    2. Implement a bug control system that the public can post to – and read so we all do not double post.

    3. Acknowledge submissions. I have submitted around 20 bugs – and have NEVER had a single reply

    4. Sack/demote their development managers and get someone in who actually KNOW how to manage SCRUM/Agile

    5. Have their teams communicate better. A lot goes wrong when the Connect App vs Watch “mis-communicates” – like resetting your Widget list back to default or settings goes “monkey”

    6. Have someone setup a REAL build server – so a build of a release is simultaneously done to all watches in the same family (5+/5S+/5X+ APAC or Not Apac) – yes it IS that simple – and once done it saves so much time.

    7. Better source code control – so we do not see the same bugs come back – time and time again. I guess Garmin’s implementation of Agile does not allow for code comments and check-in/check-out standards..?

    All the above is an indication of a “defect” software development department – who is not MANAGED by anyone with management experience.

    They act like a “startup” with limited capital and do all the mistakes one normally associate with tiny startups. Not established market players.

    The current managers are probably really great programmers who have been promoted up – and have probably never been given training or tools to learn how to manage a lot of developers. And that issue is so usual it is frightening. Just because you are a great programmer does not mean you are a great manager – or can even become a great manager.

    • Klaus

      Stop working with SCRUM/Agile

      Get ready “bug free” and go out with the product when you are finished and not when the Marketing People say you have to finish now.

  68. Fred Lee

    Thank you for posting this!

    It’s funny, that’s the second reference to Gates’ memo that I’ve seen today. There’s also a sense of Deja Vu here, as this whole article sounds a little to me like the recent Casey Johnston piece in The Outline (and Joanna Stern’s article in the WSJ) lambasting the the Macbook Pro keyboard.

    As an end user it’s aggravating that Apple ignores my complaints about the MBP, and likewise my concerns about Garmin go completely unheeded by the company. Your post will no doubt get more attention.

    I have two major issues that have gone un-addresses over the last year(s). All the more vexing because I am a very basic user. Just record rides with a sensor or two, and then upload them. But I am often stymied because:

    1. Garmin cannot reliably maintain a bluetooth connection to save its life. 80% of the time It Just Works, and 20% of the time I simply cannot get my phone to pair with my Edge 810 or Edge 500. I have to “forget” the phone, and re-pair. Aggravating!

    2. The Garmin Connect app frequently goes into a high power state from which it never exits, literally chewing through a full battery in an hour or two. Force-quitting the app doesn’t work, I have to restart the phone. Which works until I sync a ride and then the app goes bonkers again.

    Of course sucker that I am, just like the Apple users who buy a new MBP every year hoping the garbage keyboard finally works, I just picked up an Edge 530. Largely because it has “wifi” support, so hopefully I can dump that crappy Garmin Connect app. Of course while setting it up last night, it still wants to pair with Garmin Connect. Sigh. I give up. Garmin, please just tell me how much money I have to give you for you to provide basic functionality?

  69. Jazzar

    You could have ended with a quote from Tim Minchin:

    “And if I have per chance offended, think but this, and all is mended: We’d be as well 10 minutes back in time for all the chance you’d change your mind.”

    You make a very good point in saying customers just want their devices to work. And honestly, the things Garmin does well, are remarkably good, but buggy software and feeling like a beta-tester until the current-gen computers are already replaced with the next generation about a year later just ruins the experience.

    And being a tech-person myself I wouldn’t even mind playing beta-tester if there was some way of actually reaching Garmin and getting some response on the submitted bug-reports. And going the extra mile reliably reproducing the bug on my device and submitting the necessary logs would be fine if the general feeling wouldn’t be “Thank you, but we don’t care.”

    Compared to any github project with actual tickets and actual feedback if the issue is dismissed or further data is needed, Garmin support/forums are just a black hole.

  70. Dave West

    I’ll admit that I’m a Garmin fan and have bought everything from their Sat Navs to a series of sports tracking devices over the years (Currently the Fenix 5 Plus). I’ve always liked the hardware, but have had numerous issues with software; Sat Navs that won’t update or freeze and worst of all the Garmin that came as part of my Honda Civic’s infotainment system. On trying to upgrade the maps it apparently bricked the device so no navigation, radio or car setup. Hardware fault said Garmin and Honda (so new device at my expense at it was out of guarantee). In the end a blog suggested a solution that involved pressing the blank touchscreen where the buttons should be – it worked but and the update was actually revised and reissued a few months later although without any admission that the previous one was flawed. To be fair, subsequent updates have functioned well and Garmin Express mostly works (although it insists on me signing in every time and then simply goes back to the login screen at which point I cancel and all is well).

    By and large we’re not talking about PCs here which are infinitely customisable, could have any one of a number of operating systems and badly behaved programs installed. Garmin devices are their hardware and their software. In the case of my car, how does a map update turn a screen black on black when it’s virgin software and hardware?

    I wholeheartedly agree that they need to focus on getting rid of the bugs; however Microsoft seem to be having similar issues so maybe it’s all just got to complicated to iron stuff out on such a short cycle?

    • Paul S.

      The last time I tried to update the maps in my 2016 Honda Pilot (which is something I’d successfully done a couple of times) it failed because of “insufficient space”. Now, of course, it complains that “the maps are more than a year old”. Garmin has since updated the maps and I have them on a USB stick, so maybe I’ll try again sometime.

  71. Alberto

    Well done Ray! I think that after Fenix 5 Plus release, things are simply go worse and worse… Apart for hardware (i just bought a Forerunner 945, buttons are simply sticky and mushy, i have replaced with another one and it’s the same thing). There are some bugs that i and many other Garmin forum users’s are reporting to beta team since one year by now but they refuse to solve them even if they are present in Fenix 5x, Fenix 5 plus and Forerunner 945 (i suspect also in Marq line). I always write to beta team if i found a bug but i don’t know why, sometimes they reply me and solve the bug, sometimes simply ignore me… so, what’s the point of spending my time to help them (and myself) to solve their bug if they do not cooperate?

  72. Pierre

    Great post… To me what exemplifies best this issue with Garmin is the Vector 3 debacle…
    How on earth did Garmin release a $1,000 supposedly “state of the art” power-meter pedal only to acknowledge a major design flaw a mere few weeks after the release, leading to the recall and replacement of the battery covers??? And even the new battery covers did not resolve all the issues and cases of power spikes/drops or the pedals failing to link are still reported to this date.
    I own a bunch of Garmin’s products and I think they are great when they are working properly – but it is kind of random… To me they are getting a little cocky and resting on their laurels since they are getting the lion’s share of the market in sports wearable, and their QA/QC is definitely not where it should be.

  73. Niels

    My use case: do activity, then upload it but only if I want to. And I want live track

    With Garmin: Check altimeter, note it is at -20k again, give up on that. Note battery on Fenix is low, connect to charger, hope it is actually charging because there is zero indication it is. After charging dance around Fenix watch, chant in latin, apply crucifix and pray livetrack will work. Start activity. When finished go to Garmin connect online. Navigate site that does not display properly on mobile. Dowload gpx (until recently the download button waa missing on mobile). Unzip gpx on phone. Upload to Strava.

    With Wahoo: Do activity, rest assured live tracking works, when finished go to Elemnt app, select ride, press upload in case I want to upload.

    It would actually be easier/better if Wahoo would support a running mode and a wriststrap. I would actually use that instead of my Fenix watch to record my runs.

  74. Michael Frazier

    On my 2 month old Edge 1030, Strava Beacon only works on one of every 3 or 4 rides I do. On my last ride, it stopped recording my ride, but continued giving me directions. I had fewer problems with Edge 800 which I used for several years.

  75. Andrew

    I think you hit the nail on the head here. Whilst you have focused on a couple of big issues, there are also all sorts of little pieces that just don’t work how they should.

    e.g. the weather widget on my 945 shows 236ph winds constantly regardless of the weather – the rest appears to be accurate but somehow its pulling a dud wind field – its not important but when you’ve spent that much on a device its frigging annoying that someone couldn’t be arsed to iron that out.

    Similarly I have found with the training peaks plan integration, even after I complete a workout on the Edge I still get annoyingly asked if I want to do it next time I start a session – particularly ironic when you do a session on the turbo then jump on the bike to cycle in 15 minutes later (I checked – the workout had synced to TP so it wasn’t just a time lag problem). Its really really annoying and as you say, it creates frustrations that are entirely unnecessary and impact the joy of a cool new gadget!

    • CPolicarpo

      also have the 236 km/h wind bug on the 245 music, I agree there should not be any bug that goes unfixed. I get bugs happen, but if the company is indifferent to fixing them, that is a sign of they don’t care about the quality of their product and they don’t have integrity.

  76. Marvin

    Actually this can be done very “simple”. Introduce a logging system on every product that can send this data to garmin. Implement a helpdesk who can read this info and get a technical team behind it. Even logging on the unit in a file could be enough.

    It blows my mind this isn’t implemented on any unit yet. Not only Garmin…. it takes away the “Yes” “No” conversation and gives analyzing the real problem a change

  77. Volker

    Well done. Sad but true.

  78. Chris

    The biggest problem with the Garmin Forums is, that it really got so crappy.

    All begun several weeks when they blocked write access to old forum. The new forum software is a disaster. Basic functions are not available.

    Example: You want to see the newest posts in a longer thread? No can do! You have toreload and reload all postings and then you have to check every single date-stamp/time-stamp. This really suxs!

  79. Frank-enstein

    “Pst – – hey, why don’t we just hire Ray?”

    (overheard at Garmin International)

    Great change of pace article.

  80. Rodador

    Totally agree! Garmin sells so many models so they aren’t able to solve the bugs of each of them. Apple however brings out only one model every year, that’s the reason why they have such good support. However, Garmin has the better dedicated multisport watches. I know a lot of people that has changed from Polar and Suntoo to Garmin.

    Another well known hardware issue are the soft/premium chest strap. No matter the version or how do you clean it. All the straps end up giving erratic readings in less than a year. The cheap chinese ones work better for a fraction of price.

  81. JimL

    *clap**clap**clap**clap**clap**clap*

    I’d agree they still are the best devices, but they can be (and we should expect) better

  82. Phil P

    I’ve been considering an Edge 530 recently, due to navigation and in anticipation of Trainerroad rolling out their workouts. Until now I’ve been using a Pioneer CA500 which I got for free from an internet friend who didn’t need it anymore. As unsexy of a unit as it is, with it’s lack of mapping, it just works. I’m not a huge fan of their cyclosphere site (wish I could just pull the data directly), but aside from one weekend with slow uploads, it’s been a solid and reliable unit which captures data and gps and I don’t get the lost miles I see with garmin users. While I’d love all the new bells and whistles, seeing various issues does give me some pause.

    Ray of course you’re great for consumers, but Garmin and other tech companies really need to work with some outside consultant with your level of knowledge and common sense to produce better products and be more customer focused in addressing any issues.

  83. Sam

    I just wish they had a change of mindset and do like Microsoft do and switch to OpenSource, but that’s probably a pipe dream, if any garmin exec reading this be please do get Carols Dwerk’s book, Mindset, which is what Satyas recommend that made him change Microsoft

  84. GLT

    Most of my Garmin experiences have been trouble-free, but the latest updates for the Edge 1030 were not positive.

    Update 7.30 caused both my of E1030’s to constantly power cycle. One of them seems normal again after 7.40 was applied. Still being patient with the second.

    Probably best to intentionally prepare for those updates by backing up your device, fully charging it, and setting aside time to focus on the update process. Probably worth doing a few test rides to assure the rides are correctly recorded and no unexpected resets would lose data from an important future ride.

    • GLT

      v7.40 does not appear to be an improvement in my case. E1030 owners may wish to stay on v7.20 .

      Will try a complete erase, and potentially the v7.41 beta next.

    • GLT

      Positive results with v7.50, through I did also switch from smart recording to 1 second.

  85. runner-33

    Good summary! I’d like to add: it’s not just about stability, it’s also about accuracy.

    Literally everyone is seeing that the SpO2 feature is very inaccurate. Yet Garmin decided to offer this feature although it’s of no use just as it is. At the same time Fitbit is still holding back SpO2 measurement, roughly two years after announcement, and I guess they have a very good reason.

  86. Sioc

    I unfortunately have to agree… for example, my Edge 520 has been able to connect only twice to Garmin Connect over BT on my Samsung S5 Neo for the last 3 years. The successful attemps were about the first tries. Reinstalled everything several times and digged deep in the forums for any clue but nothing worked. For some reason, in 2019, connecting two BT devices using software from the same company still seems to be too challenging for Garmin. Or, more likely, they just don’t care.

  87. Eric

    Ray,

    Great opinion piece.

    As you know, Garmin also have a very large aviation business. If their Aviation unit had the same quality control issues as their Fitness and Outdoor unit planes would be falling out of the sky left and right. Why does one side of the company understand QA and yet another side doesn’t?

    That is a somewhat rhetorical question – I understand how large companies are not one monolithic entity and the changes to culture are difficult. But if Garmin ready to acknowledge and address the issue, the solution is right there on their corporate campus.

    • The aviation business faces a really onerous set of FAA / EASA / ROW certification requirements that they have to show they meet for each device and each release. As a pilot, I can say that I’m glad of the testing *but* it introduces delays and costs like you wouldn’t believe. Every time I want to update the firmware of my aviation GPS I have to have an FAA- certificated mechanic do it and then sign a logbook entry, for example. I will say that my $400 Apple Watch has had fewer software problems than my $400 Garmin watch; that’s probably a more fair comparison.

    • Paul S.

      Apple gets to derive from iOS and macOS (which in turn descended from BSD, Mach and the old MacOS) to make WatchOS. Do we have any idea if Garmin devices even have something similar to an operating system, or do the code in assembler to the bare chip? I know ConnectIQ uses MonkeyC, but what do they write their own firmware in?

    • Dave Lusty

      Yes there’s an OS, as evidenced by the presence of firmware and drivers, and that occasionally the wireless stack crashes along with the sensor hub. ConnectIQ is a derivative of a JVM (and MonkeyC derives from Java). Not that any of this matters, of course, because it’s your only choice and you have no control over any of it.
      The OS even has a startup sound believe it or not, just like Windows used to and MacOS still has. You need to connect Bluetooth headphones to hear it, but it’s there and part of the boot sequence.
      What you might be asking is whether there’s a BIOS/UEFI in which case I think the answer is no, they just bootstrap into the OS directly because they don’t need to have an intermediary due to the lack of options or alternatives.

    • Sam

      C and assembly (source objdump firmware)

  88. ReHMn

    The issue with Garmin is, that they do not listen to their customers. They are following their own strategy while missing a visionist like Steve Jobs was at Apple…
    The biggest issue, however, is not in their devices, but in Garmin Connect. I keep repeating this since 2009 now…

  89. Bob

    What I really like is for Garmin to stop having regressions in software. Features that used to work should remain working and not regress to non working state.

  90. Chris

    Unfashionable, but I have been really pleased with my 935. There was a period last July when they did a firmware change which broke the Open Water Swim somewhat, but they issued a firmware update quite quickly to fix it. That said, when I look at the Strava data of other competitors in the open water events I do, the accuracy of their swim tracks tends to be shocking – thought the 735XT generally seems OK, the Fenix and Vivoactive really suck.
    I too suffer from Livetrack dropouts for periods on rides sometimes – I have been putting that down to cellular coverage though.
    I agree that both open water mode and livetrack are vital features. As is GPS accuracy (which seems to be being sacrificed on the cross of a battery life so long that nobody really needs it). This stuff is way more important than Pulse Ox, Pay, Maps or Music (though I confess the music is a nice option).
    All that said, I totally agree with your post. And I sincerely hope the 935 firmware update in June mentioned in your article doesn’t break the 935 open water swim track!

    • JP

      I also ride with the 935 and was totally aggravated by the open water swim bug last summer (when unsurprisingly I did most of my OW swimming), but otherwise would describe it as a great device. I also have an Edge 820 whose battery is aging, but I originally got when it was released and have never had any serious bugs with it after thousands of miles. Garmin has me hooked with their radar so the 830 is in my future too. Anyway I just hope the bugs aren’t around too long I want to be able to swim and use my power meter this summer!

    • Chris

      Sorry, forgot a couple of things:
      1) I realise I too have the Bluetooth to phone sync oddities – it is just that I know the workaround: turn off Bluetooth on phone, terminate Garmin connect mobile, restart Bluetooth and restart Connect. Takes less than a minute and always works. In fairness this might not be a 935 problem, could be a mobile device issue.
      2) OK, it is a legacy device, but I cycle with an Edge 1000. It is very patchy on navigating long routes (over 90 K). Frequently tells me I am off course or simply gives up. And yes I have tried all the Forum wisdom on turning options on and off and on route preparation pre download. This is an Epic fail for me as I frequently rides events big routes where I don’t otherwise know where I am going. And navigation is the whole purpose of the device.

  91. Marios

    Amen!

    But I wouldn’t hold my breath for Garmin changing route any time soon as cultural changes are very difficult. I am also one of the people on the thread who would love to buy one of the new Forerunners but I have absolutely no desire to get down the “new-garmin-bug-rathole”, not again.

    I also echo what Paul posted above:
    “One day, someone will come along who knows, who cares, and is suitably funded, and Garmin will disappear.”

    And that’s the beauty of open market effect on complacent companies.

  92. James

    Well said. This is exactly why I won’t upgrade my 920xt. It just seems to work. All the new watches prices are in the stratosphere. If I were to pay that, I would expect a perfect unit, with almost zero issues. Garmin are miles away from that. I just hope my 920xt never breaks…

  93. Nicholas

    Before I forget to note it, the new Garmin forums are trash and by not migrating over the prior forums and their information, even if they were moved to an archived section, they threw away years worth of discussions, solutions and just good information.

    As a previous owner of a Edge 510 and Fenix 2, 3 and 3HR and a current owner of a Fenix 5 and Edge 810 and new 830, I’ll agree something is amiss at Garmin.

    However the real problem is also that something is amiss in the other companies as well. Garmin ends up looking like the least sick patient in the waiting room.

    So part of that to me says that this stuff all these companies is doing is pretty hard and often cutting edge. The customers that are using the products are doing so for a dozen or more hours per week and with a vastly growing array of other technology.

    As others have noted some problems just become know and never go away. The altimeter on the Edge 510 was a joke and always assigned extra elevation gain. This was true of all of them and there was never a fix. My Edge 810 has constant connection issues with my iPhone.

    I’d love to switch away from Garmin but no one else is even remotely close to having all the basic bases covered let alone many of the advanced features that most of us have started to need with all this fun technology. How many of the same people complaining about Garmin were declaring they needed Garmin to work with their Varia radar system?

    I love Apple products and wanted to consider my strengthing attempts at triathlon with a Wahoo/Apple combo. I suspect many here have thoughts in the same direction.

    The Apple Watch workout app has remained basically the same for the last few YEARS. The inability to get workout information on the watch or the fact that you end up going to a few different places on your phone all are frustrating. Crazier still none of this goes up into the cloud where you think Apple would have a huge advantage. Not only can I not see the information on my watch, I can ONLY see it a few places on my phone and cannot use a laptop to dig into deeper analysis on a bigger screen. Also some third parties have been able to add sensor support, navigation, etc to the watch but Apple with all their resources have not done this. It is clear they do not think it a priority.

    Yes there are third party solutions on the Apple Watch but if I wanted to fuss with things I already own fuss with the Garmin products.

    On the Wahoo with their latest bike computer release we didn’t have to worry about the Roam dropping sensors, we had to worry about the actual bike computer dropping because the MOUNT was problematic. Given their lack of central online/cloud platform for tracking information and their array of growing issues (Cycliq front lights have interference as an example) I can’t rely on them to get that heavy lifting done to provide me with a better solution than Garmin. Even if they fix the mount and all software concerns they are still beholden to an array of third parties for basic features. If you want to plan your route, analyze your ride, etc you’ll be working with third parties. Garmin is a one stop shop in that regard and they are trying to improve with regard to coaching, route planning and what have you.

    I own a Wahoo Kickr Snap, TickrX and several bike sensors. Their recent record has been downright worrisome. Slow overpriced Roam with mounts breaking, promised features “coming soon” and the trainers had multiple problems that needed to be dealt with by an actual chat with Ray by the company president as well as users making their own repairs.

    So Garmin is the least sick patient in the room for now. I’d love for them to be less sick.

    I’m a school teacher and the environment right now is ripe for a competitor to sweep in and clean house in Sport Tech. I’m reminded of tech use in schools which was often a mix of PC, Macs, iPads, and so forth and overnight it seems like Chromebooks came in and grabbed a massive share of everything. Not only did they grab that share they grew the market considerably with their solution. Instead of arguing whether kids would use 30 Macs or PC in a lab, the entire school of 600 students used Chromebooks instead.

  94. andrejs

    This is why I left the garmin ecosystem. I want devices that have nice hardware and reliable software. I don’t care to see a new model released twice a year with features that don’t really matter. I’d rather see a solid device updated every 2-3 years with stable software than what garmin has been doing.

  95. Tex Murphy

    I have three Garmin cycling devices:
    * Edge 305 – still works great, limited storage, does a very nice breadcrumb course, NEVER FAILS but does not record power.
    * Edge 500 – still works great, records power, does breadcrumb courses, lots of storage (but don’t push that), buttons dissolved from sunblock so covered with temp tire patches;
    * Edge 520 – works great with OSM mapping for courses, does power, BUT I am using the very old v9.1 firmware which is very reliable. (So no L/R power balance, no LiveTrack, not doing Bluetooth).

    Ray – you don’t mention the battery power level failure of recent Garmin Edge 520 firmware which by many was considered an attempt to force 520 users to upgrade to 520Plus or Wahoo. Garmin has released many firmware revisions to “attempt” to fix the power level bug over the past 18 months.

    I am still on 520 v9.1 firmware and I never allow Garmin to auto-update firmware so I stay happy. Who wants to find new bugs in old features when there was a version which worked from years ago?!?

    • fotis

      Hello Tex Murphy I just downgraded Garmin 520 to this specific firmware you said so and till now not a problem at all. I bought 520 3 months ago and just Gps setting with 3 sensors hr speed cadence battery is realy good 3 hours and 80% left brightness set to 0 and day mode not automatic setting. When i purchased was on 12.80 and sometime was rebooting the ride never lose but i told everyone why that is happening!?! New device freezing rebooting etc not acceptable for such a big company as Garmin.

      i need to know what about this specific software version except is reliable one which is the most basic function of a Gps cycle computer! I used to use a Polar watch M400 which never froze never lost a ride never restarted! With Garmin i need extra information such as cadence temperature and later with power meter.

      Thanxs

  96. Mark Wheeler

    100% Fair. Anyone else notice that Garmin Express 16.14.1.0 on Mac turned up last week and is BROKEN. Crashes on startup.

    I WAS a big Garmin customer; I had several iterations of Vivosmart, Edge, Index Scale, Varia 800 and 510, Vector, Fenix 5+ and now having experienced sloppy customer service am down to just an Edge 1030 with the Varia front light and 510 radar. The moment Wahoo supports radar functions I’m almost gone completely.

    • Paul S.

      Sigh. Do I need to take a screenshot, or will you just accept that I just installed 16.14.1.0 on my 2015 MacBook Pro (Mojave 10.14.5) and it’s running just fine? Of course, I haven’t tried to sync anything with it yet. When something fails, it’s often a problem with *your* machine, not Macs in general.

  97. So much this. LiveTrack was actually the feature that made me write an entire long-winded ‘user story’ showing how broken this feature was from end to end. I looked it up and I can’t believe that was four years ago as nearly all of the problems I identified still exist: link to brooklynarches.com

    On a separate bug I actually looked up one of the product owners on LinkedIn and write him a letter. Much to my surprise he forwarded it and the bug was fixed but I have no reason that this would have happened on its own.

    Ugh. It’s 2019, isn’t tech supposed to be improving our lives yet?

  98. Steve Butler

    Well, in the ultimate testing ground, with 3 different riders to track at Dirty Kanza last week, the only one that would not track at all was the wahoo element bolt. Garmin 1030 and 810 weren’t much better. Ended up using Google Live 360 which had a 5-6 minute lag sometimes but was able to track them thru their whole race. That only validates your point that it can be done.

  99. Warren Clarida

    Wonderful and accurate post. I agree that for now Garmin provides the best collection of features for how I like to collect data for my running, that being said I am always looking to jump ship mostly due to this problem – either bugs which exist in a specific product and are never fixed or bugs which seem to exist across many products and haven’t ever seemed to improve.

    Just my (and my wife’s) limited experience (Forerunner 220, 235, Vivocactive 3, Forerunner 645M, Fenix 5S+):
    1) Bluetooth data sync fails or partially fails until a restart(steps will sync but workouts won’t for example) – this seems to have gotten better but just happened yesterday with my 645.
    2) Livetrack – mentioned above but my 2 cents – I enabled this back when Strava first rolled out Beacon for summit users – it worked ok (not smooth updates but at least had updates) for about a month and then stopped working hasn’t worked since.
    3) Forerunner 645 – multiple users noticed a bug early on where the watch would crash mid workout. I had this happen to me a couple times in the first few weeks after I got the watch – I assumed they had fixed it then just about a month ago it happened again. Luckily all occasions have been easy runs – probably the only reason I kept the watch is that it didn’t happen during a structured workout or a race.
    4) Fenix 5S+ – pool swimming a couple times the distance shown on my wife’s Fenix has not matched the distance shown on connect.
    5) Timezone change – I recently flew across the US and this caused me to travel back in time to the previous day. For the next week my all day metrics (like all day stress) read into the future – in the morning it would use the previous days stress as the upcoming day’s stress. I tried several times over the course of the week to contact Garmin about the issue but could not send and email (form didn’t function) or get a support chat window (always all busy). This eventually resolved but only after 4 days of having garbage stats.

  100. Marcos Saad

    Hi Ray,

    Bottom line. Garmin does not care. They are selling a lot…
    Fenix 5x also has perennials navigation bugs.
    Garmin Connect Mobile IOS too. They can not even show a correct chart…
    But at the end they are selling a lot…

    Regards,

  101. Mike Payment

    Well not only are they having problems with their product even trying to upload data from a 500 now seems to be a problem. Then there is a problems downloading maps onto a Garmin for the Car.. ug. The language is in Asian and .. well I’m not and the unit was purchased from Costco years ago.
    You do great work keep up your reviews and views.
    Mike

  102. Peter

    Quite a timely post. I was one who moved to the Wahoo elemnt when it was released due to constant frustration with my edge units. I was happy with the features that Garmin offered but driven away by ongoing Dropouts or failures. Just this week I have placed an order on a new 530 – deciding that Garmin have added more features than Wahoo recently and the 530 seems quite stable from what I have read. Part of this decision is also due to the WiFi upload now available on the 530, this has been brilliant on the Wahoo with no headaches trying to makes sure the Bluetooth connection to the phone is working – just get home and end the activity and the ride uploads, every time. Here’s hoping I don’t regret my decision to move back to Garmin.

    • wt

      New bluetooth chips come out every year, so it’s hard to compare products if you only have one at a time. A typical Garmin made in 2016 will have worse bluetooth support than a Wahoo from 2017.

      Kind of like phones. If you move from Android to iOS you end up comparing a two year old product to a new one in a world that is evolving at great speed.

      DC Rainmaker has them all at the same time, so he’ll be able to compare them better :))

  103. bupkis

    Great post. And I’m convinced it’s the culture at Garmin. They’re so busy counting the money that they can’t be bothered with support of any kind.

    Look at the Garmin Express app. If you’re on a mac, it’s the only way you have (barring complicated workarounds that I had to figure out for myself) of getting music onto one of the new watches with music. And it’s designed for only the simplest use cases: you have to have only a little music and keep it in the iTunes folder on the main system drive of the machine running Garmin Express. Any other arrangement and Garmin Express won’t work at all. Many if not most users who have a mac and a large music collection on an external drive will give up in frustration. Garmin support, at least where I am (Ireland) doesn’t even understand the most basic problems.

    Another example: have a look at the list of compatible bluetooth headphones for Garmin devices with onboard music: link to support.garmin.com

    This list has not been updated in YEARS even as music-playing devices become a larger part of their offering. Most of those headphones are not current models. There are several threads on the Garmin forums where users are reporting for the benefit of others the results of attempting to connect their headphones to Garmin watches. Those threads were all munged by the forum upgrade.

    You would think that some of this stuff is so basic that a company as big and wealthy as Garmin would take the time to get it right. You’d be wrong, as Ray has pointed out.

    • Paul S.

      Umm, I got a Fenix 5+ during the sale. I put an iTunes playlist on it with Garmin Express with no difficulty. I’m never going to actually listen to it, but it’s there. Whatever the current GE was a couple of weeks ago, MacPro running Sierra.

    • Paul S.

      Of course, playing around with it just now, it’s not very good. There doesn’t seem to be a way of updating my playlist (a playlist of my daughter’s songs, which I’ve added to since). I had to remove/reinstall. It seems to be screwing up metadata. And of course, I haven’t actually tried playing anything yet (mostly because I don’t want to mess with my Bluetooth headphones which are paired to my iPhone). So it’s not perfect, but it’s not unusable either.

    • bupkis

      It’s likely that that’s not the use case I’m describing. Garmin Express will not work if your music files are located anyplace other than in the iTunes folder on your main startup drive. Garmin’s forums are full of reports of this.

    • bupkis

      Since most people these days with macs have internal SSDs and since Apple SSDs are expensive, it is increasingly common that people store the actual music files (well, those of us not using Spotify) in external media outside of the ~/Music/iTunes folder on the startup drive. GE, in those cases starts eating up RAM. When it runs out of RAM, it starts writing swapfiles. Eventually, if the user doesn’t stop it, it will incapacitate the machine. Not exactly elegant or up-to-date design.

    • Paul S.

      That’s exactly my situation. My ~/Music/iTunes is a symlink to /Volumes/Media, a separate drive. Express is taking up a trivial amount of ram, and I don’t see anything untoward in /var/vm. I’ll keep an eye on it, though. This is on a MacPro running Sierra with 32 Gb RAM and I don’t remember how many terabytes of disk, so that may have something to do with it.

    • bupkis

      Ahh. I think I see the difference. You’ve put in a symlink. Good to know that that works. That’s not the usual way people set up music on an external drive in iTunes. Instead, they go to iTunes preferences–>Advanced and enter a location on the external drive in “iTunes Media Folder Location” making sure to check the box for “Copy files to iTunes Media Folder when adding to Library.”

      Most people wouldn’t be up to adding a symlink via the command line. But lots of people want to store their music outside their main drive.

    • bupkis

      The advantage of doing it Apple’s way (via the preference pane) rather than your way for most is that Apple’s way leaves the iTunes database on the main drive (generally an SSD) rather than on the external drive (which may be a hard drive). My library has 115,000 tracks and the iTunes interface would be sluggish connecting to a magnetic drive over USB 3 compared to the internal PCI SSD on my MacBook Pro.

  104. kevin Skelorski

    I have Garmin Product for more than ten years, actually i have an Edge 1000.
    One reason i bought this Edge was the live-track feature, but it doesn’t work because the stupid Garmin Programmers are not able to make good Software. And this since years.
    The Edge 100o is my last Garmin, my next Gadget ist Wahoo Element Roam. I can’t imagine that Wahoo have more bugs and disfunctionalyte than die Garmin Rubbish.
    BTW: a smartphone for 100 Euro is faster than every Garmin Gadget… and works better…

  105. Brian

    The issue I’ve seen from Garmin is that they have no _real_ competition, and they know it.

    You’re obviously way closer to this than I am, but lets take a look at the 935. That watch cost ~$500 new 2 years ago. From the outset, it seems like the hardware is nearly identical to all of their other watches on the market (with some differences here and there obviously), but with firmware changes on each to provide various things. Why can the 935 track OWS, but the 235 couldn’t? It’s almost certainly just firmware. The same goes for the vast majority of their watches – the 235 / 735 / 935 / Fenix series all seem to be stunningly similar hardware, with firmware unlocks on features underneath (and obviously we’re looking at a new line in the MARQ series).

    So that brings us to the 945 – as best I can tell, the vast majority of the differences in that watch from the 935 to the 945 come down to: a new GPS chip (which seems to be a mixed bag right now), and a different OHR sensor. So what does Garmin do? They come out of the gate at $600 on the watch. And to really drive home the point, it seems like they’re done adding additional features to the 935.

    If Garmin wanted to make their customers happy, they’d offer something like a $50 – $100 “upgrade” package for 935 users to allow us to unlock the new firmware features (the Heat Acclimation etc they’re getting from Firstbeat). I’d be happy that my watch that I bought ~18 months ago that is working fine is still being supported. Garmin would be able to cash in a little more, and build a loyal customer base. But it looks like they want us to churn premium watches on a 24 month cycle, which is a little much to me.

    On top of which, as you’ve noted so well in your post, this doesn’t even get into the lack of stability in the software realm. Have you tried adding a non-trivial swim workout recently? For some reason, swimming workouts won’t allow you to create repeats within repeats – every other sport you can though. This doesn’t even touch not activating the OHR sensor during swim events. Oh – and have we talked about not counting training load for swim unless you’re wearing their additional heart rate strap (that you can’t use in real time), or any outdoor rides without a power meter?

    None of these issues in a vacuum are deal breakers, but taken in aggregate a picture starts to really form. I could continue to go on and on in my echo chamber, but it all goes back to the same thing: they have no real meaningful competition, and they’re milking the customer base because they have the premium product on the market right now.

    I hope Garmin recognizes this and starts to focus on customer loyalty rather than sales churn.

    • Ciprian

      The HW differences from 935 to 945 are bigger than that:
      – updated processor (probably to be able to handle maps better)
      – memory for music storage
      – NFC chip for Garmin Pay

      I agree it would be nice to be able to unlock some of the new features on older watches with a small one time payment, but probably Garmin consider that it is too hard/costly to support new features on older watches.

  106. Stephen Hemminger

    The bugginess is one reason I would never recommend the Garmin Descent dive watch.
    In scuba, a failed computer can mean that the dive has to be aborted. Standard protocol is to bring a backup dive computer, and end the dive if the primary fails.

  107. Alan McBryde

    Great article, however I am a UK customer and have just had a huge RMA issue. I wrote a strongly worded email to the CEO Jon Oliver, guess what…. No response! I will never buy another Garmin device as long as I live, nor would I recommend their products to anybody. Shocking customer service.

  108. Benedikt

    Another possibility:
    Introduce new bugs with bug resolving features.

    In the last 945 Beta, they did something witch broke music list saving. Before 2.48, it saved the playlist of an activity into it and displayed it in the activity. Now, with the new firmware and the changes to connect, it’s gone. It was a neat little function.

  109. Damon

    My n=1 as an ultra-distance cyclist, I sold a nearly-new Garmin 5xx series computer a couple of years ago after it repeatedly crashed mid-ride and generally acted nuts. Bought a Wahoo Bolt, which has successfully navigated me over thousands of miles on multiple continents with easily 50% better battery life than Garmin. Also, the live-tracking is bomb-proof, which is a necessity given my overnight solo rides in Nowhereville. I don’t understand the reluctance some folks have to move away from the Garmin ecosystem, at least as far as cycling goes. Give it a try — the water’s fine. Maybe the screen isn’t quite as pretty, but it is amazingly clear and ideally one doesn’t spend too much saddle time staring downward anyway.

  110. Jens

    I’d like to know what brands and models (except Apple) are better or good for open water swimming. Especially now that the season starts here 🙂 I personally own quite a few alternatives but am looking forward to using my Fenix 5X Plus…

  111. Johnston Orr

    Great post, Ray. Hopefully it helps Garmin to wake up to the challenge ahead of them. I won’t be a Garmin user by then though, and here’s why:

    – Edge 520 battery life crippled by a software update circa v12.60 and never restored, meaning the maximum it can cope with is a 5-hour ride (3 ANT+ sensors, no Bluetooth)

    – Edge 130 battery meter of wife’s computer is a work of fiction and comedy, making it impossible to know how long the battery will actually last (but knowing it’ll never get to the 15 hours claimed). And no new firmware for 6 months for this device which was only launched a year ago.

    – Garmin Express for Mac completely broken for my FR645, claiming that my one and only activity tracking device isn’t my default activity tracker (broken for almost 6 months)

    – Garmin Connect iOS won’t upload workouts to my FR645 either, meaning that I’ve got no way to upload a Workout to my watch other than to go through the pain of trying to create it in the watch. Again, broken for around 6 months.

    So I’ve had enough, and I’m off to Wahoo later this summer for an Elemnt Bolt or maybe even a Roam that just works and lasts as long as claimed. I don’t use Varia radar, so I just want a cycling head unit that works. The watch will probably become a Suunto in time, and I’ve stuck with TrainingPeaks all these years as my master repository of training data so I don’t need Garmin Connect.

    I got no response from Garmin on their forums so I’m glad the issues are being aired here for all to see, and hope that they might provoke a positive response. Too late for many here however. Goodbye Garmin. I’ve had enough.

  112. Brian McMahon

    Having had successive Fenix and Edge units I have only ever had a few problems on the software side, currently using a Marq Athlete coming from the Fenix 5X plus and both units have been faultless in their performance. I went from the 820 to the 830 and live track has worked every time on the 830 without fault. Not sure if it’s down to the network but the 820 dropped a few times so you would think it would be the same sort of performance.

    Wife is super happy now she can track me and apart from setting off the seek assistance/incident detection accidentally on the Marq while cycling it’s been plain sailing, at least I knew she cared as she called straight away and wasn’t auctioning off the bikes asap. I did briefly try a Wahoo Bolt before I got the 830 but went back to Garmin without hesitation because I’ve got years and years of data on it, hopefully the new devices are a good indication of their product roadmap and continue to improve.

  113. Dick ( R J ) Morris

    Regrettably I have to agree MOST of what you have written.
    My exception is that you said that customer support was good in the UK.
    That was NOT what I experienced..
    When my Edge 510 became totally erratic in operation I asked if there was anyway that I could remove the firmware and load new to solve the problems. The support technician first misread my request and I had to start again and then finally Garmin UK just refused to answer my e-mails.

    My personal experience is that Garmin hardware seems solid, but their firmware and software is rather poor.

    Note, presently the family has five pieces of Garmin hardware, plus the usual HR strap and bike sensors. etc.

    Garmin need, as you say, a strong push to improve software.

    Thanks

    Dick

    • Dick R J Morris

      ADDED COMMENT AFTER READING THROUGH ALMOST ALL THE COMMENTS…

      I had loads of problems with Bluetooth drop out on my Edge 520 Plus. A new Motorola phone WITH BLUETOOTH VERSION 5 has solved ALL the problems.

      Bluetooth version 5 is a vast improvement in overall reliability.

      Dick

  114. Interesting perspective and review! I just drove past one of their main offices in Cochrane, Alberta, Canada this past weekent. I am still (amazingly) using my bug-infused Garmin Fenix 2 (hanging on to it as long as it is somewhat working; my smartphone no longer connects to it via bluetooth so have to connect via cord to laptop to upload rides). Contemplating what to get next. Main activity I track is mountain biking, with some hiking. What would you recommend as best option for mtn biking (watch and/or GPS device). Thanks!

    • Dick R J Morris

      I am using a Garmin 520 Plus for mountain biking.. Has worked perfectly thus far, and I have updated the firmware regularly.
      Note that to make the Bluetooth connection work reliably I went to a Motorola phone WITH BLUETOOTH version FIVE.
      Bluetooth 5 has longer range and I have proven this to make a mighty big difference.

      Happy riding

      Dick

  115. wt

    Garmin has always been ahead of its competition because of the quality of its software development. Garmin has more developers than any other sports company, and it supports its products with updates for longer than any other sports company. Garmin developers seem to understand what’s important. I’ve never had a Garmin product that refused to pair, that didn’t have enough battery, or wasn’t strong enough for its purpose. That deserves an immense amount of respect.

    The way to develop a new feature is to get a first version that works some of the time, and then iterate until it works. That can take many years. If during those years more important stuff pops up, than it’ll have to wait, and possibly be shelved.

    A new team that focuses on bug reports is known as a ticket routing department. Software industry experience says that that bureaucratic layers make things worse. So Garmin would be spending money to make things worse.

    A website that allows reporting of bugs is a customer-facing bug report system. But customer reports are notoriously unreliable. You’d end up with endless support requests (f.e. “USB doesn’t work”). Which is why this has never worked for anyone (see Microsoft Connect.) The best you can do is a forum with moderators that report what they see. Which Garmin has already done.

    If other companies can do better than Garmin that’s only good. But I don’t think Garmin can easily improve its game from best-in-class to perfect.

  116. James Palmer

    Great post. I moved to Wahoo/Suunto for the reasons listed above.

  117. David

    Garmin 910 and fogging
    Garmin 1030 and halo effect
    Garmin 945 and mushy buttons
    Garmin 945 and cracked LEDs

    Not just poor software….

  118. Hans

    I was following the 945 as replacement for my aging V800 but not I am wondering. Better go for the V.

  119. Steve

    I reported a problem with their course creator the other day, they just didn’t care, told me to put it on their suggestions site.

    They are too busy flogging new hardware to bother fixing all the bugs

  120. Andrew Greenfield

    I remember getting that letter from BillG back in 2002 when I was in WINSE. It was a GIANT thing.

    I agree Garmin needs something like that to shake things up. I’ve never found their items super buggy, but that live track thing, yeah. It’s a mess. I just had it work for the first time in 3 years on Saturday, and I don’t know why it chose to work, instead of erroring out as usual.

    Good report Ray, I hope you sent them an invoice.

    -A

  121. Bill

    I’ve had Garmin GPS units for cycling for the last eight years. This week I bought a Wahoo Elemnt and it has changed my life! Set up my own training info page though the link on my cell phone in about a minute. The whole Wahoo / phone app interface is awesome. And I actually chuckled in amazement when I finished my ride and I received a notice from Strava that my first ride had been posted. AUTOMATICALLY!

    Technology is great. Sorry Garmin all the trials, tribulations, units sent back for warranty, has led to this.

  122. Greiglarr

    I bought a Garmin Epix 🤣🤣

    Worst Garmin product ever. No customer support after 12months! Garmin released a faulty product and then left customers high and dry with a $600!

    Never again!!

  123. Just switched back to Garmin (Edge 830) from Wahoo due to new features and better battery life. My Bolt had literally zero issues over the past couple of years. Recorded every ride flawlessly. My 830, so far, is zero for one. It treated my dual sided power meter as a one sided one and doubled the power. It was also far more cumbersome to set up, which is a problem that should be solved by now.

  124. Patrick

    great article and as a long time garmin user i fully agree. i’m perfectly happy with the functionality of my fr935, i may not know what i’m missing but it does everything i want (though smaller bezel and thinner would be good). rather than adding new features that i will never use i would prefer garmin to just make it work reliably. it seems if anything things are getting less and less reliable, perhaps specifically because of all the useless features being crammed in.

    the one thing i would add is that they have hardware issues as well as software – i had an fr920 lose reliable gps tracking which may have been hardware or software. i replaced it with a fr935 which hard a hardware failure with the barometer/thermometer. to complete the set, in both instances garmin support was disappointing to say the least.

    to be fair, i have had no issues with edge cycling computers – i have an old 500 still serving reliably and my 820 has had no issues either (apart from the inherent issues with the touch screen).
    i have also had a lot of problems with fitbit activity trackers but their support has been far better.
    i get that its hard but garmin need to realise that in the specific area of multisport watches, they are used by serious athletes who just want them to work and have minimal interest in extra features. this is what separates the forerunners from the fenix/marq in my opinion – athlete vs general consumer market.

  125. Greg Franks

    I’ve never understood the reason for live track given that anyone I know who cares can simply use “find my friend” on their iPhone. The weather app crashed my 235 in Baie St. Paul QC, but otherwise, the watch is great. Using the navigation with an 800 did have its “quirks”. I do believe Ray said at one point that there were different software teams working on different products and that they were all using different code bases. I suspect that Apple’s advantage here is that Job’s was ruthless at keeping SKU’s down to a minimum and sharing stuff between products as much as possible (i.e., Mach on iOS and Mac OS).

  126. Sam

    I have a 1030 but never bothered with live track, I usually just use Google Maps live share or even that whatsapp live share one,

  127. johan

    Garmin really don’t care.

    But look at me.
    Garmin user from the black and white etrex (2001?). Used and bought a lot of devices.

    Lost functionality
    Got abused by the warranty service more then 1 time
    Have been complaining about software for about >10 years
    Have gotten promices time after time. And all of the broken.

    But what do I do? Just buy a other Garmin
    They know that we keep doing that. So they don’t care….

    Until it is to late. But the wil don’t change.

  128. Dave

    Glad you’re being our ambassador for this Ray.

    Garmin have users complaining about these day in/day out. The real issue is Garmin’s tech and management. Their tech and tool sets are so behind the curve with their bespoke non-standard development that to fix these things takes weeks. Recently a critical issue took 2/3 weeks to fix. Their management means they choose not to fix these. Check the developer forums and there are endless lists of unfixed bugs

  129. Hans

    Thank you, Ray. You nailed it. I have Garmins going back a decade and with increasing complexity Garmin’s ability to identify and fix software errors has gone out the window. I’m a lifelong software guy, also at Microsoft for some time, among others. I can relate. A big part really appears to be prioritizing features and release dates over stability, but that can’t possibly be all there is. Product management teams must be getting away with murder when the software in their product doesn’t perform. Their reward system must be hugely skewed towards sales and profitability over everything else, like support cost for example. The senior management messaging in support of delivering stable products also seems to be missing entirely, like you said in your post. It’s super frustrating as a dedicated Garmin user.

    The broken part that’s visible to the Garmin user is their software error/bug reporting, prioritizing and fixing process, but I wouldn’t be surprised, if their software development process for Sport and Outdoor was chaotic and disorganized. I often wonder what kind of tools they use to track their submissions, versions and releases.

    By the way, it’s not just software that gets released before its time at Garmin, it’s sometimes hardware too. I own Vector 3 pedals with hardware issues still unresolved 18 months after launch and unfortunately I also bought a Fenix 5 [not plus] that dropped sensors all the time, because its RF performance sucked. Admitted and since fixed by Garmin with the release of the plus versions.

    The lingering Garmin software problems suck big time and it’s super annoying that Garmin doesn’t appear to care enough to make an effort to improve the situation.

  130. Jimmy

    Lol live track worked maybe 10 percent of the time for me on my 520? I got the 530 hoping this would be more reliable but it’s still the same. I basically just send my wife find my friends on IOS so she can make sure I’m ok.

    Also after every ride it doesn’t upload my rides either automatically. I have to power down the unit and power it up before it uploads. Now I’m debating if I should just return the 530 back to REI. At least the back button is working without issue.

  131. Tim

    I’m sick of Garmin. I’ve gone through 3 edge 1000 and 2 edge 1030 in the last 2.5 years. The failure rate is unacceptable. Even when they work the headunits regularly lose the sensors. For the price these units should last longer than a few months

  132. Giles E

    My suggestion is a friendly collaboration of Suunto and wahoo. One makes good hardware but sucks at the software, the other has a clear success on software and usability but has been struggling with hardware reliability, together I think they could take on garmin and succeed where individually it’s got half way.

    A beautiful Suunto 9 with wahoo written software, convince me it wouldn’t be good…..

    • Taurmur

      Heavy and big Suunto 9 with unreliable OHR, downgraded GPS and removed apps support (yes, apps ended at Ambit3, which is 2014, but that is still their best model)? I’m Suunto ex-fanboy waiting for my first Garmin (945), but even if that turns out ugly, my next brand will be whatever, but never Suunto.

  133. Wim

    I agree. I had in mind to buy a 945 but last year i’ve seen such a list of unsolved bugs, Also mine LiveTrack issues. That i’ve decided not to buy a new one from Garmin

  134. robert horowitz

    after years of struggling with Garmin products have been wearing a Suunto baro for six months and everything simply works…no resets, no dead batteries, no calls to tech support…I always assumed my Garmin experience was the price you paid

  135. Dave

    The issues with Garmin boil down to the fact that they likely perceive themselves as a hardware company that have to do software thing to sell hardware. The fact that they haven’t really tried to monetize Garmin Connect is a testament to this. Once they associate software quality with opportunity cost, then they’ll likely see that they need to invest in better skills and processes to make sure the software they produce is of better quality. The current management team isn’t doing the job of identifying this opportunity cost. Look at the response to your article. Hopefully this shakes things up there ..

  136. Niclas

    What i can tell the new Sony gps chip cant do OWS with the same alogritms as the former gos chipset. I talked to one of the OWS tester of Garmin and they say its a hardware thing for sure. It will not be totally fixed until sony release a new chipset next spring so OWS is kinda brooken in the new watches of Garmin for now. The rumour is that Garmin have to completely revamp alogritms for OWS on the Sony chipset in this generation so no good OWS tracks this summer. Have you or anyone else heard any of this from more officials sources?

    • Klaus

      What is OWS?

    • Jimmy S

      OWS = Open Water Swim

    • Markus B.

      I was swimming with my Fenix 5 Plus just yesterday. That one should have the “previous” GPS chipset. I added the GPS data field and could see how the moment the watch got even only half a centimetre under water, all 5 blue bars turned grey and the watch didn’t know where it was anymore. So I wouldn’t say it’s a problem with the new chipset, it’s rather a thing of GPS radio frequencies and water blocking them. So if you want to track your swim, strap the watch to your head or find another way to make sure it’s always above the water.

    • I don’t think the specific issue that Garmin has is 100% tied to the Sony chipset. After all, neither Polar or Suunto have this specific stoppage issue (where it just stops counting so quickly after starting the swim). They might have their own accuracy issues, but not this very distinct issue.

      Also, as it impacts the FR935 and Fenix 5/Plus series, which are on the MediaTek chipsets. What’s funny to me is that the FR935 was great when when it first came out OWS-wise, and then sometime in early 2018 things changed across the board.

  137. Joop Verdoorn

    As a developer of paid apps for the mid- and high-end watches (like Datarun premium), I was surprised how many people mailed me in a years time that they had a RMA (as they needed a new license). I guess it is around 5%. That’s all hardware related. In the Dutch sport watches forum at tweakers.net every now and then an experienced user makes the remarks that during the first months of a new watch people pay to be a beta tester

  138. Klaus

    Garmin Software sometimes real terrible.

    1) Since Edge 800 User ask in the Forum to change Routing Color . Nothing happend.

    2) Sometimes old fixed bugs come back for new models. Do they use a “basic develop Box” when start programming for new Models and do they not fix the Bugs in this “basic develop Box”?

    3) Look at the Forum Migration, all english old Forums (for Edge 1000, Edge 800, …) are away. Think they didn’t check how todo a good Forum Migration with this old big Forums. They announced to bring them back, bat that announcement is deleted.

    4) How can you make such a stupid decision and put Edge 520 and Edge 520 plus in one new Forum? Looks for me like this and other is driven by Marketing SEO People .

    The Marketing People don’t understand the Edge and other Garmin Products because they don’t use them. Garmin ist driven by Marketing People and not from Software Developers. Hardware most time good, so there is not such big problem like on the software side.

    5) They announce Edge 830/530 in Northern Spring. But now it is Summer and you can’t buy it (in Germany). Garmin can be happy that Wahoo same time has the broken mount problem with the roam.

  139. Darren Meier

    This article was needed, but somehow missed one of the key points: Garmin makes TOO MANY DEVICES. The constant carrot, here, is: buy this new device because it has the new software feature you wanted, or it fixes the big your previous device’s software suffered from (the 520+ is the most comical example of this). I don’t know if it’s that Garmin is that bad at software so much as it’s true that they don’t have enough experts to support software for so many devices, and they definitely don’t care enough to remedy THAT problem.

  140. Bernard

    Amen brother, A-MEN

  141. Gareth

    I bought an Edge 530 a couple of weeks ago, eyes fully open to the various issues, but it has actually been pretty decent so far. All the buttons work, the routing has been quick all except one time, and the navigation mostly decent.

    The main issue for me is probably one that isn’t going to be fixed – it’s that the turn-by-turn directions seem to be mostly based on “which way you need to physically turn?”, so for example if the road curves to the right but you are turning off a road to the left (but going straight ahead) it will NOT actually tell you to turn left. Likewise, for roundabouts the direciton indictor seems to be mostly made-up, and you need to look at the map to figure it out. Yesterday the arrow was telling me to turn left but the rounabout exit was at 1 o’clock!

    • Paul S.

      Turn by turn can be weird at times. My favorite local example is that there’s a road that’s going northeast, which then makes a 90 degree turn to the southeast before turning northeast again. At the second turn, another road comes in to an intersection. My Edge 800 would always prompt the first turn (where there’s absolutely no way to do anything other than follow the turn) but say nothing at the second where there’s an actual other road you could take a wrong turn onto.

  142. Andrew

    90% of my problems with my 820 could be fixed just by having an option to configure the lap button to scroll through the screens. It seems an obvious and simple fix for the poor touch screen responce.

  143. austex2019

    I agree Garmin’s EDGE products are maddeningly unreliable. I struggle to choose a specific “feature” I mean its so hard. Is it the way it “forgets” settings that you only notice while on a ride, like the auto-pause or the auto-sleep. Auto sleep invoked itself for the first time yesterday andd it was such a thrill I could hardly contain my desire to rip the thing off the mount and chuck in the path of a heavy vehicle. Don’t get me started on Vector 3 pedals, each battery change was such a shot in the dark if I could regain connectivity that I tossed the damned things and bought a full pair of Assioma pedals (fantastic). Please offer no kudos for on-line support, it is in my own mind incomprehensible (apply glycerin to the battery contacts? Who the hell has glycerin?). I am on my third EDGE and I swear it will be my last. don’t get me started on device to iPhone connectivity or the default answer for all Garmin problems being reset the device.

    I love my Apple watch, it just works, don’t have to think about it. Hey Garmin, make your products so people don’t think about them…

  144. Maria Luz Gill

    Ohhh I’ve been through it all…. Fenix 5 battery that died in the marathon portion of a triathlon, Edge 830 “unfindable” when trying synchronize with Connect, but absolutely all that is Child Play. Want trouble? Buy a Garmin Vector 3. Horrific experience. Right sensor missing is the terror alert seen often on my display. Also low battery even though batteries are new and Connect tells me they are ok… pedaling full blast in a workout only to read zero power and zero cadence. Heartbreaking.

  145. Perry Hertler

    Agreed. I always say that Garmin has the best hardware, but Fitbit has better software.

  146. For my important rides (mostly anything other than a commute) I typically run two Garmins, my 1030 main and a Edge 520 as a backup.

    I mount the Edge 520 under my stem upside down and I get a lot of people asking “why do you have a second Garmin?” When I tell them that I’m not a fan of losing rides due to failures on my primary Garmin, they nod as if to say “yeah, I should do that”.

    I’ve been running redundant Garmin’s since 2013 when I used two Edge 510’s on the Seattle to Portland ride. 120 miles into that ride, my main Garmin hard reset completely and I lost the ride. I pulled the spare 510 out of my saddle bag (which had been running the whole time) and put it on my mount and finished the 204 mile ride with a full .fit file intact.

    It’s a real shame that this has been the norm for me for over 5 years now.

  147. Paul Zbiek

    Great article. As an ultracyclist and geography professor, Garmin has been quite frustrating in recent years. While they added more features on the Edge series, they neglected the basics. Examples: The 750 charge lasted 18 hrs the 1000 for 10; the 750 speed sensor worked indoors the 1000 is constantly dropping. I hope your article makes Garmin take notice.

  148. Robin

    Just to add my issues for the record:

    Livetrack never works and hence Strava Beacon is also useless (Edge 520 and FR935) (a fault that actually costed me money given I paid for Strava).
    The altimeter on my FR935 is rubbish.
    Syncing takes forever to finish
    Alarms get moved an hour at daylight savings switch over and it’s really difficult to fix as the keep reverting to the “old” time.

  149. JD

    200 comments in 9 hours and counting.
    Glad I didn’t enable “Notify me of followups”..;-)

  150. DAK

    Also having issues with open water swims with my fr735. The reason I upgraded from polar was to also be able to record swims. As written in the article, that’s the whole point of a multisport watch.
    Garmin needs to wake up which has to start from the top, otherwise they’ll look back at these issues 3-5 years on as the beginning of the end. Essentially selling expensive gadgets they know are broken. For now, they can treat their customers like idiots but competitors will soon teach them the difference between repeat purchases and loyalty.

  151. Robert B

    Ray, awesome write up as per. My experience is always keep an old device or two on hand. Love my FR645 but one of the previous updates broke the music widget, that’s been rectified. But there is now way I’m parting with my FR630 until the FR650/655 comes out and the then mature 645 will take up the mantle of old faithful. Been burned too many times,

  152. ms

    Ah yes & this appears on the same day my Edge1030 dropped the Di2 and Varia radar settings. I had to enter the Varia setting manually as the Edge did not find it when searching automatically. I had to reconnect the Di2 last week so this is twice in one week.

    If wahoo ever adds radar support I’m so gone from Garmin.

  153. Mr Mark H Phypers

    Been proper pissed off lately with my watch thinking I can do one /two stroke pool lengths. Proper screws my stats and offers me 100m 400m 1000m records that I just can’t do.

    Fairly sure I could write the logic to smooth that stuff out in software.

    Weirdest one was on finishing a quick 40 lengths – looked at watch – showed 1000m – pressed pause and save – it showed 1050m – whaaaaaaa? ¿?

  154. carl thomas

    “Garmin Edge Bluetooth to phone connectivity.”

    Sweet Jesus why is this so bad? It’s the sole reason I upgraded to the edge 520 and it is such a pain way too often.

    • Neil A.

      THIS!
      I upgraded from my reasonably reliable 500 to the 520 for EXACTLY the same reason and am frustrated by EXACTLY the same issue. I shouldn’t have to start my Garmin, wait for it to pair to my phone during boot-up, then disconnect the BT on my phone, then reconnect the BT again just so I can see important text messages during a ride.
      It should connect and stick first time, every time.
      I was tempted to get the 530 but why would I given Garmin can’t fix such issues on years old products and then allows them to ‘feature’ on their new products?
      On the subject of country based support, in the past the Australasian support was so woeful, I gave up and had to go direct to the US team for answers. Not sure if that situation has improved any?

  155. Michael Faas

    Garmin Edge products have been in steady decline for at least eight years. Garmin Edge 800 functioned well and was mostly capable of the product claims.

    Edge 520 lacked some functionality, but in general lived up to expectations aside from terrible battery life that could barely get you through a five hour ride.

    Now Edge 820 drops phone connections, or won’t connect at all. Third party app offerings are embarrassing, often don’t work and have bricked my device requiring a factory reset, then the desktop app syncs the bogus app onto the unit bricking it again. Battery life is inconsistent and will never make it through a long ride. Display is challenging to see in good conditions and impossible to see in poor conditions. Touch screen never worked right, don’t even think about using it if there’s sweat or rain involved.

    The most frustrating Garmin issue, isn’t even a bug, it’s an intended user interface issue. The unit automatically turns on when you disconnect it from power after charging, requiring the user to wait over a minute for the unit to boot up, just so you can turn it off again. This also happens when you connect it to power, which is especially an issue if linked up to Bontrager Flare RT lights, because they all turn on as well.

    Hoping Garmin recalls faulty products like this.

    • Paul S.

      To be fair, the 800 can’t connect to anything wirelessly and doesn’t have ConnectIQ, so those avenues of failure are unavailable. Navigation sometimes left something to be desired on my 800.

      I’m always very cautious about ConnectIQ stuff. I had problems with a watch face on my Epix, and a Strava data field caused problems with my Edge 1000. I do run the Strava Effort field on my 830 and so far that works (although it doesn’t exactly match what I get from Strava itself afterwards).

    • Jerome

      So true! Why the f*ck does it have to power up when you unplug it? And plugging it as well for that matter. If I want it on, I will power it on myself.

  156. Brian Michael Thompson

    Someone finally said it and I’m glad it was you. When my Garmin works I love it, but I have had so many issues with bugs on multiple Garmin watches that almost certainly my next watch will be not-Garmin.

  157. Jerome

    I’d say they need a ship-blocking authority for hardware as well. While it is not as widespread as their software issue, some of the hardware as been terrible. Ex: forerunner 410, 610, 225, fenix 2, edge 520+, etc. And the worse part is unlike software, you know that hardware issue can’t be fixed.

    I feel like every Garmin consumer is a beta tester. Sometime you are lucky and you get a decent product but other times you just have to buy a new product hoping this time will be better. Take the forerunner 225 for example which was replace only 5 months later buy the forerunner 235. I’ve had customers complain to me because Garmin wouldn’t exchange their watch because the 225 wasn’t technically broken, it was working the way it was supposed to (which is badly).

  158. MiamiC70

    Great article and unfortunately for Garmin 100% accurate and actually quite generous. I am a LONG time Garmin user going at to original B&W eTrex devices. You would think given how long they have been in the handheld game they would have it down pact. Yet, sadly just like the mess described in the article Garmins handheld eTrex and off-road models are in same boat. Not until user backlash did they upload a 64bit Basecamp, they have handhelds in their site for sale right now supported by Garmin Explore and still supported on eConnect. Topo maps are a mess, maps are out of date, refreshes are slow as molasses and what can only be pure greed is what motivates the sale of maps piece meal or by subscription.

    Really sad that the bought Delorme and Oregon Scientific too so there are few options now.

    • Paul S.

      What is the status of Basecamp these days? For a long time it was my go to way of creating routes. Then it seemed that were getting ready to abandon it. Then recently I noticed that there was a new version. I just checked and I have 4.8.4 on my MacBook Pro and Cloud Data (which I think they announced was going away) is there. I’ve been using Strava Routes recently, but is there any reason to think that Basecamp support will be ongoing?

  159. Peter Rexer

    Ray, solid point all around. If you happen to know who at Garmin would be interested in getting some help with getting the right release gate process put in place, that’s basically what I help companies do. I do it mostly in Silicon Valley for platforms, but I’ve also helped everything from Insurance companies, to document management platforms get their release process and developer + customer feedback channels ironed out.

  160. Mel

    Did a 3.8km open water swim over the weekend, and my Garmin 935 only registered a swim distance of 620m…

    Somehow feels like the 13.30 firmware broke the unit for open water swimming…

  161. Robin

    Ray – I don’t know if you’re able to comment on the record, but I’m sure all of us would be interested to hear any comments Garmin have on this post, and the subsequent comments. At the very least it’d be good to know that they’re taking this feedback seriously.

  162. Andrew Macphail

    You’ve hit the nail on the head with this one. I had been a long time Garmin user that switched to Wahoo because I was fed up with Garmin connect and other bugs. Wahoo’s bolt may not have all the features of the 510/530, but it is very streamlined and works flawlessly.

  163. Bsquared

    Edge 520 for 3.5 years, and it has reliably recorded over 1000 rides. Only one issue – Strava complained about a ride and referred me to a free website that fixed a 10 hour time jump near the end of a ride. Very happy it just works with Varia radar, Bontrager Flare RT, Stages power meter (gen2 and gen3), Garmin speed sensor, and Garmin/Wahoo heart rate monitors.

    But there have been annoyances, although its about the same level of annoyances as every other tech device I own include a Wahoo Kickr that had issues with shifting light/shadows causing interference with the Kickr’s optical power meter.

    Great hardware, and I agree they could do better with software starting with allowing users to configure Edge via phone and/or web.

  164. Ken P

    Ray,

    What is the source of data for the pie charts that show the device type at different activities, and how was the data captured? Just curious.

    I bought my Garmin 810 years ago for the Bluetooth connectivity to sync rides. The first year or two was maddening until they finally released a firmware fix. It’s reliable now, BUT….

    One thing I’d add to Garmin’s bottom line: I upgrade all my cycling stuff often EXCEPT my Garmin b/c I’m afraid any new device from them will be unreliable.

  165. Zac

    All I want is the ability to run a custom report (custom dates) in Garmin connect webpage or app.

  166. RickH

    Garmin doesn’t care. Get over it.

  167. Greg

    You should mention the android connect release last week that would force close on open on everyone’s phone. It is as if no one even checked it. God knows how it ever got past basic qa

    Took them a day plus to fix it.

  168. Adam

    Great article Ray. Somewhat timely for me as I have been having more and more issues with Garmin.

    I have been a long user of Garmin. Forerunner 410, then Forerunner 610, Edge 500, Edge 520 and Edge 1030 and Vivoactive 3. Only the last two work now, only bought the 1030 cos the 520 battery life is abysmal, and now it seems the Vivoactive 3 is being killed by Garmin Software division.

    The Vivoactive 3 recently received software 6.1/6.2 and the unit started randomly restarting, and the battery life has gone from 5 days to less than 2. I called Garmin and they dismissed it as a battery thing and I could purchase a replacement (as it’s out of warranty). But looking on the forums this is a widespread issue.
    They released SW6.3, to no effect.

    So the question I have is how is it reasonable that a company release a SW version that effectively ruins a unit? I think Apple got in trouble for doing something similar, plus they were reprimanded for having a 1 year warranty, but selling them on a 2 year phone plan. I.e. a reasonable person expects better life than 1 year for an expensive item. I.e. Imagine a Fenix5 for A$1000 that at 13 months gets stuffed up by Garmin’s own software.

    Not good enough Garmin.

  169. Aar

    Great article and eloquently stated point, as usual. I’m interesting in the reason your proposal doesn’t include software that self-reports bugs? To my recollection, whether Microsoft was using self-reporting software before 2002 or not, they really started leveraging it for continuous improvement.

    Further, Apple is well-known to release buggy software but use their self-reporting software to catalog instances of bugs. They then use that data as a significant input for grooming their Agile development backlog. The result is a blizzard of bug-fix releases shortly after new software version releases. Thus, bleeding edge Apple customers feel much more pain (and whine more) than those of us who wait a few weeks or more to adopt.

    My point is that user reported glitches are a weak source of development prioritization data. I think that agrees with a point you made. Otherwise, I agree with everything in the article. Since I started using Specialized’s ANGi as a supplement to Live Track (and stopped relying upon Auto Start in Live Track), my wife hasn’t reported a failed ride tracking session. Come to think of it, that’s when I started using a Palm Phone as well. That’s a story for another day, though.

    • “I’m interesting in the reason your proposal doesn’t include software that self-reports bugs?”

      I absolutely believe it should. That’s somewhat within my ‘bug reporting portal’, in that I’d like to see them include diag/related information that the user can easily upload with nothing more than a quick tap/confirmation on their device. Many other device companies have that.

      The challenge as I (and I think you as well) outlined is separating bugs from general support issues. I also think Garmin is unique in that their user base on the whole tends to be more tech focused than that of Apple or Polar. Obviously, the majority isn’t tech focused, but moreso than Garmin seems to give credit for. It’s why you’ve got 253 responses here that are surprisingly detailed in their understanding of the specific issues. And I suspect the vast majority of those 253 people would have been more than willing over time to go to a site, explain their issue, upload some log data, and know that it’s actually being tracked.

    • dan

      It is maddening to me dealing with support. I run a business that uses many different software pieces / programs from a host of vendors. I have years of support experience in calling, chatting, and emailing. I have also for one of the few times i have actually had to, reached out to a sporting company over their head unit (wahoo). Invariably because MY industry (automotive repair) is very hands on and diagnostic driven I try to make sure I have exhausted all avenues before reaching out to support. By the time I do I am positive I have a problem that is not user error, nor driven by design AND it is a repeatable problem.

      Without fail every support contact is so very much painful in that I take time to explain the problem FULLY, including exact;y what steps I do to re-create the issue. I include pictures and screen shots where necessary. I pull and save all logs if possible. I do everything I can because the use of this software or product is important to me and I want resolution as fast as possible.

      What i get in return 100 percent of the time is a contact from support that leads me to believe they have not even bothered to read, much less understand what i have reported.

      Is there anyone in the world that does not reboot or relaunch or reinstall whatever BEFORE even thinking about support? Everyone has been trained to power cycle everything and reconnect etc.

      I detail ALL those steps in the report. I tell them everything I have tried including all rebooting, reinstalling etc and that I can STILL recreate the problem by doing x.

      instead I get the banal we’re dealing with a dumbass responses from support. Have you tried rebooting? Have you tried re-installing, reconnecting, whatever? Can you tell us when this occurs etc?

      At that point my blood pressure figuratively rings the bell, i’m probably saying out loud did you even read my initial report and why are you wasting my FING TIME!!!!

      so then i need to recompose because I am convinced that the initial support handler in every industry is simply tasked with going through a flow chart of questions to ask the consumer before then recommending that the “next level” will take a look at your issue

      In the case of Wahoo, everything I initially told them was confirmed and the response was:

      Thank you for providing the logs and files. We apologize for the issue and have raised a ticket with our developers who are actively working on a fix. Though we do not currently have an exact delivery date, the problem is a priority on our road map for future app and firmware revisions.

      Since we have an open ticket with our development team, all customer service tickets related to the issue (including this one) will be marked as “On-Hold” and merged with the developer ticket to be monitored internally. This process allows us to send automatic notifications via email when changes are complete. Full release notes are posted on https://support.wahoofitness.com

      Be sure to keep your app and device up-to-date to receive the fix, when available.

      We sincerely apologize for any inconvenience and appreciate your patience and support as we strive to serve you better. Please let us know if you have any additional questions or concerns in the meantime.

      Thanks for being a Wahoo customer,

      Well that was January and there has been no fix and no further contact from Wahoo. So either they cannot fix it, or do not care to,

      P.s. I have dutifully downloaded every update that has come down the pipe. I reference their update page weekly and this site to make sure I have not missed any.

      so the moral of my story, They are all the same, the whole tech industry. Just one large frustration morass of imperfection using computers whose sole purpose for being a computer is perfection.

  170. Mark B

    I enjoy Garmin and committed array of products. As a software engineer I get it and can forgive a whole lot, but my recent experience with new vector3s makes me feel betrayed. I really want them to do better. I appreciate the article here, hope they find a way to turn it around

  171. Antonio Silveira

    Excellent post Ray, I couldn’t agree more with it. I have been a Garmin user for a long time, I have and had several Edges and I have Virb cameras as well.

    It is absolutely infuriating when you are on the middle of a interval session and then Edge just reboots out of nowhere. Last year a did a big cycling trip that I was planning for a long time going to climb the big climbs in Spain, France and Italy. Twice when I was climbing absolutely iconic climbs that always dreamed about, I looked down and noticed that my Edge screen was not updating, I did not know for how long the Edge was frozen, I was so upset, so freaking pissed, in the end I missed like a mile of these climbs. Looking at the gps track you have that annoying strait line between the points.

    I just think that Garmin does not care, they keep on shipping shitty software and devices. I just hope that competition catches up, and they lose marketshare. I am already upset again just thinking about the many times Garmin disappointed me.

  172. Steven

    I just want to know why my 920xt can’t use GPS elevation since the barometer is stuck at 22,614ft? It shows up as 0 elevation gain even though it starts off with correct GPS elevation. Heck I’d be happy if it would just do it automatically on garmin connect.

    How can their software not correct for this?

    The barometer is a hardware problem on the 910, less on 920, still present on 935.

    But with Garmin’s official position on open water swimming for the 935 and fenix series to place watch in swim cap there is no upgrade available. Also that’s not swim tracking it’s GPS above water.

    • Marshall Spradling

      I’m on my third 920xt for the broken barometric altimeter. Both times I contacted Garmin support, they sent me a replacement unit for free even though I’m way past the warranty, so I will give them that – although I have a feeling it’s because it’s such a “known” issue they don’t want to fight people about it. It’s upsetting to hear that the problem with the barometric altimeter still exists in the 935/945 and Fenix watches, even though Garmin has known about the issue since the 910xt. I have no reason/desire to upgrade from my 920xt if the “upgraded” models all have the same faulty design.

  173. Pete

    My Garmin history over 10 years:
    405, one day GPS stopped working, but functioned very reliably before that except the funky touch ring
    910xt, power button failed so have to push a certain way to turn on, but functioned very reliably before that though only after they fixed issues with swim stroke identification
    920xt, has worked fine last 2 year except bluetooth to the phone was always unreliable, but started with lots of issues with live track, battery life bad, lost a couple runs
    945xt, setup problems that took reboots and updates to get it to work out of the box, constantly drops bluetooth to phone and won’t reconnect until watch is rebooted, was daily now every few days, still love the screen, best of any Garmin watch I’ve owned
    Fenix 3, worst display ever, sold it on ebay for $10 less than I paid 2 months after purchase, hopefully the buyer liked it.
    800, worked fine as best I recall
    810, worked fine after issues with live track, right power meter missing
    820, worst touch screen I’ve ever used, horrible to this day, would not buy this again, right power meter still missing, though it records and shows data fine, lost left power meter seconds before a race, after race had to remove and reconnect
    Virb, hopeless and returned it, too many bugs, too high cost, value not there for me

    All that said and money spent, maybe I SHOULD be looking for another brand.

  174. John Wayne

    Oh my God! DC Rainmaker who writes something negative about Garmin! Is it because they didn’t renew your exclusive contract???? And so now it’s payback time?

  175. Nik

    Let’s face it, Garmin simply doesn’t give a shit.
    They’re raking in the cash and that’s all that matters to them.
    One gets the impression that Garmin doesn’t test their products, their employees don’t run/swim/ride, don’t use their own products.
    Everyone keeps buying their shitty products, so why should they change anything ?

    • John Wayne

      Let’s face it: Polar Vantage and Suunto are as bad (or even worse) than Garmin!

    • Dirk

      No, I don’t think so.
      I went from a V800 to a FR935. But after two months I went back to Polar. The watch was ok, but I could not stand Garmin Connect. Terribly slow, confusing, did not tell me anything which I could really need for monitoring my fitness. Instead I got something unreasonable about steps I should have done, and I shouldn’t use an elevate and nonsense like that.
      Got a M430, than a A370 for daily rides and now finally a Vantage V, which is really nice. No problems with that watch.

  176. Joe DeWitt

    Great article DCR. Was starting to wonder if this was just me. Usually able to figure out technical issues, but the Bluetooth on Edge 520 Plus got me stumped. Every time I power cycle the headunit I have to forget and re-pair the 520+ to get it connected. Really frustrated after doing it 50 times.

    Always wanted to like Garmin and tried many products. My favorite is Vivoactive 3. Rock solid for more than a year.

    • JD

      I followed DCR’s reset steps below to resolve the same pairing issue on my 1030.

      For totally re-setting connections on the Edge 1030, be sure to complete the following:
      A) Remove pairing on Edge 1030
      B) Remove BLE pairing on settings on phone
      C) Remove BT pairing on settings on phone
      D) Delete Edge 1030 from Garmin Connect Mobile
      E) Airplane mode on
      F) Kill/close GCM app
      Then start from fresh.

      Now my 1030 is pairing again every time I power the Edge unit on (GCM in foreground or background).
      It didn’t resolve auto-start Live Track (50/50), but at least I don’t have to re-pair the unit before each ride.

      DCR — Your reset steps were comment #366 on the 1030 review page, but I don’t see an easy way to send a link to a specific comment. It requires appending the page URL with a mysterious 7 digit number (/comment-page-1#comment-xxxxxxx).

    • Pro tip: To create a link to a specific comment, right click the date/time stamp of the comment and there’s a unique URL there. Enjoy!

  177. Boris

    🥇 article, Ray.

    In the past ten years (or so) I had many many Grrmin devices; always packed with lot features (many of them not really useful, but that‘s another story).

    Support (AKA swapping out devices) was always good, except that it didn‘t solve the issue in „eight of ten“ cases. I had (and have) so many issues, that I‘m tired of it.

    Grrmin’s „bug-fixing ignorance“ and „product patchwork-mentality“ became somewhat unacceptable to me (and many others in my region)… We are not willing to pay (any amount) for a Grrmin product any more.

  178. T v D

    I’m almost 10 years into Garmin products. Never had one that just worked. I did pay a hugh price everytime expecting for that pricepoint a good product.

    I’m going to sell my vector 3. It just does not work. Again f*cking Bluetooth connection, battery caps, you name it. 1.000 dollar people, stopped working within a year. Can you believe it? Well, if you’re also a garmin user you are giggling now. Also have a quarq dzero on my mtb. 100% of the time working….. never, never had a issue with that one. Never!

    Talking about Bluetooth, my biggest complaint. Garmin how hard can it be? If you offer it on your edge devices just get it to work 100% of the time. it’s not rocket science. Cycling 4 to 5 times a week, there’s really not one time it stayed connected. Not 1!!!

    If you offer it make sure it workes, otherwise don ‘t offer it…

    I’m not buying new Garmin devices anymore, even if Ray says the features are awesome. I need stuff that workes.

  179. Let me do something contrarian and defend Garmin: over the years, they’ve introduced features and products that I can’t do without. On-board navigation for instance, is something that pretty much only Garmin does. When you’re out of internet range and need navigation right away, only Garmin even has the potential to deliver. Similarly, nobody else supports the Varia radar, which to me is a game changer. Their customer support is impeccable. Both Arturo Crespo and I have replaced multiple Vivoactive HRs under warranty with a very pleasant exchange process. I once called them up about a broken sensor that was out of warranty, and they extended my warranty and sent me a new one. (Come to think of it, this has happened more than once!) These are all good reasons they’re the market leader.

  180. Circe

    Known bug in f5+: crush during swimming pool app with more than 1000m consecutively. Happen to me (and other people, see forum) 4 times. Now, when i have this kind of workout, i use fenix 3. Mail to fenix team (and beta team): no answer.

  181. Tommy

    My edge 830 constantly loses satellites. Very annoying

    Oh and it doesn’t play nice with a wahoo doors sensor either

    • Paul S.

      My Edge 830 sometimes pops up a “Lost Satellites” message, but it really hasn’t lost them judging from the other indicators (solid satellite icon, no flashing question mark on the map, actual track after the ride). I just ignore it.

  182. Johann

    I consider Garmin as the Microsoft of GPS/watch. So your last paragraph was resonating to me. For me the biggest issues are connectivty between my iPhone and my Edge 820 (which touch screen display DOES NOT WORK), and everything got much worse with the last firmware update. I still have to re-pair them from time to time. An operation that takes less than 10s with most device my phone interacts with (be it headphones, car, watch, pedals…) but can take up to an hour of fight with this stupid GPS. On top of that auto upload does not work anymore and I have to kill the app to have a chance to re-connect to the GPS (no issue with my Garmin watch here).
    That’s unfortunately a common feature when a company has such a dominant position, because they know this mess won’t kill their business so they don’t care. At some point I’ll have to change my GPS. Let’s see then how the competition looks like at that moment.

  183. Zoltan

    Hey Ray,

    it seems that after a long time your “systematic exceptional good luck” with Garmin devices has finally ended and you started to feel a real PITA, a similar one to those bugs that had caused big suffering for other users on a regular basis.

    We’ll see whether your “case” will be handled differently than those of the others.

    Good luck to this bad luck period! 🙂

  184. Volker

    DCR, which amazes me:

    so far you have an intensive and exclusive contact with Garmin. Of course you only name things that almost every Garmin user can confirm. Are you sure that the Garmin just accepts that without any consequences? Did you really think that over well?

    • I specifically picked these items because they were exactly that: So painfully well known that it’s mind-boggling they aren’t fixed yet. Sure, there’s hundreds of other smaller items I could have picked, but then that takes away from the point and becomes distraction salad.

      I included Garmin’s comments on the matter, but ultimately, short of doing at least Item #1 on my list, there’s nothing that they can say that is meaningful in this regard. I’ve heard all the excuses before…for years. It’s time for action, not more words of ‘we’ll fix this’. Show me, don’t tell me.

    • Volker

      Totally agree. Garmin, just listen and deliver!

      I am only a little bit worried, that this article will have consequences for you…

    • Marcos

      DCR, have they got back to you after that?

      tks.

    • I haven’t asked them anything since this weekend. Not really sure there’s much more to ask. I expect at some point they’ll send over the open water swim updated firmware.

    • Tim

      Beta GPS chipset update:

      link to www8.garmin.com

      Improved GPS performance and reported distance for open water swim activity.
      Improved performance in GPS + GALILEO mode.
      Improved GPS performance for auto-racing activity.
      Other bug fixes and improvements.

    • Nice. Crappy weather today for a swim, but tomorrow is looking solid. Will give it a whirl.

  185. Kloekie

    I have owned for the past 10 years Edge products from the 705 to now the 830, and had some small issues with the software every now and then but never serious problems like crashes lost sensors or…., just little functional things.

    I am software architect as profession, and it is very diffcult to support al kinds of external devices as smartphones for instance, see BT technology the implementation of that is divers…

    Garmin forums is helpfull, because what I see, the major problem is the user self. Bad configuration or expecting functionality what is not there.

    On the Garmin Forum, Garmin itself responses and if there is a major bug they will fix it. But ofcourse here the expectations of users is much to high, software development is a complex thing. It is not simply change a bit of code and ready for deployment…

    For myself, Live track did not function – problem was configuration…..did it wright and it functioned.

    Are Competitors really beter ? Do not think so, so before going to the competitor – read the www how they handle bugs and solutions.

    Oh Yes Garmin is not perfect and have to work hard to deliver a product that satisfies everbody, and they should.

  186. Gunnar Christensen

    To be fair. I recently did a week in Italy and had live track on everyday since I was riding in remote mountains solo. I used a edge explore 1000 and have a Samsung Android phone. My wife could care less about looking at live track, but my daughter always follows it…so I know it works ( at least for me….for that week….).

    I always go for older Garmin technology and buy used for a deal. I wait until a new product comes out and then swoop in omn the deals for the older tech. The bugs by then seem to have worked themselves out.

  187. Andrew

    The Garmin business model relies on never running out of customers to screw over?
    When did it become acceptable to release products that don’t work properly?
    Garmin will never change as too many customers continue to upgrade devices hoping that this will be the one that finally works?

  188. Richard

    I’d disagree with Garmin UK being good at handling customers. It’s probably the worst customer service I’ve had. My 935 had a barometer/altimeter issue. It read 4000m elevation gain for the Chicago marathon. Garmin Checked my files and said it was a software issue that affected my watch only. I don’t get how this could be and how they couldn’t offer a fix, or why a full reset didn’t solve this software issue. They never once offered to look at the watch or offer a repair. I’m trying hard not to buy another Garmin but as I’m finding out Suunto and Polar struggle to do the multisport parts of their watch correctly.

    • Zoltan

      Buy and older Garmin with less function, but greater stability and accuracy!

    • Graham

      I’ve also had mixed experiences with customer services in the UK. My Vivoactive HR died completely (no response to buttons or screen), just out of warranty. They tried to charge me for an out of warranty replacement until I insisted that that was not acceptable. UK consumer law requires stuff to work for a reasonable length of time, which is subjective, but a £200 watch should last for more than 26 months before being dead. They conceded and sent me a replacement for free, so the end result was fine but the experience not great.

      Then just recently I had lengthy discussions with them about my Edge 820. The battery life was unusably short (it would die in about 4 or 5 hours if not in battery saver mode). They suggested that this could either be battery degradation (perhaps my fault because I hadn’t maintained the battery at 30% while not using it (WTF!?)) or could be because of the latest firmware (they had other reports of this). Despite the firmware being their most likely explanation, they couldn’t provide a way to roll back, or to test this in any way, and initially their only suggestion was for me to pay them for an out of warranty replacement which might suffer from the same issues. In the end I again had to state the law to them and raise the possibility of Small Claims Court action before they agreed to send a replacement (which seems to work much better, so presumably not all down to firmware!). So again, the end result was good, but they should have dealt with it properly from the start without victim blaming, and without needing to have the law pointed out to them!

  189. scott

    Conclusion: Garmin sucks. I speak from experience having owned 4 Garmin GPS devices.

  190. andrei

    one of the reasons I’ll stick with Wahoo when it comes to bike gps. sorry.

  191. Georg

    Agree, agree, agree.
    My customer experience:
    – “New SW nag” on phone annoys,
    – Routing in E810 was so bad, never again routing with Garmin
    – OW swims, really bad, only after update…
    – Power Meter reception on 920 horrendous.

    Polar, Wahoo, Stages, Lezyne… Here I come.

  192. Cedric

    Great post !
    Indeed Garmin, stop to add features and fix existing ones !!!
    And don’t release firmware before have seriously tested it … It’s reccurent that new firmware add bugs doesn’t existing in previous releases …

  193. Scott

    After a bug in their Connect mobile app causes it to not initiate the HealthKit API properly to post workouts to the Apple Health app, I was told by support that they weren’t aware of any issues here, and I should instead go away and speak to Apple.

    In the end the “fix” came from the community, that told me a hack I could do in the app to get it to ask for permission and add itself as a Source.

    Except then it posted my cycling miles and walk+run miles to the Apple Health app.

    LiveTrack has also worked for me once, and AutoStart has worked for me about 2 times out of 10 tries.

    So not only do they have insufficient QA, they have unhelpful and dismissive support staff that are being paid to do a worse job than others users do for free.

    Never going Garmin again, for exactly these reasons. Should have got with the Elemnt Bolt or the newer one. Next door neighbour has the Bolt and it just boringly works every time. No cross fingers or superstitions. Garmin can do one.

  194. Scott

    Oh, and the latest Garmin Connect Mobile app update that was supposed to fix a lot of LiveTrack issues: didn’t. Still unreliable. They’ve gone cheap on software development and quality assurance to save money, but they will pay the price as the meme of their unreliability builds and spreads.
    I wish I’d known about it before I bought in.

    For anyone tempted, do not bother. I’m having problems, and when searching for solutions, I’m finding the same problems from others in threads that are sometimes years old. Garmin do not care.

  195. Stephen Gunn

    Great post. It sums up what I (as a 15 year user of Garmin fitness products, since the Forerunner 201) have been saying and thinking about Garmin QA since day 1, pretty much. Whether it is disappearing breadcrumb trails on the Edge 500 and Forerunner 310XT, unreliable touch screen on Edge 820, poor hardware on early Forerunner 305, BT connection causing power dropouts on Vector 3, BT connection to phone unreliable on Edge 820… The list goes on.. Garmin seem to use their users as their QA department rather than employing their own.

  196. Meredith

    My Garmin car sat navs have had no particular issues apart from one where the USB port failed. My Garmin GPSMap outdoor units have just worked. My Virb Elite camera has no issues. My Edge 800 has some navigation quirks but works fine. It is starting to have battery issues now as it is old.

    I have just got an Edge 830 and so far it works just fine. I have noticed that some navigation quirks the 800 have have been fixed. I have no intention of using the Bluetooth or Wi-Fi functions on it though (I have managed without those in the past just fine so I see no reason to start) so I don’t know if they would be buggy.

    • Paul S.

      @Meredith, WiFi works on the 830, so there’s no reason to shy away. Having the ride automatically upload when I get home is convenient, even though I’m going to plug the thing into my computer anyway. Bluetooth has also worked for me (iPhone XS, latest iOS) so far as I can tell. (I do get annoying notifications during my ride.) So far navigation has been nearly perfect.

  197. Harriet King

    As you said- I find the swim on my 735 shockingly bad. This last weekend, I swam in a 150m lido/lake area. I swam 15 lengths, so 2,250m. Now, obviously I am not swimming quite straight and obviously there will be some variations. But my watch picked this up as 3,200m. I had the same with my old 910XT and honestly, if I wasn’t hooked into the garmin ecosystem I’d be looking elsewhere.

  198. Harriet King

    As you said- I find the swim on my 735 shockingly bad. This last weekend, I swam in a 150m lido/lake area. I swam 15 lengths, so 2,250m. Now, obviously I am not swimming quite straight and obviously there will be some variations. But my watch picked this up as 3,200m. I had the same with my old 910XT and honestly, if I wasn’t hooked into the garmin ecosystem I’d be looking elsewhere.

  199. Dick

    Your last paragraph is spot on correct..

    D