An Explainer: Garmin’s New Wearables LTE Strategy

Garmin’s new Forerunner 945 LTE isn’t your typical LTE watch. It doesn’t allow you to make or receive calls over LTE. You can’t stream music over LTE. In fact, you can’t even make or receive text messages over LTE. And that’s just the way Garmin wants it – at least for now.

Instead, the watch’s LTE functions are purely 100% sport and safety focused. They allow you to contact an emergency response coordination center if you’ve gotten hurt out solo on a trail. They let your friends and family follow your progress training or racing in real-time, automatically, every time you press start. And they allow your family members to send you quick audio messages mid-race, streamed to your headphones. Be it taunts or cheers.

This change in direction is the realization that a company not named Apple or Samsung simply can’t leverage the telecom carrier over-lording to have a fully seamless experience for end users. At least this year, and likely not anytime soon. But, in losing one battle, they’ve done what they’ve done best over the last 3-5 years: Given up trying to be everything to everyone, and instead focused mainly on the sporty person. As a result – sales and revenue have never been higher.

But how did Garmin get here? Well, that story is nearly a decade in the making.

Also – if you want to see exactly what happens when you trigger an emergency response (without causing the ruckus yourself), simply hit the Play button above.

Garmin’s Cellular History:


Garmin is not new to cellular connectivity – even if you didn’t realize it. And sometimes, it felt like Garmin probably didn’t realize it either. Their first fitness-focused fitness device was the little GTU10 – Garmin Tracking Unit 10, launched more than a decade ago. Frankly – it’s still probably the best sports-focused cellular GPS device any company has ever made. This small pod about the size of a pack of gum could track you for days at a time. It had a variable cellular transmission rate for how often it transmitted your GPS location, and even geofencing triggers. It could easily be stuffed anywhere from a jersey pocket to a saddlebag. A backpack to permanently wired inside a car. It was waterproof and had minimal fuss.

As Garmin always does, the hardware wore different clothes in Garmin’s various production portfolio verticals. They pitched it to trucking companies for fleet management, as well as to pet owners as a way to keep track of Fido. After all, it was easily small enough to fit on a dog’s collar (and they even had a little case for exactly that).

The challenge though was that it was region limited. There was basically a US version, and a European version. Garmin took care of the carrier relationship for you, and in fact the first year of service was free. After that it was $50/year for coverage. Pretty reasonable, by either today’s standards or back then. You didn’t have to worry about talking to your cellular carrier, as like an Amazon Kindle, that just happened magically behind the scenes.

Unfortunately, Garmin killed off the device in 2016 – about 5 years after it launched. The company never greatly expanded network carrier access to it, thus, sales were always limited to the handful of countries Garmin supported it in. This would ultimately be the theme of Garmin’s cellular forays, and in fact, a theme that will continue through today’s announcements too.

But when one product dies, another is born. The same year that Garmin killed off the GTU10, they acquired DeLorme and their satellite locator and messaging network, bypassing cellular altogether. But file that mental nugget away for a second, we’ll come back to that in a moment.

Next, in 2018 Garmin launched the Vivoactive 3 Music LTE. This would be Garmin’s first go at attempting a cellular watch. And frankly, it was a hot mess. The project launched nearly a year and a half after the original Vivoactive 3 launched, which, wasn’t exactly when it intended to launch. But complexities associated with a number of areas kept pushing the launch back.

But the company was fighting fires on multiple fronts trying to get the Vivoactive 3 LTE more widely adopted. On one hand, they had to find a carrier partner to actually sell the watch. Sure, in theory, one would find a carrier partner in every country. In practice, even for a company of Garmin’s size that would be a nightmare beyond a handful of key partners. Ultimately, they ended up launching on Verizon only – likely through an incubator program that Verizon had at the time for IoT cellular devices.

While Verizon had plenty of network quality gates that Garmin had to pass, the reality is that Verizon mostly didn’t care about these programs. Either from a marketing standpoint or a success perspective. It cost Verizon virtually nothing, it offered the appearance of having a diverse set of products in Verizon stores, and it kept the bigger companies on their toes. But ultimately, Verizon didn’t really care whether or not Garmin succeeded here. To them, it was just a random flash in the pan.

But Verizon’s nonchalance about the product was the least of the product’s challenges. The Vivoactive 3 LTE was this weird bastardization of technology. Part Vivoactive 3 Music, but with core features like WiFi actually removed. So if you wanted to download music you had to do it over LTE instead of WiFi. But…you couldn’t *stream* the music over LTE (or anything). And due to Apple limitations, for iOS users you’d either have two different phone numbers (one for your watch, and one for your phone), or your texts would constantly be out of sync if you tried to mirror one number.

And while the watch was a hot mess, it did start to pave the road for how Garmin thinks about cellular connectivity. Garmin’s marketing for the Vivoactive 3 LTE shifted more and more over the last few years towards their safety and tracking features, rather than the underlying always-connected texting-type features. And for the handful of people that bought one, the primary benefit they’ve seen is simply for live tracking to send to friends and family – not text messaging while sitting at a café.

I asked Garmin whether or not the Vivoactive 3 LTE’s purpose in life was more as a way to develop the technology than reach a sale, Garmin’s Forerunner product manager, Joe Heikes met me halfway on that question, saying:

Garmin never builds a product that we do not believe can stand entirely on its own, so it is not the case that Vivoactive 3 Music LTE was about building technology.  That being said, it is certainly true that it contributed in some ways to setting the stage for Forerunner 945 LTE.“

But even that was only just one piece of a required puzzle. Remember back though to a few years prior when Garmin bought DeLorme and their satellite connectivity technologies? On the surface, that wouldn’t seem to have anything to do with cellular wearables. But in fact, there were two elements from that acquisition. The first, being the platform for subscription management. Joe noted that was key to much of what we see here, saying:

“There were critical developments that enabled this for us, such as our purchase of DeLorme who already had a subscription management system and relationship with the Garmin IERCC, formerly known as GEOS, for emergency communications. We hope this creates a cleaner picture for the end customer who does not have to think about his/her current phone carrier.”

We saw Garmin leverage this (pre-GEOS acquisition) in the more widely accessible Garmin inReach Mini, which is a small satellite communicator that doesn’t require cellular network. They then expanded integration of that device into virtually every bike computer and higher-end watch, so your Garmin watch can leverage satellite communicator technologies, even out of cellular range.

Part of that equation though is the command center that handles those inbound emergency response calls/messages. This is a manned facility where real humans respond to people that have crashed planes, been in sinking boats, and hikers with injuries in the mountains. As a general life rule, you really want to avoid ever contacting this place. But, when you have to – their role is to save your bacon by coordinating with whichever rescue services are nearest to you, no matter where you are in the world. And Garmin has drip-drip-dripped a steady stream of these harrowing rescues on their corporate PR blog.

However, behind the scenes, it was always a highly coordinated effort with a company called GEOS, who operated their International Emergency Response Coordination Center (IERCC). It’s another place you’ll want to put on your life rule list of entities you don’t want to chat with. They were the ones that technically handled the coordination between you stuck on the side of a mountain and getting the correct rescue teams to your location – be it in North Dakota, Nantucket, or Nepal. They did this from their primary operations center in Montgomery, Texas.

As is often the case when something gets too important to Garmin, they bought it. Back this past January 2021, Garmin acquired GEOS and their technology. At the time GEOS boasted that their platform had saved 12,000 lives in 198 countries, of which 5,000 SOS incidents were from Garmin products/customers.

And thus, Garmin had everything they needed to dramatically shift the direction of their cellular state of play.

Shift in Direction:

The key to ensuring a cohesive LTE watch experience for the masses is ultimately Apple allowing it to happen. While Android has the larger global market share of smartphones, it isn’t actually the majority platform for the target market of this device (and most sports tech products) – which skews more heavily in favor of iPhones. And at present, Apple locks down access to aspects like text messaging and calling, meaning only Apple Watch can integrate seamlessly with iOS. On Android it’s more open to vendors like Garmin, but as the Vivoactive 3 LTE proved, it’s an experience that still includes significant complexity and carrier relationships.

Instead, for the Forerunner 945 LTE, Garmin has ignored the carriers entirely. Or at least, from your perspective. Behind the scenes, Garmin works with carriers in each country that provides data rates in bulk. But from your perspective you don’t care too much about that as it doesn’t show up on your cellular plan. Instead, you pay Garmin $6/month, and they take care of it all. Just as it was back on the original Garmin GTU10 a decade ago.

And instead of focusing on text messaging and phone calls with friends, Garmin is focusing on sports features that leverage LTE, all of which are tracking and safety driven. These core features are grouped into Safety features and Spectator features. In total, here are the cellular features on the Garmin FR945LTE:

– Sync completed workouts and related data via LTE (including 24×7 data, workouts, courses, and so on)
– LiveTrack via LTE
– LiveTrack Spectator Text Messages via LTE
– LiveTrack Spectator Audio Messages via LTE (to your headphones)
– Emergency assistance via Assistance Plus and the Garmin emergency response center – via LTE
– Emergency assistance via your predefined contacts (via LTE)
– Crash detection triggers via LTE, to the emergency response center
– Safety alerts (aka stalker alerts) trigger via LTE, to the emergency response center

Meanwhile, here’s a list of things it won’t do via internal LTE:

– It won’t sync your music/Spotify/etc via LTE (still requires WiFi)
– It won’t receive your text messages or missed phone calls (unless your phone is connected nearby)
– It won’t make phone calls for you

Now, all of this does require a relationship with specific carriers, typically on a per country basis. Right now, that’s about 12 countries on the list. For those that had waited for Garmin to establish Garmin Pay contactless payments for your local bank, you’re probably wondering will this be the same level of forever as then?

Garmin says no, it’ll be “more straightforward than that”, saying that “one thing that significantly simplifies this, which is both a blessing and a curse, is that the number of carriers in the world with compatible Cat M1 networks is not that great”. In that case, they’re referencing the category M1 network, which is an LTE network designed for low-power devices like watches or sensors. Garmin’s wearable LTE features require a Category M1 network to function.

Of course, even when it’s in your country, there’s then limitations on travel. You can’t take a US/Canada/New Zealand watch to Europe, and have it work there on LTE, because there are different LTE flavors (bands) in different countries. Apple has the exact same scenario – an American Apple Watch (cellular), won’t talk to European cellular networks.

Now, I was curious what specifically the limiter is, since phones obviously roam just fine across networks. Was it battery power, size, certification, etc…? Garmin’s Joe Heikes explained:

“Frankly the biggest problem is physical.  As you know, there are already a bunch of antennas in a little tiny space in these watches.  Cramming LTE antennas in there as well was yet another engineering challenge.  Because of the way the LTE bands are in different places in the world the LTE antenna cannot be very efficiently tuned to all those bands.  However, we were able to divide them into only two major blocks of frequencies that allowed us to keep the SKU [model] proliferation down to just 2 major frequency flavors.”

And, while Garmin’s hardware engineering and manufacturing capabilities are generally regarded as some of the best in the wearable world, it’s probably a pretty good indicator that if Apple hasn’t figured out how to consolidate multiple LTE antenna into that form factor, then Garmin is unlikely to beat them to it.  But of course, like anything in technology – time advances forward.

So what about aspects like music streaming or phone calls over LTE? Well, each of those are areas that Garmin hasn’t fully developed yet. Take music – Garmin could sync your music over LTE, they did it for the Vivoactive 3 LTE (and you paid Verizon for that privilege). But that’s different than music streaming live, Garmin’s entire current music architecture (with Spotify, Amazon Music, and so on), is all about offline caching, not about streaming. Thus, that would have to change (potentially contractually too).

It’s similar for taking phone calls. Garmin doesn’t do that at all today. And even if they did, they’d be back to the same spot as before with iOS devices.

Instead, I think we’ll likely see Garmin double-down on the spectator side, and the rest of the watch features. For example, right now you can’t easily just text your predefined contacts that you’re going to be late (it’ll kill your current workout if you do). So yes, you can do it, thus, the plumbing is there, but if you do – there’s side effects that are undesirable.

But in the grand scheme of development stuff, that’s ‘merely’ firmware on the watch – not dealing with cellular carriers.

Going Forward:

So where does Garmin go from here? Well, I suspect everywhere. In the same way that optical HR is in every watch, and contactless payments in almost every device too – I don’t see a scenario where eventually LTE isn’t in almost every Garmin watch and bike computer. We know the ‘upsell cost’ Garmin assigns to this is only $50, which means their bill of materials cost is low enough that they can do this. Plus, they make back money on the subscription (at $70/year).

And Garmin’s Joe Heikes seems to agree with my line of thinking. While making it clear that he was speaking for himself personally in this case, and not on behalf of Garmin, he said that “I hope we can get to the point where we can more fully ‘democratize’ LTE technology in running watches“, going on to reference Garmin’s least expensive Forerunner watches, saying that “in my imagination as the product manager, I would love to someday see a Forerunner x5 with an LTE option for safety and tracking features.”

Thus, it’s probably only a matter of time. And if we know anything about the way Garmin quickly rolls out technology from one product to the next product model or line, it won’t take long.

With that – thanks for reading!


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  1. Really interesting Ray – Thanks! For me, the wife is definitely interested in me having the LTE safety features as I get older. Once it gets placed on the mid/lower end watches, I’m in. LTE should encourage many to upgrade their current watches sooner than many other incremental feature improvements would.

  2. RMTL

    Another side-use for all this: Medical Alert System for Seniors.
    When you see the prices for those solutions, a Garmin watch with the Emergency assistance function would be a clear cheaper way, on top of providing all the extra benefits a Garmin watch provides, to offer peace of mind for close familly for old folks living alone

    • yes.
      great point.
      we thought of getting an apple watch for some of our seniors that we care for. however, the reality is simply that they would forget to charge the apple watch LTE every day. of course Garmin majors on long battery life…more than long enough until we next visit. thinking it though we would only need wifi to carry the alert 95% of the time…LTE would be a bonus, albeit a potentially life-saving one.

  3. Michael

    This is the quote for me: “right now you can’t easily just text your predefined contacts that you’re going to be late”.

    I really hate carrying a phone while running so I really wanted to like this watch, but without the ability to send even a simple text, it’s just not (to me) worth $649 US plus a monthly fee.

    • Nick

      I agree with this. I understand the issue with syncing your current phone number, but if all I want to do is let family/close contact know I’m running 30 minutes late I don’t really care if it’s from a different phone number, email address, etc. just that the message gets there. If I don’t have a history of that message on my phone later, so what.

      That’s the killer application for me that would get me to buy a cellular watch or “Mini Inreach Mini” (as in, something transportable without a pack). The safety/emergency aspect is nice enough but if I’m going on a run that’s taking me that far off the beaten path I’m fine bringing an Inreach Mini or something similar with a larger form factor.

    • Greg

      Why is it so hard to allow two way messaging in the app or live track screen? At least it’s a middle ground…not perfect but something my wife can use

    • Jason

      It’s not, I don’t know why they aren’t. You have the watch talk to their servers over LTE, they forward the messages. It’s the same thing with my InReach Mini. It doesn’t directly text people, but I don’t care how it works – I send a message, they (Garmin) get it, they send it on to whoever it’s supposed to go to.

      I also don’t understand the Apple issue. Who cares what Apple does or doesn’t allow. All I want is my carrier to allow me to receive/send calls/text messages from my LTE watch. It never really worked great, but my old Samsung Gear had such a feature the carrier somehow linked it to my phone number. Why does the phone have to be involved?

      I realize this isn’t as simple with the bulk data approach since I could theoretically on on AT&T while my phone # is Tmobile, but I still don’t see what it has to do with anything Apple does or doesn’t allow. It’s between the carrier(s) and my watch.

    • inSyt

      I agree, they can make watch the independent of your phone, like they are currently doing on the 945 LTE anyways. But let it have it’s own phone number. This is how Xiaomi does it. The LTE is there more for you to make calls and messages, rather than to receive them. Obviously you can give out your LTE watch number to people who will really need to get hold of you during your runs/cycles. When you within bluetooth reach to your phone, you can once again receive your smartphone notifications. Some of us have smartphone notifications on our watches switched off anyways?

      Also, why do we not have DeLorme satellite connectivity technologies on our Forerunners? Seems like a better option for what they offering with LTE at the moment.

    • ChrisTexan

      It’s significantly harder than most casual responders think it is to more broadly support “cell services”, but it’s not SUPER “hard” (base “LTE” can be done with minimal chips/antennae, however, expanding it to support full data capabilities (such as needed for music streaming, and other data services) requires connectivity to GSM and CDMA networks (because depending on carrier and location, one or more of these options may be in place, thus, the watch would have to handle all those (and that all costs more for design/R&D, and takes space away from battery, or something else, or increases the watch physical size, all of which are going to drive up the price).

      Also, expanding the service options/availability to include full-blown SMS with much higher bandwidth/consumption for data, requires more extensive infrastructure AND more comprehensive carrier agreements.

      This certainly can be done. It is certainly going to cost a LOT more… to the tune of another cell-phone line ($40-50/month, instead of $6/month) and probably another $50-100 on the device up-front cost AND increased dimensions in some way if everything else is to be “kept equal”.

      So, can it be done? Sure… but it’s not something they can just “turn-on” without a lot of other pieces moving (technical, contractual, etc.) LTE “standard” service connectivity is pretty standardized to just a couple of standards globally (telecom never can have just one, firm, global, standard for anything)… BUT expanding it to full cell-service-plan quality SMS/data, adds in MANY more technical, AND regional requirements, SIM/ICCID changes (big problem there if you want your Verizon/USA watch, to work in a foreign market with different carriers/service options, for instance, it’s not going to)…
      Unfortunately it really is much easier to say “they should do…” by those unaware of the technical requirements to make it happen, than it is to actually “do it”.

    • Peter Z.

      The satellite connectivity would be a whole different set of antennas and that service is much more expensive

  4. Cat M1 isn’t designed to do bandwidth intensive things like streaming music, so if anybody is hopeful that streaming music is a firmware update away, don’t hold your breath (the spec is capped at 1Mb/s).

    • Matthew B.

      I mean, 1Mb/sec could easily stream low quality music, but I agree on the overall point.

    • Interesting tidbit, good to know on that bandwidth limit!

    • Dave Lusty

      Interesting, you’re probably the only person who knows it supports 1Mbps and at the same time the only person who doesn’t realise high quality MP3 is only 320Kbps! Given that it’s playing from a watch to wireless earbuds while running I can’t imagine it would even need that much. I’d imagine it would still suck power though, and I don’t think that many people are that bothered by the way Spotify currently works. I agree that we’ll likely never see it on this generation of device, Garmin rarely add anything that big after launch

    • Joseph

      Even with the bandwith limit, there should be enough for streaming. For online streaming service, the maxium streaming quality in kbps for Spotify/Deezer Premium 320, Apple/YouTube 256, Pandora/Amazon 192, and Deezer Free128. This rate is based maimly on AAC or MP3 formats. There are exceptions some FLAC or WAV require 990 kbps or higher, but the quality would be loss over bluetooth connectivity which makes moot to use those formats in first place. There may be some high def bluetooth headphones that might be handle it but then those headphones are not sport orientated headphones. Regardless with the changes in technology and new codecs there are still a lot of possiblities.

      Personally I prefer to download the music to my watch or device. I don’t have to worry about connectiviy issues. Also I use bone conduction headphones because I like to be more aware of my surroundings. HiDef music quality is not the important to me. As long as I have something to keep me focused and distracted from boredom or mental anguish, then I am happy.

    • Gregory

      I doubt the music streaming is what’s keeping people away. Spotify works pretty darn well and it’s easy to download. It’s the lack of two way messaging that will doom this, especially if you are paying for a fee. Most people on bikes already have phones with them, so I think the help support is of limited use, while runners who don’t like to carry phones, would find this more helpful, esp for two way “get home for dinner” texts, or I’m lost and will miss dinner

    • inSyt

      Ah, probably why syncing music still requires WiFi. So we unlikely to see music syncing coming via a software update. Bummer.

  5. tfk, the5krunner

    Ray, thank you for this it was very informative and confirmed some of which we perhaps half-guessed at.

    I totally get the value of safety/security. $6 a month? probably worth it for some.

    I don’t buy it that Garmin is focussing at all on a sporting LTE service. $6/mo for the sports-lte services that have so far been announced is simply not worth it (livetrack+workout sync). There will be some takers of course.

    Not including SMS functionality over LTE means Garmin is not focussing on convenience. Personally, I would never use that but thousands of your other readers would. but they cant.

    No phone calls? fair enough. That would require mic+speakers with subsequent waterproofing issues or decent and sometimes inconvenient earbuds

    I get the bandwidth issue. Not including Music functionality over LTE means Garmin is not focussing on convenience AND COMMON SPORTING USAGE. Personally, I would never use streamed music in that way – thousands of your other readers would. but they cant.

    I’d say LTE was dead in the water as a sports service for tier-2 watches. Maybe an Edge 1040 LTE Solar might change the picture? Maybe a Fenix 7 LTE might change it as well…but what’s the use of LTE in the wilderness when there’s no signal? There is no point…

    • The Real Bob

      I like your site also 5k, cheers.

      100% agree, I think they missed the boat by not allowing texts from the watch. I think phone calls and such were not necessary, but having the ability to text from the watch would have been a huge plus for many. As for me, I really don’t mind carrying a phone while I bike I have 3 shirt pockets and it fits in the right one rather nicely! I am not sure I would go biking without my phone even if this had two way texts. But I consider myself the average rider, 3-5 times a week mainly mountain biking. I don’t race anymore, nor do I care to. I am not targeting KOM’s on strava. I bike purely so I can eat food and not get fat! I think there are a lot of people like me, but who knows, maybe I am wrong.

    • JR

      I’m mostly inclined to agree, but Ray is right about how much LTE coverage has improved. I’ve spent tons of time in the backcountry, ever since the 90s, and in the last 5-6 years, I’m consistently amazed at the places where I get service. Maybe not streaming a live EPL match in 4k service, but I have no trouble sending texts in a lot of places that are pretty far from civilization. Of course, the issue is that if you’re risk averse enough to upgrade your watch and pay a monthly fee, you’re probably risk averse enough to just have an inReach Mini when you’re in remote areas. (And if you’re solo, you probably should.)

      If you’re not someone who spends time in really remote areas, then it’s hard to see why you’d ever need emergency services from your watch.

    • Yeah, I agree the key thing I want to see on a V1.5 (service/platform/whatever) is the ability to send simple ‘check-in’ type texts, without triggering an emergency.

      The same template style top 10-15, plus the rotary keyboard. Stuff like:

      – Running Late
      – Running 15 mins Late
      – Got a flat, all good, will be late
      – Can you come pick me up?
      – etc..

      And then just send the map and allow the respondant to respond using the website. The problem with texts is it spins up an entirely different set of challenges. Not saying no, but honestly, I don’t want to deal with people texting my watch number as if that’s another way to get ahold of me.

      Essentially, if you’re important enough to be on my auto-LiveTrack list, then you can text my watch. Which, is like one person. 🙂

      Just my two cents.

    • Martin

      Great to hear a bit more about Garmins thoughts on LTE.

      Do you know if you will be able to continue the workout after triggering an emergency (to write home) if using pause and then resume later?

      For two-way text, maybe one solution would be to allow you to post a selection of predefined messages to your LiveTrack (for example “I have a puncture” or “Minor injury, walking home”). For me that would solve any messaging needs I would have during an activity.


    • Sean W.

      Ray – i think you nailed it here! I hope Garmin is listening.

    • Greg

      Make it an email if they can’t do texts, or part of garmin app. Something at least to show a response

    • Jason

      I don’t think it would be unreasonable to just require bluetooth for phone calls. I’m never out on a hike/run without them anyway. I don’t think anyone expects to be able to be Max Smart 😉

    • inSyt

      If they allowed the watch to have it’s own eSim, like smartphone makers like Xioami does, then only people who you specifically give out your watch number will be able to contact you. This way you can still use LiveTrack while switching off spectator messages but letting seriously VIP people contact you?

      BTW, really cool post!!!

    • The more I’ve thought about this, the less of an issue I think the one way communication is. I’ve been thinking about how my wife uses live track when I’m cycling and she likes seeing where I am to estimate when I’ll be back. She sends me messages via text when I’m out riding since they pop up on my computer and there isn’t an expectation of an answer. She knows I’ll see it. It’s pretty useful for letting me know if I can meet her at a park or coffee shop with the kids instead of at home. This would allow the exact same communication.

      The only time I’ve ever needed 2 way is when I’ve fallen. This is much more an issue on my bike and I’ll always have my phone on me. Battery life on the phone isn’t an issue…live track uses nothing really. And in the case of a rare (but it’s happened) running emergency, I can still reach her. Which I can’t do now.

    • Marcin

      I’m glad you mention it, which means there are probably more people thinking like me.

      Being able to reply to texts and send them to those few important people (namely, my wife) would mean I’d never have to take my phone running again, which would easily justify this somewhat high price (as of now).

    • Alex Fuller

      Is there a patent limitation that’s keeping Garmin from rolling this out?

    • Nah, they actually have it on their Edge devices, for certain phones. I think this is more of ‘a lot of things to implement and only so much time to do it’.

    • Peter Z.

      I’m wondering if two way texting could be something they are able to add with firmware update. Not an insignificant feature but seems like the capability is there. I don’t quite understand what Apple is restricting, but I know I can only use short replies from my Vivoactive 3 on Android, not iPhone.

    • Peter Z.

      Ray, is this something that would work with iPhones too? I know my Vivoactive 3 can’t send short replies to iPhones (or at least could not originally)

    • Jeff


      It is the killer LTE feature. Basic watch-initiated two-way SMS, so you can actually leave your phone at home.

      Bonus points: contact-initiated (limited to user-defined set of contacts) messaging, from a website if necessary, ideally where the contact could send you a list of potential responses to choose from, i.e. “Honey, I’m getting take out, what do you feel like?” => “(1) Tacos (2) Pizza (3) [type custom response]”

      Without 2-way messaging, even in such a limited form, I’ll still be carrying my phone, so what’s the point?

  6. Leo Wiggins

    Very informative Ray. Thanks for doing the in-depth research and story. Looking forward to what Garmin will do in the Fenix and Edge product lines. I’m not up for making phone calls from the watch, but I do like the added safety net when out and about on the hiking and biking trails.

  7. Joseph


    Have you consider syndicating some of your articles write-up? Your objectiveness and insight are incredible and appreciated from many of us. After reading other tech writeup and reviews from other major new sources, I usually am annoyed by their marketing angle and utter lack knowledge from many of these other journalists. I am glad that I am DCR support and I will continue to be. Keep up the great work.

    A big thanks!!!

  8. Sean W.

    Great followup article Ray.

    I think a lot of people would be willing to take the plunge here (myself included) if they knew that – IF – Garmin decided to support two-way non-emergency txting with folks on your contact list that such a feature would come to the 945 LTE via a software/firmware update. As you said, the plumbing is there – but i could also see that being a feature added to future watches without being added to the 945 LTE. That could leave you looking at your $650 investment a year or so later and thinking – dang. I can see arguments both ways. On the one hand, Garmin did push out a bunch of new features to the 245/645/945 models just recently; so there is evidence of Garmin supporting older models with new features. On the other hand, making two-way txting available to 945 LTE users may hurt sales of a future 9XX model. I guess time will tell!

    • Yeah, I’d really hope that a non-emergency basic text to defined contacts feature, which, they largely already have the plumbing for, could come in an update to the FR945LTE (if such a feature were to occur). I think it’d go a long way to demonstrating that the FR945LTE isn’t a Middle Child.

      Thanks for being a DCR Supporter!

    • While great in theory I suspect that Apple would not react well to attempts to circumvent their “no texting from a connected device unless it’s an Apple Watch” mandate. The ultimate sanction could be banning Garmin apps from the App Store which would almost certainly lead to a whole host of other issues including antitrust suits. Though at least Garmin is big enough to challenge Apple in court if necessary. And frankly I’m surprised they haven’t done so already — closing out text replies from all but their own devices seems to me to be hugely anticompetitive.

    • Paul S.

      They’re talking about the watch sending a direct text to the SMS network over LTE, not via the phone. I don’t see why Apple would have any say in that.

    • Correct, the Apple limitation is specifically that Apple does not permit 3rd party hardware devices from sending text messages via iMessage. 3rd party hardware devices can send regular text messages all day long via their own LTE connection, or even via text message platforms like AWS/Azure/etc… (lots of things do).


  9. Taniwha

    Merci beaucoup for this post.
    There is probaby no need for me for a year long subscription but i’d surely pay the equivalent of a month subscription for a live tracking event.
    I’m pretty sure there are plenty of need regarding LTE.

  10. There are lots of Android based watches usually made in China that allow one to add a sim card and it works well as a phone, in Europe at least. For example the new Lemfo 14 4G smart watch. They just aren’t decent fitness GPS watches, although they try.

    It’s a shame that Garmin can’t add this “accept a sim card” technology.

  11. VFR

    Good move by Garmin. I would love to see a smaller “senior” focus fitness watch. Something like that would be great for the seniors in my family.

  12. Lee Weikert

    It would be interesting to see of they would offer a discount or include this functionality if you already have an InReach device and a subscription for it. Alaska is big and there are lots of places you can get to relatively quickly that have no cell service of any kind. I’d happily get a Edge 540 LTE if my InReach subscription included the LTE service (even if it’s just discounted).

    • Doug

      I also ride in areas where cellular coverage can be spotty, or non-existent. Over the last ten years I have ventured more into the world of gravel and MTB riding and often find myself with “No Service”. That’s why I always ride with an inReach Mini. It’s basically a satellite connection to a Garmin app on my phone that allows me to text (Garmin text) and communicate with people via satellite. But that means I have a watch, bike computer, phone and inReach. It would be nice to combine the LTE and the Satellite communications into one convenient device, or simply offer satellite coverage in a watch form.

    • Andy

      Personally better integration would be my priority at least in short to medium term. Always have a watch, normally have a phone, mainly an edge, take the inreach when I think I’ll need it. Would be nice if edge/fenix seamlessly decided whether to use phone or inreach for tracking/messaging/emergency response.

  13. GLT

    Thanks for the follow-up with more background details.

    Their existing feature set makes sense to me & seems self-consistent. They didn’t set out to make a comprehensive communication device, so the end product is not one.

    Would certainly agree that more two-way dialog would be convenient, but the upper bound on that may not be very user friendly regardless. Answers to some of the basic questions can be inferred from the user’s LiveTrack. For complex dialog, are you really running after the third question+reply or are you waiting for the 4th question? The least expensive feature phone is going to look attractive for that scenario no matter what Garmin does.

    • I agree, I’d hope that after 1-2 volleys back and forth, the non-running party would get the hint and stop texting. Then again, maybe not.

      But I could also see scenarios where if one was in a non-emergency bad spot and had to wait 60-90 minutes for a family/friend to come get them, being able to check-in here and there could be useful (or provide updates on when they’d arrive).

  14. Sean K.

    Just a wee bit of a correction here:

    “Their first consumer-focused cellular device was the little GTU10 – Garmin Tracking Unit 10, launched more than a decade ago.”

    nüvifone™ G60, A10, A50, M10, etc, and even earlier Garmin mobile devices… Garmin has a long history of cellular devices that predate the GTU10. Joe H. actually knows about those and so do I. 🙂

    • Ohh, that’s a good point! I was mentally thinking sports & fitness focused devices, but yeah, there was the whole highway exit ramp of Nuvifone’s! Talk about a trip!

      And for those curious, those started in 2009 (release anyway).


  15. Chillfmm

    Garmin cellular experiments were not limited to the GTU10. Anyone remembers the Navtalk and nüviphone?

  16. Hmm, been waiting for this since I swapped out my 935/945 (multiple issues) for an Apple Watch 5 then upgraded that to a 6 with cellular.

    It’s very liberating to run without a phone and a few times I’ve taken family calls which has been more useful than expected.

    Definitely agree they’ve missed the boat without even precanned text messages.

  17. Claus

    Excellent article, with good explanations.

    Still undecided if I should swap my trusted 920xt for the 945lte or std. 945.

  18. giorgitd

    Perhaps Garmin is concerned that their LTE system would be unable to support emergency users in the way they expect if, eventually, every (or nearly every) Garmin device had LTE capabilities that included the expanded functionality many seem to want – two-way comms w/o dropping the activity, two-way texting, music download/streaming. Just imagine if the Garmin LTE network gets bogged down with users listening to Lady Gaga and discussing dinner menus. Then, a real emergency gets dropped or delayed resulting in a bad outcome that could have been avoided if LTE was not so comprehensively utilized. I have no idea of the capacity of Garmin’s LTE. But sometimes, you know, my Verizon SMS comms get a bit delayed at peak times…

  19. Chris

    I guess you can always tell your spouse – I’ll trigger an emergency alert if I’m going to be late. Ha ha ha

    I was hopeful for the day LTE showed up – but maybe by 2023 they’ll get the bugs worked out.

  20. Tjip de Vos

    Great article thanks!

    Running is one, sailing or kitesurf (rescue) is another. Report an SOS and 5 min later you could be much further from that location due to waves and tide. And mostly in darker water… So I’m curious to see what happens with that “segment”.

    I hope it’s ok to ask here, as a young entrepreneur in “subscriptions”, I’m curious where you all stand from a pricing point of view. What would be an acceptable price for both:
    1. Watch purchase
    2. LTE/Mayday service subscription


  21. Ed

    Hope Garmin is reading. The demand for sms and calls is there and would support the monthly fee. Otherwise it’s just a niche technology that will have limited uptake.

  22. Boss

    This is exactly what I’ve been waiting for for my dad. I only need it for emergencies and he doesn’t have wifi, and those wrist-bricks only last a day (or any lte smart watch).

    This is a gen1 device people.

    Think 955 and beyond.

  23. Samo

    I’m a Fenix 5 Plus user, so I won’t be buying a FrontRunner watch in any case. However, I’ve been waiting for YEARS to be able to buy a watch (or a bike computer) with standalone communication capabilities. Unfortunately, the current offering is just not enough, even if it appears in next Fenix.

    What is want is simple: standalone text messaging (via SMS) and a standalone internet connection that can be used by CIQ apps. I don’t really need a way to make phone calls with my watch, much less stream the music. Just please give me messaging and always-on internet.

    I would need these capabilities much more on my Fenix than on my Edge, as I’m used to riding with my phone anyway. The challenge is, however, that it is probably much easier to find a space for a SIM slot (or eSim) inside an Edge than inside a Fenix, so I think when Garmin comes to their senses we are much more likely to see this in bike computers than watches. I would upgrade both of them in an instant, if such connectivity would be available.

  24. Phil

    A note regarding the cellular Kindle comment: I’ve used two different kinds of cellular Kindles, several 3G Voyages and one LTE Oasis model. The cellular access on all of them is completely transparent, as in, Amazon takes care of all carrier interactions and transactions – I don’t have to pay anything for the cellular access (other than the up-front premium on the device) or see the device appear on my phone bill.

    Based on what I’ve read here, the Garmin model is very similar, with the only difference being the size and spending ability between the two companies – Amazon can afford to eat the cellular fees and Garmin has to pass on at least part of those fees.

    • Yup, that’s true. Though, in Amazon’s case, you’re the data is indeed incredibly small and also, it helps that either you’re paying a subscription (Prime) or paying on a per-book basic (everything not covered by Prime).

      But yeah, super small amounts of data. And of course that Amazon famously will take loses on things for years to make it work well at scale. While inversely, Garmin is famous for being very fiscally conservative on their product choices. Silicon Valley, Kansas is not. 🙂

    • Phil

      Is it that small compared to biometric data? I’ve never looked at the files coming out of a Garmin device so I don’t have a feel for their relative sizes. Audiobooks can get fairly large (dozens of MBs), as can personal PDFs (probably limited by one’s email attachment size limit without going the USB route).

      You’re absolutely right about the costs – we pay for the cellular fees one way or another. I always thought they were just rolling the fees into the cost of the books. It might he that the long-term data usage for a watch is too high to boil the cellular fees into the up-front cost of the watch.

      Speaking of LTE, I upgraded to an FR945 within the last couple of weeks and had been getting confused about all the references to LTE connectivity “available on some models” for assistance features while reading the setup directions. I guess this whole FR945LTE release business explains why! I’m curious if/when the instructions were modified, whether they mentioned LTE when the FR945 was originally released?

    • Yeah, audiobooks would be more.

      Straight-up recorded .FIT files aren’t that much (about 50-100KB per hour, typically). I don’t have a good handle on how much the tracking is per minute/hour in LiveTrack. I couldn’t imagine it would be more, but there’s also network overhead traffic with keeping that connection alive. Either way, we’re still talking super small amounts in the grand scheme of things.

      As for the instruction changes, yeah, they’ve been slowly slipping out the past few weeks in various Garmin Connect updates. One or two DCR readers noticed it as well. Sure, Garmin had stuff on their own site and retailers about the models, but this was deeper into various parts of the app as you noted, and not something the regular user would likely have noticed as they’d have had it setup already.

    • ChrisTexan

      Figure 20-30% network overhead, on top of your file sizes per hour, and it’s… nothing, pretty much. Hence the very cheap service agreements Garmin can negotiate with carriers worldwide given a per-user fee of $6/month…
      These aren’t criticisms, but expansions on the “seems simple enough” at the surface discussions, that really… aren’t.
      Somewhere above is a discussion on “320kbps” MP3 (or similar streaming method services) being worth doing on a device like this… THAT puts one challenge in great perspective, the difference between this service, and “full-blown” data/streaming services…
      To stream one audio stream to an LTE watch, at a (more conservative) 128kbps rate…. means that in 8 SECONDS, of music being streamed, it would consume the equivalent of an entire HOUR of “LiveTracking”…. (assuming fit-file sized packet transmissions). The LiveTracking of course, isn’t “live tracking” as in a real-time bi-directional communication to/from the watch… it’s the Garmin servers (receiving the data from the watch in chunks mainly) handling the live-tracking applications to the recipients and applications.

      So for perspective (I’ve already posted on the potential problems/costs)… extrapolate, $6/month for 120KB/hr anticipated usage (cost Garmin is charging for the service… which actually includes the “service center”, etc, so I’m going to re-adjust this down for carrier-access portions)….

      Let’s say it’s $2/month for 120KB/hr carrier usage (with extremely low overall utilization, meaning, it’s only being used a few hours a month on average per person, if at all in most months) for the “carrier network access fees” for the LTE part of your monthly bill.

      Given 99% of users probably won’t use this service more than a few hours a week for the tracking features… so let’s say the real anticipated “carrier traffic” is 8 hours a month/user (2hrs per week, which is still way high, since most will NEVER use the feature on a typical week, but let’s just start with that)…

      So all-told, based on 8hrs/month, contracted carriers anticipate bandwidth of 8192KB of data via LTE traffic, and Garmin is passing the carrier fees (for all carriers across the world that they’ve gotten contracts with) to users at $2/month estimate (the other $4 is for running their emergency center features)… feel free to shift those any way you like, bottom line, it’s “nothing” per month pretty much from a consumer standpoint.

      Now, open this up to streaming music… utilization will go WAAAYYYYYY up!! Every time someone goes out for a training run, they’ll fire up their Spotify/whatever… and start streaming at 128kbps (or 128KB/8 seconds). Quite literally, in just over one minute (64 seconds), Joe5k has consumed an entire month of the data amount compared to the simple Garmin services… so…. based on that, carriers should pass-along the cost to consumers at a rate of $2/minute. And Joe5K runs 4 days a week, for an average of 8 hours a week… 4 weeks a month…

      Now, obviously, given this, you’d choose at this point, to use a normal cell carrier plan at $50/month or whatever… but now the next problem, which one???

      “I’ll add my watch to my Verizon plan”… okay, well, that’s not going to help you in the Alps, the Andes, Zimbabwe, etc if they aren’t in Verizon coverage, or use different signaling…. you’ve just eliminated the (near) global agreement solution that Garmin is working with all the carriers for, so that this watch can work ANYWHERE globally regardless of carrier…

      “Make it with interchangeable SIMs”… well, 2 problems globally, not all cell transmission standards are the same, so more hardware has to go INTO the watch (more cost, size, weight, or sacrifice battery, or something else, etc (point of my other post)…

      Oh, and there goes the waterproofing/durability… unless you make it an “unbolt, change, bolt back together (also requires more internal size for the SIM carrier)… that’s not going to be convenient when traveling, to be sure, if it requires a trip to a Garmin authorized service center, to change the SIM and keep the chassis watertight/under warranty (repeat when you head back home)…

      Just sharing these thoughts of “real-world” challenges to this proposition. It is EXACTLY what my wife wanted last time she was watch-shopping (she wanted music on-board AND to leave her phone at home)… settled on FR245, got the music, and (for awhile) she ran without phone, I eventually convinced her “please don’t do that”… so I sympathize with what everyone wants, but it’s not trivial, and most importantly “globally-compatible” and “cell-phone full-featured data services” are almost mutually exclusive. Garmin is focused on the adventurer with this, and I think that’s the right focus. Featuring anything more, is going to require… well, more… size, costs, weight, etc.

      Maybe we’ll see that in the Fenix or Marq next-gens as a model that “has it all”?
      (You could keep the Garmin LiveTrack/emergency services with the $6/month plan, AND possibly carrier-enable a full-blown solution, in the same watch, so long as users understand that you aren’t going to get “full-blown” services globally… so that would be an option, again, “more for more” though most likely.
      My $2.02 for free.

  25. Great info as always. Would you clarify the LTE coverage, as in do you have to be in range of cellular towers? I’m assuming if my phone isn’t getting a signal on certain trails then neither would the watch. I use the Garmin inReach mini and it is excellent for staying in contact while in the backcountry or mountains where there is no cellular coverage. Would this watch still be able to send/receive like the inReach devices using satellite technology? Or does the inReach still have a use that cannot be replaced by this type of watch.

    • Correct, you have to be in range of cellular towers somewhere.

      As you noted, there are of course plenty of places that are outside of cell range (heck, even some inner-city bathrooms). That said, in general cellular connectivity is getting better and better and the number of previously mountain locations that didn’t have coverage that now do, continues to impress.

      But yeah, ultimately inReach is what you want if you’re going spots that may not have great cellular coverage. As ultimately, it doesn’t much matter if the spot 5 meters to the right of you has coverage, if you can’t move yourself there.

    • Tommy Morris

      LTE-M is designed to penetrate farther into buildings and to also have more coverage outside. The lower bandwidth means the signal strength doesn’t have to be as good to still be able to communicate.

  26. spinnekopje

    I do like the implementation of the LTE like they did here, just 2 things I would like to see:
    -messages on normal live track (like mentioned by others as well)
    -a monthly/yearly payment of half they price it is now. (that would still mean I would pay double the amount of money I spend on my phone usage..)

  27. pehash

    Great article. Thanks for going in depth about the value it actually delivers. While it may not be what everyone was hoping for (that is, to replace basic mobile phone functionality), it is clearly a well thought service.

    What I’d like Garmin to focus on for a while is “smart” watch bands. They could easily add more LTE antennas out some extra battery life that way.

  28. Henry

    How long will it last until the Garmin Edge Series will base on LTE?
    Is that not a logical step in further technical development?

    • I would assume it’s a logical step. Certainly, more cyclists carry phones than runners or swimmers, but at the same time, for longer rides this means you don’t have to worry about burning battery on your phone.

      I know for me, if I go out for a long summer ride through the mountains, there’s a pretty darn good chance my cell phone is dead or on a secondary battery pack by time I’m closing in on the finish line. Photos and such, but, maybe that’s just me.

    • Henry

      🙂 me too!

    • okrunner

      I guess I’m not sold on an Edge with LTE. Most (all) cyclists carry their phone. Where’s the incentive to pay $6 a month when you already have a phone with you. This is the same reason music on the Edge doesn’t make sense. People aren’t asking for music on the Edge because every single cyclist carries their phone. Additionally, if you were already paying on a watch, again, no incentive to pay on an Edge as well. I just don’t see this creating sales like I do LTE on a watch. Easy enough to carry an extra $5 battery backup or just shut your phone off until you need it allowing you to go days on your phone battery. If you’re going days, you’re probably using an InReach anyway.

  29. Christian Koehler

    I think even Apple does not do this well.

    Apple Watch LTE rquires a second SIM, this must be an eSim and it must use the same phone number as your iPhone.
    Here in Germany many phone contracts simply don’t have that option. As far as I know there are no suitable prepaid plans at all. Even on 24 month contracts the 3 network operators don’t support that with all plans. With virtual network operators or resellers it is even more difficult.

    Because phone contracts usually last 24 months, many customers cannot switch quickly, even if they are willing to switch. Companies cannot easily switch carriers when they have hundreds or thousends of avtive SIMs on a business contract.

    Even if you have a working Apple Watch LTE, you cannot use it when roaming internationally. Maybe no dealbreaker in the USA, but crossing borders in Europe is very common. Taking part in sports events in other European countries is very common, not being able to use the watch in that case is frustrating.

    I think Garmin is actually very clever in what they are doing. That Garmin LTE watch will be available to everybody while an Apple Watch LTE is not.

    • Pimalu

      Great point. But I can’t understand why Garmin LTE will work and Apple LTE not. To get into LTE system I guess you need a SIM (std or eSIM)

    • Tommy Morris

      Apple Watch is using run of the mill LTE (ie. full voice and data connection). The Garmin 945 LTE is using LTE-M. LTE-M is a different technology designed for Internet of Things (IoT) devices. The 945 LTE name is confusing because we all assume LTE on the watch will be the same as LTE on our phone, but that is not the case.

    • Christian Köhler

      With Garmin, watch and phone use seperate contracts. The watch can be combined with any phone on any contract on any network.

      Apple watch LTE must be on the same contract as the phone, you are limited to a few very specific options. Many people can get Apple watch LTE only if they change contract on the phone as well. This may be expensive, inconvenient, take a long time or it may not be possible at all.

    • Christian Köhler

      LTE-M is not a different technology. It is just a new device type category within LTE.

      LTE spectrum is devided into OFDM subchannels. 1200 subchannels in a 20 MHz spectrum. With a single antenna and the most basic modulation (BPSK) each channel can transport 0.015 Mbit/s.

      A LTE-M device is just a LTE device that is limited to 72 consecutive subchannels, single antenna, BPSK – resulting in 1.08 Mbit/s.

      An entry level smartphone (LTE-Cat4) can use all 1200 subchannels at the same time. 16QAM instead of BPSK quadruples data rate. It has 2 antennas – doubling data rate again. 1200*0.015*4*2=144 Mbit/s, commonly adversied as “up to 150 MBit/s”.

      LTE-M devices operate on a standard LTE network, the network just has to be aware of the limitations (usually a software upgrade in the network). Many LTE networks around the globe are compatible.

  30. Volker

    As some prescribers have already written, many users actually always have their mobile phone with them. So why spend another 6/7 €/$? Perhaps for a smaller field of users in competitions, when every gram counts – but the majority of users will actually not need it.

    But hey, nobody is forced to buy it. There will be people, who exactly want to have it. But not me.

    • Paul S.

      I wouldn’t be so sure that no one will be “forced” to buy it. Consider optical HR. Because of the way I use my Fenix 5+, I’d rather have a version without a built in HR monitor. But I don’t think that Garmin (or anyone else) makes a sports/outdoors watch without built in optical HR these days. So imagine that Garmin makes an Edge with LTE, and then decides that every Edge/Fenix/Forerunner/etc. going forward will have LTE. Do you spend a few quatloos a month to enable it, especially if Garmin sweetens the deal by offering capabilities that only work with LTE? (Further consider that maybe Garmin decides that with everything having built in LTE, it’s no longer necessary to enable the ability to use a paired phone to connect to the internet.) You might wind up paying for LTE without being “forced” to. (Or maybe Garmin will simply eat the costs of LTE as they inevitably come down.)

  31. Brandon

    I would think in time Garmin would be able to allow two way messaging through their LTE products inside the garmin com connect app. Creating a messaging system through there shouldn’t be that hard of an issue. Plus it would take a page from apples play book and draw more people to garmin products just as Apple locks down features to Apple only users.

  32. Christian Köhler

    Apple has very valid reasons to limit interaction with watches like this (not just preventing competetion). To sum it up: It’s a security and privacy nightmare.

    Because both the watch and the phone are allmost certainly behind NAT both devices can only communicate via an external server.

    Think about it: All your incoming calls (including number), your WhatsApp messages, your SMS etc. would be relayed through a third party server, possibly in a foreign country. The people calling you, texting you etc. do not know this, nobody asked them.

    This breaks end-to-end encryption, allows 3rd party logging as well as access by foreign government agencies, opens more doors for hacking. Possibly there are legal problems as well…

    You don’t have those problems with a watch that connects locally (bluetooth, WIFI…).

    • All of the things you noted already happens today for inbound messages/calls/etc, and has for years. That’s not what Apple restricts.

      Apple restricts the *outbound* instantiation of calls, iMessages, etc… from a connected device other than an iPhone. As Apple themselves testified during the Epic trial recently, that’s done purely not for technical/security reasons, but because they were concerned giving access to iMessage on other platforms would lead to parents giving their children Android devices instead, due to being cheaper. Interestingly, that restriction years ago on the platform side has basically made it’s way to wearables as well.

  33. Marek

    Thanks for the article Ray – I really enjoy reading the posts (and discussions) about broader features, product direction etc. I’ve been a reader and supported for years.

    Do you think that the LTE signal could be used to improve the location accuracy in highly dense areas, with tall buildings that make GPS inaccurate?

    I live in a large city, downtown, and I am a bit annoyed that a $500+ watch (I’m currently on Fenix 5 plus) can’t figure out that I’m running a straight line on the sidewalk. Instead, it has me jumping left and right and making leaps across city blocks that are humanly impossible to make. Every run and walk has 10ish minutes of highly inaccurate data at the beginning and end. Meanwhile, the cheapest phone + Endomondo (RIP) was accurate enough to know where I crossed the street. Thoughts?

    • Pimalu

      Hi Marek.

      First: Fenix 5 P or any device of that kind are REALLY REALLY OVERPRICED they could be sold by 70. That price comes from what the people pay, simple. Garmin was the king of GPS years ago, today is a “premium??” wirstwatch company….just that.

      Second: GPS reception/accurancy in BIG/HIGH TOWERED cities are a known problem. Things comes worst if you move slowly. In those enviroments that kind of devices need more than GPS sensors to be accurate because wirstwatchs have smaller antennas than smartphones. There is a data processing method called “soften” to avoid partially that kind of wrong recordings due signal bouncing.

      Third: expensive doesn’t mean more efective…. Garmin days are gone…there are a lot of way cheaper devices with same performance.

      I can’t belive that people pay 500/600 for a “not so smart wirstwatch”.

  34. Paul

    I do not believe Sync via LTE is a feature. If you have seen a sync while not connected to your phone, perhaps this is the watch syncing through a known wifi network?

  35. kembhootha

    Good read, thank you. Question – would the satellite subscription approach ( a la inReach) ever make it to the garmin wearables?

    The LTE approach still needs cellular network and I could assume that if there is a cellular network – then I might as well use my phone to send a message ( I hike and always have my phone with me – so I don’t see how the LTE would be useful here ).

    • I think we’re probably quite a ways from getting the tech that small. If we look at the newly announced Garmin inReach Mini 2, it’s an identical form factor.

      While Garmin re-using a form factor isn’t new, given we’re talking 4 years later, I’d have to believe that’s less a case of case re-utilization to save costs on an interim model, and more a case of ‘the tech is the tech’, I think we’re a ways from getting into a watch (or even a bike computer).

    • kembhootha

      Thank you, DCR. Not flattery – but want to say this – it’s a pleasure reading such in-depth articles and how you tie the ends / preempt open questions / covering the pre-requisites / providing history to each statement you make. Thank you.

    • Thanks – apreciate it!

  36. Steve Earnshaw

    Very interesting insight.
    I have to say that LTE availability is what’s holding me back from switching to Garmin for their Epix or Fenix products and their seamless integration to WOO apps.
    As an active Kiteboarder the emergency call safety net is a huge positive for open water kiting or even when I’m the only one out on nearby lakes.
    Please let me know when you see the availability expanding beyond a single running watch.

  37. MM

    Ray, fast forward 10 months and maybe now you can post an update to Garmin’s LTE strategy? I mean there have been exactly ZERO enhancements to the 945 LTE, plus the launch of maybe a dozen new high end Garmins with ZERO new LTE SKUs. Wondering if Garmin even *has* a strategy?

    • I agree that we haven’t seen other watches with LTE, but we have seen considerable updates for the FR945LTE, including some Fenix 7 features.

      If we look at the change logs, there’s been quite a bit.

      link to forums.garmin.com

      Including another set that just dropped in beta last week:

      link to www8.garmin.com

      Part of the reason we saw less frequency of updates late last year was simply that Garmin was basically tying the new updates for the FR945LTE to the Fenix 7/Epix releases (some of it more behind the scenes things), thus, they couldn’t release those things till the Fenix 7/Epix went out in January.

      All that said, I would have hoped to see some of the LTE-focused feedback in terms of added features/tweaks people wanted, to make its way by now.

    • MM

      My statement “exactly ZERO enhancements to the 945 LTE” was specifically in regards to the LTE functionality (given subject blog post is about Garmin’s LTE strategy). Agree there have been 945LTE firmware updates but *nothing whatsoever* to move the needle on LTE. I personally know several runners for whom a Late-for-Dinner-Message-My-Spouse (WITHOUT making it a 911 call / stopping my activity) is a deal breaker preventing purchase or at least subscribing to the LTE service. So it seems the current LTE feature set (for many people) falls short of a market worthy strategy, so I would have expected SOMETHING from Garmin in these 10 months.

    • AndrewAU

      Same boat here. Was seriously considering buying a garmin to replace my Samsung LTE watch and dumbfounded to find id need to pay a subscription to Garmin for another data service yet cant even make a call on it.
      eSim for my current provider allows me to get and make calls and access the Internet from the samsung on the same bill, data allowance and phone number as my phone service (pretty common here in Australia).
      The best bit is leaving my phone at home for short runs and still not missing texts or calls and having a fully functioning backup mobile phone (in a watch) should my main phone go flat or break in the middle of nowhere.
      This really seems more of a power play by Garmin to stay in control and make more ongoing revenue and pay for their emergency response centre. Good for them but not good for 99% their customers. To be honest i dont want to use their fancy emergency system. I’d be happy just to alert my own personal contacts who can get my location through live track and call emergency services directly if need be. The best bit is they could just call me and check if I was OK first if the watch had an esim that could take calls.
      I can just see Garmins centre getting flooded with emergency alerts (as pointed out the false positive rate on garmin devices is pretty high) and wasting emergency services resources, yet can’t contact the user because the watch can’t take a call.
      I really want Garmins health tracking as it looks like a game changer but I don’t really want to sacrifice the convenience of a samsung watch which is frankly a lot cheaper.
      Heres an idea, roll out a paid app for android based watch OS to pull all the health data into Connect and move the Garmin watch platforms to Android OS. All this stuff is baked in there and then Garmin only need to add their sports and hardware to that platform.

    • MM

      Hi Ray, your reply is 5 months old on this article (which itself is 15 months old). Still there has been zero new LTE-focused enhancements in the 945LTE, zero new LTE products (despite a full refresh of every Garmin watch that matters), not even a juicy internet fueled rumor. Maybe you could update (or even fully retract) this article and just concede that Garmin has no actual LTE strategy?

    • Is it plausible that the strategy doesn’t include sharing the strategy on the internet until a product/feature is ready?

  38. Joseph Reilly

    Id be perfectly happy with a separate number that I can just forward my calls and texts to and call/text back if needed when I’m away from my phone.

  39. Brad Lane

    Apparently the higher-up weren’t thinking the same as Joe since none of the new watches have LTE which is very disappointing for me as an ‘older’ runner. I don’t really care about the spectator functions but I love the peace-of-mind the safety features instill.

  40. Dave

    I am a 945 LTE owner and fan until recently with altitude issues. Garmin sent me a replacement, they’re pretty good about stuff like that. The bad news is there is an update (17.28) that creates a watch reboot on every single activity you try to use… run, swim, bike… doesnt’ seem to matter. It also is pretty much the primary functionality of a Forerunner device. I digress, I’m on replacement #3 in the last several weeks.

    I get the watch, set it up and then it updates… then reboots, generally less than a minute into an activity. Maybe I need to disable updates? Not sure if you can or not but here’s where I’m at. Garmin has offered to replace it with a 955 or I might just jump to a 965.

    The LTE was a very attractive feature with live tracking, particularly during events and in a few cases I’ve used it for non-emergency pickups. No need to carry my phone. Garmin hasn’t produced anything LTE since the 945 LTE model… any news on that?

    With the crickets as far as I’m concerned form Garmin doing anything with LTE and zero new watches with LTE it seems like I might as well just cut my losses and move on.