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New Garmin Instinct 2 Series Beta Program Update Brings Wrist Running Power, Morning Report

It’s that time of the quarter where each of the different Garmin fitness/outdoor product quarterly beta programs gets into gear, and with it, we get to see the first slice of new features for each watch. Last week they rolled out the first alpha for the Fenix 7/Epix/Enduro 2/MARQ 2 watches, which brought a dozen new features including Jetlag Advisor, more sport profiles, and expanded Race Day features.

Last night Garmin posted the first Instinct Series 2 Alpha update in the Garmin Public Beta Program, which adds in a number of features that other watches got in the previous quarterly update cycle (such as wrist-based running power and Grade Adjusted Pace (GAP)).  This is available for all Instinct 2 Series watches.

As a brief reminder, Garmin switched to the quarterly release scheme for feature updates, but that also includes bug fixes too. As usual, other bug-fix updates can happen outside that schedule as needed – but the major features are being released quarterly now, and ideally all at once across all current-gen watches (or bike computers/etc…).  As part of that, Garmin has their Beta Program for each device model. That beta program starts with so-called ‘Alpha Builds’, and then after what is usually 3-5 weeks, escalates to ‘Beta Builds’. The Alpha builds must be downloaded manually to your watch using a computer, whereas the Beta builds automatically show up on your watch using WiFi/Bluetooth. Both are part of the ‘Beta Program’.

If you want to join the beta program, you can do so here, or I’ve written up instructions here.

What’s New:

DSC_5241

Now as with last week’s Fenix 7/etc series update, keep in mind that the first posted Alpha of the quarterly update train ride tends to be just the tip of the iceberg in terms of features. Meaning, they’ve historically added more new features as they go along. For example, we don’t see Connect IQ System 6 in this update set yet, but we know that’s definitely coming. Heck, even the Fenix 6 series got a Alpha update for that yesterday too. Same goes for unspecified gender support, one that the Venu 2 team added to their Alpha update yesterday, after seeing it in other Alpha updates over the past week.

You can generally look to other product alpha/beta releases to get a pretty good idea of what’s coming. Obviously, not everything lands on every watch, but, they do provide some hints. Also, again, this requires the cable to install, because it’s an Alpha build. Whereas the Beta builds would come down wirelessly (and the above picture would be more correct).

Here’s the official list of changes for Alpha version 11.08:

Added Morning report.
Added Sleep Mode.
Added Primary Race and Race Calendar glances.
Added Wrist-Based Running Power.
Added Daily Suggested Workout Improvements.
Added Grade-Adjusted Pace.
Added Backcountry Snowboard activity.
Added Physio TrueUp – Training Status Improvements.
Added RTS support for activity alerts.
Added temperature recording activity setting.
Updated phone app pairing flow to use PIN comparison.

Now, as a quick reminder, late last month Garmin released firmware 10.10 (production) to the Instinct 2 series, which while smaller than the list of changes for other watches, did include a significant sport profile addition. It added the Surf/Windsurf/Kiteboard activities to *ALL* Instinct 2 Series watches, whereas previously those sport profiles were only available on the Surf editions (which were functionally identical hardware):

Added Surf, Windsurf, and Kiteboard activities and the Tides app to all Instinct SKUs.
Added app-specific notification icons for the Garmin Jr. and Garmin Messenger apps.
Added an option to delete a copied activity from the device.
Added additional course point icons for new Garmin Connect course point types.
Added the setting for backlight behavior when a key is pressed during sleep.
Improved the power data screens by showing heart rate in the dial.

Note that I’ve only outlined the specific new features page, not all the ‘improvements/changes’ realm, nor all the bug fixes. All of those are listed in full here (and here for the previous 10.10 production build).

Random Notes:

So, just a quick look through some of the features. Some of them are self-explanatory, and some of them are worth a quick tap. The Morning Report has been around since the Forerunner 255/955 days, and is now on the Fenix 7/Epix/etc series as well. It covers the day ahead, as well as last night’s sleep. It’ll show things like planned workouts, HRV status (which the Instinct 2 series got in an update this past summer), as well as the weather. You can customize this on the Instinct 2 in the settings menu (Settings > Appearance > Morning Report):

DSC_5236 DSC_5237

Next there’s sleep mode. This is a subtle but super useful feature that was introduced with the Fenix 7 series watches a year ago, and essentially has a minimal sleep watch face:

DSC_5235

They’ve added wrist-based running power, which made the cut for virtually all other current-gen Forerunner/Outdoor watches in the last quarterly update, but the Instinct 2 didn’t quite cross the finish line there. Wrist-based running power means you no longer need to have any external Garmin sensor to get running power data. It also gives you a bit more flexibility for choosing which running power data you have (external Garmin sensors vs wrist, or simply off). That’s useful for Stryd users that may want to simply turn off the Garmin running power values, as they won’t be the same as their Stryd sensor.

DSC_5239 DSC_5240

I’ve previously done comparisons of the Garmin wrist-based running power when it came out. In short, it’s basically the same as the existing external sensor one in terms of the numbers.

Beyond that, most of the other changes are pretty straightforward. You do see the item listed: “Added Physio TrueUp – Training Status Improvements” on the firmware notes. In the case of the update last week, that was the beginnings of syncing more metrics via Physio TrueUp, including HRV Status (that and Body Battery haven’t been synced to date). It also meant removing the toggle for Physio TrueUp, as Garmin is going to a model where it’s simply always on, for everything (akin to what other companies have done).

In the case of the Instinct 2 and HRV sync, it does appear that plumbing groundwork is being laid. This Instinct 2 spent the night in the DCR Cave powered off in a box (without a firmware update). Whereas, on my wrist was the Epix, tracking HRV. After updating the Instinct 2 and letting it sync, I can see some HRV status details carried over:

DSC_5243 DSC_5242

Like the Fenix 7 HRV Physio TrueUp sync bits last week, it’s clearly unfinished. Both the actual HRV status label is missing, as well as the details of the night. But I do at least see the singular value shown (a record low night for me, no less…apparently that wine was strong!).  Again, looking at the pattern when Garmin introduced Training Readiness features to the Outdoor lineup this past summer, they worked in chunks, adding one piece at a time with each beta update.

And finally, they’ve added the Race Calendar and Primary Race widget glances, which show your upcoming races, as well as details about those races including predicted finish times.

DSC_5238

Sadly, my work finding a transparent Santa image for this race didn’t pan out, as it doesn’t appear the Instinct 2 supports the race logo/image feature like some of the other watches. Win some, lose some.

With that, thanks for reading!

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47 Comments

  1. Pim

    I’m just curious to understand if the RD pod or HRM-Pro/Tri-Run even have a reason for existence now that running power is there on the watch without external sensors.

    I understand that the Running Dynamics data itself is less useful and actionable in training hence should those hard spend euro’s need to go to other more useful items

    • inSyt

      You do need a chest strap for lactate threshold measurements?
      Chest strap is better when swimming?
      Chest strap is needed for sports like soccer that do not allow watches?
      RD Pod/HRM Pro might provide better accuracy (depending on what you are calibrating to) on a treadmill?

      Yeah the RD Pod/HRM Run (no on device storage, might as well get a cheaper $30 strap from Amazon) seems useless. The HRM Pro/Tri do still seem to have niche use case scenarios that might make the purchase worth it.

    • GLT

      RD pod and the advanced HRM straps read from the centerline so they can provide L+R analysis.

      HRV analysis requires an HRM, but not the latest & greatest.

    • Pim Flik

      Oh i totally get the accuracy of a chest strap is superior to a watch. I’m just wondering what the usecase for RD enabled items (rd-pod and Garmin straps such as Pro/Run/Tri).

      L+R Analysis, or oscilation etc.. is interesting, but not really actionable info to use in training.

    • GLT

      For me L+R is useful for detecting if there is a growing imbalance. I tend to not notice minor injuries or equipment issues and that sometimes leads to a minor imbalance that grows into a major imbalance.

      Agreed, most of the time the numbers are not actionable.

    • Ali Hafeez Azmat

      Will FR945 be blessed with these update goodies as well?

    • FR945 LTE I think is slated to get some, or already got them. Have to reconsile list.

      But FR945 is kinda end of road.

    • Ali Hafeez Azmat

      Thank you for your prompt response. Surprisingly fr945 and Fenix 6 had common grounds yet F6 is still being loved…

    • Steven Priefer

      My 255, on beta firmware, has running power wo the strap, and Garmin connect is showing GAP.

    • chrisgg

      For years, the L+R analysis from my Garmin HRM-Run was telling me my balance was way out; at least 45%-55%, usually worse. It made me feel there was something really wrong with my running gait. Nothing I could do would change it or influence it..not even hopping on one leg or the other leg. What good is a balance value when hopping on one leg makes no difference? Try it and see what you think. When the HRM (which was good for heart rate) needed replacing, I bought a Garmin RD pod instead. Lo and behold, it showed that there was nothing wrong with my L+R balance…even slightly the other way if anything, e.g. 51%49% sometimes. I therefore have no faith whatsoever in the HRM strap giving accurate readings for L+R analysis.

  2. Luke Selby

    For lack of a better place to put this, does garmin recognize different power zones for running and cycling? I’m a much stronger runner than I am a cyclist, so with the power zones set by my last FTP test my cycling workouts are evenly distributed across the different zones, but all running (even recovery jogs) are anaerobic levels all the time. Its weird.

  3. MBT

    Will Garmin ever give the Venu2+ some love? New features?

    • Dennis

      It appears to me Garmin hates Venu, 2, and 2+. I own all three and must still use my old 935 for power readings from my Garmin rally spd power meters?????
      Garmin PLEASE …at least make the venus’ capable of reading your own GARMIN POWER METERS????
      Thank you
      Dennis

    • MBT

      Power seems like an odd one for them to leave off of the venu 2. They sell Power meters and there are 2 cycling activity types. I’ve been scratching my head about this one for a while.

      I also think HRV Status should be added. Seems like every other fitness / wellness watch has this.

  4. Gregory Tate

    Has the Instinct 1 version become an orphan? Do you think there will be further updates to this old model?

  5. Aleksandar

    What is happening with FR 745, will he get any of the new functions ?

  6. Francesco

    Hi, I would like to ask a question regarding the instinct 2 GPS, don’t know if this is the correct place. My question is, why my sportwatch takes about 1 minute to get the gps signl ready? I had cheaper smartwatches with worst hardware taking much less time. Or for example any low level android mobile phone takes maybe 10 seconds to get the gps ready.

    • JimC

      Mine’s a lot quicker than that – I generally use GPS+Glonass, don’t know if that makes any difference.

    • Will

      are you moving many miles apart from when you last turned the watch GPS on?

    • Peter^

      Here are a few general pointers about GPS lock-on times:
      – Sync the watch before via Garmin Connect. This downloads satellite position data valid for the the next few hours or days. This helps the lock go faster.
      – Have good view of the sky from where you try to acquire a lock. The more of the sky you can see the more satellites could be a possibility.
      – Do not move around before the lock has been acquired – it takes a lot longer to lock onto a moving target.
      – Anecdotally, lock times are faster if you lock from the (close to) the same spot you locked before. If you travel far away, it takes longer the first time it locks in the new area.

      And do not compare a watch with a phone with regards to GPS, the phone (even if cheap!) will almost always win: It has more space for antennas, it has a much stronger processor to do fancy calculations, and it often has (or had) internet access to get up-to-date satellite positional data.

  7. Marty

    What do the numbers equate to on the main screen of Morning Report? There’s one big one then 2 below separated by a / …help!

  8. Kevin Smith

    this surprised me (or maybe I’m just not informed well enough). I thought the Fenix 6 would certainly get power before the Instinct. Have to be missing something, right?

    • Sadly, Garmin sees the Fenix 6 as old hat these days, and thus, isn’t receiving the majority of new features. Whereas the Instinct 2 series is considered a ‘current’ device.

    • youpmelone

      This is slowly becoming a joke.

      The watch should receive continuous updates up to the limit of the hardware.
      It’s hardly sustainable to throw watches out every 2 years.

      Garmin should actively support users wearing a watch until it breaks to set it apart from the apple watch crowd

  9. Peter^

    As a Stryd user I am happy my watch has *not* received power on the wrist yet – it creates a huge mess on the newer watches where you need to explicitly disable wrist based running power for each activity profile! If you forget one, you will have conflicting power information in your fit file.

    I wish Garmin and Stryd could sit together and figure out the issues in giving their users a premium integration. The situation right now is bad for both companies (and the users).

    Current pain points:
    – All Garmin running power related graphs/infos relate *only* to garmin running power
    – Same for any Garmin based workouts with running power targets
    – Conflicting/Double recordings of running power within the same fit-file are very poorly supported by most platforms and a weird thing to have.
    – No easy way to configure preference for running power. I don’t want to have to disable wrist power for every activity mode (Run, Trail Run, Treadmill Run, Track Run, Hike etc.), I want a central config where I can say: Use stryd for power.
    – Stryd “workout app” can be used instead of regular Run profile, but it has a lot less features and polish available than normal run-mode, since Stryd seems to need to implement everything afresh.
    – If instead you use the Stryd Datafield (Stryd Zones), you have no power based workouts, and the power display cannot be customized (you cannot have lap average power, average power, 30s averaged power, real time power etc. all as datafields, you can only have one).

    Any chance on this mess clearing up?

    • To be fair, Garmin added these options to the platform basically to placate Stryd users (the ability to disable power/etc…), following feedback from the initial launch back in June on the 255/955.

      That said, Garmin also noted back then that they see things as a first step towards eventually getting native power support from a 3rd party sensor standpoint too in running (e.g. including Stryd).

      Garmin is clearly showing they’re making progress on this already, given the added features – while also giving the other 99% of users what they want: Wrist-based running power. When exactly we’ll see native 3rd party running power sensor support in a Garmin device, I don’t know, but for the moment, the easy button of simply disabling it in a handful of running profiles is pretty straight forward to be honest. Most Stryd users are more technically advanced, so I don’t think this is a huge lift.

      Certainly though, for the other slate of reasons you outlined, it’d be nice for Garmin to support things natively for external sensors – just to keep it simple going forward (even if, as I suspect, the demand for such sensors is basically going to be non-existant in short order).

  10. Ron Dennis

    Hi DC, will the Crossover get the updated…..I presume it’s a yes, just hasn’t been mentioned yet😁
    Thanx🤘

  11. Phil Rowe

    Hi Ray,

    I stumbled across a possible answer to the “RTS Support for activity alerts” enigma in the Instinct 2 updates.

    Garmin has on some devices allowed you to change activity settings on the phone app and have them update on the watch even if you are in the middle of an activity (i.e. real-time). It seems they are now allowing this for in-activity alert settings also. I noticed the “RTS” expanded to “Real Time Settings” in the release log of the Alpha 11.09 update and googled my way to support.garmin.com/en-US/?faq=NKbZf5f3kp1XGwWRNmSOU9 which adds some context.

    Thank you for always creating such informative and useful content.

  12. DLC

    DC, I think you mentioned previously that Garmin was revamping the syncing platform, particularly True-Up for multiple devices to include Body Battery. Do you know if/when this will happen? Thanks!

  13. Paul Eshoo

    – Is there any way to edit the ABC hot key? I want simplify the barometer and altimeter data fields by removing the plots.
    – Is there any way to edit the SET hot key? I would like to add the moon phase to that hot key.
    – Is there any way to add the temperature reading from the watch (not from the phone) on the watch face?
    – Is there any way to remove the battery level and the date from Glances? They are on my watch face. Kind of rendundant to have them on Glances, too.

  14. Jessica Haley

    I’m curious your take on this. If someone already has an Instinct 2 and the Fenix 6s Pro is on sale, would you suggest upgrading to the Fenix line, or keeping the Instinct 2 and just upgrading each quarter?

  15. Robert Steib

    It’s time to replace the Garmin 735xt. The only improvement desired is a display that is brighter.. Which not-too-expensive Garmin should I look at? Not interested in other brands.

  16. Ryan N

    Does the Instinct 2 have the Ultra Running profile? The GAP addition is a huge plus for trail running.

  17. SF

    I am super excited about this update, can’t wait for it to become beta.

    However, I have one question regarding the primary race widget. The other watches that got it also got this dynamic daily workout suggestions feature allowing you to essentially create a coach for any race.
    Since it is not explicitly mentioned in the update content or in your blog post, can I assume that this feature will also be there on the Instinct 2?

    Thank you!

  18. Nick

    Seems the Instinct 2 and Forerunner 255 are becoming more and more of the same watch, except for look/design, solar (Instinct 2), and multi-band GPS (255). What do you think Ray? You had said the FR255 is a better watch in your review.

    • Yup, that’s actually their goal when I talked to them. That by and large the two devices will have the same software features.

      There are still some functional gaps there. Instinct has some stuff focused more on trails/etc, and even an odd quirk in that it supports Cycling Dynamics data, while the Forerunner 255 doesn’t.

      All that said, yes, I’d choose FR255 any day over Instinct 2, due to the multi-band, as well as display. But, I generally don’t prioritize battery life as highly as some might.

    • Nick

      Thanks! I’ve been stuck between the two for a while now. I primarily run (mostly road, some trail), some biking, but also hike and like doing outdoor activities in general. I don’t care too much about all the sport profiles as the FR255 seems to have all the ones I need. I’m also not looking for navigation on my watch, so seems the FR255 would still fit my needs(?). Any other trail “stuff” the Instinct 2 has that I should be aware of. The durability is a consideration, seems the FR255 would be more prone to scratches. I don’t have any of the cycling dynamics gear so not too worried about that, would mostly want a watch I could mount out front for distance, speed, and cadence.

    • Steven Priefer

      Stamina, Training Readiness, and Heat Acclimation are missing.
      Heat Acclimation is the only I miss since I have it on my cycling computer.

    • Stamina and Training Readiness though aren’t on the FR255 level priced devices though. Only on the higher end 955+ type devices.

      I don’t think Heat Acclimation is at the FR255 directly (I’d have to double check), though I know it is accounted for in the VO2max stats.

    • Ryan M.

      Looks like physio trueup has been switched to always on with the latest betas on the 955. There was no mention in the release notes about changes to trueup, but hopefully it’s one more piece in the rearchitecting.