Garmin Changes Public Beta Program For Faster and Easier Access


Garmin has announced a set of changes to their public beta program, which they say are based on feedback from customers. While Garmin has had public beta firmware versions for a number of years, it was only a year ago that they formalized it into a cohesive program. That program allowed users to sign-up their watches to receive public beta firmware updates, including via WiFi and Bluetooth.

Previously, beta users had to manually connect their watch to their computer and download/install each update with a USB cable. As one might expect, that lowered participation – as well as lowered people remembering to update to the latest beta versions. Thus, the beta program a year ago meant once you signed up your unit, it would get the latest beta updates within a day of them coming out, as well as the final production version too.

Except, they also made one quirky change: They relabeled the earlier beta builds as “Alpha” builds, and then made those computer-only installs. By the time they got to the public beta builds, it was basically the final few days of the beta, and the feedback wasn’t as valuable anymore. In reality, this made little sense. Those public alpha builds were already internal-Garmin beta level quality, and historically would have been public beta builds. Adding a layer of manual-download to this process only limited the feedback Garmin would get. Also, it was just confusing AF as to which category things were in – without serving any real-world difference.

Today, that changes. Well, today for the Outdoor group, and Monday for the Fitness group. But either way, the change is essentially immediate. Here’s what’s changing:

1) All pre-release software is now just called ‘Beta’, no more public ‘Alpha’ term used
2) Beta updates will be divided into “Early Beta” and then just “Beta”
3) However, now you can check via WiFi to download those “Early beta” updates (what were previously Alpha updates)
4) For devices with WiFi, the menu option allows for instant checking and downloading of early beta updates
5) For all other regular beta updates, they’ll automatically download/install
6) For production releases, you can also now force-check within the watch, even before 100% roll-out

In other words, super boiled down, the big differences for geeks like me that care are:

A) Alpha naming goes away
B) You can now avoid grabbing the cable/computer
C) You can force the latest early beta/beta/production build immediately, via WiFi, from your watch

There’s literally no downside to this at all. This is purely upside. The singular gap is of course for non-WiFi products, such as the Garmin Instinct series. They don’t have a ‘check-now’ option like the WiFi-enabled products do, despite the fact that it could be triggered over Bluetooth. Garmin says they’re exploring how this could work down the road for those products, and they seem to understand there’s just as much interest in streamlining this process for Instinct/etc users as everyone else. Till then, they’ll just simply sideload any betas via computer/cable like they always have.

The only nitpick I’d have right now in the process is that there’s not any obvious way to know an ‘Early Beta’ update is available to go and check for. Sort of a ‘if a tree falls in the forest’ type of thing. Certainly, the goal is that you go to the Garmin Beta Forums on a regular basis and then know. But ideally, this is where it’d be cool to see a bit of Garmin Connect Mobile integration. For example, when an Early Beta (or even regular beta) is available for your product, to have it do a standard app push notification (e.g. like when someone comments on a Facebook post of yours). I could see Garmin waiting perhaps 12-24 hours for that push notification, just in case very early forum feedback indicates an issue. But something to let me know to check, with a link to the details of what’s changed, would be great.

In any case, Garmin is gearing up to start their next quarterly beta cycle. The company says the following products will be included on that beta cycle under the above new WiFi updating scheme:

– Edge 1040 Solar
– Edge 1040
– Fenix 7/Epix Gen 2
– Forerunner 255 Music
– Forerunner 945 LTE
– Forerunner 955
– Venu 2
– Venu 2 Plus

Again, the pattern you’ll notice is all of the above products have WiFi. That means that non-WiFi products like the Instinct 2 or Forerunner 255 non-Music won’t have the WiFi force-update option yet. Those products will just get computer/cable sideloads like normal for Early Beta. Similarly, I wouldn’t overthink there not being a beta program for the Forerunner 265/965 yet. Historically Garmin has waited a little bit before launching beta programs for just-announced products. Likewise, Garmin is confirming some details on the Fenix 6/MARQ in terms of the Force Update WiFi option, but they did confirm it’ll continue to get beta updates.

Finally, just in case you want to join the beta, you can follow the instructions here to get your device registered. Unless your device is registered, the beta updates won’t show up, no matter how many times you try to force update.

Expect that next quarterly release cycle to begin in the very very near future, where we typically see new features that tend to release to production about 30-45 days later, depending on the product and how things go. It’s expected we’ll see some of the new Forerunner 265/Forerunner 965 features launched on the Fenix 7/Epix/Forerunner 955/255 units, such as wrist-based running dynamics.

With that – thanks for reading!


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  1. TomTom

    Damn! Although I like Garmin, I’m afraid to download their official updates, not to mention beta stuff 😉 Still remember altimeter mess on Fenix 5 Plus, when they tried to fix it couple of times and made things worse. Hopefully they’ll find someone willing to sacrifice their time and nerves 🙂

    • Yeah, I mean the Fenix 5 Plus was literally half a decade ago. 😉

      A lot has changed since then, and thankfully when it comes to software updates, for the better. Given how many thousands of people have signed up for the beta program, it stands to reason they’ve found those someones.

    • Leon

      Hey is Quatix 7 also getting this update?

  2. Dave West

    This worries me. I’m happy with the old beta system as the firmware is pretty stable by that point. However I’ve often had to check for software updates on the watch to get it to show. Now if I do that, there’s a chance that I’ll get the far less stable Alpha (now known as early beta). It reminds me of the Microsoft issues a few years ago where you really didn’t want to “check for updates” because there was a chance that the update would brick your system – simply waiting was much safer as the push update was more likely to be stable. Hopefully, any updates will be clearly labelled and we’ll get the choice of rejecting.

  3. I’m afraid to be a complete sorehead here, but I’d really like to see Garmin fix their official software releases first. I’m still stuck with a non-functioning Index S2 — as I understand it, they messed up the wifi implementation and now customers are actually adviced to take their scales to a friend’s or family member’s house to try and update it on a different, old 2.4GHz network. Mind, this is due to an official firmware update. So no thanks to any Garmin beta program.

    • I’d agree (pretty strongly actually), that the beta program is the best way to fix things. Setting aside the Index scale, Garmins public beta programs over the last 2-3 years have pretty dramatically increased software quality and reduced bugs.

      Is it perfect? Of course not. But it’s a heck of a lot better than it used to be.

      I’d say the next step for Garmin is figuring out how to consolidate onto a truly single wearable OS codebase (save perhaps Instinct), so that they can minimize having to fix the same bug upteen different firmware versions/devices. None of which really solves your scale of course…

    • Interesting take — thanks. I just thought of the beta program as a way of getting new features earlier, but you’re right that it would/should really help early bug fixing. Strangely, I didn’t really think about it like that before.

    • Joxeme

      Same as me, tried to update the FW via iPhone Hotspot but didn’t work…

    • Eli

      The code bases seem more similar than they used to be. Sure, lots of room for improvement. Guessing connect IQ helped somewhat there, going from a large amount of screen sizes, shapes, and resolutions to way less now. More headroom (cpu, memory, and storage) to work with makes it easier to not have to over optimize and make each different. Wonder how they will differentiate all the different models

      Hopefully their OS base is flexible enough to support the Edge units too. Most of the functionality from an OS perspective is the same

  4. I like to be on the beta program. No major hiccups lately. But then again, is been close to nothing lately for the 955…
    Sometimes it looks like 955 dev has halted and no more new stuff to users 🙁

  5. tim

    For its life, the 945LTE has seemingly been slow and infrequent to get updates. Some claim it’s due to the LTE radio requiring carrier approvals or additional scrutiny in some way.

    Maybe this holds true as since launch of the formal alpha/beta firmware program it’s inclusion also was a bit delayed and since being included has had 1 alpha and I think 3-4 beta / Release Candidates since.

    Do you have any insight here? For example, will we expect any “Early Beta” firmware for the device? Maybe more interesting or important – is this the firmware pace expectation we should have for a future Garmin device with LTE?

    Admittedly since getting sort of “caught up” it hasn’t felt quite as ignored, but for the first 12-14 months from launch it wasn’t clear it the device was being worked on or not.

    • Andrew

      Tim, I have the 945 LTE, and I have been getting lots of updates. So I am surprised by your comment. I don’t know what feature(s) the 945 LTE is missing. Could you enlighten me.

    • tim

      Hi Andrew,

      To directly answer your question – at this time the features seem basically in-line with it’s Garmin “peers”.

      My comment was more targeted at the first ~12 months of launch from the 945LTE. I think there were a small number of updates that were minor in nature and often left fairly obvious issues ignored or unaddressed. Since this past summer or so it did receive a major update (was it 6.04 alpha?) that brought it nearly in-line with the latest watch feature set and added quite a few improvements – much appreciated. The few since have only brought it even closer or further along (i.e. native and wrist running power)

      Still, on the various Garmin quarterly firmware announcements the 945LTE is often asterisked as a lone “update coming soon” (where its update aligning with peers is weeks to even months behind at times) and if we look at the Beta Program announcements for it vs, say, the 955 and Fenix 7 we can see at least a slight cadence difference.

      In approximately the last 9 months:
      The 945LTE has 5 updates
      The 955 has 7 updates (this is 7 months of time and basically since launch I think)
      The fenix 7 has 12 updates (the outdoor team is somehow responsible for heavy utilization of the beta program?)

      Each of these nuanced differences in hardware and launch date that could explain it all, but I think the 945LTE in general is either less staffed or has some additional complexity that causes it to have less reactive support and I merely wonder if we can pinpoint it on LTE itself or just the way Garmin is handling/staffing this model due to sales volumes or…?

      I think my personal issues remaining with the 945LTE are likely hardware limited – i.e. the smartwatch mode battery life for me never came close to their “up to 14 days” estimate. I think I may be able to see 10 if I charged to 100% and didn’t do any activities. In real life with pulse ox at night, ~3 hrs of GPS activity (90 min of that with LTE) per week and ~4 hrs of indoor activity (bike / swim) I probably get 5-6 days.

      If they launched a fenix 8 with LTE tomorrow I’d still likely buy it, but am slightly concerned LTE itself sort of weakened software support for the 945LTE more broadly. Over the years Garmin has been sort of known to release bugs in their firmware but we’ve been able to count on them to take care of us in the long run (get things sorted out), I hope they keep pursuing LTE watches while maintaining a high level of support / bug fixes we have come to expect.

    • msquared

      How about THE most basic killer LTE-specific feature which I simply cannot believe Garmin has failed to deliver (and I suspect may have now cost Garmin 2 years of lost potential LTE subscriptions) … while in an activity, let me send a simple “will be late for dinner” message to the wife

  6. Off topic but Ray, do you think we’ll ever see iPhone widgets from Garmin Connect Mobile? I’m not talking Lock Screen widgets (though that would also be great) but normal widgets. Strava has had them for quite a while but it would be really nice to see GCM watch metrics on an iPhone without opening the app.

  7. Jan M

    Still no beta for APAC, though 😔

  8. Kevin

    This is a step forward although I still find the beta program (on the 955, anyway), lacking. There is no way of knowing if your issue has been acknowledged or is being worked on. This results in duplicate posts, cluttering up the forum. There is the occasional comment from a Garmin representative, but this doesn’t usually go beyond “can we have permission to look at your data”. There are tags that Garmin can use to indicate an issue’s state, but these are rarely updated.

    • AtlasShrugged

      Good point. It wouldn’t take much for Garmin to share what they are working on or to tag features as WIP. I’ve been reluctant to share bugs because there’s been so little interaction. Instead I just wish and hope that bugs disappear with the next patch.

  9. Jake

    Assuming that Garmin continues to announce any beta releases through their announcements forum, if you click on ‘Turn forum notifications on’ at the very bottom, you’ll receive an email when there’s a new beta release, enabling you to then check for updates on your watch. It’s a closed forum, so you won’t get any junk notifications.

    • Jarda

      Exactly. I just wanted to mention the same. This has been working fine in the previous release cycle, sending email notification with changes for both alpha and beta builds.

    • Yup, I’ve done the same as well, and it’s handy.

      That said, having something a bit more tied into Garmin Connect Mobile would be slightly more polished. 🙂

    • Eli

      Sometimes having hoops to jump through can improve the beta. If there is some bad bug there is a greater chance the user being more technically proficient to be able to handle it. (follow manual steps to fix something) Don’t want everyone to jump onto the beta just to get features earlier

  10. Zoltán

    Whatever kind of hocus-pocus Garmin will announce in the coming weeks, months their beta/alpha/user test program seems to be/stay full with discrepancies and negligence.

    Example of how Garmin is structured, how Garmin appreciates the work of beta/alpha testers. Subject: being ticketed vs being fixed:

    “ There are 49 bug reports at the time I specified in the subject.

    Only 7 of 49 bug reports have been marked as “Ticket created”.
    there was 1 bug report, which was completed and closed on 28/12/2022. I mean from the 49 bug reports.

    There were 4 “waves” before launching Beta 24.81, but after the release of Public 24.10, namely the Alpha Versions 24.77, 24.78, 24,79 and 24.81.
    So none of the 7 bug reports ticketed have been fixed.
    Since then beta 24.84, 24.85, 24.86 and 25.00 were released and none of the bug reports ticketed (that is with “Ticket created”) were concerned.”

    more details at:

    link to

    Another example, this one about confusion within Garmin, subject: public/official release OR beta:

    link to

    • Neil Jones

      I do agree that Garmin could manage their alpha/beta feedback forums much better – giving better indication of what’s being worked on, filtering out all the feature-request posts, combining multiple reports of the same bug, and most importantly not releasing final updates with unfixed, serious bugs that have already been heavily reported by users in beta feedback.

  11. David

    I really wish Garmin would publish the markup format for their Theme format. Most map customization is done through themes now instead of typ files. But the included themes mostly rely on hardcoded defaults in the firmware so it isn’t possible to determine the field names for map lines if you want to make a custom theme. I’ve asked them via every conceivable means, but always ignored.

  12. rkt88edmo

    Is Venu 2 getting anything new? feel like I made the wrong choice, ugh!

  13. Stuart Brown

    Sadly Edge x30 devices not on the beta list – I’m desperate for them to fix the Training Status 2.0 issues since the Fenix 6 was updated.

    Nothing is synced from 30 series Edge devices, meaning the training status on those devices is totally broken and cannot be seen in the app. The only good news is setting the watch as the primary wearable seems to mean the training status calculations on watch and app are working, but not synced back to the Edge devices.

    I have an Approach S62 too – will that ever become training status 2.0 compatible or just another Approach half baked dead duck? I can’t use it as a daily watch at all currently.

    • Just a reminder, as noted above, that the list is specifically about those that will have the WiFi force update feature. It’s not about which devices will continue getting beta updates

      As for the x30 deices, that’s not true. Those devices sync in data just fine to Training Status 2.0 (Unified Training Status).

      Remember that a device won’t show as “Fully Compatible” on the UTS list unless it has Training Readiness. However, that doesn’t mean it doesn’t contribute. It just means it can’t provide a Training Readiness level response.

      If you have an Edge x30 device, and a Fenix 6, realistically I’d be setting both Primary Wearable and Primary Training Device to the Fenix 6. The Edge will update the Fenix 6 training status with the workout aftewards.

    • Stuart Brown

      Hi Ray,

      My bad, of course I was looking at from the perspective of ‘well the Edge x30 has Wi-Fi’…

      As none of my devices support Training Readiness they may sync in data to it, but I can’t see any of the data on any of the devices. I can only see Training Status (2.0?).

      The display of that only works correctly in the app and on the watch (I have the watch set as primary). Both Edge devices show totally different statuses depending on when they’re last used.

      Given I don’t have access to Training Readiness, I would much rather Training Status 2.0 synced back correctly across all of the devices. It makes the ‘my stats’ display on the Edge 1030+ redundant.

      It feels a bit poor of Garmin not to at least support Training Readiness on the Edge 1030 plus, it’s not that old. But if I upgraded that to a 1040, would I need that to be the primary device rather than the F6, or does it magically unlock Training Readiness? Or does that happen vice versa? Is there a nice table somewhere from Garmin showing exactly what works with what?

      I feel kind of stuck as to what device to buy next.

  14. Tim Wallace

    Will the Quatix 7 receive the same updates as the Fenix 7/Epix gen 2?

  15. Ray, Given the issues with Epix 2 Alpha 11.15, 11.17, crashing in X-C Classic, Skate, with HRM-Pro+, Pro, using ANT+. I would disagree with “Those public alpha builds were already internal-Garmin beta level quality, and historically would have been public beta builds.” Those were Alpha builds and since they were released in mid to late December it took a couple of weeks before the issue was fixed. I did upload a number of crash files to Garmin. These were the first time I have had a Garmin Alpha build cause watch reboots.

    • Yeah, I don’t doubt there will still be crash bugs – but that’s always been the point of beta – to identify bugs. In this case, I could see how a limited internal testing pool wouldn’t likely catch the XC skiing profiles with an HRM-PRO in Kansas in December. 🙂

      Ideally they’d have some sort of automated testing routine to catch that kind of thing, but…yeah.

  16. Henning Svane

    What if you do not have WIFI but Epix How will that work?


  17. Kiara

    Speaking of fitness watches, any thoughts on this article?

    link to

  18. Jiri Sladky

    I just downloaded the 13.09 “Early Beta” firmware to my EPIX 2 via WiFi.

    In the SYSTEM menu I apparently see probably a new item “Back Up & Restore” – somehow it works (Backup Up Now), but I would be quite interested in some details, what exactly does it do and what can be expected from it in the case of Restore?

  19. Pär

    How is the accuracy for wrist based running dynamics relative chest strap based? Same question for pulse?

    • Dave West

      The chest vs wrist based Heart Rate argument is a can of worms. Many people believe that we should only ever used chest because they feel that wrist is way off (often the same people that hate Amoled becuse they’re too bright and you can’t read them in sunlight apparently, except I can). For me personally, wrist is fine for everything except Intervals where it doesn’t respond quickly enough and DC Rainmaker would probably agree. That said that, if you have dark skin or tattoos under the watch it will struggle and you do it to be fairly tight at least whilst exercising.

      I have an RD Pod rather than the HRM Pro, but I’ve found that the Running Dynamics results are comparable. I miss not having left/right balance but everything else looks plausible.