This is the first time I’ve written one of these quarterly posts where I can actually put “Wearables” in the title, rather than specifically ‘Fenix’ or ‘Forerunner’ or ‘Epix’. That’s because Garmin is actually close enough now that all of these major watches are released within a few days timespan. The Forerunner series went first, then a few days later the Fenix/Epix/etc series. I suspect we’ll see Instinct squirreling around the corner here soon too.
Now, timing-wise it’s not all the same-day drop, but…we’re getting much closer to seeing that. Maybe next month (that said, there’s actually a perfectly good beta program/technical reasons to stagger these, mainly so that if something is found, it impacts a smaller group of people).
The Watch Details:
For this round-up, we’ve got the following watches (as of January 12th), as I said, I’m sure we’ll see Instinct 2 series units join it shortly. Here’s links to all the announcement release notes for each one:
Garmin Fenix 7/Fenix 7 Pro Series
Garmin Epix/Epix Pro Series
Garmin Enduro 2
Garmin Quatix 7
Garmin MARQ 2 Series (except Aviator)
Garmin Forerunner 255 Series
Garmin Forerunner 955/955 Solar
Garmin Forerunner 965
The Forerunner 265 beta update for some reason isn’t listed yet, but undoubtedly will show up any moment. The Tacitx 7 Series joins the MARQ Aviator, in not being in any beta programs (likely due to the aviation features and extra QA processes). While Venu 3 got a beta update too this week…I’m not including it here because it’s just adding jump rope. C’mon Garmin, there’s simply no reason a $449 watch should have less features than the Forerunner 255/265 have at lower prices.
In any case, in this set, there’s a slate of updates in these betas, but the main five new features (as I see it) are:
1) Adds Automatic transition mode for triathlon: Effectively mirrors what Wahoo and then Apple have, which automatically change sports
2) Adds running track mode database: You no longer have to do calibration laps to get perfect tracks, it now has a database of worldwide tracks
3) Adds Lap Undo: You can now undo lap markers if you accidentally hit the lap button
4) Adds Sleep Coach: This was previously introduced on the Venu 3/Vivoactive 5 series, and its rollout is now being expanded.
5) Adds Jump Rope activity profile: Ok.
Beyond this, there’s a slate of bug fixes, and a few minor things (like the Fenix/Epix/etc units get CIQ7, a new flashlight control, lost phone option, and more). You can tap the links up above to see the release notes for each.
Quick beta program background reminder:
For the last couple years, Garmin has adopted a quarterly update public beta program. The program for each update usually runs about 5-8 weeks long, and culminates in a public release. The download process is almost entirely via WiFI/Bluetooth now, but for the first few weeks worth of updates, you have to manually choose to install it in the watch menu. After that, it automatically happens. You can see the various beta programs here, and then click to join. Note that oftentimes, the exact initial beta dates vary, as well as which features the different teams have ready. Usually Garmin’s goal is to align everything by the end of the beta process. Finally, as always, there will be some features that $1,000 watches get that $200 watches don’t get.
Running Track Database:
A few years ago Garmin introduced running track mode when it launched the Forerunner 745. As you ran your first 2-3 laps of the track, it learned the track, and then every subsequent lap after that on that track (even future workouts) would be perfectly aligned to the lanes you were running in. Thus, perfect GPS tracks and exact track distances. The downside is the calibration loops of imperfection.
However, a year ago, Apple came out with their track mode, which used a database of tracks that Apple had curated. Initially US only, it’s expanded to a number of countries. The appeal of that was zero calibration laps, and detected the track when you stepped onto it (cool party trick). The downside here being limited to the countries on this very outdated list (as the Netherlands was added nearly a year ago).
Thus, Garmin did exactly what I hoped they would do: Built their own database of tracks using all that learned track data over the last few years. Garmin says their 400m track database currently has more than 11,000 tracks in it globally. They say this database will be updated to your device regularly, kinda like maps, but not quite as scheduled hard-set as those updates.
Now, these two Garmin options are both offered. It’ll first look to the internal database of tracks, and then if it doesn’t see anything, it’ll simply learn the track like it always did before. If you’ve previously learned the track, it’ll switch to the database version instead.
I took my Forerunner 965 and deleted out the previously learned tracks from it, and then went out to the track.
When you take a Garmin watch to a running track, it’s no different than before. You select track run, and it just automatically snaps to track.
For fun, today I ran with the FR965 in database mode (I ensured no learned tracks were on it), and then the FR955 with the previous firmware in learned track mode. The results were identically perfect:
As a side note, a suggestion I made to both Apple and Garmin privately, was to allow some way to search for nearby running tracks, given they have this data. In Apple’s case, a simple filter on Apple Maps would be amazing. Whereas for Garmin, putting it in the Garmin Connect app would be super useful. When traveling, it’s super hard to figure out all the tracks nearby without just panning around the Google/Apple Maps app in satellite view. Sure, it won’t solve for availability/etc, but hey, it’s better than nothing! While there are a few sites out there, in my experience they aren’t very good globally (if at all).
Automatic Triathlon Transitions:
Next, Garmin has added automatic transitions in triathlon. This means you don’t press/tap anything, it just happens automatically. This is something that Wahoo pioneered with the Wahoo RIVAL watch, and then we saw Apple add last year in WatchOS9. Garmin has now joined the group as well.
In terms of how this works, I’m still looking to test this out on a real swim/bike/run. The weather has been rather…frozen, the last few days. But the ice is thinning, which means maybe I’ll try it this weekend (frankly, the water is still cold AF either way).
The first time you open up the triathlon sport profile, you’ll see a message about it, and asking if you want to enable it:
Then, each time you open up the triathlon sport mode, you’ll see a confirmation of it:
You can disable it within the triathlon sport mode settings at any time. Options like Lock Device after transition are still there. Also, this works for both the custom Multisport (aka Duathlon) and Swimrun sport profiles.
As you transition from swim to T1 to bike to T2 to run, it’ll automatically make those transitions, just like other companies. There isn’t any alert/notification on the way though. It’ll just show your new data pages for that sport profile.
Now, Garmin says there are four different ‘undo’ options in case something goes wrong (keeping in mind, the point of the beta is to find ways things go wrong).
Method 1: You can long-press the lap button, and you’l see ‘Return to [previous sport]’
Method 2: If you manually did the transition (accidentally or purposefully), you can press the ‘Down’ button to undo it, from the manual transition lap banner
Method 3: If can do nothing, and the device will try to recognize the mistake and will automatically undo it. Garmin noted this can occur if you have a multi-loop swim with a longer run in between each loop. The watch will automatically detect you’re swimming again, and put you back into the swim profile.
Method 4: Afterwards in Garmin Connect you can edit the transitions too.
Again, stay tuned as I test this out. If anyone in Amsterdam would like to join me in freezing their balls (or melons) off on a mini-triathlon (waaaay shorter than a sprint triathlon), I’m taking volunteers in the comments section. Free DCR water bottle (contents may be frozen).
Next, there’s the new Lap Undo feature. This allows you to simply undo a lap if you accidentally press it.
To access lap undo, you’ll see the new ‘undo’ icon in the lower left corner:
Simply tap it, then the lap gets undone. You’ve got 8 seconds, which corresponds with that ‘progress bar’ looping around the outside of the watch, like a count-down timer. Again, this is for manual laps only.
Now, this is a cool feature, but I really wish it were extended to automatic laps (as well as structured workouts). The automatic ones are actually interesting to me, because I usually set Automatic Laps for my long runs, but then turn them off for my intervals/shorter runs. Of course, about 85% of the time I forget, and then realize it when half-way through my warm-up it triggers that first auto-lap. This would solve that…but alas, not yet.
Likewise, this doesn’t work in a structured workout. Thus, if you press lap, you’ll still advance forward. Garmin’s Edge cycling devices do allow you to back-up in a structured workout, but not the watches at this time.
To begin, Garmin establishes your ‘Personal Baseline’, which is how much sleep it wants you to get normally each night. Then atop that it’ll either show how much additional (or less) sleep you get. My personal baseline is apparently 7-hours and 50-minutes. Garmin notes that the ‘personal’ baseline is really just your age group. In this case, the ‘personal’ baseline for the 35-49yo range is 7hrs 50mins.
From there, how much you slept or didn’t sleep in the previous days will impact what it recommends. Garmin says it’ll never recommend more than 9 hours, or less than 7 hours. Here’s mine from today:
However, you can swipe down from the sleep coach to see the ‘factors’ that contribute to that night’s recommendation. This includes any shifts in activity levels, workouts, HRV changes, and even naps accounted for:
As I’ve said before, I think this could be interesting, but the 7-9hr restriction honestly makes it pretty redundant. I’d rather see them do some Whoop-like things and suggest certain bed times in order to wake-up at whatever it’s figured out is my normal wake-up time for that day. Most people that have kids or work/school schedules tend to have pretty consistent weekdays at least.
With that – thanks for reading, and have a good weekend!
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