With its own operating system to back them up, Garmin smartwatches become much more than GPS-enabled fitness trackers.
Since 1989, Garmin has been revolutionising the electronics industry with GPS technology that works for dozens of industries. Founded by Gary Burrell and Min H. Kao, the pair’s first GPS unit was sold for USD$2,500. By 1991, this time device was contracted by the United States Army for advanced design of GPS devices.
Using GPS technology in a variety of different applications, Garmin produced 50 different GPS enhanced devices by the year 2000 and sold over three million units in 100 countries.
Their rapid growth rate necessitated a 1,205 person company in three facilities around the world. It was during this same period when they began trading publicly on NASDAQ. The GPS enhanced and other types of products they now develop include:
- Marine GPS
- Handheld GPS
- PDA receivers
- Automotive GPS
- Laptop GPS
- Mobile apps
- Mobile telephones
- Personal trainers
- Avionic technology
Garmin has now taken that world-renowned GPS and used it as a major component for smartwatches and fitness trackers of their own design. With three distinct models issued in 2015, Garmin may just become the biggest name in wearable gear. (In our humble opinions.)
Over the last few years, Garmin’s been slowly building a line of quality fitness trackers and navigation devices to be worn on the wrist like a watch. With features like activity tracking, app connecting and smart notifications, this extensive line of over 30 variations of wearable tech gear is both functional and great looking.
Now Garmin has put its name behind three new smartwatches – each with its own style and set of features, which makes it easy to find one that appeals to you.
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Garmin’s Fenix 3 smartwatch
The smart multisport GPS watch is being marketed as the ideal companion for the serious athlete. There are sensors for everything, including heart rate straps that gather your data while you run, cycle, swim or anything else remotely athletic. It works as a pedometer to count your steps, and even give you a buzz when you’ve sat dormant for an hour.
This is all what you’d expect from a fitness tracker though, so Garmin went ahead and added advanced features like the ability to calculate your recovery time, VO2 max (maximum volume of oxygen an athlete can use), a stroke count for swimmers and Live Track (a mobile app that lets you share your workout data with other athletes for some healthy competition). This pairs with the smartwatch using Bluetooth connectivity.
For the adventurous athlete, there is a compass, barometer and altimeter along with the GPS system that helped Garmin get its start. The colour display is also designed to be read in sunlight, a feature that eludes many other brands.
The Fenix 3 runs on the Connect IQ app platform, which may be the future for all of Garmin’s wearables. Already there are a handful of apps, which can be downloaded onto the smartwatch including a calendar maker and AccuWeather. This shows Garmin’s ability to forge forward in the smartwatch field on their own, without any help from Android Wear.
Garmin’s Epix smartwatch
Billed as the “rugged GPS mapping watch for outdoor enthusiasts who are looking for a hands-free navigator”, admittedly Epix will have a limited spot in the smartwatch market. Even so, it’s good looking tech gear that serves a variety of functions.
The main function of Epix is a colour moving map that helps you pinpoint where you are, or where you want to be. It comes with a built-in base map as the main display, which is a 1.4 inch touch screen. This allows you to scroll through the map, which is kept up to date with the one-year subscription to satellite imagery that the smartphone comes with. You can also store additional details on its 8GBs of memory.
There are watch-like features as well, including a digital compass, altimeter and barometer. The smartwatch can also be used for basic fitness tracking as it has the support required for ANT+ devices such as heart straps. Water resistance is to 50 feet which makes it an appealing choice for water sport activists.
Like the Fenix 3, the Connect IQ platform is at the controls of this smartwatch, connecting to your mobile phone with Bluetooth. This gives you the opportunity to customise your smart map to meet more of your wearable tech needs.
Garmin’s Vivoactive smartwatch
When it comes to looks, the Vivoactive wins over Garmin’s other two new smartwatches, thanks to a super slim design that enables it to look like a regular watch. It is touch screen enabled with one physical button along the side and two touch sensitive buttons on the bottom of the face.
The Vivoactive contains the base elements of a fitness tracker made by Garmin, but is missing the more advanced tools for avid athletes. For example, a swimmer will find that the smartwatch can record laps and lengths, but not the interval rest timer that some of its other trackers contain. Its operating system is also the Connect IQ, so it could be possible to download apps that make up the differences that an athlete is looking for.
Normally kept for a separate wearable device, the Vivoactive does contain special features for the golf enthusiast. When connected to your phone, the smartwatch can download information from 38,000 different golf courses around the world and give you important information about the green, as well as keep score.
For over 20 years, Garmin has shown innovation through its designs and functionality with all of its products. With precise attention to detail and craftsmanship, the brand has become a leader when in instilling GPS into hardware. This same excellence can be found in their line of wearable tech.