The company’s popular Fenix line has become a preference for sports and outdoor enthusiasts. This is a great sports watch which contains most things you would want for fitness training plus feature sets for outdoor navigation. A wearable for those who are into multi sports and want to be able to track everything.
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Those who hoped we might see a new iteration of the Fenix 5 watch at CES 2018 were left disappointed. Such expectations were perhaps a bit unrealistic as its only been a year since the previous generation was released. Owners of the existing device would not have been happy to learn their pricey sports-watch was not top of the line anymore.
Now all eyes are on Garmin and the next iteration in its Fenix series. Competition is stiff, so its a fair bet that the company will set its aims high once again.
One of the most talked about features of the Fenix 5 is its upgraded design. Despite the bumped up specs, Garmin has managed to squeeze everything into a slimmer body. The bulkiness of the previous generation was especially unappealing to female users considering their smaller sized wrists. Now there is not only one, but three different sized devices to choose from. This includes the 5S, Garmin’s first Fenix watch designed with the female sports enthusiast in mind.
Whether we see further slimming down of the form factor really depends on how much it would effect battery life. The mid-sized Fenix 5 runs an impressive 2 weeks in smartwatch mode and 24 hours with GPS switched on. The 5S and 5X a bit less. Garmin is unlikely to downsize the battery capacity as its an important selling point.
The same consideration applies to the possible introduction of a touch-screen. While a better screen is a possibility, the company will not want to compromise battery life so will opt to keep the physical buttons on the sides for navigation. The decision not to offer a touchscreen is practical because athletes would find a touchscreen difficult to use in wet weather or when swimming.
Garmin appears to be adapting a similar design across its latest crop of sports watches so its unlikely it will stray very much from that. Why change something that works? We, therefore, don’t expect to see any drastic changes on that front in the Fenix 6.
In any case, expect to see different sized models, including some premium editions. And lots of options in straps, colours and watch faces.
Fenix 5 is a very capable multisport GPS watch. You can use it for cycling, open water swimming, cross country skiing, climbing, indoor run/bike/swim, hiking and much more. In addition to heart rate tracking from the wrist, the watch provides advanced running metrics and outdoor navigation. And finally, while not the most user friendly, the Garmin Connect software is top notch whether you are utilising the smartphone app or the even more comprehensive web dashboard.
All Fenix watches come equipped with ABC sensors to provide relevant real-time information. The built-in altimeter provides elevation data, while the barometer can be used to predict weather changes by showing short-term trends in air pressure. The 3-axis electronic compass keeps your bearing whether you’re moving or not.
While impressive in its specs, the device is by no means perfect. For example, users have reported ANT+ reception problems with some sensors (STRYD, Stages power meter, etc), although many other sensors seem to work properly. So an improved ANT+ antenna is very likely on the Fenix 6 as is a next generation processor, improved heart rate tracking and a better GPS sensor.
More training metrics
The watch also has lots of features which tell you about your form and fitness such as the VO2 max estimator. Thanks to Firstbeat technology and algorithms, Fenix 5 crunches data, including your running speed, beats per minute and heart rate variability to estimate the maximum volume of oxygen you can consume per minute. Other fitness metrics include recovery advisor with a recovery timer and recovery check, plus a Race Predictor, which estimates your ideal finish time based on your current VO2 max number and much more. A recent update enabled the device to monitor all day stress and track reps and sets in the gym.
But Firstbeat has other metrics which cannot be found on any Garmin devices. This includes a physical activity score and sleep quality assessment. Perhaps more interestingly, the new Suunto Fitness 3 is taking physiological analytics from Firstbeast to offer a 7-day training plan that is automatically created by the watch based on a user’s fitness level and overall exercise history. Miss a few sessions or push a bit too hard? No worries, the timepiece will adjust your training plan accordingly. This is the future and something we may see on the Fenix 6.
As mentioned, the Fenix line of watches is not just for running. There are special feature sets to help with swim training, cycling, golfing and skiing too. To list them all would simply take too long. But Garmin will continue to build on these which means we will see more niche sports and additional metrics tracked.
Built-in music storage
More and more people are looking for wearables that integrate non-fitness functions. Garmin has tapped into this trend by letting you know when you have received a message, and displaying the text on the watch screen whenever you’re ready to read it.
The Fenix 5, however, is lacking when it comes to on-board storage for music. Now that Apple has added GPS and water-resistance, the Cupertino outfit can effectively start to move into the sports watch market. So Garmin may very well need to start paying more attention to non-fitness features if is to protect its position.
An inkling of what’s coming was provided with the release of the Forerunner 645 Music at CES 2018. The device brings one of the most anticipated features to the Forerunner series, offline storage for music. There is enough room for up to 500 songs, and you can connect Bluetooth headphones and sync music from select streaming services for offline listening. A clever move on Garmin’s part. The company probably wants to fully test out the feature and get user feedback before rolling it out to its other devices.
One other thing to consider. There are rumours of a Fenix 5 Plus edition. Not a new version of the watch, but a souped up one that may feature built-in music storage and incremental improvements in specs.
Garmin-pay and more
Introduced for the first time on Vivoactive 3 is Garmin Pay. The Vivoactive 3 has a built-in NFC chip which stores credit card information so you can leave your wallet behind. The functionality is enabled by FitPay and supports Visa and Mastercard debit and credit cards from major issuing banks. Time will tell whether this new functionality actually catches on but if it does, expect to see it on more Garmin watches.
A cellular model in the next year or so? Who knows, its always a possibility. Albeit on unlikely one due to huge battery drain and demographic of the typical Fenix watch user. After all, you’re not going to try and call your office while on a run…. Maybe a model with cellular, and one without.
The Connect IQ platform has already seen improvements this year, but expect more work on improving the user experience and an array of 3rd party apps on board. At the moment, Garmin wearables come nowhere near the range of apps that are available for the Apple Watch.
Expected release date
Fenix 5 was announced at CES 2017 and rolled out a few months after. The company usually only has major updates every other year, so Garmin 6 won’t likely arrive until the start of 2019. CES 2019 is the most likely launch platform. If there is a special, incremental edition, look for it in the Summer.
If you decided to skip Fenix 5 because it was way to expensive for you, prepare to be disappointed. This is a high-end watch after all, so Fenix 6 is likely to come in at a similar price.
We should, however, see different price points. The much more expensive premium and limited editions, along with the standard, slightly more budget friendly model.
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Whatever the final price, the Fenix 6 will be a great choice as it will still be one of the best smartwatches for fitness fanatics. And we suspect, the legion of existing Fenix users will remain loyal to the watch which has already proven its worth.
So what do you think? What would you like to see on the Fenix 6?
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