If you are a dedicated runner, there is no shortage of devices to choose from. Today’s watches track everything from calorie burn to VO2 max.
The more fully featured ones are on the expensive side and some of these will assist you with your swimming and cycling needs, too. But if you are looking purely for a runners watch the Garmin Forerunner 235 has been the device of choice for many. Despite being more than two years old, subsequent updates and drop in price still make it a perfectly viable option.
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But let’s face it. Garmin is known for updating its wearables about every two years. So should you hold off on purchasing or wait for the rumoured Forerunner 245? Here is our best guess at what to expect.
The Forerunner 235 comes with a stylish, sporty design. In fact, the running watch was one of the first in Garmin’s stable to feature the look that seems to be so prevalent in the company’s latest crop of sports wearables. Measuring 45 x 45 x 11.7 mm and coming in at only 42 grams, it is fairly lightweight.
Garmin has been slimming down its wearables, and this remains a distinct possibility with the 245. Battery life is an important consideration, of course, and Garmin will need to take this into account if it is to reduce the form-factor.
The same consideration applies to the possible introduction of a touch-screen. While a better screen and upgrade of its 215 x 180 pixel resolution is likely, the company will not want to compromise battery life so will opt to keep the five physical buttons on the sides for navigation. This is what its done with the new Forerunner 645.
The 235 can keep going up to 9 days in watch mode and 11 hours with GPS switched on. On this count, we would be surprised if the upcoming wearable does not receive a boost. Perhaps to match the impressive two week battery capacity and 24 hours with GPS switched of the Forerunner 935. Garmin will also get rid of the wonky charging cradle in favour of the more standard charging cable its using on its recent watches.
Also expect to see different sized models, including some premium editions. And the introduction of Quick Fit options in straps, new colour combinations and watch faces.
The Forerunner 235 is a very capable running watch. It comes with Garmin’s Elevate wrist heart rate technology which uses a colourful gauge to identify your heart rate zone and and lets you know your all-important resting heart rate. If you want absolute accuracy, you can also pair it with an ANT+ chest strap.
The watch keeps tabs on distance, pace, time, heart rate and more during your runs. Its has GPS to locate your position quickly, you can download data fields, widgets and applications from Connect IQ store, as well as advanced workouts and training plans from Garmin Connect.
Forerunner 235 can also be used for 24/7 activity tracking and will count steps, calories and distance throughout the day. The move bar with vibration alerts motivates you to move when you’ve been sitting too long and the watch will keep tabs on your sleep, too.
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While impressive in its specs, the Forerunner 235 is by no means perfect. It doesn’t have an altimeter for counting floors, compass, gyroscope or thermometer, so expect to see these on the 245. Any new device will also come with an upgraded processor, improved GPS and heart rate sensor. Stress tracking and rep counting in the gym have been making their rounds on the latest crop of Garmin wearables, so they may find their way to the 245. The same applies to Move IQ, which essentially monitors for periods of movement that match familiar exercising patterns and tagging them as Events.
But these days we expect running watches to do more than just keep tabs on our activity and pace and distance while running. We want them to provide detailed insights into our performance and provide tips on how to train smarter.
More training metrics
The Forerunner 235’s optical heart rate sensor tells you about your form and fitness. Thanks to Firstbeat algorithms, the device 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. However, apart from Training Effect (aerobic), Recovery Time Advisor and Race Predictor, the 235 does not tap into any other Firstbeat metrics.
And these have advanced quite a bit over the last two years. The 245 is likely to come with Training Status, Training Load, Training Effect (anaerobic) and more. Other Firstbeat metrics which cannot be found on any Garmin devices also remain a distinct possibility. This includes a physical activity score and sleep quality assessment.
Perhaps more interestingly, the new Suunto Fitness 3 is taking Firstbeat metrics to next level with a 7-day training plan that is automatically created by the watch based on a user’s fitness level and overall exercise history. Beginner and mid-level runners would definitely see this as a valuable tool, as it goes beyond Garmin’s standard training plans.
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 or social media updates, and displaying the text on the watch screen, in addition to Spotify and music player controls.
An inkling of what may be 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 245 with built-in storage for music? Not out of the question. Or perhaps just like the Forerunner 645, a version with and one without music.
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.
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 price and release date
As mentioned, Garmin typically issues major updates every other year. Which means the 235 is definitely due for an update. Some had expected we would see the device in late 2017 or at CES 2018, but Forerunner 645 stole the show. Some now even think the 645 is the new 235.
Our best guess? A Spring date or perhaps earlier is very possible, with the Forerunner 245 likely to retail just above the $300 mark. Garmin is known for catering to different demographics of users and there is space for a runners watch that sits somewhere in-between the Vivoactive 3 and Forerunner 645.
When (and if) its launched, the 245 will be a great choice. And no doubt, existing 235 users and those who’ve been holding out for an upgrade, will give serious consideration to the device which has already proven its worth.
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