The Garmin Fenix line has become a preference for sports and outdoor enthusiasts. This is a great smartwatch which packs a whole lot of of fitness, sports tracking and outdoor navigation features. A wearable for those who are into multi-sports and want to be able to track pretty much anything.
Garmin is doing a splendid job at churning out new products on a regular basis. And not only for the Fenix range. The most recent addition to its stable of watches is the Garmin Forerunner 945 LTE – a cellularly-enabled version of the 945.
Some have opted to skip the sixth generation so are wondering what Fenix 7 will bring. We’ve not really had that much so far in terms of leaks. But the recent crop of devices provides a clue as to what to expect.
We’ve combined that with a list of features that would represent a logical progression, and threw in some of what we would like to see. Competition is stiff, so you can bet the company will set its aims high once again.
Garmin Fenix 7: Design expectations
The overall look of Fenix watches has remained fairly consistent over the years. But there have been a few tweaks along the way.
With the Fenix 5 line Garmin has managed to slim down the body a bit. This version also brought in three different sized options for the first time including the S variant – a smaller Garmin Fenix designed with the female sports enthusiast in mind.
The latest Fenix 6 range brought in some more changes on the design front. Most notable is the larger display, something that was done by reducing the bezel size. Now there’s no rim separating the screen from the edge which allows for more room for customisable data fields (six data for Fenix 6/6S and eight on the 6X). Whats more, Garmin has managed to shave off another millimetre from the back of the watch and a few grams of weight.
Despite these changes most people would agree the watch is not really that stylish. It’s not exactly as if it has been hit with an ugly stick but this is clearly a sports watch designed as a rugged all-rounder. And this shows. Plus, despite Garmin’s efforts, the wearable is still bulky and heavy.
And this brings us to a very realistic possibility – that Garmin might reduce the size of the watch further. The mid-range Fenix 6 measures 47 x 47 x 14.7 mm – that’s pretty much the same as the Forerunner 945. The 945 LTE that just came out is smaller coming in at 44.4 x 44.4 x 13.9 mm mm. And this was done by shrinking the bezel – so without reducing the size of the display, and without shrinking battery life.
Both are important. Particularly the latter. Which is why we think Garmin will retain the sunlight-visible, transflective memory-in-pixel (MIP). AMOLED is very power-hungry so not kind to battery life. We don’t see any change there.
The same goes for the button configuration. The decision to opt for physical buttons for navigation is practical because athletes would find a touchscreen difficult to use in mid-exercise or wet-weather. The current setup works well so why change something that works.
The mid-sized Fenix 6 runs an impressive 2 weeks in smartwatch mode and 36 hours with “normal” GPS switched on. As mentioned, Garmin knows the awesome battery life an important selling point.
On this topic, the solar feature is an interesting add-on to the Fenix 6. The range has a more pricey variant with a transparent solar charging lens that sits on top of the watch face. Garmin calls the tech Power Glass. It adds a bit more juice in all battery modes by converting the sun’s rays into energy. This is a nifty add-on which we are sure will filter down to other iterations in the coming years as evidenced by Enduro.
It might even come as standard on Fenix 7. The feature is not a must-have, but it is a nice-to-have.
In addition to this, the latest Fenix brought customisable power-management modes for the first time. This allows users to actually see how various settings and sensors impact battery life. Very useful when you are trying to figure out when you’ll need to reach for the charger.
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Garmin appears to be adapting a similar design across its latest crop of sports watches so it’s unlikely it will stray very much from that. We, therefore, don’t expect to see any drastic changes on that front with the Fenix 7. It might be limited to reducing the size, thickness and weight, and perhaps improving screen quality a bit. Along with some design tweaks which are always possible. Of course, surprises could happen as Garmin has demonstrated with the Solar variant.
As always, expect to see the different sized models, including some more premium editions. And lots of options in straps, colours and watch faces.
Garmin Fenix 7: Features we’d like to see
Garmin Fenix is one of the best multi-sport GPS watches around. You can use it for cycling, open water swimming, cross country skiing, climbing, indoor run/bike/swim, hiking and much more. The watch provides advanced running metrics and outdoor navigation in addition to everything you need for monitoring fitness. 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 electronic compass keeps your bearing whether you’re moving or not.
While impressive in its specs, the device is by no means perfect. Improvements in GPS and the ANT+ antenna are always welcome. Fenix 6 has Garmin’s ELEVATE heart rate sensor, but this is V3 – we are now up to V4. So further upgrades on this front are likely. Heart rate sensors that work from the wrist still have some catching up to do compared to chest straps.
More training metrics
The watch also has lots of features which tell you about your form and fitness including a bunch of Firstbeat metrics. VO2 max, lactate threshold, recovery advisor, training effect, real-time performance condition and much more are on this list. The stats are now adjusted for heat and altitude acclimation status. Your performance metrics are no longer be influenced by environmental factors. The latest additions are Daily Workout Suggestions and improved Recovery time (that takes into consideration rest).
Advanced training features also include something called Dynamic PacePro. This is “grade-adjusted pace guidance throughout your activity”. It coaches you in real time so you can slow and speed up a run depending on your goal and race plan.
Recovery statistics seem to be all the rage these days. Garmin has a Body Battery feature that lets you know when you are good to train by using a combination of stress, heart rate variability (HRV), sleep and activity data. But there’s still lots of room for improvement. Letting the user see raw HRV data would be a good start.
There are also other Firstbeat metrics which could find their way to the Fenix 7. Particularly as the Finish outfit is under Garmin’s wing now.
As mentioned, the Fenix line of watches is not just for running. There are special features 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.
The Fenix 6 watch didn’t really bring anything new in terms of sensors. The only real change is that the PulseOx is now available across the entire range. The watches gauge your oxygen saturation levels at night, allowing you to better understand your sleep quality. You can also take readings on demand during the day.
ECG sensors have been lots of headlines in the last couple of years. It’s more a health than a fitness feature but why not add ECG functionality to a Garmin watch? The tech seems to be here. Does it really belong on a sports watch? Maybe not.
Other sensors are becoming an increasing possibility. This could include a blood-pressure sensor. Samsung was one of the first to demonstrate that it is possible to take such a measurement by using the optical heart rate sensor. Other possibilities include sweat analysis, glucose, hydration and more. There have been movements in this area recently that suggest that sort of tech is not far off.
It’s been a while since we’ve seen something truly revolutionary on the sensor front. But we may be about to enter a period where we see huge changes.
A cellular model?
A cellular model next time around? Before we would have said – unlikely. With the release of the 945 LTE, this is looking very likely now. Probably a Fenix 7 with cellular and versions without.
This will most probably mirror the functionality that is currently available. The 945 LTE allows you to send SOS messages, tap into a 24/7 emergency service, and stay in touch with your friends and family with Livetrack, Spectator Messaging and Live Event Sharing. There’s no ability to make phone calls but Garmin is edging closer.
The Connect IQ platform has already seen improvements recently, 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.
As mentioned, improvements to GPS and sensors are always to be expected. There’s also talk of a new Sony chipset. The other possibility is running power from the wrist, similar to the high-end Polar range. This shows athletes how hard they are working — a nice addition to standard heart rate tracking.
Garmin Fenix 7: 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 Fenix 7 won’t likely arrive until autumn-2021 at the earliest. That would be two years from the launch of the Fenix 6. Regardless, we think it’s more likely we will see it at the start of 2022.
The Forerunner 955 should be out before Fenix 7, plus CES is making a return to Las Vegas in January 2022. It would make a nice launch platform for the official Fenix watch unveil.
Here are the release dates of the recent Fenix line:
- Fenix 5 – March 23, 2017
- Fenix 5 Plus – June 18, 2018
- Fenix 6 – August 29, 2019
- Fenix 6 Pro Solar (6/6s) – July 6, 2020
Garmin Fenix 7: Expected price
If you decided to skip Fenix 6 because it was too pricey, don’t get your hopes up that things will change. This will remain a high-end watch.
Is a budget edition possible? Probably not. In a sense the Forerunner 945 is the budget version of the Fenix 6 so the 955 will the the less expensive iteration of Fenix 7.
We should once again see different price points for different sizes. Including much more expensive premium and limited editions.
Whatever the final price, the Fenix 7 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 wearable which has already proven its worth.
So what do you think? What would you like to see on the Fenix 7?
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