The compatibility maze: Which smartphones work with Garmin watches?

When it comes to pairing your Garmin watch with a smartphone, not all devices are created equal. Here’s what you need to know about the specifics of compatibility, focusing on operating systems and particular phone models that may or may not work seamlessly with Garmin watches.

The company consistently broadens its range of watches, each iteration offering a stable trajectory of enhanced features and functionalities. Their devices are a popular choice for sports and fitness tracking, navigation, and various other functionalities. However, to unlock their full potential, these watches need to be paired with a compatible smartphone. In fact, a Garmin watch will not work without a paired Garmin Connect app sitting on a smartphone.

But what does “compatible” mean in this context?

Operating system requirements

Let’s start with the basics – compatible operating systems. Some advanced features of Garmin watches require specific software capabilities that not all versions of an operating system have. For example, certain Garmin watches have advanced navigation features that may require a more powerful smartphone for optimal functionality.


For Apple users, the Garmin Connect app requires iOS 15.0 or higher. If you have previosly installed the app on a iPhone running an earlier version, you might be fine. However, Garmin does say that some features may not function. Also, if you delete the app from your phone, you probably won’t be able to install it again unless the device is running on iOS 15.0 or higher. So that’s something to keep in mind.


Android users need to have an operating system of 7.0 or higher. The device must also natively support the Google Play Store.

Beware of Android Go

Android Go is a streamlined version of the Android operating system designed for lower-end, budget smartphones. Garmin Connect is not listed as compatible with Android Go. It is apparently something to do with notifications. This means that if you have a phone running on this operating system, the Garmin Connect app won’t show up in the Play Store for you.

Specific phone models to avoid

Of course, not all smartphones are created equal. That’s something to factor in. Which means even if a phone is running on a compatible version of the operating system, user experience can vary. Factors such as the phone’s processing speed, available memory, and even the quality of the Bluetooth connection can impact how well the Garmin watch and smartphone pair and function together.

If you’re having issues pairing or syncing your watch, make sure to check out our detailed article on this topic. There are a number of troubleshooting steps you can try.

While most smartphones that meet the OS requirements should work fine, there are some specific models that have not passed internal tests with Garmin devices. These include:

  • Huawei phones
  • Lenovo Vibe X S960
  • Meizu MX4
  • Samsung J3 Model J320FN

For those who find themselves with an incompatible phone, there’s a workaround. You can sideload the Garmin Connect app by downloading its APK file from a trusted source and then installing it manually. This method has been reported to work fine, especially for phones running Android Go.

Also, even though Huawei phones are on the incompatible list, if you have such a device you might be fine. Garmin says “Bluetooth connection issues between Huawei smartphones and Garmin devices have been improved through an update to the Garmin Connect app”. The caveat is that these improvements are for Huawei smartphones running operating version 9 or higher that natively support Google Play Store.

Key takeaways

So what are we to make of all of this? It turns out compatibility isn’t just a checkbox but a spectrum. It’s crucial to understand where your smartphone falls on this scale.

If your phone operates on a recent version of its respective operating system—iOS 15.0 or higher for Apple devices and Android 7.0 or higher for Android devices—you should be just fine. These up-to-date systems generally offer the best chance for seamless integration with Garmin watches, allowing you for a trouble-free experience. While sideloading the Garmin Connect app is a possible workaround for incompatible systems, it’s not a route we generally recommend due to the potential risks involved.

Essential readingTop fitness trackers and health gadgets

However, it’s not just about the operating system; the specific model of your phone can also play an important role. There are a handful of models, such as some from Huawei and Lenovo, that you should avoid. Being aware of these nuances can save you from unexpected hiccups and ensure a smoother user experience.

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Marko Maslakovic

Marko founded Gadgets & Wearables in 2014, having worked for more than 15 years in the City of London’s financial district. Since then, he has led the company’s charge to become a leading information source on health and fitness gadgets and wearables.

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