Wednesday, May 7, 2014

Garmin Announces Wrist-Based Activity Tracker

Garmin's got a new Forerunner! Frankly, it's about time.

The Forerunner 15 is wearable sport watch with a lot of functionality:

  •  GPS
  • Calorie tracking
  • Distance Tracking
  • Heart Rate monitor
With 5 weeks of watch-only battery life, and 8 hours of GPS tracking, it's a  device made for the marathon of every day life.

It also allows for a 'foot-pod' accessory that allows users to track their fitness when running indoors. Given the recent 2013/2014 winter, Garmin understands that a lot of workouts don't require GPS.

There are some things missing here. It's a $130.00 device with no wireless connectivity.
  • No wi-fi direct
  • No bluetooth low-energy
  • No Ant+
Maybe next time then?

Despite this considerable setback, in many ways, the Forerunner 15 is where wearables need to be. A device that can track daily (mundane) movement activity like a Fitbit, and kick into gear during actual fitness like dedicated exercise hardware does. Make no mistake-- this is great. in 2014/2015, there's no reason why users should have to wear a dedicated heart-rate monitor in addition to their otherwise smart wearable hardware.

Another thing Garmin's new toy is missing? An SDK that allows for third-party apps.

There's currently only one wearable device that allows developers to make use of its hardware in anyway they want: the Pebble.

While it lacks dedicated GPS and heart-rate monitor hardware, it's easy to see a future where subsequent versions of this, the quintessential smartwatch, contain these features.

This is the space where the consumer gets the most out of competition-- where independent companies like Pebble, Fitbit, and Garmin chase down products and features that work well with multiple different types of mobile phone platforms. It shouldn't need to be an Android Gear watch to work well with Android, and it shouldn't need to be the mystical iWatch in order to work with an iOS device. The same goes for Windows phone. Savvy users will want to be able to take their accessories with them when they decide to move from one mobile platform to another. This liminal space is where Garmin's always sat. Users could bring a Garmin to their car, to their bicycle with any one of their other Edge Products, and then to their desktop of choice, be it Windows or OS X via their Ant+ technology.

Garmin's always had the hardcore athletes. But with the Forerunner 15 they're looking at a new market. After years of missing out on the growing casual wearables fitness culture, they're almost there.

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