Garmin 930XT / 935XT / FR935 – 2017 : Technical Specification Prediction – Updated for 2017

Garmin 920XT 735XT Optical ELEVATE

The much hoped-for, optically enabled 935XT (FR935) sister, in 2016, did not materialise. We did get the Edge 820 and, in January 2017, we have just had the Fenix 5 collection. So we now know what is likely to be in the 930XT / 935XT / FR935 … it’s a question of WHEN not IF nor WHAT. This post updates my thoughts from a year ago (archived here).

935XT – is on optical 930XT. Simple. aka FR935. FR=ForeRunner

The sports GPS watch world *IS* clearly going optical for Heart Rate measurement…where does that leave us with the future incarnations of the Garmin Forerunner 920XT? Are we holding out for merely an optical 920XT (called 925XT) or, much more likely, are we expecting a significant Fenix 5-like upgrade to give us the 930XT/935XT.

I have seen clear, unequivocal evidence that a 935XT exists from several sources and (edit), as of March 2017, I can confirm that it is about to be announced but I am speculating on the features. Please read on if you want to. This is just an opinion piece and a bit of fun.

Although my prediction of a new 930XT/935XT in 2016 was wrong there was, instead, a Garmin Forerunner 735XT – a running watch that can also do triathlon very well. So I was sort-of right (at least in my own mind!).

I predict there will be a Garmin Forerunner 935XT announced either in September 2017 (possibly as early as April 2017).  I STILL predict a 930XT/935XT for (these) reasons.

Rationale:

Garmin have got a whopping stockpile of cash. They are a tech-focused company and will only prosper with continued investment in R&D in new products. They simply HAVE TO innovate in the outdoors, fitness and wearables markets to survive and prosper. It’s their raison d’être (yes I do own a thesaurus). We’ve seen the fruits of their R&D start to appear in 2016 and 2017 will be an even more Garmintastic year, see (here) for what else they will release.

September 2014 marked the release of the Forerunner 920XT. The FENIX3 came soon after in January 2015. The optical Fenix3HR was January 2016 and the Fenix 5 in January 2017. There IS generally a 2-year product cycle which would have dictated a 935XT / 930XT announcement in September 2016. The 735XT announcement in May 2016 disrupted the cycle, essentially being released for the summer market by just turning on all the bits of firmware in the 630. The 735XT was NOT really a new hardware form…the 930XT WILL BE a new hardware form.

Arguments against an impending release/announcement:

  • The 735XT did not sell too well I believe. The triathlon market, in terms of participation, may have peaked.
  • A triathlon watch is feature-full and complex. It took 3 years to get from the 910XT to the 920XT. Why only two years to the 930XT/935? (A: Garmin have spent squillions on R&D)
  • The Fenix 5 will go on sale in March/April and a Forerunner 935 at the same time could confuse things for the buyers. Confusion equals lower sales.

Personally I would discount most of these arguments. Money talks. I believe that triathlon and running are still globally growing pastimes/sports. It’s a big world. It’s a lot of money.

A lot will also depend on revenue streams from existing products. 920XT sales are still quite good but are now widely discounted even falling as low as $150 in a flash sale (Feb 2017)

Products tend to come out ‘a bit’ before Christmas or ‘a bit’ before the outdoor sporty season gets underway in the Northern Hemisphere. So we are looking at early or late 2017 for a release date.

My prediction is for an announcement in Autumn but I heard rumours of April.

WHAT ELSE?

Even if I’m wrong about the Forerunner 935 what else are they going to release? New firmware updates are NOT going to make significant new revenues.

The Fenix 5 and 735XT are NOT quite right as ‘proper’ triathlon watches.

FORM FACTOR

Form factor is what a product looks like – its ‘shape’. We know that the Forerunner Multisport watches are rectangular/square (the 735XT is a running watch, not a multisport) and that the and FENIX range are circular. That probably won’t change. ALTHOUGH I have received unconfirmed rumours that the 935XT will be ROUND (and also called the 935 not 935XT)

This great clickable image from zitasport.com shows progression of the various watches over time. I’ve updated it for Q1.2017. What’s that in the bottom right-hand corner??! 🙂

Garmin-timeline-zitasport-javier-ortiz

You can see from the 310XT and 910XT that the newer 920XT product was notably different in appearance whilst still remaining a rectangular-display.

So do we get a very similar form factor with the Forerunner 930XT/935 (compare the Forerunner 225 to the visually similar Forerunner 220) OR do we get a more noticeable change as we have done so far through all the multisport iterations?

The obvious prediction for the Forerunner 935 / 930’s FORM would be that it would be a natural progression, different to the 920XT but more similar to the 920XT than the 920XT was to the 910XT. So we are still left with:

It will continue to be a lightweight, rectangular-display GPS watch with 6 buttons, a new colour screen and, optionally, optical HR to the rear. It will be visually similar to the 920XT.

Nothing too controversial there, I think. It’s boring being uncontroversial.

I could stick my neck out and suggest two form-variants. One for smaller-wristed people. But the implications for the product’s innards are many-fold and such a model might not sell as well as a smaller Fenix 5s would to justify the product R&D.

OK. I’ll stick my neck out. THERE WILL BE A FEW VARIANTS LIKE THE FENIX 5 AND IT WILL BE ROUND  !

AESTHETICS

The 620 and 920 were treated with aesthetic disdain by many people on the various forums. That disdain boils down to the colour scheme! I would imagine that Garmin have learnt their lesson over those 2-3 years of criticism and would at least look towards something more monochromatic like the Epix the Fenix 5, or the 910XT – all of which, IMHO, are pleasing to my eye. As, too, are some of the colours of the new Forerunner 630 (someone listened to me).

They may also learn a trick or two from Apple and Suunto with a later introduction of premium-aesthetic forms through 2018.

Perhaps not a gold-plated model (Apple Watch), that would be silly, but something could be done with interchangeable straps (as released on the Fenix 5 and predicted here last year) or dedicated IQ watch faces to better enable it to be a day-to-day watch for the masses. Something MORE than JUST a bundled HRM-TRI and speed/cadence sensor.

Garmin 735XTA premium aesthetic form doesn’t just mean a new colour like the black/grey 920XT Mr Garmin!! Do better (OK Fenix 5 range…YOU HAVE DONE better :-) ) … and so will they continue to do better with the FR935.

Better colour options to enable it to be an aesthetically wearable day-to-day watch FR930) and a tiny bit thicker to accommodate the optical HR unit (FR935)

Garmin-920XT-2015-New-Model-black-grey-gray-silver

Source: Garmin, Cropped, black/grey July 2015 920XT

CONNECTIVITY and COMMUNICATIONS

This will change.

ANT+ support will obviously remain.

With the Fenix 5, Garmin finally moved to also support BTLE HR straps. Probably because the hardware has been able to do that for a long time in any case. The Forerunner 935 will support BTLE HR straps and speed/cadence sensors. It might support BTLE power meters but there are not many of them, perhaps not warranting the effort (PMs are trickier).

GLONASS and GPS will be supported for increased likelihood of achieving 4.5m/5m precision. Although 1m precision from Galileo might be possible from the same chipset.

Note: The Fenix 3 (three) has the Mediatek 3333 chipset. This does support Galileo. I would bet money that the Fenix 5 chip also supports it. I would bet money that the Forerunner 935/930XT chip WILL support it. But Garmin have to want to make it work (I think they would) and the satellite has to be operational – unfortunately 2020/2019 is the date for that as a full constellation. (It could be part-supported to increase accuracy before then but I doubt that would happen). This will be for the Fenix 6/7 and maybe the FR945 !!

So it’s GLONASS+GPS and BTLE (out and limited-in) and ANT+ that you’ll get.

THE SCREEN + ALERTS

The multisport glass screens have always felt great to me. This was probably all part of making it creditably super-light. Garmin will want to continue with the 920’s day-to-day watch ability. It will have a colour screen BUT I think it will be a better, tougher glass with much better screen display with better colours and resolution. It will need the resolution and vibrancy to LOOK like a great day-to-day watch (when a decent IQ watch face is downloaded – they’re mostly rubbish) and this is certainly possible as we have seen with the Apple Watch, the Polar A360, the Suunto SPARTANs and even the Samsung Gear Fit.

A touchscreen like the disastrous one on the Edge 820 will not and should not happen. A Forerunner 935 needs to be a working device not a half-baked, feature-packed toy.

A noticeably better, vibrant and tougher screen with slightly improved resolution

Garmin HRM-SWIM 920XT 735XTCUSTOMISABILITY

I’ve mentioned IQ a few times. This is Garmin’s APP STORE. You can download lots of clever stuff, including stuff that changes the display. IQ will bring whatever IQ will bring from independent developers and that will all come to the 930XT / 935. APPS can now write custom sensor data into the FIT file. We will see a step-change in usefulness

  • As recently seen with some of the XERT apps.
  • As we have seen with the STRYD and MOXY CIQ data fields (that write-to-FIT).

At CES 2017 Garmin have announced more CIQ apps. Newer CIQ 2.X apps are NOT supported on the 920XT. Your 920XT is NOW out-of-date and partly becoming de-supported (wrong word, but you get the point).

IQ 2.x WILL be supported by the Forerunner 935 / 930XT.

CHIPSET(s)

I don’t profess to know or care much about the chip that is inside the device. There will be a better one inside (the chipset in a 920XT/Fenix 3  is: Media Tek MT3333). A better one will make the 935XT / 930XT faster than ever and able to cope with some of the rigours that errant IQ apps may place on the device as well as handling the demands of the optical HR unit – all of which will then slow it down! Chips tend to get more energy-efficient whereas, now batteries improve only slightly. Software can also improve battery longevity but we will probably find that any power savings will also be consumed by a more power-hungry screen and optical HR.

We’ve seen, I’ve seen, the 920XT almost grind to a halt on a fully clean 920XT only with the caching HRM-TRI added. Mine seem to have got slower as 2016 progressed.

An improved chip and internal memory WILL be included to support newer versions of Connect IQ.

Will be better (Earth-shattering predictions abound).

CHEST STRAP

Well the chest strap for the FR935 / 930XT is already released. Here’s a picture and (here) is a bit more information on the strap.

Garmin HRM-TRI (HRM-SWIM) Review

Garmin HRM4-TRI (similar to HRM-SWIM)

Whether this strap addresses the HR spike and dropouts that we get with ALL VENDOR’S straps, I don’t know – I use one weekly and it is one of THE BEST products out there IMHO. The HRM4-TRI has all the running dynamics and body physiology supporting in it. AFAIK it support Training Effect 2.0.

ALL the other Garmin HRM straps are supported (with their respective limitations) and, as we have seen above, BTLE straps will also be supported.

Garmin HRM-RUN HRM-TRI HRM-SWIMThe strap will not NEED to ship with the optical FR935 as the FR935 will have optical HR! The HRM4-TRI will also be available as a bundle option.

I don’t think it will be possible to produce running dynamics (other than cadence) from the watch unit alone as the wrist is the wrong position for this. It would have to be on the feet or chest.

Existing underwater caching, existing extended running dynamics , a slew of existing cycling dynamics and existing HR-based personal physiological metrics will be introduced as with the HRM4-TRI and HRM4-RUN that we already have.

The  HRM-TRI and HRM-SWIM are already here (review here).

**BUT**. Even more could be in the offing with a HRM5-TRI (HRM5-RUN, HRM5-SWIM) strap. I HOPE that more detailed signals will be able to be captured AND that the HRM5 will be MORE SENSITIVE. The former might help replace Polar as a medical grade device and the latter could be for people where it is difficult to read a signal via a chest strap eg some people find positioning a chest strap difficult and some people might find a higher fat content restricts the ability to get an accurate HR reading.

Possibly a HRM5 could also transmit gait metrics for body position whilst running? and/or body position whilst cycling? Lots of rocking about wastes lots of energy…would be nice to quantify that.

A HRM5-TRI will follow in 2018, maybe sooner (read this fro more insight)

OPTICAL HR

The Forerunner 935 is the optical version of am imagined 930XT. It will have a NEW ELEVATE sensor. ie the 3rd iteration found in the Fenix 5. The external footprint 3rd iteration is VERY thin ie it will only add a very small amount to the height/depth of the device…say 1mm.

There will of course be an option to turn off optical HR on the Forerunner 935 (saves battery power) and use a chest strap. Also the chest strap will certainly be required to continue to produce the running dynamics data and the improved running dynamics already updated onto the 920XT.

Garmin 735XT Optical ELEVATEOh and here’s a picture of the optical HR unit that may be in the Forerunner 935!! It already exists on the 225/235/735/Fenix 5/Chronos (well, very similar). It has a circular rubber seal to stop water and light ingress to the sensor area. As you can see there are 2x LEDs areas.

Note also that the ELEVATE array on the 735XT appears marginally different to previous versions. Presumably, quietly improved and orientated differently on the CHRONOS and FENIX 5, for example. Indeed the F5 appears to be yet another hardware iteration after the 735XT. ie the 935XT will have the new one!

Prediction: There will only be a 935XT ie not available as oHR-free

Remember: It will still work with a chest strap if you want.

STRAPS

Garmin have a new range of patented and interchangeable straps. These will probably be used. Although I have heard info to the contrary.

THE PODs – HR PODs and OTHER PODs

There are many vendors are actively pursuing new technique- and bio-metrics for running eg RUNTEQ. RunScribe, STRYD, BSX, MOXYSHFT, MOOV, BOLTT, LUMO, RPM, Sensoria, and AMBIOTEX. Kinematix’s TUNE product looks at new metrics like HEEL contact time (both sides), RunScibe PRO’s product has many advanced metrics and STRYD adds new metrics as well as running power.

There will be the EXTENDED RUNNING DYNAMICS metrics already supplied by the updated HRM4-RUN pod and already on the 920XT.

A footpod is STILL required for accurate instant pace on ALL Garmin running watches. I can’t see that changing either. But I can see increased accuracy of instant pace being delivered through STRYD…it does it already!! We know that Garmin WILL introduce a new 2017 footpod that will also offer increased pace-accuracy. Perhaps that will be a Trojan-horse which, in reality, represents the start of a gradual introduction of new metrics made possible by increased 3-dimensional accuracy?

SHFT Coach & Power MEter

SHFT Coach & Power Meter

Then again with cadence being supplied within the watch/HRM-RUN why not introduce a pod that can do something else a bit cleverer? eg www.runteq.com, SHFT, KINEMATIX TUNE or several others looking at running mechanics. Too niche perhaps?

So the new pod could be to: increase footpod accuracy (like STRYD); add power, like STRYD; add new running metrics; or add and a whole running gait & coaching system from Garmin involving footpods and a body pod/chest strap.

My research and opinions together suggest that we will get ALL of that through a combination of what Garmin sell as well as companies that Garmin partner with (BOLTT)

METRICS

New metrics could be added and yes I know that there are plenty-enough already. You can get yet more new ones through CIQ and yet EVEN more new ones were introduced through improvements to RUNNING DYNAMICS in 2016 beyond the original 6x metrics.  Developers can now create their own metrics and they WILL ALREADY show up in Garmin Connect as shown below with STRYD’s Leg Spring Stiffness and Form Power:

NB: Black part of the diagram from runscribe pro metrics that I combined with a garmin connect image

Like the Fenix 5, Muscle Oxygenation support will be introduced NATIVELY. Running power data (STRYD) will also be introduced natively even though it was not on the Fenix 5 when announced in Jan 2017.

METMAX or EPOC measurements may be introduced NATIVELY as they are used extensively by the partner-company of Garmin – FIRSTBEAT (although I doubt it). As you can see, below, Suunto, also a Firstbeat partner, already do this sort of thing to a degree. ie where EPOC data (measure of recovery) is specifically allowed to be viewed.

Analysis

The 930XT (not 935XT, except with a chest strap) may be integrated through HRV enablement into FIRSTBEAT tools which have moved on since the ATHLETE software was discontinued.

There will probably be better integration of the advanced/extended cycling dynamics for the Vector 2, with better screen displays (eg dials not digits)

Look at the 630 and Edge 820 and Fenix 5. The 930XT will mimic their capability AND running power will be added NATIVELY by the time the 930XT is released.

Segments & Splits

Just as on-device segments have been added to the Edge 820, Fenix 5 and Edge 1000; then so must they be added on new triathlon watches. There will be further integration with STRAVA – I strongly suspect that Garmin have given up on trying to compete with STRAVA on the segment front. Live STRAVA segments…nice!

Other running watches, such as the Epson SF-810, also handle laps within splits or laps within longer intervals eg 1km autolap within 2×20′ threshold runs. These should be added as well to the 930XT just to give a more complete product offering. Don’t hold your breath (they won’t be introduced).

Laps based are both GPS position and time, like the TomTom Runner 3/Spark 3, are also needed with the latter much less likely to be added (alerts can be set by time to have a similar effect). These won’t be added either in all likelihood.

Further STRAVA functionality/segment integration will be added as the general Garmin-STRAVA relationship progresses strategically.

However I suspect that the continued innovation in this area will see new methods of displaying existing metrics. Thus the dials that are already available for the running dynamics and cycling dynamics will likely to continually evolve SLOWLY.

WEIGHT& BATTERY LIFE

Battery life will be improved to accommodate ultra-runners and slower Ironman triathletes.

Whilst battery life will be improved to accommodate ULTRAs that will really be for triathletes who also do those kinds of runs. Really the goal will be to ensure that nearly everyone can get through an Ironman triathlon with many/most of Garmin’s power-hungry features turned on. That’s actually a lot harder than it sounds. That needs to be a good 15++ hours of battery life with: per second recording, best GPS+GLONASS, oHR, Bluetooth to smartphone, livetracking (perhaps group tracking), power meters, a CIQ app or two –  all enabled. Merely supporting extended usage through only enabling SMART Recording and ULTRATRAC is not really acceptable.

Those are the needs and wants of the market. They are not unreasonable needs as Garmin sell the devices based on their functionality…the athlete needs to be able to use the functionality in a RACE !! fundamental. Most purchasers will be Age-Group level or below.

The Fenix 5 is stated as possibly having 20 hours of GPS usage (even more in ULTRATRAC) then The Fenix’s battery life is the sort of level of battery life needed BUT even that won’t be enough to support all of those functions I just listed with them all enabled for an Ironman.

A more powerful battery will be necessary in any case to fuel the optical HR and any upgraded processor/GPS chip or higher resolution screen or messing about with Bluetooth for live tracking/earbuds. We have seen the improvements in battery life that are possible with newer models from Garmin as well as the other manufacturers. However I’m not sure that power saving technology or battery technology has improved that much since the 920XT. We may have gone as far as we can with the batteries…it might just come down to other components consuming less juice (turning themselves off more often!).

So I would imagine any gains in this area will be consumed by the optical HR and perhaps also by the fancy new dial-display metrics. However where more battery capacity is REALLY required then more innovative solutions are possible by, for example, incorporating elements of the battery in the strap.

The 920XT is light, the Fenix 5 light enough, the 630 is super-light and the VivoActive is lighter still. I can’t see the 930XT getting lighter. It might even get a bit heavier to accommodate a bigger battery and/or the optical HR unit. The optical unit will be near flush on the back (like the Fenix 5) and the battery inside the watch! (Outstanding predictions here at the end!)

It will be broadly the same weight overall with improved battery life.

NAVIGATION

Some more enhanced navigation may be introduced but then this starts to stray the 930XT in the direction of the FENIX 5X and that is NOT going to happen. Mapping and TBT will NOT be on the 930XT. Current route following with maybe a slight enhancement or two is all that is needed. I can’t see that many more currently unmet needs in this basic navigational respect existing other than really simple things like ‘back-to-start’, run a route in reverse and waypoints/breadcrumbs+compass.

Limited token or aesthetic navigational improvements may be introduced, not ‘proper’ maps.

NOTIFICATIONS

This feature will carry over from the 920XT probably also supporting full app notification.

Standard ‘TEXT replies to SMS messages’ or ‘TEXT replies to unanswered calls’ features could be implemented as with many activity/smart bands but existing functionality is pretty much where it needs to be for the 935XT/930XT in this respect. Many people require notifications from APPS as well as from basic SMS type services. These will probably be sneaked in too.

It will have full bluetooth, smartphone app notifications

ACTIVITY MONITOR

Yes, as with the 920XT, Fenix 5 and 630.

It will be an activity tracker.

247 HR tracking will also be introduced for oHR models. Like the Fenix 5 efforts will be made to get the recording intervals as frequent as feasible.

An optical HR-enabled sleep tracker would be nice to PROPERLY analyse sleep patterns and feedback into recovery biometrics (that’s a 940XT thing with HRV though oHR, don’t hold your breath).

SWIM/BIKE – MULTISPORT

Some form of an additional token nod could be given to improve SUP, ski, snowboard, canoeing, rowing and indoor machine compatibility but I ‘m not too fussed about that and neither would be most tri-users. Remember though that it is a MULTI-SPORT watch not just a tri-watch.

Allowing manual laps within a multisport could/should be added.

Allowing support for complex-bricks and swimrun with more legs per multisport session could/should/will be added ie the 920XT currently does not properly support OTILLO!!. Indeed on that point (Aug 2016) there have already been some rumblings and bits and bobs added into the 735XT and FENIX 3 allowing repeated sports, so that functionality is super-likely to be in the 930XT – it has been deliberately omitted from the 920XT (as of Jan 2017)

But I’m not convinced too much tinkering will be done here which is a shame. These would be nice.

Nothing earth shattering either outside of triathlon or with what currently constitutes a triathlon/duathlon profile. Repeated sports will be enabled.

BIKE-SPECIFIC FUNCTIONALITY

I’m really struggling to see what can be added here that can be handled on a small screen. Di2 integration is already there for example. ‘Proper’ mapping and ‘proper’ segment functionality like the Edge 1000 will be very hard to do well on a small screen but as indicated earlier some of the Strava integrations will migrate their way from the Edge 820.

Perhaps some form of better handling of bike-specific sensors in the sensor pools and linking them to specific bikes or profiles is possible? But I’m clutching at straws here.

FE-C control – hopefully. But there is more of an issue with the interface design on a small screen.

Much improvement here will come with CIQ 2.x apps. One area for thought and development is features that build on your complete CP curve/profile. With that sort of info about you on the watch then clever, predictive things can be done (again see XERT for VERY CLEVER examples).

No exciting new bike functionality from Garmin – it will all come though apps. eg It might handle lights/RADAR but that isn’t exciting. (At all)

SWIM SPECIFIC FUNCTIONALITY

Some improvement here is possible and this could be the selling point of the watch alongside the optical HR. If we see the Garmin Swim 2 we will know much better what is in store for the final component of the 930XT.

  1. Enabling of HR recording whilst in pool mode (already exists in the 920XT with HRM-TRI ie NOT optical)
  2. Non-swim support of optical HR (935XT) – but this will probably not extend to underwater (yet)
  3. Optical HR will probably not be HRV-ready (TomTom claim to be almost there in 2015 as do Valencell in 2016).
  4. Support of swim workouts – Yes (already introduced in 920xt)
  5. Swim Metronome – Possible

Significant swim improvements

EXTERNAL CONTROLS & PERIPHERALS

I would hope that we would get full control and integration with Garmin/ANT+ peripherals including: FE-C Trainer Control; Di2 (on 920XT); and Varia (H.U.D.) and RADAR/Lights. Garmin will certainly strive to achieve this integration. If it is not done there will likely be a good reason for not doing it. ie it will be on their list of priorities as it will help sell their accessories.

It’s MUCH more likely that new Garmin peripherals will be fully INTEGRATED before the likes of 3rd party products like STRYD. Although Connect IQ DATA FIELDS NOW ALL EXIST for these products and so write-to-FIT can work if the developer has the willingness to make a CIQ data field (it’s not so hard).

Next most likely to be integrated would be products, such as MOXY, where Garmin probably have no competing products of their own – as with the F5. Products like STRYD may well be being developed by Garmin. I sense a reticence of Garmin to help STRYD as much as they appear to help MOXY…I could be wrong.

MO2 and running power, as already said, will be native like the F5

Useful data like BSX’s upcoming hydration states from their LVL product will NOT be native but will require a CIQ data field.

Existing Garmin Accessories to be integrated. Then  new accessories like MOXY and STRYD.

A NEW RANGE?

The Garmin multisport position is confused. Vivoactive and various flavours of Fenix 5 all do similar things. In some cases identical things and you can even use the 620/630 for a duathlon. The vivoactive HR is triathlon-light and the Fenix 5x is triathlon + mapping adventure. The Fenix and 920XT are essentially the same from a triathlon perspective but in a different aesthetic form.

There could be scope for a 925XT HR, a 930XT and a Forerunner 935. Then the Forerunner 930XT has all the other enhancements and an improved swim offering. The Forerunner 935 just adds optical to the mix.

There could be a whole collection of 93Xs – similar to the Fenix 5 collection. But I DO NOT think that will happen. The Fenix market is MUCH larger.

There will be various colour options and bundles of HRMs and sensors.

Confusion with the Fenix 5/Epix/FENIX/VivoActive ranges will be improved but just one upgrade to the 920XT itself. Existing confusion with the populist 735XT will remain.

PRICING

You can see the trend in the price of the 920XT since launch in the UK, it’s now down to around £250 without a strap (UK Jan 2017) – although Jan 2017 also saw a flash sale of the 920 at $150 in the US.

Clearly this shows the price willing to be paid by early adopters for the initial limited production units available outside the USA. Actually they would probably have paid more. But there obviously, initially, weren’t too many units and hence the fairly rapid decline by >20% over 3-4 months as more units got to the market.

It is clear that the 930XT will be initially priced around £430 with HRM (for running dynamics and as an option). Judging by the graph above, waiting a month could save you over £/$100

Prices may, perhaps, even start as high as £490 w/HRM.

And then you would be right to ask how such a price is justified? And how is it justified on the rather limited expansion in the number of features I’ve suggested here, albeit with a major new hardware revamp with the optical HR. Good questions indeed.

So IMHO Garmin NEED to offer something MORE than what is above.

THE DIFFERENTIATORS

I’ve mentioned these differentiators before in other places. My little pet ‘wants’ really. Also with so many features in an already feature packed watch it’s hard to see where materially new differentiators will come from.

1. Power When Running

Having muscle oxygen is for data driven athletes and sports scientists. If Garmin want to drive the sales of MORE UNITS (which they will) then power with running is an obvious potential market-grower.

An ANT+ power sensor FOR RUNNING already exists with STRYD and it works properly with CIQ. But the ways of manipulating and displaying running power eg 3s power, 30s power, NP are NOT there. I suspect that Garmin might will include full, native ANT+ POWER SENSOR support for running with power. That might sound trivial but don’t forget that all the follow-on power-running metrics need to be added and also then potentially reported on in Garmin Connect. That is a considerable task to merely ‘support’ a 3rd party product.

There will be direct and full ANT+ Power Running Support.

2. Tests and Recovery Metrics

Fitness protocols or tests or physiological state metrics have been included in the Forerunner 630 and further improved though to the Fenix 5 eg Training Effect 2.0. 

Perhaps waking HRV will be better integrated (an IQ app already exists for this), perhaps tests that determine LTHR (in the Forerunner 630) will be FURHTER DEVELOPED.

Perhaps a better understanding and portrayal of your anaerobic readiness and aerobic readiness and/or more specific consideration of CTL/ATL states?

Perhaps just a little more insight than the current ‘RECOVERY TIME 36 HOURS’, or similar, message. Perhaps something like Polar’s slightly more insightful data.

There might be scope for including additional in-exercise recovery metrics. Again, these sorts of things are quite possible with HRV-enablement (which the 930XT WILL have). So, for example, a 10x 2minute interval session could be specified so that the recovery time in-between reps is automatically adjusted for each repetition based on your fatigue state. And that particular session might also be ended after a particular fatigue state or training effect is achieved.

HRV sounds a bit nerdy (it is) BUT it can offer even further insights into the stresses during training – indeed ithlete recently announced developments in this area.

3. Coached Training – Tailoring Training Load and Daily Sessions

You can already download and follow plans from Garmin Connect. What I am talking about here is different and more dynamic.

If you’ve seen FIRSTBEAT’s ATHLETE (recently discontinued) software then you will have seen that the training coach does a similar thing to what I have just talked about with the 10x2minute session example (above) EXCEPT that it does it on a day-to-day basis.

4. Coached Training – Technique

Perhaps something that could be incorporated into the ‘special’ running metrics (VO GTC) is something in Garmin Connect to actually tell you what to do about it. This could equally apply to cycling metrics of course. Currently the general consensus with the existing metrics is that they are ‘nice’ but largely unactionable, with the exception of cadence.

So what I am thinking of here is some form of feedback into your TECHNIQUE training. Maybe you BOUNCE too much. Well Garmin could then point that out to you AND tell you what to do about it (eg drills). This sort of thing might build on new RUNNING DYNAMICS metrics or the recently extended set of CYCLING DYNAMICS METRICS. This sort of thing is being incorporated in new products like SHFT.RUN, ZOI, RUNSCRIBE PRO, STRYD, KINEMATIX TUNE and others.

SWIMMING DYNAMICS, if you look, are recognised by Garmin Connect. However they are essentially stroke-rate (cadence) efficiency related metrics as opposed to the wobble/bounce/twist/reach/catch/technique-related technical aspects of swimming.

Having said all of this I suspect Garmin’s response would be that the data produced by the 3x TRIATHLON DYNAMICS need to be interpreted by YOUR coach and s/he should be the one who tells you what to do about it. That would be a shame as most 930XT owners will not have the luxury one-to-one coaching!

I can’t really see anything revolutionary being added around tests, technique- and recovery-feedback.

 

5. Voice-In training & music

Products like JABRA earbuds are heading towards supporting audio feedback on progress and performance. Your coach can be built into your device and can speak to you through your Bluetooth earbuds. I can’t see this happening yet. This has happened with the 630 to a degree and also with TomTom’s new Runner2/3. However the implementation for the 930 is most likely to be simply replacing existing vibrational or audible alerts with a pre-recorded voice equivalent to play back through Bluetooth earbuds.

Again I can’t see this really straying into dynamic or intelligent training support. But there might be a token nod in this direction eg Voice-Audio alerts.

Music control will likely be offered. Music on the device is a good idea for some (not me) but it hasn’t made its way to the Fenix 5 yet so it CERTAINLY won’t get to the 930XT first. You are looking at a Forerunner 240/245 (Summer 2017) for that sort of functionality.

So you’d get music too 🙂 In a tri watch??!!??

6. Dumb Screen

What I would like is a >=6-metric-per-page (Suunto Spartan now has 7), multi-page ‘dumb’ cycling screen that is fed data from the 930XT by Bluetooth/Ant+. ie I keep the 930 on my wrist and I get the extra cycling metrics I need (like!) in a race. Similar to the Wahoo RFLKT+.

Too niche though. And, in my case, I just use an Edge instead to achieve these – albeit at a premium.

Closing Thoughts

So now we are at the end I confess to, once again, finishing this opinion piece without jumping up and down with childlike excitement.

Yet I come back to the FACT that Garmin will HAVE to innovate and differentiate their Forerunner 935/ 930XT offering from the 920XT. I am 100% certain about that if nothing else (share price!).

  • So what we are looking at will be a prettier device with a more capable set of innards.
  • CIQ will be the route for the fancy stuff.
  • Garmin will deliver on selected integration of key peripherals (including 3rd party)
  • Garmin will deliver on integration with STRAVA.
  • Actually that all amounts to ‘a fair bit’ but is that bit worth a £500 upgrade? And will it make me any faster?

LOGICAL PREDICTION: A 930XT for KONA 2017ish. Followed less than a year later by a 935XT to include optical HR.

RUMOURED/ALTERNATE PREDICTION:  Forerunner 935XT will be released in Q1.2017 (not 930xt) it will be called Forerunner 935 (not 935XT) and will be round.

Post Script:

Since writing the original version of this post in 2015, a lot of what I ORIGINALLY predicted  came true in the sense of the new functionality & hardware being incorporated into the Fenix 3HR, Fenix 5, CHRONOS, 630, 820 and 735XT. What I did not predict was the significant improvement of the F3/920XT’s firmware. January’s Fenix 5 announcement and subsequent March release puts the Forerunner 935 back as far as KONA Q3.2017. On the other hand the optical 735XT from May 2016 makes the Forerunner 635 (six) and 925XT MUCH LESS likely to the point where the 925XT will NEVER happen. I still understand that the 635 will rear its head this year with CIQ2 support and Running Dynamics 3 support.

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