Garmin Forerunner 930XT / 935XT For 2016 – (Written Pre-735XT, pre Fenix 5)

Garmin 920XT 735XT Optical ELEVATE

 

 

 

This post has now been significantly updated, revised and improved. The new location is here at this URL: http://the5krunner.com/2017/01/05/garmin-930xt-935xt-2017-technical-specifications-predictions-updated-for-2017/

Or feel free to read the old version, below. Bottom line is – there WILL be a 920XT replacement in 2017, probably called 930XT.

 

 

 

 

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 and the future incarnations of the FENIX3 by the same token?

 

 

 

It’s also a question of, ‘What else will be bundled into an improved 920XT?’.

Read this article as equally applying for a FENIX 5 (Jan 2016 optical HR version to be announced for Fenix 3)

A review of the Garmin Forerunner 935XT / 930XT / Fenix 4 / Fenix 5 requires one thing. A watch! So, just for the avoidance of doubt: I have not got one; it may or may not exist; it may or may not be planned; no-one at Garmin has told me about one as they are forbidden to release market sensitive information before the financial markets. External reviewers close to Garmin and suppliers of Garmin will be restricted from comment by Non Disclosure Agreements (NDAs); so they won’t tell you either. But there WILL be one…honest!

Fenix 5 Leak

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Garmin Fenix 4 Concept Source: Sylvain Gerber: http://goo.gl/DztAhw

So please read on if you want to. This is just an opinion piece and a bit of fun.

I predict there will be a Garmin Forerunner 930XT on general release in 2016 – latest Autumn 2016. EDIT: Forerunner 735XT announced meeting many of these predictions. However I STILL predict a 930XT for these reasons -otherwise Garmin have c*&ked up!

This piece starts out that discussing optical HR and then moves on to many other functional areas of the product.

Rationale:

Garmin have got a whopping stockpile of cash, some $18bn I believe. 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 and fitness and wearables markets to survive and prosper. It’s their raison d’être (yes I do own a thesaurus).

September 2014 marked the release of the Forerunner 920XT and the FENIX3 came soon after in January 2015. The FENIX3 came out a mere 12 months after the FENIX2.

So the 2-year product cycle would dictate a 935XT / 930XT announcement in September 2016.

Arguments against an impending release/announcement:

  • A triathlon watch is feature-full and complex. It took 3 years to get from the 910XT to the 920XT. Why only one year to the 930XT/935XT? (A: Garmin have spent squillions on R&D)
  • Garmin may be nervous about optical HR. Indeed they may have tried themselves and failed – hence having to partner initially with MIO. As a result they might approach this technology with caution with just the running watches as a testbed. Companies really do want to sell products that work and not continually have to replace them for free!
  • Optical technology has its problems. These problems will be magnified in water. Garmin won’t want products that don’t always work and create bad feelings in the user base – any more than ‘necessary’.
  • Maybe there really hasn’t been enough time for a limited R&D team to implement new technology? Some of the 930XT’s new features, like the advanced/extended Running Dynamics, Swimming, Caching and LTHR estimates REQUIRE a CHEST strap not an oHRM.

Personally I would discount most of these arguments. Money talks. Triathlon and Running are 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. In Feb 2016 Garmin is still selling lots of Fenix 3s (HR variant too). The Fenix 4 won’t be released until those revenues drop off and then, of course, only if it exists.

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 2016.

My prediction is for an announcement in Spring

WHAT ELSE?

Even if I’m wrong about the 930XT what else are they going to release? New firmware updates are NOT going to make significant new revenues.

So perhaps a Garmin SWIM 2? Maybe. But that will hardly be a money spinner in what I imagine to be a limited market.

Fenix 4/Fenix 5 and 930XT seem to be the way to go (Fenix 3 HR, Fenix 4, Fenix 4 HR, Fenix 5, Fenix 5HR, Fenix 5S,  920XT, 925XT HR, 930XT, 935XT HR, 735XT, 740XT)

FORM FACTOR

Form factor is what a product looks like – its ‘shape’. We know that the Forerunner Multisport watches are rectangular/square and that the and FENIX range are circular. That won’t change.

This great clickable image from zitasport.com shows progression of the various watches over time.

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 930XT (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?

My 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 colour screen and optical HR to the rear. It will be visually similar to the 920XT.

Nothing too controversial there, I think.

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 or so years of criticism and would at least look towards something more monochromatic like the Epix the Fenix3, or the 910XT – all of which, IMHO, are pleasing to my eye. As are some of the colours of the new Forerunner 630 (someone listened to me).

Garmin-Forerunner-225

Garmin-Forerunner-225

Then again the May 2015-announced Forerunner 225 (image to the right) shows a strong similarity to the 220 so maybe the 935 / 930 will be identical to the 920XT? That could be easier to accomplish and speed up development.

They may also learn a trick or two from Apple and Suunto with a later introduction of premium-aesthetic forms over summer 2016.

Perhaps not a gold-plated model (Apple Watch), that would be silly, but something could be done with interchangeable straps 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.

Better colour options to enable it to be am aesthetically wearable day-to-day watch (930XT) and a bit chunkier to accommodate the optical HR unit (935XT)

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

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

Although I’m now not so sure. I was just asked to contribute to a POLAR survey about new colours for the beautiful-as-it-is Black V800. Colours?! maybe I’m out of touch?

CONNECTIVITY and COMMUNICATIONS

More of the same too here I’m afraid. It will still be ANT+ only for sensor support. It will not support BTLE/BLE/Bluetooth sensors directly (without the aid of a BRIDGE which doesn’t/won’t exist AFAIK). BTLE sensor support is a commercial decision rather than a technical one.

It will still allow uploads/comms through both WIFI and BLUETOOTH over your home network and/or to your smartphone. You will also get enhanced positional support through GLONASS, just like the FENIX3 and 920XT. Oh and battery-extending ULTRATRAC too.

Sorry, it’s just the existing GLONASS+GPS+ULTRATRAC and BTLE(out) 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 might have a touch 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 and even the Samsung Gear Fit.

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

Perhaps too, like the Apple Watch, innovation might come through a less expected route such as an EVEN better screen than I’ve imagined that can allow different kinds of taps and gestures (eg a tap vs. a firm press). Perhaps, like the Apple Watch, different levels and types of alerts will be felt with different kinds of vibrations or heard with different kinds of audible tones. Perhaps? Perhaps not? I think ‘perhaps NOT’ is most likely.

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 / 935XT. With the ability soon, for apps to be able to write data into the FIT file we will see a step-change in usefulness as recently seen with some of the XERT apps.

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

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 935XT / 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 HRM-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 – seems good so far though (I use one weekly). The HRM-TRI (HRM4-TRI) could just be a better performing strap that we are looking at rather than one which helps new functionality.

Although looking at the new HRM4-RUN for the 630 I would imagine the new running dynamics and LTHR stuff are already well embedded in the HRM-TRI (EDIT: they are).

Garmin HRM-RUN HRM-TRI HRM-SWIMThe strap will not NEED to ship with the optical 935XT as the 935XT will have optical HR! In any case, that release will come after the 930XT+HRM4-RUN release which will still work with your existing strap in any case.

There will of course be an option to turn off optical HR (saves battery power) and use a chest strap. Also the chest strap will almost certainly be required to continue to produce the running dynamics data and the improved running dynamics already on the 630.

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

Garmin 735XT Optical ELEVATEOh and here’s a picture of the optical HR unit that may be in the 935XT!! It already exists on the 225/235/735 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 (Fenix 4 🙂 ) for example.

Actually this might be changed to have more multicoloured LEDs, more LEDs and/or more sensors – all of which might improve accuracy as of course does the algorithm we don’t see. This would Indeed this is exactly what we have seen with the Vivosmart HR which uses Garmin’s own 3-LED Elevate oHRM.

The new strap already exists for the 930XT and the optical HR unit will be identical to that in the 735/CHRONOS.

EDIT Jul 2015: The new HRM-TRI and HRM-SWIM are already (review here).

THE PODs – HR PODs and OTHER PODs

Have a look at cycling dynamics that came with the bike computer that use the GARMIN VECTOR power-meter pedals.

Cycling Dynamic metrics were introduced in two tranches.

We have one set of running metrics already (Vertical Oscillation, Ground Contact Time, Cadence) and there is 2nd tranche with the Forerunner 630 and HRM4-RUN.

Maybe there is EVEN more to come in a 3rd tranche? (Probably not)

I know for sure that other vendors are actively pursuing new technique- and bio-metrics for running eg RUNTEQ. RunScribe and AMBIOTEX. Kinematix’s TUNE product looks at new metrics like HEEL contact time (both sides) and RunScibe’s product has many advanced metrics.

There will be the *NEW* RUNNING DYNAMICS metrics already supplied by the updated HRM4-RUN pod. (EDIT: Introduced to 920XT late 2015)

Actually, other sensors could also be developed as, for example, a new footpod. But realistically I don’t think that Garmin will want yet another footpod to sell along with a HRM pod. Probably.

A footpod is STILL required for accurate instant pace on ALL Garmin running watches. I can’t see that changing either.

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.COACH, KINEMATIX TUNE or several others looking at running mechanics. Too niche perhaps?

Another area of improvement for the POD (which the new HRM4-RUN and HRM-TRI straps may have been designed to support) is super-accurate HR readings. I mentioned earlier about AMBIOTEX, they are in beta for a super accurate HR pod which they claim is able to estimate Lactate Threshold Heart Rates (LTHR). Such hardware capability could feed though into a watch that is able to automatically set ‘correct’ heart rate training zones (this sort of functionality at least in part appears to be in the Forerunner 630 where the strap, any old strap, supports the on-watch LTHR functionality).

Further improvement still is for super-sensitive readings. This means that the HRM picks up a weak signal, which can happen for a variety of anatomical reasons rather than just being ‘worn incorrectly’.

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

METRICS

New metrics could be added and yes I know that there are plenty-enough already. You can get yet more new ones through IQ and yet EVEN more new ones may be introduced through improvements to RUNNING DYNAMICS beyond the existing 6x metrics. A first look at the new 630 shows more could be added just to catch up with some of the competition.

Having said that METMAX or EPOC (or MO2 or run power) measurements may be introduced as they are used extensively by the partner-company of Garmin – FIRSTBEAT.  As you can see, below, Suunto, also a Firstbeat partner, already do this sort of thing to a degree.

Analysis

The 930XT/935XT will 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)

Nothing Much New Here Over What is already on the 630.

Segments & Splits

Just as on-device segments have been added to the Edge 810 and Edge 1000 cycling computers then so must they be added on running and triathlon watches – just a notification of the start of a favourite segment would be a nod in the right direction (Edit: this is/was now on the 920XT/910XT as part of a course in any case). With the recently announced Strava segment support then I would hope and expect this feature to quickly find its way onto the 935/930 just as it has with the new Garmin Edge 520 – although such a cycling feature is likely to be destined first for the Edge 820.

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 920XT just to give a more complete product offering. Don’t hold your breath.

Laps based are both GPS position and time, like the TomTom Runner 2/Spark, are also needed with the latter much less likely to be added (alerts can be set by time to have a similar effect).

Further segment support ought to be added and laps within intervals should be added. Laps based on position could be added. Eventually I would expect a deeper integration with STRAVA.

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 similar ones on the golfing watch, the Approach) will also be avaialble for selected other measures – like on the newly released Forerunner 225/235/630 for HR data.

WEIGHT& BATTERY LIFE

Battery life will be improved to accommodate ultra-runners.

A more powerful battery will be necessary 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 620/630 are super-light and the VivoActive is lighter still. I can’t see the 920XT getting lighter. It might get a bit heavier to accommodate a bigger battery and/or the optical HR unit. The optical unit will be on the back and the battery inside the watch! (Outstanding predictions here at the end!)

It will be broadly the same weight

Garmin Fenix 4 Concept Source: Sylvain Gerber: http://goo.gl/DztAhw

Garmin Fenix 4 Concept Source: Sylvain Gerber: http://goo.gl/DztAhw

NAVIGATION

Some more enhanced navigation may be introduced but then this starts to stray the 930XT in the direction of the FENIX3 and EPIX. I recently followed a 50 mile off-road MTB route and the existing ‘mapping’ that enabled me to follow a pre-determined course was fine on the 920. 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’ and waypoints/breadcrumbs.

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 bluetooth, smartphone notifications

ACTIVITY MONITOR

Yes, as with the 920XT and 630.

Possible unseen hardware improvements might make the existing tracker better for example eliminating the “hundreds of steps I do” when driving!

It will be an activity tracker.

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

SWIM/BIKE – MULTISPORT

Some form of an additional token nod could be given to improve canoeing/paddling or rowing or indoor machine compatibility but I ‘m not too fussed about that and neither would be most tri-users.

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 be added. Indeed on that point (Aug 2016) there have already been some rumblings and bits and bobs added into the 735XT and FENIX3, so that functionality is super-likely to be in the 930XT.

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

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 2015 Strava additions could migrate their way from the Edge 520.

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.

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 on the watch clever, predictive things can be done (again see XERT for examples).

No exciting new bike functionality. eg It might handle lights/RADAR but that isn’t exciting. (At all)

SWIM SPECIFIC FUNCTIONALITY

Much 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. I draw your attention also to the optical HR in the just-released FINIS swim watch (one more is due).

  1. YES: Enabling of HR whilst in pool mode (already exists in the 920XT with HRM-TRI)
  2. Support of optical HR (935XT) – but this may not extend to underwater
  3. YES: Support of a caching HR pod will happen
  4. Optical HR will probably not be HRV-ready (TomTom claim to be almost there in 2015 as do Valencell in 2016).
  5. Support of swim workouts – Yes (Edit: introduced in 920)
  6. Swim Metronome – Possible

This is all fine of course but I suspect not that attractive to many people to make them upgrade from the 920XT.

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.

It’s MUCH more likely that new Garmin peripherals will be fully INTEGRATED before the likes of 3rd party products like STRYD, RUNTEQ, BSXInsight and MOXY. Although Connect IQ DATA FIELDS NOW ALL EXIST for these products and so write-to-FIT should work (Sep 2016).

Next most likely to be integrated would be products, such as MOXY, where Garmin probably have no competing products of their own. 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.

Existing Garmin Accessories to be integrated. Probably new accessories like STRYD.

Note however that Q1/Q2.2016 will see Garmin Connect IQ introduce the ability of ‘apps’ to write data into FIT files. Essentially the likes of BSX, STRYD, Moxy and running biomechanics products will be expected to write their own apps. Issues then will become WHERE exactly in the file should the SmO2/run-power data be put so that it can be accepted by all 3rd party apps? Answer: It can’t really unless it is included in the FIT file spec – and that standard has to be changed and that requires Garmin to do it. (Edit: Sep 2016 – write to FIT now mostly works)

A NEW RANGE?

The Garmin multisport position is confused. The Epix, Vivoactive and Fenix3 all do similar things. In some cases identical things and you can even use the 620/630 for a duathlon. The vivoactive is triathlon-light and the Epix 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 935XT HR. Then the 930XT has all the other enhancements and an improved swim offering. The 935XT just adds optical to the mix. The pen pushers might see two lots of revenues there but I don’t think swim improvements alone will tempt many to upgrade whereas optical HR might…many women for example. A caching HR pod for swimming might make me upgrade my HRM but maybe not the watch too.

Continued confusion with the Epix/FENIX/VivoActive ranges but just one upgrade to the 920XT itself. Further confusion with the populist 735XT range.

PRICING

You can see the trend in the price of the 920XT since launch in the UK, it’s now down to around £250/270 with a strap.

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

An ANT+ power sensor FOR RUNNING already exists with STRYD and it ‘sort of’ works if the watch is put in bike mode so that it can receive generic power data. STRYD is to be imminently launched (written May 2015). Should that go well I suspect that Garmin might, just might, include 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.

Maybe the 3rd party manufacturer (STRYD) could fully implement functionality through IQ including writing power into the FIT file?

However should Garmin ever buy such a company then we are talking a different ball game totally and there would be full integration throughout the top end of all running related products. Training Peaks people would probably love power-running! and SportTracks already fully supports it.

There won’t be direct ANT+ Power Running Support. Some form of RUN+POWER enablement through IQ may happen.

2. Tests and Recovery Metrics

Fitness protocols or tests have been included in the Forerunner 630 this will also happen with the 930XT / 935XT superseding what follows, below, or at least making it VERY likely. The 630 features here look good but can still be extended further into intelligent workouts and intelligent audio prompting.

Perhaps waking HRV (an IQ app already exists for this), perhaps tests that determine LTHR (in the Forerunner 630)  or that further utilise or refine HR zones through the existing VO2max estimates or through LTHR estimates.

Tests like Polar’s JUMP test could be incorporated as a measure of recovery.

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, like the 920XT). 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 trainign – 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, 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 people do not have one-to-one coaching!

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

5. Voice-In training

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 630 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.

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

6. Garmin Patents

I have looked through some Garmin patents (on the net). The only thing that stood out to me were navigational aids when openwater swimming. So you could imagine some kind of feedback device to help steer a course towards the next buoy during a race. This would reduce the need for sighting and would make you faster.

Unfortunately you would be disqualified for using such technology and/or would be reliant on getting the buoy position precisely correct in order to be correctly directed to it from the watch’s probably incorrect estimate of where you currently are!!

Nice idea though!

7. 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+. I keep the 930 on my wrist and I get the extra cycling metrics I need (like!) in a race. Similar to the RFLKT+.

Too niche though.

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 925XT HR/935XT HR/ 930XT offering from the 920XT. I am 100% certain about that if nothing else (share price!).

Feeling that there is not so much that either can or will be added in terms of firmware/software functionality I am left with the disappointing conclusion that the differentiation will happen almost exclusively through the ‘better’ optical HR hardware and prettier screen/interface. Garmin is a technology company after all, so maybe this should not surprise us.

There will be an expansion of SWIM capability with HR caching on the new HRM-TRI strap and there will be nearly all the bits from the Forerunner 630, Edge 820 and maybe the bits from a SWIM 2.

Actually that all amounts to ‘a fair bit’ but is that bit worth a £500 upgrade? And will it make me any faster?

PREDICTION: A 930XT to include minor improvements to ‘athlete physiological’ data and better swim logging. Several little bells and whistle to partially excite you. Followed later by a 935XT to include optical HR.

EDIT: Since writing this, a lot of what I predicted has come true in the sense of the new functionality & hardware being incorporated into the Fenix3, 920xt, CHRONOS and 735XT. So, what I did not predict was the significant improvement of the 920XT with this new functionality being introduced through new firmware upgrades. With the recent CHRONOS release, the odds of a 925XT HR (2016) have shortened. That then might put the 930XT and Fenix 4 way back to 2017…but I don’t think so. On the other hand the optical 735XT makes the 635 (six) and 925XT MUCH LESS likely.

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2 thoughts on “Garmin Forerunner 930XT / 935XT For 2016 – (Written Pre-735XT, pre Fenix 5)

  1. The main issue with an optical HRM on a triathalon watch is that when it comes to the cycling part, you’re generally wanting to mount the watch on the bike. This would disconnect an optical HRM. Any HRM would almost need to be an external device.

    But an external HRM device can’t transmit wirelessly in water as the water interferes with both ANT+ and BT signals, reducing the workable distance to almost zero. This is why with the Swim/Tri HRM belts, Garmin went with ones that save the data for transmission later.

    But people like me don’t like wearing HRM belts, so here’s a thought. Making a HRM option for those like me who don’t like belts by building an optical HRM into the already-existing QuickRelease wrist strap! Keeps the watch close enough that it _should_ work when swimming, and allows distance between the Optical HRM and the watch for the cycling leg!

    • Hi Byorgen
      Ha! yes, good point. I’d not thought of the mounting on the bike argument.
      Of course chest straps will probably ALWAYS be an option for a top-end running/triathlon watch but the new functionality that will be required to match your comment would be that it would need to look for different HRMs in different sports and/or be able to turn optical OFF for a specific sport.
      Another argument is cold climates where people wear lots of layers on their arms and then need to have a watch OVER the layers.
      I had discussed the idea of building a oHRM into a strap to a developer in the middle of last year – mainly for getting the swim HR…then Garmin’s HRM-TRI/SWIM came out !! which makes the market smaller and hence the incentive to develop it smaller. Still: a GOOD idea.
      the scosche arm band is another suggestion or Jabra HR ear buds (for training) but I don’t get on with either of those

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