2018: Peaktastic not Garmintastic – Year Ahead for Sports Tech

This time last year I wrote a piece about 2017 being “The year of the Garmin“. Clearly that has turned out to be broadly the case.


2017: The year of the Garmin – Sports Watch MARKET predictions for an exciting year – not just for Garmin

2017 – A quick look BACK with most eyes on Garmin & Apple

Of course lots of other things also happened outside of the Garmin hegemony. But Garmin have gone ‘above and beyond’ my expectation for delivering new products…Vector 3, Edge 1030, Fenix 5 COLLECTION, Forerunner 935, Forerunner 245 (maybe), Forerunner 645 (very soon), Vivoactive 3 and so on.

2017 really has been Garmintastic

There have been many new and specific features and new innovations from: the 1030’s special battery; to better Firstbeat integration; to Garmin Pay; and to Garmin Running Power.

We’ve seen the activity tracker market achieve the giddy technical heights of ‘meh’ness. You can only do so much for so long with mostly uninspiring tech looking at, mostly, just vaguely-enlightening stats. Steps…is steps…is steps. Even when the tracker is wearing a pretty dress. Or are they really wearing “the Emporer’s new clothes”? (link to: wikipedia.com)

Suunto have mostly got their act together. Polar have notably refreshed stuff. TomTom have…errr…a problem. Fitbit have rolled the dice. Samsung tinker along. AndroidWear has drifted forwards with a few, expected vendor hiccups. Apple has continued to avoid paying ever-increasing amounts of tax that they should really morally pay whilst releasing ever-more expensive products (link to fake news source: bbc.co.uk). Actually that’s true of many of the companies mentioned here.. Garmin Switzerland anyone?

Swimming seems to have very little innovation although a power meter is due! Cycling has been tinkling forwards with: better integration of workouts; the promise of new devices; slightly better navigational stuff; cheaper, generally great, power meters & trainers; and of course Garmin have linked to every kind of thing possibly ever to be linked to a bike including the fabled traffic light hacker…the glasses that make traffic lights ALWAYS green to certain cyclists. You know the ones.

Truly Garmintastic

Or Was it? In our own informational silos, it was. Might someone else see it as an Appletastic year (probably) or a Xiaomitastic year (who?)

2018 – Peak Endurance Tech

There is more to come in 2018 for Garmin with: Galileo; 245/645/745XT/530/F5+; Firstbeat/personal physiological metric synchronisation across devices; aeroness sensors for bikes; and finally getting their running power algorithm to work properly. Oh yes and rolling out Garmin Pay to places other than Kansas and maybe also introducing paid-for apps.

Polar and Fitbit will have new stuff. HAMMERHEAD will have new stuff. Garmin will definitely have new stuff to fix the Fenix 5 issues (the PLUS range…aka the one that works properly for everyone). Suunto might have more to add if they can think of another obscure variant for the SPARTAN. Lezyne will add a year 13 range to confuse us when we know it should really be Year 18 for 2018. Even, surprisingly, TomTom might have a final throw of the dice – although I doubt it.

Some of the other trends that will continue include: higher res colour screens; music on watch; battery-duration innovation; 1m GPS accuracy Galileo – now confirmed in Garmin FORETREX; vendor apps/app store (eg for the Fitbit Ionic); WORKOUT DATA standards, openness and integration; mapping/navigation (on watch and eSIM); support for novel accessories & sensor data – environmental (weather), physiological (hydration, blood glucose) & spatial (radar); optical HR; deep smartphone integration (AndroidWear2, Apple); simultaneous dual-band recording (ZWIFT+your main recording device with BLE); on-watch eSIM card.

I’ll also remind you that cycling computers will start to be built on a smart phone base. You’ve already seen them (XPLOVA X5, X5 EVO, X3 soon, KAROO)

What about the data ecosystems?

Broadly apps and online systems seem to be stabilising and homogenizing as they trend towards becoming somewhat monolithic in the multiple solutions they offer in one place. As they become increasingly impenetrable for users will that increasingly offer further opportunities for providers of specific services – Xert, TP, STRYD and so on….probably yes. Niche apps/platforms can sit nicely alongside niche physical products. But can software-only platforms make enough money to survive? (Zwift)

2019 – Then What?

Indeed. Then What?

Of course many of those previously mentioned trends will continue. There will, of course, be more incremental innovation. There will, of course, be some areas of significant innovation.

There will be V6 and V7 where V5 previously existed. I’m just not sure that V6 and V7 will have THAT much new in them on the whole.

A proliferation of ‘meh’ness.

But I just have the sense in my waters that the sheer mass of step changes in innovation will start to decline from 2019 onwards.

2018 will be PEAK TECH – Party while the sun shines.

The competition will be intensifying further. But the longterm competition for survival will be for the ‘smart sports watch’…not for the running watch, not for the multi-sport watch. This is the market that Fitbit Ionic, Samsung Gear, Garmin Vivoactive 3 and Apple Watch 3 are targeting. It’s BIG and it has the potential for high-profit levels.

There’s also profit to be had further down the chain – Xiaomi will be seen to have a quite clever mass-market strategy…a bit of profit per unit times by squillions of units equals a BIG profit. The world is a big, mostly relatively poor, place with lots of people to buy the cheap stuff that a triathlete would always scoff at.

Also, the BIKE COMPUTER competition will hot up. Garmin has had it their way too long with only WAHOO muddying the water a little as Polar, MIO, Lezyne and others scramble around for the scraps. Bring in the new boys and girls in 2018!. And don’t forget that new bike sales are declining in many key markets. That’s a leading indicator of a decline in cycling….perhaps.

Remember; my 2016 article, referred to above, above also says:

2026: In 10 years time there could just be Apple (Watch OS) and AndroidWear v7, possibly Fitbit to make up the triumvirate. Even the mighty Garmin could falter in that timeframe.

I’ll stick by that; allowing myself to add into that scenario a few, mostly irrelevant, small bit players who survive in various niches. Maybe Garmin will retreat back from smartwatches into some of their other markets – marine, aviation, bikes, cars.

SUMMARY: In my opinion, 2018 will be PEAK-techtastic. In reality, i will also still be as Garmintastic as 2017. But look up and see the dark clouds looming.

Comments welcomed. I’ll make changes and add pretty pictures if my opinions change. They often do. That’s the beauty of opinions.

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11 thoughts on “2018: Peaktastic not Garmintastic – Year Ahead for Sports Tech

  1. Do you think Garmin will release the 645 this year? if not it looks like the polar m600 for onboard music is the only real option haha.

    1. I do think they will realease soon. but i don’t know. it’s strange i would have thought it would eb here by now. i can’t see how they will release at a time to confuse messages with BLACK FRIDAY. so it will either be next week or early december. but then early december must be too late unless they have done some very clever market research.

  2. Yes………but when will they be announcing the 645 ? So many choices out there and money burning a hole in my pocket!

  3. It’s hard to imagine additional hardware that would better measure the running experience. Longer battery life, quicker charging, better screens are always welcome of course. But if anyone would listen to me, I’d encourage watch companies to introduce better interpretation of data. Like using your overall stress levels measured throughout the day to recommend workout intensity and in-run feedback on running form or exertion levels. For instance, when you finish a run, Garmin’s watches will give you a training effect score saying “not enough, good, or too much”. It’d be nice to see that during the run so people know when to push on or stop. If adequate improvements can be made on footpods or smart shoes it could also perhaps give real-time feedback on pronation, overstriding along with the vertical ratio already available on running dynamics and tips to improve those. The watches might need to be tethered to a phone for all that, but it’s something that new athletes would appreciate and Garmin et al need to give people a reason to spend money on their watches instead of the cheaper and more capable Apple or Android watches.

      1. Of course 3rd parties are doing these types of metrics, but as Ben just proved;

        The vast majority of users don’t either know about them or don’t want to use 3rd party integration.

        You’d think the people putting out the product would also have the foresight to build a system to interpret data cleanly and progressively; That isn’t the case with Garmin in my experience. Why they don’t is beyond me (maybe that don’t want to go the route of a Fitbit and charge for advanced information….whatever Fitbit does provide in that subscription). Things like EPOC are recorded within the confines of Garmin’s devices, but you’ll never see a chart for it (Suunto does though.

        Maybe that’s the next big expansion, Garmin and their ilk start buying up 3rd party apps/services to bolster their own infrastructure. Why build it yourself when you can just buy the company that already did all the work?

  4. “Firstbeat/personal physiological metric synchronisation across devices”… For me, this couldn’t come soon enough. Polar has been able to combine data to provide an overall “recovery status” from your workouts across devices. No need to train the device for 7 days before it can give you a good indication. Hopefully Garmin can integrate something like this soon. I’ve always loved Garmin hardware, but prefer the Polar software and insights.

    1. I’m holding out hope that the V800 replacement rumored to be coming next year is everything it’s predecessor but updated with new tech and doesn’t look like a PDA wrapped in rubber for the wrist.

      Polar insights skew better for someone like me (someone that likes to run and cycle but doesn’t LIVE to run and cycle). Training Status from Firstbeat is next to useless for me since:

      a)You need to have at least one run in a two week period to continue to get a Training Status
      b)I live in the American equivalent of the lands north of the Wall!

      Temps are in the teens at the moment with snow and ice already on the ground. I don’t know about you, but that’s a tad bit too cold to go running with. All Garmin has right now is the broader sensor support and hardware that looks more like a watch and less like something you’d find in a laboratory setting.

  5. I agree with the peak watch sentiment. Its been gradual but the gap between smart watch and GPS running watch has been closing – Apple watch with decent GPS – Garmin with alerts and apps. Garmin has always had excellent hardware and mediocre software – still does. It won’t be able to compete in a smart watch world – saving some kind of Android wear merger?

    1. that could be right it would be my bet) but maybe not for a while due to, i believe, the battery hit of androidwear.
      also, almost by definition, if there is much less new stuff to add by garmin then ‘catch-up’ by the other players is a shorter game as there is less to catch up on.
      but also if you think about the massive amount of features produced by garmin. it must be VERY hard for anyone else to develop those by themselves. the only way will be via APPS of some sort ie by 3rd party developers. which must mean that garmin’s challengers at the moment can only be apple/WatchOS, fitbit,samsung (tizen) or androidwear.

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