Garmin: Have we reached peak Garmin?

Peak Garmin

Peak oil is a phrase relating to the maximum extent of oil production and the principle behind that phrase has been applied to MANY other subjects. Here I’m asking ‘Has Garmin reached its peak?‘ and I’m asking that question specifically in relation to its sports- and fitness-related devices

Has Garmin reached its peak?

Unit Sales

If we look at the question in terms of a PEAK in the sales of the number or value of items Garmin sells then, NO, I don’t think Garmin is yet at its peak. There are more geographic markets it has left to conquer, more smartwatches it COULD sell and, in any case, the overall market is growing. Other things being equal I would expect Garmin to increase it’s market shares in a rising, global market.

The spanner-in-the-works is CV-19 and the likelihood of a significant recession. Even then, unless we experience a longstanding economic depression, the inevitable bounceback will come soon after.


Tech continues to improve but the rate of increase is slowing. There are still many areas that Garmin, and others, can capitalise on. I cover them briefly here at the end of my monthly futures piece. Screens, batteries and GNSS can and will EACH improve. That said, the known and used technologies here seem to only be eeking out small incremental improvements as the years pass. Surely sports technologies ARE close to their peak?

Maybe the KNOWN technologies are at that stage. Of course, novel solutions that are not currently adopted/invented may well emerge and produce a step-change. But when?

I strongly suspect that technology and the cleverness of people have more in store for us.

Matching Market Needs

You could do a market research survey and find out what people think they want and then, at some point, you could determine when all those needs/wants are fulfilled by the products available to buy. That could be a definition of ‘peak features’. However ‘stuff changes’. As technology makes more things possible or easier, then people’s needs and wants morph over time.

Garmin Edge 530 Review

Putting that to one side, if we look at Garmin’s product ranges then we have to wonder ‘what’s next?‘ or ‘what is next that would be MEANINGFULLY different?

  • Garmin Edge 530/830/Edge 1030+ – These are all highly competent bike devices. The vast array of features can obviously be improved or extended slightly. But is there really a ‘next big thing’ coming for the features they offer? Think back to ClimbPro..that is a great feature and  I use it but has it created a meaningful step change? A: No. It’s just a slight incremental improvement. Inbuilt LTE/cellular can offer many and varied improvements in the near future but, even then, I would only see it as an enabler for incremental improvements.
  • Forerunner 245/745/FR945 – Again, these are all highly competent and feature-rich triathlon and running watches. Track mode is great, triathlon profiles approached perfection years ago and PacePro was nice. Yet, I still seem to run with the same 4 or 5 metrics on my screen that I did 5 years ago and my running experience is little-changed. I guess there is an argument that running with power offered the prospect of a step-change in running tech but the ‘step’ has proved to be only a shallow one so far with perhaps only a quarter of a million people globally using it.
  • Venu/Vivoactive – SMART watches seem to mirror SMART phones in terms of the development cycles of specific features with the improvements for watches lagging behind slightly. On that argument alone we might expect SMART watches to be approaching their peak as PHONE TECH appears to have peaked. However, I don’t think that would be a correct way of thinking about it, I reckon there are two step-changes waiting to happen
    • Health – simply because the watch is in contact with your body, it offers an opportunity that a smartphone cannot offer. Only WATCHES can directly incorporate novel technologies to sense and measure new things from stress to blood oxygen to hydration and blood glucose. So much more can be accomplished here. Investors realised this a couple of years ago.
    • Sport – The full integration between SMART devices and SPORT devices has not yet really happened. When it does and when the SMART watches can properly do SPORTS then so the SPORTS watches will die a relatively quick death.

Q: Have we reached PEAK GARMIN?

A: No, although maybe we have reached it for their bike tech.


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24 thoughts on “Garmin: Have we reached peak Garmin?

  1. I suspect continuous refinement is where Garmin may head in the short to medium term: better health stats like the recent updates to sleep tracking and recovery time, more integration with fitness equipment like the recent FE-C link to indoor bike trainers and improved smartphone integration features (within the limits of iOS and Android respectively). There may be the odd new software enabled feature along the way. Longer term, I’d be very surprised if they are not attending to their ‘infinite game’ health, by investing in R&D/innovation within new/emerging areas; but where that goes is anyone’s guess (could even have nothing to do with fitness).

  2. In my opinion a big step was the introduction of CIQ data fields, that allowed to be open to third part software. Now I’m still using my old watch for heart rate and pace, and I use my FR945 with the Runscribe Gait Coach app to check my form while running. In my opinion Garmin should further improve the CIQ environment and make things easier for CIQ app developer (there is still the max 2 CIQ data fields limit, and sometimes the developers complain because they have few memory for their apps)

  3. I use to love garmin.. big fan from the early 90s…
    But times have changed.. and Garmin sucks… They are greedy… And over priced… Charging big bucks for updating maps, when smartphone apps do it for free…
    I have garmin montana’s 600 and 610.. they both get confused and shuts down…
    Pickup came with a kenwood dnc 571… Again,,, what a peice of crap… It is NOT user friendly… It’s an all day ordeal to transfer waypoints from computer to it.. ya have to convert over to Garmin program POI… Which Garmin’s own program basecamp doesn’t even recognize.
    Well I could go on all day… Their avionics will carry them.. but the once great hand held and vehicle programs have seen their days…

    1. I suspect battery life is currently the limiting factor given that consumers wants devices that last for longer than 8-10 hours?

  4. You haven’t mentioned swimming, I’m a masters swimmer in Italy and Garmin has just slowly showed up on everyone’s wrist in the last 5/10 years with the 735 line up. And now the 745 finally has heart rate that works on the wrist in water and that is a big change for me even though I haven’t bought one yet and still use my chest sensor. (Just because I’ve got other expenses at the moment).

    1. swimmers tend not to use that much tech. I don’t consider them an important driver in the larger overall market
      (there is some good tech tho eg FORM swim goggles that i’ve reviewed and INCUS that I haven’t)

  5. When you have a product, see it updated to a new version and have almost no interest in it, that’s peak Garmin. I agree we are roughly there with the bike lines. The difference between the 1030 and 1030+ is fairly negligible. The Varia changes from 510 to 515 were nothing. If the 1030+ features will roll to a 830+ and 530+, nobody is jumping unless they are coming from a x10 or x20 series. We’re at the point that there is nothing you can ride in a day (with the back light off) that the battery won’t cover, the 3rd party app integration is good and the thing just works. I don’t think cellular connection is really going to matter when/if it happens to the bike line.

    Keeping this specific to sports, there may be growth still in the run/tri watches. The Fenix series always seemed like a big step forward with each release. On-board HR, maps, navigation, music, solar charging, and pacing were all big steps. There’s an area where there’s room/desire for cellular even if the previous cellular watch didn’t take off. The pricing has become stratospheric though. I somewhat wonder what’s left to be added to a navigation, music, solar charging monster, but a cellular connection there to leave the phone behind sounds like a good start.

    1. +1
      and then you see a competitor like Coros introduce their track mode and Garmin adds the same kind of thing within a year. That makes competition difficult on a features-basis

      1. Totally. Fresh ideas get duplicated in a hurry.

        We’re going to need way more competition in the watch market before the prices wars of trainers and power meters ever happens.

        My area of research last decade was wearable activity tracking devices and it’s crazy to see how far things have come. I gave that up around 2010 when the only thing out was the original fitbit…essentially a fancy pedometer. It was something like 2013 before we had anything wrist based that you could shower with and sleep with. Well, anyway, you kids get off my lawn.

  6. I’ll tell you what’s next: they might make Garmin Connect and sync actually work!
    How about getting Spotify playlists to sync? How about making these amazing, feature packed devices just a bit easier to use?

    Adding a wrist based heart monitor that is actually accurate to within 5bpm?

    A device that doesn’t keep losing connection to the phone?

    What about Privacy? Security?

    There is a LONG way to go before peak Garmin in that sense.

  7. Garmin can make millions more in sales if they make their products more affordable. Most of their available tech isn’t new anymore and has been around for a while. Why not let a larger audience benefit from their products!?

    1. when Garmin announce their quarterly performance figures they sometimes pay specific attention to margins. eg the TACX acquisition/range lowers the overall margin and they had to specifically address that. Presumably to allay investor concerns.

      moving to a higher volume model, at lower price points will inevitably lead to lower margins.

  8. I’m actively shopping for a replacement for my Garmin GPS watch (Forerunner 35) because I believe there is no good excuse for their data managing model that only allows me to display on my phone the data that has passed through it to their servers and back, which on a couple of occasions has been disastrous. Why not let my watch send data directly to my phone app. THEN send it on to their servers for synchronization. Bad tech model, in my opinion.

  9. I think Garmin and the other players in the fitness game need to forecast when “peak watch” may be. Garmin as a whole, especially after Tacx, has a great variety of potential growth–just not nearly as concentrated or explosive as the growth of wrist-based tech. You can’t really blame them for spraying out a wide spectrum of watches when they apparently all sell fairly well.

    As far as cycling goes, I think they are moving at a reasonable pace. The MTB additions in the E530/E830 were probably well timed. I suspect the Edge leadership is a bit conservative, but they can generally use sub-brands like Varia to move into spaces they want without too much risk. There are all sorts of crazy hardware things that can still be done by players Garmin’s size, but they start to enter into the deployment model of bike shop installation rather than a hobbyist snapping on a mount with rubber bands. Having analogs of Venu & MARQ on the cycling side are probably feasible but the Edge side of the house would need to be as comfortable with that as the Forerunner side has been. An Edge-based product specifically for daily & nightly commuters with Nuvi/Zumo real-time traffic advisory could probably be successful.

  10. “Tech continues to improve but the rate of increase is slowing. There are still many areas that Garmin, and others, can capitalise on. I cover them briefly here at the end of my monthly futures piece. Screens, batteries and GNSS can and will EACH improve. That said, the known and used technologies here seem to only be eeking out small incremental improvements as the years pass. Surely sports technologies ARE close to their peak?

    Maybe the KNOWN technologies are at that stage. Of course, novel solutions that are not currently adopted/invented may well emerge and produce a step-change. But when?”

    This is a recipe for stagnancy. There is this illusion in technology from a consumer side that refinement of current tech is a push to both cutting AND bleeding tech; when it is instead a stop-gap in R&D at best, or the way we get boring, uninventive, unintuitive tech for a 3-5 year dev cycle if anything at all.

    You can see this clearly with the current line-up of marginal upgrades in the FR 745 and F6 Solar, offering very little difference between either the prior generation or a piecemeal physical upgrade to the existing. Everything else under the hood is more or less the same or functions the same with newer parts.

    For me, this IS peak Garmin. They’re recycling the same products, the same methodology, again and again, slapping a new coat of paint of it (in the form of CIQ support), while refining the same mechanical parts over and over (which let’s be honest with ourselves, leads to them breaking everything from a software perspective). OHRM works this way, so let’s keep refining that instead of challenging how that both works AND how we set the physical LEDs! Is there something else we can design for in regards to the tact-on Activity Tracking (a more full-day tracking)? We use on-board GPS, is their anything user side we can offer?

    I’m just posing a number of points above, I’m not suggesting I have a resolution, but the point is the package is always the package, it’s what’s inside that could be something different. The problem with Garmin is they never change what they’re putting in the package when they could. How many of their watches are focused solely on users being runners? Everything circles around that.

    Even if you ARE a bonafide runner, what happens when the weather doesn’t play well with doing that? I’ll tell you from experience living in the upper midwest of America: months of negative temps means I am not heading outdoors in the ice and snow, so there would go any metrical data. Indoor training is fine, but shouldn’t Garmin (or any of these companies) take a look at how they build theses watches and flip the proverbial script? But, as I said about, they’ve peaked and become stagnant.

    1. well, as you know we think similarly and what you just wrote i would probably have written before 😉
      seriously, i think it’s a tad harsh on garmin, although i agree with the sentiment that what we are seeing is RELATIVELY stagnant. i would add that things happen under the hood that we don’t know about, bits change for sure and we never know although sometimes we do (ohr).
      i would prefer to see garmin currently to be slightly incrementally evolving their products BUT that they are supremely positioned (cash, R&D infrastructure) to capitalise on the ‘novel new thing’ when it comes along eg multi-frequency. multi-constellation gnss. then again i would have thought they would have jumped at a quarter of a million stryd-like premium footpod sales but they clearly haven’t. stryd clearly has no magic sauce as coros and polar have both come up with something broadly similar in a relatively short timeframe.

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