Garmin Forerunner 955/955LTE – What features will we see?
This is a significant revision of content from May 2019
Return to Garmin Forerunner 945 Review
Whilst it’s a secret in Garmin’s head office, it’s almost certainly no secret to regular readers that we’ll see a replacement 945LTE in 2021, rumours say as soon as Q1, although my personal bet would be later.
This article looks in detail at what features & specifications might be in the Forerunner 955 and any LTE variant of the 955 or 945.
We can expect some goodies by looking at how quickly Garmin introduce new features to catch up with those introduced by competitors. When Garmin have been outmanoeuvred they react swiftly eg to the novel TRACK feature introduced by Coros. Thus with other new features on the ELEMNT RIVAL triathlon watch and Polar Vantage 2, we might see them copied and improved for the 955. I’m specifically thinking of the Wahoo’s auto-transition feature, let’s come back to that in a minute.
Instead, what is impressive are the new features that have already found their way into the 945 over the last 18 months (list of new features) which includes Daily Suggested Workouts, Track Mode, Improved Recovery Calc, FE-C Control, UI improvements like in-place data field editing, virtual run activity profile, respiration features, swim features, PacePro and oHR for swimming. Even with my critical hat on I would have to say that is an impressive list of new features. Oh and don’t forget the 745 had GPS accuracy improvements and recently we saw new beta firmware include further tweaks to the GPS firmware – which might bode well for better performance from the 945 too.
The Forerunner 945 might, to all intents and purposes, seem like a Fenix 5t Plus – ie it appears to be highly similar to the Fenix 5 Plus range but with a lightweight plastic shell for triathlon. Yet that is unfair as there were additional hardware boosts (Sony GNSS, ELEVATE v3) and there are UI improvements too. The point of mentioning this is that the 955 will play hardware catch up to the 945 and bring in features from the existing Fenix 6 plus, probably, one major, new headline feature.
We expect a Forerunner 955 and Forerunner 955 LTE. The 955 LTE might instead be called the 955 PRO.
Form & Overall Function
The Garmin Forerunner 945 is a premium multi-sport watch and a derivative of the Fenix line.
The large, medium, small and lightweight, circular formats are here to stay with the Fenix in both Pro and non-Pro versions. The FR945 is effectively a medium format PRO version and the FR745 is a small format, non-pro version. The FR955 will be the same format ‘plastic’ watch as the 945.
The Fenix format is extended to sport-specific models such as Descent (dive), Tactix (military/hunting), Delta (aviation), Forerunner 9×5 (triathlon) and these are each refined with a luxury MARQ version which has a premium case. To some extent, kinda, there are entry-level/lower-level versions of the Fenix (INSTINCT) and FR 945 (FR 735/
745XT) and we can expect those lower-end models to continue or even appear as new products to cover military/aviation/driving/diving uses if there is a significantly larger market for them (I don’t think there is).
The existing Fenix button layout/ hardware interface works well and will not change significantly. However, the software user interface is clearly improving as we have seen with the 945 and Edge 530/830.
It’s possible a touchscreen with optional enablement could be introduced on one of the future models but I hope not. The optional touchscreen does work well on the Suunto models for out-of-sport usage.
Weights and dimensions will be slightly changed by a subtly different battery and other components.
Take Out: Incremental change to the hardware, possibly significant changes to the software UI. Unlikely we will see multiple variants of 955 (Solar), other than the LTE/PRO version.
An ‘obvious’ market trend for Garmin to follow would be for the high-end of the Fenix/Forerunner ranges to have onboard cellular connectivity like the Vivoactive LTE. Whilst this might let you take and receive phone calls on the watch, perhaps the more important feature is 24×7 data connectivity. So we are NOT talking here about taking a call in the middle of your triathlon but rather having GROUP TRACK and LIVE TRACK enabled in your triathlon…without a smartphone. We are also talking about over-the-air streaming music services and very many other location-based services like ASSISTANCE that already exist for your smartphone.
Take Out: A variant of the 955 and 945 are already leaked to have cellular connectivity and this will be the HEADLINE FEATURE for the announcement.
Music support has shown its pretty head in with the Forerunner 945
I could slate Garmin’s implementation of Music in OH SO MANY WAYS. However, the reality is that, for sports usage, it’s superior to everyone else. So, such criticism would be unfair and I’ll be nice. AFAIK Garmin’s platform is ready for Google and Apple to integrate their music services if they want to. I can’t see Apple doing that (you never know) but I DO expect YouTube Music/Google Play Music to come to the 955 in 2021. But what is happening here with Google is highly strange as iOS & WatchOS versions of Youtube Music have been released but there is no version at all for Wear OS. Very strange.
The inclusion of LTE will enable live music to be streamed when you are running rather than stream-and-cached to your 945 over WiFi. That’s a headline for some.
AFAIK no smartwatch has a high definition playback codec like AptX HD and I don’t expect the 955 to have that either.
Take Out: Proper streaming on the 955 LTE with YouTube Music to follow.
I’ve not followed this too closely but it looks like Garmin’s global adoption of new banks has slowed recently.
As contactless payments make their way down to Garmin’s lower models and transaction volumes increase then Garmin will be a more important source of revenue for the banks and Garmin Pay will become more important to Garmin. Hence the take-on of new banks will continue, albeit slowly.
Don’t expect to see Garmin support a payment provider like ‘Generic Visa’. Apple and Google can and do that. Garmin likely won’t or can’t.
Take Out: Same old, same old.
Optical Heart Rate
Version 3 of ELEVATE will still be here in 2021 in all its oHR and SpO2 glory.
Take Out: The current ELEVATE v3 will be on the 955.
GNSS: GPS, Galileo & SBAS (GLONASS, GPS 3 and BDS too), L1/L2/L5(a)
Dual Band GNSS with GPS+GALILEO is already in the 945
I think Garmin may recently have got GPS+GLONASS to an optimal state. I don’t know if they will continue to try to improve that or if they will try to fine-tune for GALILEO or ready themselves further for GPS 3.
Dual Frequency (L1, L2 or L5) plus Dual Band (Glonass, Galileo) is not possible on the existing Sony chipset for the 945 but it is possible on the next generation which Garmin started to use in September 2020. It is sensibly possible that all new top-end Garmin watches in 2021 with boast next-gen dual-frequency chipsets (probably not the January releases of Lily/Enduro). These may (or may not) radically increase low-speed accuracy (hiking, ultra) and may or may not increase GNSS accuracy whilst running at faster speeds, they WILL take a hit on battery life but a software switch might let you turn that mode on/off.
Take Out: GNSS improvements unlikely by firmware but a new chip quite possibly could deliver.
Onboard Sensors & 3rd Party Sensor Support
I think we are pretty much ‘there’ with 3rd party sensor support for the Garmin Forerunner 945. The recent sensor Hub improvements seem to make for generally better connections in my experience, but still with the occasional annoyance.
With the arrival of the HRM-PRO, all major Garmin sensors except the running pods & tempe now broadcast in ANT+ and BLE.
Garmin might make a physical pod that is a STRYD competitor but is far more likely to introduce a wrist-based calculation of running power.
Garmin already has the ability to accept new data types through CIQ. So if we ever get a decent hydration sensor (like Aura) or a blood glucose sensor like Libre then it will slot into your Fenix 6/955 relatively easily. Let’s face it, it will even slot into the older tech easily enough. (Note as of Jan 2021, the ANT+ spec IS being extended but I only know that the extension at least includes BODY/CORE temperature)
I hope we will see something ‘sensed’ by ELEVATE v4 in addition to SpO2 (like hydration) but that’s for the Fenix 7.
Take Out: Uncertain if we will see new BLE-enabled pods to replace Tempe, RD and the running pod.
Screen Size & Resolution
Let’s start off with the easy one. The Fenix 6 kept the same case size as previous models but introduced a larger usable screen area by making the bezel are smaller. It’s highly likely that the Forerunner 955 will have this same larger screen area enabling the support of more data fields and/or larger fonts.
Whilst LOTS OF FEATURES plus GREAT BATTERY LIFE = SUCCESS for Garmin, the hardware drawback has been a relatively poor screen which in my eyes makes me wonder why anyone would buy the MARQ when the screen looks like how it does…ie it looks poor as a 24×7 watch face.
The existing Forerunner 945 screen resolutions and colours are not much changed from earlier Garmin models and they fall WAY behind the resolution, brilliance and vibrancy of many of the more mainstream watches (Apple Watch, WearOS watches).
The screen is one of the key compromises Garmin has had to make. Garmin could quite easily introduce an amazing AMOLED screen but BANG would go the battery life and then athletes would start complaining.
IMPORTANT POINT: This necessary (and correct) compromise that Garmin made historically is now at the crossroads. We’ve already seen, from several of the new feature sets discussed above, that Garmin is getting into the 247 world. And to do that the screens absolutely 100% need to significantly improve to support 247 wearability. We will see that at some point in the future with the Fenix/top-end Forerunner products once Vivoactive has it.
Take Out: The 955 will get a bigger screen but it will be the same tech we already have behind it.
Something has gone wrong with the latest generation of Garmin batteries. The headline figures look awesome but the reality is different. Indeed, the recent FR745 had significantly downgraded battery performance. I suspect that the battery is highly similar to that in the 945 but Garmin has scaled back or clarified its claims somewhat.
Take out: Please deliver on the headline figures that we made with the FR945, that performance level is good enough
You can only slice and dice data in so many ways. However, I think there is still quite a bit of scope for Garmin to think harder about what they do with positional and accelerometer data. With a little more thought, they might come up with things like this that might even be USEFUL…
The thing is, Wahoo must read this site and not Garmin. Following on from the original version of this post over a year ago, Wahoo has introduced two new transition-related features in their Wahoo ELEMNT RIVAL sports watch.
Garmin is CLEARLY already planning something similar as the MARQ Athlete was launched with stated support from auto-transition in SwimRun events. However, IIRC, that feature appeared on Garmin’s website but never made it to the watch. Almost two years on do you think Garmin has ironed out any bugs? A: Yes 😉
Take Out: Only expect to see one MAJOR new software feature in the 955 at launch. Maybe that’s the native running power or maybe that’s more triathlon features like auto-transition. Both will come just not at the same time.
OK, this is just a fancy way of actually measuring how long you stand still to change your clothes. You uber-competitive types could also use this first thing in the morning 😉
Clearly, you can’t compare T1 times from one race to another as the distances vary each time. But the time taken within T1/T2 to find your racking position, get changed and head off should be able to be relatively easily estimated by accelerometers.
If someone at Garmin HQ wanted to get clever they could even guess in what order you changed your items of clothing in transition.
Perhaps we will see a metric for ‘stationary time’ during transition?
Take Out: nah
Race Intelligence – Performance Tracking
Garmin introduced Livetrack 2.0 in August 2020. which included references and features linked to Event Sharing.
Once we get LTE on the 945 then there’s no reason why Group Track and Live Track can’t be FURTHER extended to sensibly broadcast more detailed stats during a race eg 10-minute bike power splits, or whatever. But the beauty here is that these stats will eventually be combined online with everyone else who is doing the same race at the same time. Maybe that’s for your own interest or for the benefit of your coach to give in-race feedback (probably against the rules).
For this to work there needs to be some definition of what an ‘event’ is and for people to sign up to digital data sharing for it. I can’t see Garmin doing that so let’s see if anyone in Silicon Valley is listening.
Even if getting a true leaderboard might be difficult, as not everyone will share data, there would still be scope to compare certain elements of your performance against others on the same day in the same conditions and those kinds of comparative race-day stats will be of value to those who see themselves as wanting to get faster in some way.
There are issues around spotting cheats and anonymising data but such data is the sort of thing we clamour for from the pros so let’s start off with the amateurs doing it.
With tens of thousands of UK parkrunners ‘racing’ each week and tens of thousands of athletes at the well-known mass-participation events, there really are quite a lot of people that could use race-based tracking intelligence.
I guess you could apply similar competitive stats around your Group Track Sunday bike rides and the like.
Take out: There is a reasonable chance that we will see an extension of the existing broadcast of personal performance metrics. However, it will probably take a 3rd party to provide a platform to start sharing such data
Race Location – Intelligence
If I go to my local pool or local race track then there is scope for the site’s GPS location to automatically give me pool length, lap length and/or startline position, assuming that Garmin knows the location & size of every pool and race track. In the former case, the pool length is known and in the case of races the course route and key lap points might be known eg, there is a database of motor racing circuits that I believe the MARQ Driver uses.
Location intelligence could have nice training benefits such as saving me having to set my pool length 3 times a week as there are 50m, 25m and 36m pools that I use.
Race Track – If your end-of-lap location is known (ie the finish line) and if you are using your Forerunner 955 over LTE then laps can be automatically added based on location and your last lap’s worth of performance stats can be piped up to the net for all to see
I’ve been known to do the Hillingdon 10 mile TT (closed circuit), it’s amazing how hard it is to count 11 laps and it would be nice if Garmin could do it automatically. I’m thinking of some way of automating lap counting – clearly, I could do something based on total distance travelled and I believe there are location pods that a race organiser could very cheaply deploy at the start line.
Take out: A nice-to-have that’s probably expensive or tricky to implement, so it won’t happen.
If you run 1km intervals that are 980m or 1010m then it’s just that little bit annoying that the watch hasn’t recognised the TRUE effort+duration. It’s not that the 10m or 20m more/less than I intended makes any difference physiologically it’s because the recorded lap will have incorrectly averaged data eg if you stop a couple of metres or seconds too early then the lap average stats become wrong and it becomes hard to compare your lap-on-lap efforts when you later analyse your stats. It would be much easier if the lap could be determined based on effort/power/speed ie once the power drops then take an automatic lap either in real-time or modified once the workout has finished.
Cyclists with power meters know that after a while it’s all about power-duration. I certainly now look much more at power-durations than power averages for a lap.
Golden Cheetah is able to auto-identify effort periods by analysing the workout, so the maths are out there and known and probably somewhere on GitHub. The difficulty with implementing this type of functionality is that there can be multiple layers of ‘true laps’ of different time periods that overlap each other. It’s difficult to explain quickly here but some clever person at Garmin could figure it out easily enough.
Take Out: maybe
Since the original version of this post was published we’ve seen some activity in this area by competitors eg Polar’s Hill Splitter.
Rather than looking at effort for the True laps of the previous section, we could also look at grade to create laps that match climbs – fit file repair tool can do this post-workout ie the start and end of a physical lap are the start and end of a climb. This will overlap with some elements of ClimbPRO and STRAVA segments but I think it is different.
Take out: probably not from Garmin.
Auto Performance Alerting
This is different to being alerted to exceeding a pre-defined performance criterion. It’s more about that criterion being dynamic and changing based on performance.
Whilst automatic gear selection based on power is probably a gadget too far, a nice CIQ app would tell you that you are a couple of cogs away from optimal. There are similar things to this already out there – for example, a XERT’s free CIQ app suggests optimal cadence for the current effort level.
Special, dynamic, alerts could be introduced to warn you of detrimental performance. eg sprinting for the first 200m of a 5k race at your 800m pace might signal an ‘irrational exuberance alert”
Take out: nah
“OK Garmin, take a lap”
One day this will happen. Hopefully not too soon. I talked about this in more details recently (here).
Having said that I do use ‘OK Google’ a fair bit at home and whenever I’m using a WearOS watch I will sometimes use that rather than one of the house’s WiFi Speakers/Mics. I’d probably use ‘OK Garmin’ on my 955 if I’m sadly honest but I certainly would never admit to that 😉
Sometimes I faff around trying to remember which earbud to press to skip some errant song that has appeared on my playlist when in mid-run. I can never quite remember which earbud it is that I need to press and then inevitably turn them both off. ‘OK Garmin skip track’ might be a nicer and more elegant solution for me. Sorry, I now realise I have lost what little serious sports credibility I once imagined I had 😉 .
You get the point tho. Someone somewhere will use it both for in-sport functionality as well as for controlling smart homes and just generally querying the net. In the link at the start of this section, there is a little more discussion around voice-enabled navigation which is a valid use of voice tech in sports watches.
Take Out: Hold your breath, it might come. Take a DEEP breath. But it won’t be there at launch, maybe 2022? If ever.
Running Power Integration
Rather than a new pod, it’s more likely that we will see Garmin introduce running power calculated on the wrist without a pod coupled with an introduction of full platform support for native running power.
Running power data is currently incorporated into the Garmin data environment via CIQ. So running power is DIFFERENT from cycling power and running pace and heart rate and everything else. That’s why, for example, you can’t currently get native Running Power Alerts. Running Power doesn’t ‘plug in’ in quite the same way. Worst still, Garmin running power and STRYD running power are different buckets of data and based on different algorithms and based on different source sensor data.
Take Out: Yep. 2021 Baby!
Intelligent Training: Firstbeat, Xert and more
When this article was first written I didn’t imagine that Garmin would buy Firstbeat. But they did and then they release Daily Suggested Workouts which is exactly the Intelligent Training I had hoped for and which has been rolled out from bike-only training on the recent Edges to now include running suggestions.
However, there is still more to come here. Intelligent Training is perhaps the major area where much remains to be exploited and it’s an area where the technology and formulae already exist. It’s ‘just’ a case of someone, somewhere writing all the correct and clever bits of code to make it happen. I’d class intelligent training as covering things like adaptive training plans (macro); adaptive workouts (micro); and real-time, intelligent audio coaching feedback.
Learning from your historic workout patterns (for rest and long run days) and then trying to hit a workout TE goal is ‘very 2018’. Intelligently adapted micro workouts would look at AnTE, AeTE, HRV and consideration like Xert’s MPA and micro recovery algorithms. See! I told you it wasn’t easy. Garmin is still doing the 2018 stuff…most other people are behind that.
Take Out: These features will be expanded by Garmin over time.
Navigation via TOPO maps is included in the current Fenix series – 945, 5 Plus, 5S Plus, 5X Plus, MARQ, 6.
The 945 already has a DEM database of the elevation of GNSS points
You can only get from A to B in so many ways. They are already pretty much ‘invented’ and ‘out there’.
The future will be about the intelligence and functionality built into geographic points rather than how to get to them…we already know how to get somewhere ‘easily’ enough augmented by clever things like popularity routing. I also seem to remember reading somewhere that bike/hike routing has been implemented by a Garmin competitor that finds routes that minimise the elevation gain.
One of the cumbersome things when using the 945 to navigate is actually instructing the 945 how to navigate when in the middle of nowhere. The 5-button interface is really not great for this except in an emergency when no-one in your group has a smartphone. Referring to an earlier point, the voice enablement for navigation could be useful, working along similar lines to the voice-enabled navigation features of Google Maps. Just sayin’ ;-).
“OK Garmin, navigate back to start as quickly as possible”
Take Out: Navigation is Garmin’s thing. Improvements will always come
Thoughts and votes welcomed…This is an old poll with 3300 votes for improvements that readers wanted from the 935. It’s worth seeing what was wanted then…and still not delivered upon.