There are MANY SENSIBLE products Garmin could release in 2021 in the health, sport and fitness spaces. This is an article about the ones they won’t release and why not. To be clear these are all commercially sound product areas and probably ones that Garmin has already considered but dismissed for various reasons.
This is a good lateral thinking exercise to better understand why Garmin focus where they do and, perhaps also, give the competitors a few ideas too.
ESSENTIAL READING: If that sounds a bit too negative to you then (here) are the Garmin products that may well be released in 2021.
A Fitness Ring – GARUORA
Wearables come in many shapes, sizes and formats. There are some silly formats like headbands and there are some SUPREMELY SENSIBLE formats like a ring which a) a lot of people wear 24×7 and b) are worn in a place where accurate HRV readings and decent accelerometry are possible. People will also pay a premium for a classy-looking ring. The general market for this kind of product is BIG and is, for certain, already many tens of millions of dollars a year.
This would make sense for Garmin in many ways.: it’s technically possible, metrics can be integrated easily into Garmin Connect and a ring format complements rather than competes with the rest of the Garmin wearables range.
I don’t think Garmin will do this because it might be seen as a leap-in-the-dark for, what is, a somewhat-conservative company. It would require new production processes and a new production line and, peskily, several models would need to be made in at least 9 sizes per model. It would require getting the aesthetics EXACTLY right and maybe would need some new distribution channels too.
A Wear OS Beast – Garmin Gen 8
Wear OS has a single-digit percentage market share of the global smartwatch space. Barriers to entry are relatively low and the dominant Wear OS maker is Fossil who produce many models in their own name and also for other brands.Wear OS has had a stagnant year with few new features released.
It’s not certain that Wear OS will wither and die, far from it. In fact, personally, I think it will eventually be a dominant player boosted and morphed by Google’s acquisition of Fitbit. If Garmin entered this space it would be technically easy for them and not too expensive in the grand scheme of things. However, entering the market is also a two-way bet with good upsides either way. Firstly, Garmin would disrupt the market perhaps causing Fossil to fail commercially; Garmin would also make sales harder for Google-Fitbit and so Garmin could stunt Wear OS’s growth quite significantly. Stunting Wear OS’s growth helps both Garmin and Apple in their other smartwatch spaces. Conversely, if Wear OS goes on to achieve better things then Garmin are already in there for the ride…a profitable ride.
Tri-Lite – Garmin 745 Lite
The recent Forerunner 745 does NOT take the place of the Forerunner 735XT in the Garmin range and it’s not really the successor. As I’ve said several times, the 745 is really smaller Forerunner 945s and the Forerunner 945 really should have been called the Forerunner 945 PRO. There absolutely IS a gap for a cheap Garmin tri watch which the 735XT still occupies.
Garmin may well NOT fill this gap as a) it would cannibalise sales of their other product, b) the mid/cheap tri watch market is relatively crowded and competitive at the $250ish price point and c) there is no C.
A: Reasonable. It would have to have a silly name though. 745Lite would be WAY too sensible.
A Recovery Band – GAROOP
Amazon and Biostrap seem to be the only companies who understand that there is a rather large market for a relatively cheap, wrist-worn wearable with no watch face to provide bio-hacking feedback or athletic feedback of some sort. Biostrap cleverly goes all-out down the Biohack route to avoid direct competition with Whoop, whereas Amazon Halo is trying to do some interesting metrics at a lower price point. Companies seem to be skirting around directly competing with Whoop to provide a sleep and recovery wearable for athletes.
You’d have thought Garmin would want a piece of the action? $250 for a cheap-to-make product that would kill-off Whoop’s subscription model overnight.
A: Dashingly Small. I just don’t think it’s in Garmin’s plans.
Just an Arm Strap HRM – GAROH2++
Scosche, Polar, Wahoo and others have produced arm-worn heart rate monitors which are usually worn on the upper arm but which can also be worn on the forearm. This is a great place to deliver accurate HR, even when the sensor is perhaps not as good as people think it is (ahem). Indeed I use the Polar OH1+ just for accuracy when I am performing comparative tests. Again, this opportunity won’t have passed Garmin by. Perhaps they are planning a product in this format that also doubles up as a competitor to WHOOP?
A: 2019 would have been a great time for this one. I’ve no idea why Garmin hasn’t released an ELEVATE gen3 sensor in this format…it just needs a cheap strap and some new packaging. I suspect this will eventually surface.
Deeper Apple Ecosystem Integration
Garmin Connect works on iOS and always will.
iOS/WatchOS now has its own way to put single pieces of data on the smartphone desktop (widgets) or in pre-determined parts of the Apple Watch watchface (complications).
Garmin could quite easily support multiple widgets/complications of pieces of Firstbeat data eg your recovery hours or VO2max. It would be great to put these on your iOS screen or, in my case, I would put them on my Apple Watch as that’s my 24×7 watch whereas the Garmin I just use for sport.
Technically this is SUPER easy to achieve
A: Nada. Acknowledging the Apple Watch in this way would be an admission of abject smartwatch failure for Garmin.
A Dedicated MTB/Trail/Gravel Edge – EdgeOfReason
Garmin acknowledges the MTB/Trail/Gravel markets by selling a repackaged Edge 530 with a special, protective rubber casing. There are separate switches available too. Essentially, though Garmin doesn’t seem committed to dedicated hardware in this space despite also releasing the Grit and Flow metrics in a somewhat perverse homage to Polar (Polar Grit X, Polar Flow). Lezyne, the incumbent, would be easy pickings for Garmin but perhaps the market is too small or the customer not willing to pay premium prices or perhaps Garmin’s distribution is not quite right (nah)?
A: Vanishingly Small.
A Dedicated MTB/Trail/Gravel Vector Power Meter – ParallelVector
This must be a nice little market for someone to corner. Basically, we just need a robust crank-based or pedal-based power meter that can handle a few knocks. Hmm, well, several very significant knocks could be a better description of what it would need to handle. Garmin has found it quite hard to design a decent cover for a power meter battery that works so please forgive my scepticism that they would be able to design a rugged power meter.
A: Possible, I guess.