Garmin Battery Woes Continue to spread

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@LABRONICUS

Garmin Battery Woes Continue

Something strange is happening with Garmin & its batteries, plus the GPS offset/shift errors have started again. A Double Whammy.

Some Background

Great battery life and great battery-extending modes are key reasons why Garmin is a popular choice amongst athletes.

Garmin has no ‘magic’ battery tech, they ‘just’ engineer their devices well and use battery-friendly components in their screen tech, GPS tech and elsewhere. Of course, they use good batteries too.

Another Garmin Global GPS #Fail

The Fenix 6 delivered many tens of hours of life with GPS-enabled and Solar further boosted the 6X Solar to 66 hours of GPS usage. Or so the claims went.

At the time it seemed to me and others that ‘this was it‘. Garmin had significantly nailed the battery conundrum to placate almost everyone who had battery life concerns. Finally, engineers could return to using all that extra battery power left lying around and introduce some new hi-res screen tech to gobble it all up!

Links to Battery Gauge CIQ App on Garmin.com app store

Doubts Emerge

But it didn’t seem to quite stack up in real-life usage.

My Forerunner 935 on the older tech was OK and I experienced an expected level of battery life degradation over the months. Fair enough, that happens. It’s always an excuse for an upgrade! and the Forerunner 945 arrived at a convenient time and with conveniently good battery specs.

However the 945 never quite seemed to live up to the claimed specs, sometimes by quite a margin. I wasn’t overly perturbed though as I’d been using SpO2 sometimes and GPS+GLONASS and music and all sorts of things that I knew significantly increased the juice usage. So when I ran out of battery a few times I attributed it to ‘user error’. I very, very rarely run out of juice, even my Apple Watch 6 gets charged a couple of time a day and that’s only gone flat once in 6 months, so maybe with the Garmins, I’d just got used to assuming the battery would last for days? Which is strange as I’m a sync-by-cable kinda reviewer, so my Garmins are on the cable more than they are off it, with periodic exceptions.

I then increasingly noted others having similar problems. Hmmm. Sometimes new firmware may fix it, other times not. Then perhaps after a year, or so, of 945 usages I remember thinking to myself, “You know what? This won’t last an Ironman for some people.” Without any concrete data to support my increasing reservations, it ‘felt’ like 14 hours of GPS+bikePM+Stryd+HRM would kill the battery. So people who were slower than that over an IM or who had extra sensors or errant CIQ data fields or who used GLONASS would be getting even less juice-time.

Then in September 2020 came the Garmin Forerunner 745 – to all intents and purposes, this is a smaller 945 with some of the battery-eating smarts taken out. However, the battery life claims were HALF those for the 945 and coming in at 16 hours. Sure the 745 will have a smaller battery but a halving of the claimed battery life sent a warning signal. To be fair that was with GLONASS and backlight both off. It still didn’t feel right.

 

Battery 2021

Well, for the most part of 2021 there have been numerous user reports of errant battery behaviours, culminating with @Philipshambrook, who I think is a moderator, saying this on the Garmin forums.

“THEY ARE WORKING ON IT”

He has contacts behind the scenes in any case.

Looking further into this  Garmin Forum thread (and others) there are other non-standard battery behaviours occurring like rapid draining.

 

Image|BHASIN

 

And @CAEPINUS and @LABRONICUS shows similar behaviour whilst sleeping o all things.

It’s not just F6/FR945 other users are reporting similar behaviour on other Garmin models.

Q: Can you share any similar experiences/Images?

Garmin needs to get on top of this be it a misfiring GPS chip, degraded battery or simply an incorrect reporting of the true state of the battery. ‘Proper’ and professional battery lives are one of the key reasons we buy these premium sports watches. Indeed, next week’s Garmin Enduro watch will re-iterate that point and will specifically be marketing itself as a long-lasting GPS watch for Ultra/Trail runners.

To make matters worse…January’s GPS recording errors have returned today with a vengeance with many exasperated Garmin users reporting problems on the forums

 

 

 

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47 thoughts on “Garmin Battery Woes Continue to spread

  1. Firstly Philip Shambrook isn’t a moderator on the Garmin Forums, although with the amount of effort he puts into dismissing other users reporting problems, I can see why you might think he is a Garmin representative. His usual attitude is – If I am not seeing the problem..it doesn’t exist…

    Moving on – I think its pretty clear these battery problems are caused by firmware updates. Us 5Plus owners were seeing a lot of drain after using music with activities…of course we were mostly dismissed on the Garmin forums even with lots of evidence, but Garmin quietly introduced a fix to ANT/BLE which had caused the drain.

    It’s usually possible to roll-back to older firmware – the trick is to download beta version of software when available, as they contain rollback firmware. I also recommend disabling auto-update, especially on older devices that won’t get more features once you have a stable version.

    I’ve also found that I’ve never been able to achieve the reported battery life, I take the official Garmin figure, then halve it for a realistic estimate.

    1. First off, thank you for pointing out Phil, because dear lord, that person is the OG when it comes to dismissing any of their devices’ problems. I have gotten into plenty of arguments with him on the forums for his apathetic dismissal of Garmin devices’ issues. He’s not the worst; he’s just the most consistent at it.

      But then again, Garmin’s forums are nothing but fanboy apologists that all own pristine working watches no matter if they use CIQ apps or not, or if they do, have no issue with them even though the apps creator is out there on the forum telling users why there’s a problem (which has to do with what Garmin allows them to access in making the app).

      As for battery problems, there’s a bunch of issues I think are the case. There are manufacturing issues, which I know for a fact have been the case, but they don’t tell as a company—consumers about for obvious reasons (I was told because they don’t want to replace watches). There is also the battery’s size (in terms of charge) that can’t support everything under the hood. There is also an ineptitude on the design side from Garmin with their own code that leads to an endless problem with battery life. They don’t learn from one device to the next, as was obvious with the FR935 to FR945.

      The 935 had great battery life for a Garmin watch. There were some issues at launch, but they ironed those out, and for the better part of two years, that watch was excellent. Fast forward to the 945, and multiple versions of that watch I owned would blow through near 40% of its battery life in a day. The best I ever got from that model was the third one, and that one using stock everything burned 20% battery. Hell, the second one HAD actual issues with the battery (confirmed by the Garmin rep I spoke to).

      They took no lessons from the prior device and applied nothing to its successor. It’s like they started at square one with the 945 and had to build it from the ground up. If that is the case, why is that the case?!?

      Now, I’ve been gone from the Garmin ecosystem for nearly a year and went to Coros with an Apex Pro. The watch can do almost everything the FR9xx and the Fenix line can do, including a few things it can’t (Native Stryd support or example). The battery is the last thing I have to worry about. I get 10 days with multiple hour-long outings on GPS, tracked indoor workout, backlight on auto, OHR on auto, just everything you could leave on that should kill your battery turned on–and still get 10 days on one charge.

      Garmin is just very bad at this, always has been, and never betters itself. This article existing in 2021 after nearly 20 years of making watches is proof of it.

    2. I am not a Garmin apologist *in the slightest* but have not had any battery issues with the two 945’s I’ve owned. First one was replaced by Garmin because of early GPS drift issues (which isn’t really a problem on the 945 anymore.. Fenix 6 series on the other hand…..).

      I’ve also owned just about every main stream watch Garmin has released in the past 5-7 years (935, 645, 235, 245, 945, VA, VAHR, VA3, F2, F3, F5, F5+, F6s, F6, Instinct – I’m sure I’m forgetting some. I’ve also owned most models of other watch brands too). Any time I’ve had a battery issue with Garmin it’s been: some weird notification or BT thing; or firmware update that I didn’t do a manual reboot after; or a Beta firmware. I’m sure I’ve been lucky not to have any hardware issues, but I really don’t think there is systemic battery hardware issues.

    3. There are decades now of people and articles and app developers and even Garmin reps saying to the contrary. Practically every device’s forum on Garmin has a rotating 3-4 posts about battery life. It is non-stop. You can chalk up a few to user expectations vs. reality, but that isn’t a standard.

      In the years I used Garmin, just the 935 stood out as good. Everything else was a mess. Not my perception, not expectation, not because of user mistake, actual issues. As I said above about the 945, Garmin themselves told me there were defectives in the line; I had one. I stand by my other points above without having to repeat myself.

      There is an issue whether you’ve experienced it or otherwise.

    4. As per my comment, I’m not so sure it’s just down to firmware. There’s something else at play that damages the battery. How smart are the charging circuitry, are there any current or voltage protections? If so, bugs in firmware could cause some overcharging, but I’d expect this on a deeper hardware level.

      It would be interesting to conduct a poll to find out what people are using for charging their watches and if there’s some correlation to the reported issues.

    5. Wahoo RIVAL should not be charged with apple adapters, maybe something similar with garmin?

    6. I checked with Wahoo. They recommend not to use Apple adapters for any of their products

  2. Philip’s not a mod AFAIK (frankly that forum could do with a firmer hand on the moderation), but he is very brand-loyal and tends to ascribe issues he doesn’t share to user error. If he’s reporting problems, he’s not imagining them.
    I’ve not seen anything this dramatic, and in-app the drain is acceptable (probably wouldn’t make the advertised values but they never do). In idle, the battery usage is gradually drifting up with time, and seems to be linked to Bluetooth in particular – it’s advertised at 3 weeks standby, would have done 2 when it was new, would maybe do 8 days now based on the usage between workouts.
    There used to be a lot of reports in the F5 variant forums of heavy battery drain after saving and syncing an activity, and often of terrible drain after updating the firmware which a hard reset would usually fix.

    1. Philip is definitely not a moderator, the previous two posters pretty well nailed his typical interactions on the forums. He certainly acts it, often entering threads and opining on or attempting to shut down discussions with his opinions.

      Anyway, I have never been satisfied with my 945 battery life, mine typically gets about 4 days of use at an average of 1.5 hrs of GPS activity per day. That’s fine, I don’t mind charging it but I just have this constant feeling that I didn’t “get what I paid for.”

      The one time I did a true test of its life, it lasted 18:45 of activity, with GPS only, no spo2, no livetrack or BT connection to the phone, maps on a little-used screen, and connected to an external HRM and Stryd both via ANT+ only. Bluetooth connections, and CIQ datafields will drain it faster in my experience.

  3. if you take a closer look at this battery graphics that Garmin calls a diagram you already can sense how this has been carefully crafted for obscurity…

  4. My new in November Instinct Solar went from great battery life to 2 days or less after recent firmware updates. It’s on the Instinct forums and Fenix ones too. After trying everything Garmin sent me a new unit but a SWV update shouldn’t ruin a new device.

  5. My 6X lasts for days on a single charge if I’m not using GPS and if I do use GPS lasts for more hours and I’ve tracked.

  6. I’m on a second pair of Fenix 6X Pro Solar after Garmin agreed to exchange my watch. My problems started about 9 months after I got the watch. I initially attributed the issues to new firmware, as it started occurring just after an update. The rapid battery drain also didn’t just creep up, it happened from day to day again suggesting that it might be a direct result of a software bug. However, no amount of downgrades have resolved the problem. So the watch went from lasting several days with multiple long GPS activities to barely making it through a 2hr run.

    Fortunately, Garmin and my local retailer Rebel sport were forthcoming and Henning reported the issue to Garmin about a week before expiry of my warranty, they had no problem with swapping the watch. Aparently, they are fairly good and do help you even after the statutory 12 months.

    Now, I wonder if it’s a red herring or not, but I wonder if the battery wows are down to the charging regimen. Not all chargers have been created equal and some high power output chargers have even voltage switching tech onboard, like Apple USB-C laptop chargers. I willingly admit that I used to plug my first watch into anything without much thought. With my replacement piece in much more careful and only use 0.5 – 0.7A chargers therefore limiting any potential damage an excessive drain could cause.

    So far, I’ve had my replacement watch for four months and all seems to be good. My last day discharge rate is about 3.5% and still about 20 day battery life left.

    Of course the jury is still out there if it can keep going for years without a hitch.

    1. If there is a charging issue, it is absolutely Garmin’s issue because if they demanded a standard for charging their devices, they would have included a charger and not simply a wire.

      That is not an industry standard, as I can tell since Polar, Suunto, Coros, and maybe Wahoo now also just come preloaded with a wire and not a charger.

      It’s not a user side issue if the user is effectively told anything is acceptable to charge the device. If it is a cost-saving measure not to include a charger, the onus is still on the company.

    2. @Justin i’m just checking on what @Jakub said about Wahoo (rival) not recommending Apple chargers for their charging cables. If true, it supports what you say entirely on this point

    3. Now, that is on Wahoo. If there’s a threshold for their products to be charged at; Wahoo should have supplied the charger as well as the wire. A little note from them saying, don’t use apple chargers doesn’t absolve them.

      Same goes for everyone else. You’re telling your customer with their purchase; “Hey, use whatever you want, it’s fine to charge with” only then afterwards (even if it’s in the user guide) “Oh, but not this” is bad.

      Either make your product with protections and functionality with practically everything else, or include a charger. I know that’s a big ask, but it’s not my problem; it’s the problem of the people making these devices. Can’t do it (or won’t), you shouldn’t be in the business of making and selling these products, period.

    4. That is only one of MANY problems with rival… i bought it and im returning it
      -no trainer control(specs mention it)
      -can’t connect to bluetooth chest strap(spec mention it should)
      -pool swimming is just one big joke(it triggers pause during 800m freestyle)
      -screen has design flaw(near 6 o’clock part of black layer is missing, light escapes there and support tells me that there is light sensor and that dot near 12 o’clock is not light sensor…) picture shown below

  7. Aren’t most of this issues caused by updates after updates and a need of a reset?
    For the good and the bad this devices are now very complex, so, like computers and smartphones I guess it can happen, to need a reset.
    Also, there is the trick of “deleting the file called “GarminDevice.xml” on GARMIN” folder. ” already shared sometimes by garmin support
    https://forums.garmin.com/sports-fitness/healthandwellness/f/vivosport/195067/100-discharge-in-less-than-12-hours-after-installing-fw-4-1

  8. PulseOx on the 945 absolutely drains the watch like nothing. When the watch is not on your arm, the PulseOx sensor doesn’t kick in and the battery last much longer. I tested my old 935 against the 945 and after 1 day the 945 was on 84% and the 935 on 93%. Without wearing it (watch on a table) that changes to around 97% and 94%. Turning PulseOx off completely (wearing on arm) it dropped only 2% to 98%. All tests conducted with Bluetooth turned off. Still testing further. I haven’t been able to hit 14 day normal use yet.

  9. I can say that I have battery drain. Usually they happen from the overnight firmware update, which seems to be nightly! I have the Fenix 6 and sometimes, even though it was 100% charged earlier that day, overnight it gets completely drained.
    I have nothing else connected and I’ve turned off the oxygen meter as it drained even further (have pulse turned on).
    It has _really_ annoyed me as my old garmin 635 actually was really good and is why I have stuck with Garmin. They really do have to get a grip on these powerdrains.

    1. Bluetooth and/or WiFI. Turn that off overnight, set Auto updates off and update the watch via your computer from time to time and you’ll be golden.

      The watch itself is great with battery, unless the battery itself borkes. It’s the comms that can kill the battery life especially if it keeps connecting to GC excessively.

    2. yes you should do that, this is a design issue if that is the cause. other causes are GLONASS/GAlileo, music, sensor connection, ciq, SpO2 etc etc
      IIRC My Apple Watch SE loses 6% of its charge overnight provided a bedtime schedule is set. Same with my AW6, it might even be less than 6% maybe it’s 3 to 4%. A properly executed automatic nighttime mode should do these things. That said Apple is VERY conscious of battery so, for example, HRV readings are only taken every 4ish hours not continuously and the sleep tracking isn’t much to shout about in any case. If you want to write a complication for an apple watch you have to adhere to exact constraints. No AW complication is going to gobble the battery…you cant say that about the design of CIQ.
      I’d have to double-check the exact details of Garmins nighttime/DND modes as I don’t have them in my head right now https://www8.garmin.com/manuals/webhelp/fenix5/EN-US/GUID-3DC6CB9A-A42F-4E45-92AF-23738F6345C0.html

      so Garmin has given up control of power management (until recently…ish) to provide a device to let the user do what they want. which is great but it often backfires
      plus in any case there are battery issues in and of the battery itself to compound the mess.

  10. I have Garmin fenix 6x pro, first weeks I used it it was displaying 25days battery life when fully charged, when I did software upgrade from Garmin Connect battery life was reduced to 15days. When I look the specifications it does tell me that the battery life is 25days on fully charged. I tried to report it and get telephone assist, to put the fenix on default settings, it never helps.

  11. I have a brand new fenix 6x pro. Went to bed one night with 89% and woke up with a dead watch. Only happened once, and I figured that I had enabled something…

    1. Well the excessive drain can be down to several factors, but the most obvious is Bluetooth connection to your phone. Try turning off bt on your phone overnight, or set the Garmin Connect on battery saving mode of your phone allows it. See if that helps.

  12. I’ve had recent weird battery issues on an Edge520. I previously replaced the original battery myself and had no problems for ~8months of daily usage…then had dramatic drain. A bit of googling suggested the battery gauge had become decalivrsted…so ran it flat and it worked ok. But recently it struggles to last 4hrs if using navigation but everything else off (including bluetooth etc).
    Was just about to upgrade to Edge 530…so your article caught my eye. Anyone else had issues with Edge…sorry, i know this is 5kRUNNER!😁

  13. Haven’t seen anything crazy happening to battery on my newish 945 but out of curiosity I’ve installed that widget just out of interest.

    Did suffer the shifted gps track yesterday as it happens. Hopefully fixed now but as I used a stryd for pace & distance it doesn’t affect me too much.

  14. I have a forerunner 245. The battery lasts for days, I tend to leave it to it’s own settings. My assumption is gps is on when doing an activity, he permanently on. I have no real idea what it has if I’m honest. My main workouts have been on the treadmill in the last 2 weeks though. I will say, it has stopped charging to 100% though, last week it would reach 98%, this week 97%. My daughter has the same watch and seems to have zero issues so far. My husband has the cheap one (a 45 I think) and seems to never charge it, but, he just uses it as a normal watch atm as he is injured.

    1. hi ty for the input, yes doing a treadmill workout will disable gps and save battery. its more on the high end devices that have the newest battery tech and newest features some of which eat battery for breakfast (eg spo2 and music)…245 has some of these too

  15. I bought a Garmin Edge 130 last year. It’s a great device but the GPS tracking and battery are wonky af. As soon as it’s charged you scroll back from the activity screen and immediately lose one bar of battery. And when riding (road cyclist) the GPS swings wildly between 12.5 – 18 mph on flat open roads. I complained about the battery and received a refurbished ( bit of a cheek ) replacement. Exactly the same battery issues. Claimed 15hrs – reality about 7. And I don’t use navigation. I bought a speed sensor which dramatically improved GPS. The Connect app I like and also the design / performance. But I’m surprised that such a well established company would manufacture devices with obvious, performance affecting flaws. Garmin seems a bit Heath Robinson. I’ll go with a more mainstream brand next time, one with more proven manufacturing credentials. Especially when it comes to battery life. This should be a number one consideration when designing activity tech surely?

    1. the GPS track you saw in garmin conenct should be the same on both or any device for cycling. That said there are gps issues as we speak!
      The speed sensor will merely give you a non-GPS speed reading based on wheel revolutions and it will be accurate if correctly calibrated. I’m surprised the displayed speed fluctuated as much you say…but of course it’s possible in certain condition.

  16. I noticed something like a 25% drop in battery in less than half a day. Factory resetting seems to have fixed my forerunner 645’s battery issues.

  17. Backlight on the 945 is way brighter than on the 935 even on 5% (the lowest setting), probably contributing to battery drain.

  18. Why are there so many blanc lines/blanc blcoks in these articles? I have always to scroll down! Thsi sucks.

    1. they are space for ad units. you are perhaps using an ad blocker to access this free content? hence you see spaces not ads
      if i don’t add the space then the content jumps about when loading. I then receive complaints about that!
      You are not a supporter, suggestions welcomed on both how I can monetise the considerable time I spend on producing free content and how better i can structure the pages.
      other mechanisms include spreading content over multiple pages but many people perceive that as ‘click bait’.

  19. Great read thanks. I started life with GArmin vivoactive which met its demise in 2021 due to battery issues. Garmin, over a much protracted support response ended up offering me a NZD$150 refurbished replacement which considering my watch was still reasonably new I felt was a cop out. This said, if they did a replacement for everyone with battery issues I imagine they’d go bust given the amount of battery issue threads I’ve read.

    Mine certainly seemed to have an error with the GPS component and the battery would die in the same day it was charged.

    Rather than carry on with the cheap-end vivoactive I changed up to the solar powered Instinct Solar, thinking this will end my battery issues as it’s touted as being an indefinite charge while in battery saver mode. While I didn’t think “indefinite” was realistic, I thought I would get more than a week. Alas no. While on holiday, and my watch battery on it’s last legs I thought having it in the for most of the day would revive it.

    Silly me for being duped a second time.

    The vivoactive issue seemed to happen after an update. Unless coincidental, but certainly that seemed to be when the GPS error was making error calls every few seconds.

    I’m about to start the support journey again with the Instinct. Wish me luck.

  20. Bought the for runner 945, three years ago, about $800, now battery fully drained in matters of hours, called the service center in Taiwan, they said cannot repair, only replace is possible and the cost is… $140 usd. No others options… So a $800 USD Garmin watch can last only 3 yrs and Garmin is OK with that and is asking you to pay $140 to continue to use that model… Really? Are we talking about responsible and fair business here? Quality product? #garminforrunner #garminforrunner945 #GARMIN

    1. I don’t know what your rights are outside of the UK. However in the UK the product hs to perform reasonably and the 1 year warranty 2 year thing is nonsense. Legally it has to be fit for the purpose. clearly a reasonable person would expect an $800 watch to work for more than 3 years.
      So legally you would be on good grounds in the UK, however to actually then ENFORCE that over and above the manufacturer warranty would be tricky. we have a small claims court system, maybe something similar over there?
      Garmin/Appel etc do make specific claims about battery charge cycles if you google it

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