Garmin CIQ Data Fields on Watches – No Longer Fit For Purpose?

ciq on device storeGarmin CIQ Data Fields – Watches – No Longer Fit For Purpose?

There are at least two main purposes of a CIQ Data Field (DF). Firstly, it allows you to customise what sports data is displayed in exactly the way that best suits you. Secondly, it allows third-party sensor brands to quickly get their sensors working in the Garmin environment, which is an important route to market for them.

Problem #1 – Limitations on the number of DFs on a watch

Garmin currently limits you to two different CIQ Data Fields on any one sports profile. A recent change allowed you to reuse a Data Field (DF) on a different page within the same profile without that counting as an extra DF.

The device type limits are:

  • Watches: 2 unique CIQ data fields
    • Garmin running power data fields are now native and unrestricted in number.
  • Edge bike computers: 10 unique CIQ data fields

I imagine that the limitation was historically implemented to conserve resources. Even though Garmin watches seem to be perennially underpowered, it’s always been a mystery to me why my struggling, old Garmin Edge 820 wasn’t similarly restricted. Thus the current limitations are probably more of an historical hangover than anything inherently linked to the modern Garmin watch hardware.


As far as I know, there is no reliable workaround to the current situation.

However, you might strike it lucky with some third-party CIQ DF developers who develop single, full-screen DFs. If one of these just happens to support three of your more unusual metrics, you are in luck.

My Experience

In recent months, I’ve been scooting through several third-party developer fields, including Stryd, muscle oxygen, CORE Body Temp, Supersapiens, and ActiveLook/Engo 2 HUD. It’s been a minor PITA to have to keep rejigging my favourite running profile to accommodate the ones I want to use on any given day.

My more serious problem is that I would definitely simultaneously use three of these DFs if Garmin would let me. Is it unreasonable for an athlete to want to use those five DFs simultaneously? I think it is. Certainly running, SmO2, and CHO are all valid metrics to simultaneously use.


Problem #2

Garmin DFs are limited to 128KB in size, which constrains developers, but another constraint is the type of data that is limited to certain types of data, such as numbers, strings, and dates. Furthermore, restrictions exist which stop developers from writing certain kinds of data into FIT files. For example, STRYD’s running power has to be written separately as Developer Data rather than into the standard power field, which, I believe, is how Suunto and Polar handle this.

Problem #3

My next gripe is that no third-party developer fields work on new Garmin devices at launch. My understanding is that developers have to certify them for each device. I think this has changed to some degree in CIQ 6, but I’m not seeing any difference with my new Forerunner 965. I’m having to cheat and surreptitiously load CIQ DFs through the back door and just accept that they don’t always display quite how they should.

Stryd is pretty good at promptly certifying its CIQ DFs and apps.

Take Out

Look, it’s 2023, and Garmin should sort out these glaring inadequacies in one of the key areas of its app architecture. CIQ is one of the reasons why Garmin leads the way in sports tech.

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17 thoughts on “Garmin CIQ Data Fields on Watches – No Longer Fit For Purpose?

  1. For #2, on the SDK there is a “native number” option when you create a Fit contributor but it does nothing, no one bothered to implement it, do the fit fields number matches the fit specification numbering.

    Garmin also looses a big functionality here only offering certain types of data types. If they allowed sensor information to the fit file, a DF could inform the watch for 3rd party sensor low battery and be notified on the app like f.ex. the Di2.

  2. Awesome article, many thanks!
    Very interesting to read something on the limitations on the background.
    I still have an “old” 245, and was thinking of maybe upgrading to a newer model.
    After reading your article, the choice is simple, just stay with the model since everything works 🙂

  3. As a CIQ developer I found it very annoying to have to validate for (identical) new watches but also that due to all kinds of minor differences there was a chance you need to retune everything for a new watch (because Garmin chooses to use slightly different fonts for example).

    CIQ is a big plus in the sense that it allows you install and use tons of different datafields (which is the main focus here) but also watchfaces, apps, widgets… At the same time, Garmin makes it not the easiest to use so to say. But yeah… that seems to be the theme with Garmin and software in general.

  4. Tfk, can you please elaborate how you can cheat and load non-certified ciq df’s “through the back door” in a secret? I guess it is a useful piece of info in the realm of Garmin.


    1. sure

      you have to get hold of a .PRG file that contains the code for the DF. On older watches you will find it in the Garmin/apps folder. These have non helpful names and you may have to uninstall them and then reinstall them to determine the date of the PRG file that corresponds to the DF you just added

      copy that DF to the new watch’s /apps folder.

      this method used to always work. The newer watches don’t store prg files in this way sometimes so you cant always use them as a source. however copying prg files to the new watches like this should work

      sometimes a PRG file won’t be compatible with aspects of the current watch. who knows what will happen in that case. a bricked device perhaps? your risk

      1. I did copy .prg files and the setting file of each of the copied prg. But always on the same device after a hard reset as part of my manual backup and restore protocol. I did not assume that the same prg is downloaded to different devices, I always supposed that a sort of compiler was run by Garmin server, and it created the neccessary version from the developer source code. But evidently my assumption was totally false. Thanks for the help.

      2. I have copied from an Edge to a watch and it usually at least kinda works.
        clearly they have different screen types and sizes.

        I’m sure the correct files are properly optimised
        some watchfaces from my 955 do NOT work properly on the 965….like WAY off and unusable. But the DFs seem generally ok although often misformatted

  5. tfk – Are you sure that datafields use the same file extension of .prg? I ask because I am trying for the first time to “sideload” some data fields from my 945 to my new 965. When I look at the file location on my 945 I only see 3 existing .prg files and I know I have lots of datafields (and apps) on the watch, certainly more than 3 at least.

    I searched the entire device for “*.prg” and only found those 3, so they’re not stored in a different location.

    Stymied as there is a datafield for my 945 that the developer has made “free” and available but also no longer supporting, but I lack the ability to submit it for the 965.

    1. hi
      the basic instruction about copying .PRG files is correct
      however about a year ago or so garmin changed something behind the scenes (I guess that all PRG functionality is complied into one file somewhere else). for the DFs that support the new method…the old method doesn’t work

      1. Thank you. Bummer as that is a terrific data field and I have no idea how to get it uploaded to the CIQ platform for the new 965.

  6. Joop is one of the bigger developers. I think he will update the data field
    you could try to load it onto an older garmin and copy it from there. I’ll mail one to you

    you can get most of those metrics on a normal screen tho right? Just bin cadence which you don’t really need and have 6 DFs displayed

  7. I’ve never felt more seen before by a blog post in my life. My list of devices I want Connect IQ data fields for is similar only I would also include runscribe for dynamic gait monitoring. I hope you update this post one day if some kind Connect IQ developer offers to bundle up runscribe with core body temperature which would allow me to connect all my sensors to the same workout file

  8. Garmin still only supporting 2 CIQ data fields, after years of user complaints and requests, screams of a company that does not care to listen to its customers. They probably feel like they don’t need to, because stupid, loyal customers like me, routinely spend $900 to $1100, year after year. They don’t deserve me but I’m addicted!

    1. yup
      perhaps supporting more than 2 different ones (you can reuse the same one multiple times in a profile) will require hardware that’s actually properly up to the job rather than ‘almost sufficient’

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