A new Garmin heart rate monitor has just completed the certification process in Malaysia and is likely to be released within weeks (Q3-Q4.2023)
Below is some speculation about what this might entail, as well as its potential release date and significance. This launch is especially interesting for Garmin and likely signals the beginning of a new, product range.
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Garmin Heart Rate Monitors – Chest Straps
To provide some context regarding Garmin’s other HR products, understanding recent developments is essential.
Garmin currently produces heart rate monitors that are either integrated into a watch or designed as athlete-grade chest straps.
It was only in May 2023 that we witnessed the debut of the latest generation of the ELEVATE optical sensor in the Fenix 7 Pro. Meanwhile, the most recent chest strap, the HRM-PRO PLUS, was released in July 2022.
Timings and Other Launches
Again, the context of other product launches is important.
High-quality leaks state that we are about to see a Garmin Venu 3 and 3s, certainly in Jan 2023 and maybe as soon as September.
Also worth noting, with exceptions, is that the summer tends to be a less important period for new Garmin product launches. In a nutshell, it’s the time when cheaper accessories are launched, like HRMs.
What does that mean?
So, it’s highly likely that there will be a wholly new HRM-FIT product.
It’s a non-pro-sounding name. Couple that with the fact that the HRM-PRO PLUS is about as good as a chest strap can get, and we can deduce that we are not about to receive another top-of-the-line chest strap. OK, it could be a budget strap model, but I think not.
Because Garmin has iterated the Elevate optical sensor into its latest incarnation, I strongly suspect that we are about to see an armband along the lines of what we’ve just seen from Coros and what other brands like Polar with the Verity Sense, Coospo, Scosche, and Wahoo all have already offered. The armband will have the Elevate Gen 5 sensor onboard but won’t use its ECG capabilities.
Where Will the HRM-FIT Be Targeted?
The name would imply that perhaps HRM-FIT would be a generalist strap that can be worn without a watch when undertaking gym work.
However, we could see something much more than that as Garmin plays catch-up across a number of features and sports. A bullet list is sometimes easier; try these:
- Most likely, this will be launched alongside the Venu 3. I’m hoping for that in mid to late September.
- A new generation of Garmin optical technology worn on the upper arm is highly likely to be extremely accurate and hence suitable for almost all of us in our sports. Everyone outside a sports lab, basically.
- It might cache heart rate similar to the high-end chest straps and hence be ideal for swimming, gym work, exercise classes, and more.
- It might, just might, work to an RR level of accuracy for HRV and so could be worn overnight instead of a watch. That would be a far more comfortable alternative to a watch.
- This could herald the start of an attack on Whoop with a whole host of sleep, wellness, and readiness intentions. I suspect we won’t get this at first though as there would need to be some quite significant improvements to the Connect app.
- For the first time (ish), we might see a Garmin chest strap that can interact directly with the Garmin Connect app without the need for a watch or bike computer. On the one hand, this might mean Garmin loses sales, but on the other hand, people like me and you will be more likely to buy multiple Garmin products…so it could be a nice little money spinner.
- Great for cyclists who don’t want to wear a chest strap or some women who can’t wear a chest strap.
Garmin’s US Patent “20230263446 A1” describes a new kind of chest strap. It’s a sensing mechanism that has multiple ways of being attached including to a standard ‘strap’ or, for example, to a user’s bra. Here are some more details
 Conventional heart rate monitors are often unisex and are not configured to be worn in combination with other garments. For example, current heart rate monitors must be tightly strapped around a circumference of a user’s chest in addition to whatever other clothing is worn around the user’s chest. Tightly strapped heart rate monitors around a circumference of a user’s chest can interfere with a garment the user is wearing, which could cause discomfort or injury to the user. Further, interference between one or more electrodes and a garment can cause the one or more electrodes to dislodge from the skin of the user, which could produce incomplete or inaccurate heart rate data.
 The heart rate monitor disclosed herein is a heart rate monitor that is configured to provide accurate and complete heart rate data while easily and comfortably being worn. In some configurations, the heart rate monitor is configured to work in tandem with a user’s existing garments.
This patent was only published in August 2023 but could have been filed months ago. Usually, we see some time elapse before patents are filed and the product ever makes it to market. Indeed very many patents never become products we can buy.
that said, there is a reasonable chance that this could be released alongside Garmin Venu 3 in September 2023.
I was a little surprised by this news.
I knew the Coros armband was going to be released ahead of the announcement, but not this one. I’d kind of assumed that Garmin had given up on ever releasing an armband, even when I wrote this recent article. That article still holds its own, though. For Garmin to succeed, it needs to address the technical features I highlighted earlier in this article. Plus, the killer feature for such an armband to gain widespread athletic use? It needs a proper strap/sleeve.
I genuinely believe that Garmin could make some serious money with armband HR monitors. They would start with simple usage tied to Venu 3, then move to watch-free cached workouts, sleep tracking, and watch-free readiness tracking. Perhaps they could even evolve into a subscription service like Whoop or even branded apparel with pockets designed to hold the monitor on various parts of the body… kind of like Whoop. There are literally millions of dollars at stake here. Or should I say… ready to be taken from Whoop? Sadly, I don’t think Garmin’s app will ever surpass Whoop’s. But, with Garmin’s sheer market presence and momentum, Whoop might face some serious challenges.
Then again, it could just be a new form of multi-attachable chest strap, a cheap, entry-level chest strap or it could be a low-end armband designed to get rid of a glut of older ELEVATE Gen 4 sensors.
Basic regulatory info via Gadgets & Wareables
Garmin Lily 2 info via @flo
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