Garmin – What it can do to improve battery charging & longevity – simple fixes

Battery Gauge CIQ App on Garmin.com app store

Garmin – improve battery charging and longevity, what the company needs to do

This post is about changes Garmin need to make to battery charging to improve battery life expectancies for its Lithium ion batteries. This will save you money, extend the life of your watch and be more eco-friendly to boot. It’s a win-win for almost everyone except Garmin. Here are the WHYs, WHATs and WHEREFOREs.

Note: I will be referencing Apple a bit here as Apple provides greater clarity on battery performance than Garmin. Most smartwatch companies use very similar battery technologies so I assume similarities between Apple and Garmin.

Battery Life Cycle

You can keep using a battery until it will no longer charge. However, from Day 1 the battery’s chemical performance begins to degrade. Broadly speaking, the more times you charge it up and subsequently drain it of power, the closer that endpoint comes.

Normally we would expect to see the number of complete charge cycles quoted as a figure for the life expectancy of a battery. Garmin doesn’t provide that figure but Apple says this about the Apple Watch:

“Your battery is designed to retain up to 80% of its original capacity at 1,000 complete charge cycles.” – Apple

Garmin only says this:

“Rechargeable batteries found in Garmin devices naturally lose capacity over time due to charge/discharge cycling. Under normal operating conditions, batteries should retain approximately 80% of their original capacity after a few years of frequent charge/discharge cycles.” – Garmin

 

Battery Capacity

As a Garmin watch owner, you might not be too worried if your battery capacity drops to 80%. After all, the battery life is already great, so having 80% of that in a few years should still be sufficient, right?

Well, not exactly.

Apple shares some information about how it manages its batteries. If you check this link, you’ll see that Apple uses the reduction in capacity as an explanation for both actual speed/performance decreases and a decrease in overall capacity. Maybe Garmin does something similar? I don’t know.

For Apple Watch owners, this becomes a significant concern. Apple suggests that an Apple Watch is good for maximum speed for about 1,000 charge cycles. If you’re using your watch daily and charging it every day, it’s reasonable to assume that 1,000 charge cycles translate to roughly 1,000 days or 3 years. After this period, Apple may artificially slow down the performance, and the battery degradation continues. Personally, both my Apple Watch and iPhone, both older than 3 years, don’t perform as well as they used to. Now, the dilemma is whether to replace the battery or the entire device.

For Garmin owners, the situation isn’t as dire. My Garmin watches easily go 4 or more days between charges. Therefore, a direct comparison to the Apple Watch scenario doesn’t look as concerning. The battery life of a Garmin watch could be over 4 times longer than that of an Apple Watch, and even the Watch Ultra might last twice as long. This could potentially extend Garmin’s battery life to 12 years, which, if that’s the only consideration, is reasonable enough to last until end-of-life.

 

Confounding Factors

I know my Forerunner 935 is significantly less than 12 years old yet is MUCH slower than when new. Maybe the software updates slow its performance or maybe other factors are at play?

More: cleantechnica.com

Several things can speed up how quickly your battery loses its capacity, and they include:

  • High temperatures
  • Using the battery when it’s almost empty or almost full
  • Leaving the battery completely dead for a long time or always keeping it charged to 100%
  • Charging the battery quickly

In short, it’s generally a good idea to keep your battery level between 20% and 80% most of the time. Occasionally going beyond these limits is okay, but if, for instance, you leave your watch on the charger all week, that’s not good for the battery.

However in real life, it is extremely difficult for you to manually manage your battery life to keep it between 20% and 80%

 

Some Battery Capacity Software Innovations We’ve Seen So Far

If you have an EV you may already be familiar with some of the charging techniques it employs.

Apple has publicised clever ways for you to leave the battery on charge overnight but wake up with a full charge for the day ahead.

 

 

Here’s how it works with Apple: the watch figures out or is told when you usually wake up. It also knows how fast it’s charging. When you put it on charge overnight, it automatically goes up to 80% and stops there. But at a calculated point later in the night, it goes beyond 80% and charges up to 100%, just in time for when you usually wake up.

It’s a smart move, but it doesn’t help with tracking your sleep stats since you’re not wearing the watch 🙂

The iPhone 15 has a related feature. You can adjust a setting so that it only charges up to 80%, but very occasionally it goes up to 100% to self-calibrate. The idea is that going beyond 80% can cause more damage, and anyway, having an 80% charged battery should be good enough for a decent battery life.

So What Should Garmin Do?

  • 80% charge limit: Garmin should let us choose to limit the charging to 80%, mimicking Apple’s approach.
  • 20% warning: Garmin should remind us to charge the battery to avoid it dropping below 20%, when not used during exercise.  [alerts exist to some degree for this]
  • Customizable fast charging: Garmin should allow us to adjust fast charging settings and disable it overnight or permanently.
  • Overnight charging strategy: Garmin could follow Apple’s method of charging watches to full capacity just in time for when we usually wake up.

The reason for Garmin to consider these changes is to show that they care about the environment. While Apple’s eco policy encourages battery replacement and recycling, Garmin doesn’t really offer battery replacements. Making these adjustments may not be as crucial for Garmin as it is for Apple because Garmin’s batteries generally last longer.

On the positive side, this move would make Garmin appear eco-friendly. Regardless of one’s stance on environmental issues, it’s generally not good to waste resources without any real benefits.

However, there’s a downside for Garmin: if our watches last longer, we’re likely to be more satisfied with them and may delay upgrading.

Additionally, as consumers, making these changes could help us waste less energy on unnecessary recharging. While the individual cost savings might be minimal, the real benefit lies in having a device that performs as expected for an extended period.

 

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23 thoughts on “Garmin – What it can do to improve battery charging & longevity – simple fixes

  1. Garmin has Low Battery alerts already, you can correlate the various options given in “remaining activity tracking time” to a % depending on which specific watch you have.

    Then manually remove from charge at 80% if you want to….time how long it takes and set a timer subsequent cycles.

    For me, I stick my Epix on charge once every 2 weeks on a Friday when its typically down to around 20%-ish…and I charge it for 90mins to 100mins or so.

    In the meantime I’m tracking roughly 45miles of running per week without even looking at the battery level – although if doing an ultra I’d usually charge a week early.

  2. This is something Samsung knows for a while – at least in phones – you have an option to extend battery life by limiting charging to 80% and disallowing fast charging.

  3. Yes! The 80% charge limit is an excellent idea. I only need 100% charge for premier ultra events. In general I would prefer to have more longevity.

    I don’t think Garmin does much or anything to manage the CPU peak voltage like Apple does when the battery is losing capacity. Instead what happens is the CPU panics and the watch reboots suddenly if the battery cannot provide the necessary instantaneous power. In a more extreme case the watch goes into a boot loop if the battery is unable to provide the peak voltage required by startup.

    The watch doesn’t even tell you that the battery has a problem, it just starts becoming unreliable.

    This happened to me at about 2 years with the fenix 6X.

    It’s a bad experience if your watch becomes unreliable or dies mysteriously. That’s the kind of experience that leads to people trying out another brand in anger.

    I think it is in Gamin’s enlightened self interest to do a better job in this area.

  4. I stopped reading when you compare toy watch from apple that have max 36h (ultra mostvexoe sive apple watch) battery to garmin that can run weeks 🤣🤣

  5. It would be the best to simply remove all user-management from this and simply change percentage, without the end user knowing, that 100% is actually only 80% (and every several charges allow to charge to actual 100%, which is also required for a good management).

    1. IDK, I can see why you say that.
      however i think it’s best to let people have the info as some will think they need it.
      as per Brian’s comment, when you need 100% for a long race/expedition then you’ll want to know you’ve charged to the max but on most other occasions 80% is best

  6. I have both watches. It is downright crazy to even suggest, let alone lecture Garmin of all companies about battery life. Garmin is the king of battery life. Apple is not even in the same ballpark, unfortunately. Apple is the better “smart watch” for most people though. Many will never need what a Garmin can do – it is more a sports smart watch.

  7. I use a simple timer formula for charging….

    Charging time (mins) = 80 – State of charge

    e.g. If the watch is at 30% I will charge for 50 minutes, using a smart speaker in the room as my timer.

    I charge my Epix Pro 51mm every two weeks and I’ve yet to see the SOC drop to 20% in that time so each charge session is always under an hour. The watch charges just a little quicker than 1% per minute, so I normally end up with around 82-83% once i terminate charging.

    I do think better automation of battery care would be nice (like Samsung, Dell, Asus) but the manual option is hardly a burden. In fact it’s a piece of pi55.

    1. smart speaker as a timer…yikes! that’s brave. My google assistant (via speakers) has gone on holiday, definitely got worse over last 2 years and is unreliable with timers

      you sound VERY much more organised than me 🙂

      1. FWIW, I use Alexa to time my watch charging. 😉

        But I guess it would be easy enough, though not as quick, to set a timer on the watch itself.

  8. I have a 965 and I envy the two Epix posters in this thread with their 2 weeks of battery life. I get 4 days on average out of my 965 at about 10 hours of GPS per week average. Wish I knew what I was doing wrong?

    1. I get about 2.5-3 weeks out of my 965. HRM tracking 24/7, I don’t use Always on during regular or during activities, brightness setting 2/3 during activities and 1/3 during regular wear, red shift mode sunrise to sunset and sleep mode 930 pm to 6 am. 6-7 hours of gps tracking/week, always use a stryd footpod and polar chest hrm and autoselect gps mode. Better battery life than any other watch I’ve used before.

  9. When you were talking about eco-friendliness, I remembered seeing a clip somewhere as a response to Apple’s abysmal “mother-nature clip” in which Tim Cook acted like a complete moron…the guy said, if Apple would be really interested in eco-friendliness they wouldn’t churn out products every single year, even if there are almost no hardware improvements. A 2 year cycle would be much better for the environment. In this regard, Garmin is way ahead of Apple with their 2-3 year cycle.

    1. 🙂
      and smaller companies even further ahead with ever less frequent refresh cycles.

      I’m all for not wasting natural resources but I’m definitely not for companies advocating the same thing but practicing hypocracy.
      PS I think Garmin’s most popular Fenix watch is rehashed every 18-24 months or so. That said I doubt many people update with each new model. IDK the answer but would expect those who regularly upgrade to skipp one or two models before pulling out the AMEX

  10. Garmin should only do one thing, don’t push features the watch not capable of handling or make better firmware.
    Charging 80% theory is basically BS for sport watch. This is not smartphone where u kept rapid charge it daily.
    Ya, battery capacity do drops overtime, but my FR245 from 7days per charge to Apple watch style daily charging just after a firmware updates.
    Or this is Garmin way of playing God, hinting u should be buying the latest series.

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