Sports Watch & Bike Computer Update – February 2024
V2.5.18 – 7 Feb 2024
This article summarises recently released sports watches and bike computers, and indicates which next-gen models are inbound ie Garmin (Edge, Forerunner, Instinct, Venu), Polar (Grit X), Coros (Vertix, apex) and more. There haven’t been any significant updates over the last 3 months.
Whilst I never include info here that contravenes NDAs, elsewhere on the site, there are LOTS of detailed hands-on reviews on virtually all of the key run/tri watches and bike computers that you can BUY NOW.
If you are here for the first time and interested in ‘future sports devices & feature sports tech developments‘ then this post discussing the future of individual technology features will be of interest.
The information here is usually based on high-quality leaks, dual-sourced rumours and the extrapolation of past product release cycles, wider technological changes & their availability. Almost all of these new product ‘predictions’ will happen but precise timings are never set in stone.
Recent Highlights of 2023 – A quick recap
2023 was a decent year for new products and we can expect more from 2024.
Fenix 7 Pro, Epix Pro Gen 2 and the Forerunner 965 have sold well plus we’ve seen significant products from Coros, Polar, Suunto and Apple. Things have been quieter for bike computers with only the Edge 540/840 getting anyone excited, less so Magene’s offerings.
Key Trend: The latest models of key sports watches have been updated with the widespread use of AMOLED screens and dual-frequency, multi-constellation ‘GPS’ chipsets. Additionally, there’s a noticeable increase in the use of high-quality materials at more affordable price points. Most brands have transitioned to a newer generation(s) of heart rate sensors that can capture HRV/ECG/SpO2 and other peripheral wellness metrics, such as temperature, in a slightly more energy-efficient manner. The significance of sports physiology is gaining attention beyond Garmin/Firstbeat, although there have been very few noteworthy additions to the range of sports physiology features. It seems we have reached a stage of maturity in both technology and the functionalities sports watches offer.
Here are the headline releases from 2023:
- Apple Watch Ultra 2
- Apple Watch 9
- Garmin Vivoactive 5
- Garmin Venu 3
- Polar Vantage V3
- Samsung Galaxy Watch6
- Suunto RACE
- Sigma ROX 12.1 EVO
- Suunto Vertical
- Honor Watch GS4
- Mobvoi Ticwatch Pro 5 (WearOS 3)
- Coros Pace 3
- Garmin Fenix 7 Pro/Epix Pro
- Amazfit Cheetah Pro
- Casio G-SHOCK MOVE GBD H2000
- Amazfit GTR4/GTS4
- Fitbit Charge 6 Band
- Garmin Instinct 2X
- Garmin Edge 540/840
- Garmin Vivomove Trend
- Garmin Forerunner 965 Review
- Garmin Forerunner 265/265s
- Polar Ignite 3 (2022)
- Amazfit T-Rex Ultra
- Google Pixel Watch 2
Most of those are on 2+ year refresh cycles. So draw your conclusions on when you will see successors (Hint: 2025-26)
What’s Next From Garmin for 2024
- ✔️Lily 2 (Q1.2024) plus ✔️ HRM-FIT
- Forerunner 165 (14 Feb 2024)
- Instinct 3 (Mar 2024)
- Edge 140 (Apr 2024)
- Edge 1050 or 1040 AMOLED (Apr 2024)
- Venu SQ 3 (Sep 2025)
- ? Forerunner 755 LTE aka FR965s – a new generation FR975 (MIP) is not likely
- ? Enduro 3/2s (some rumours for Feb 2024 have already started but I have no concrete intel)
- ? Refreshed Accessories (Q1-Q3) eg HRM-FIT
- ? Fenix/Epix (Q4.2024 earliest, far from a certainty…answer the question: What would be the hardware bump that this product gets?)
The easiest cycling product to predict is the Edge 140. expect it to be unchanged in size from its predecessor and have improved hardware components over the 130+.
There have also been decent rumours about an Edge 1040 AMOLED (aka Edge 1050) for some time now, although why a bike computer needs an AMOLED screen escapes me. Perhaps instead we could see a ‘trendy’ Edge Explore 3 (non-performance navigation) variant with an edge-to-edge screen that would suit navigation and test out its new screen tech before the next generation of larger Edge models.
Key Trend: Expect this to be a trickle-down year where the software and hardware features we already know about are rolled down from the top-end models to the middle and lower-end ones. Expect more sizes for models that only come in one size and expect a thoughtful and selective introduction of AMOLED screens to ever-cheaper models. Finally, expect Garmin to continue to use premium materials to justify its price premiums on some models.
On the running/triathlon side of things, a Forerunner 65 is a good bet. But beyond that, there is no real gap in Garmin’s key offerings as everything has already been AMOLEDed (yes, that is a word). A smaller 965s, perhaps called a 755, is a possibility and that would probably include whatever Garmin chooses to do next with LTE. Don’t forget that the Forerunner 265s already gives the smaller format option to people who want a triathlon watch.
Another very good bet would see an Enduro 3 Solar for the Ultra community. Either that or an AMOLED version or an Enduro 2s Solar (small). The 645/655 product gap seems discontinued.
For adventure products, expect Instinct 3 rather than Fenix 8 in early 2024. There could be a gap in the Instinct range for an AMOLED version – I’m in two minds about that as one of the negative differentiators of Instinct is the poorer screen compared to Fenix, Garmin won’t want to cannibalise too many Epix/Fenix sales to Instinct
Going forward, my opinion is that Solar has its place only in MIP-screen watches and possibly on bike computers. The usefulness of SOLAR is restricted by the fact that sufficiently awesome battery lives are possible without solar. So do we need solar on Fenix watches going forward? I think not. That said, we will see solar Fenix models despite there not being a widespread need for them.
I guess we could see a Fenix 8/Epix 3 in Q4.2024 but early 2025 feels more likely and then after that follows all the Tactix/Quatix/Descent/MARQ etc variants and then a PRO version a year or so later.
As I’ve said before (and was initially, universally ridiculed), Epix will become the dominant outdoor watch for Garmin and will eventually overtake Fenix.
A Venu SQ 3 is likely for September 2023
The problem with all my predictions there is that there aren’t enough of them. Garmin needs more new products than that in 2024 to keep the shareholders happy.
So there has to be a ‘next big thing’ in terms of a piece of tech that justifies a refreshed and renumbered model. The most likely of which in 2024 are micro-LED displays and more advanced LTE. The technology for the former (on watches) might just not be ready until 2025 and I’m still unconvinced Garmin can produce meaningful LTE features given its restrictive access to iPhone features. That said, December 2023 gave us insights into the new CIQ capabilities for 2024 and these give strong clues about the upcoming headline features for new watches and DO hint at new LTE capabilities.
The current Elevate Gen 5 HR sensor is a recent innovation with ECG capabilities. That tech will eventually be rolled to most watch ranges in some form but I’m not at all excited by the prospect and suspect that much of the market won’t be as well. Wrist-based ECG is highly limited and nothing like what is offered by Fourth Frontier X2.
So where are the next-gen HR sensors that can sense novel biomarkers? Apple is supposedly lining up its new sensor package for 2025, so I guess it’s plausible that conservative Garmin could sneak ahead of cautious Apple on that front. Things will become clearer in the first half of 2024 *IF* the more aggressive Asian brands introduce new (sensor) technologies. Where they lead, Garmin and Apple follow soon after.
2024: I see fewer new products than the norm for recent years. It could be a bad year for Garmin FITNESS/OUTDOOR. It could be a turning point for the sports device market generally.
Suunto, Polar, Wahoo, Hammerhead, Coros & Other Sport-focussed GPS Watches
I don’t expect anything excitingly new here in the entirety of 2024 unless either Suunto or Polar re-enter the Wear OS market. Those companies have no other way to get support for payments and Spotify, so you would have thought they have to jump on the Wear OS wagon at some point in the next 5 years or be left a long way behind on the smart features they can offer.
These companies all have mostly predictable product ranges and refresh strategies although Suunto is the most likely to surprise us as evidenced in recent months with the excellent Suunto RACE and Shokz-like headphones (Suunto Wing).
- Apex 3 AMOLED, Q3.2024
- Vertix 3 + 3 AMOLED, Q3.2024
- ? Pace 3 Pro (large)
Coros is likely to prove an interesting company to follow in 2024. They’ve taken Apex/Pace and Vertix as far as they need to with the product internals. The obvious omission is AMOLED which I would expect to see first with Apex 3 and then Vertix 3, with Pace 4 AMOLED following in 2025.
I don’t think we will ever see Solar on a Coros watch. Instead, like Garmin, I think we will see A MIP version of Vertix 3 remain alongside Vertix 3 AMOLED but the rest of the range will move to AMOLED, with an outside possibility that Coros could skip a generation of tech and go straight to micro LED screens.
Musing: I don’t see any new watch sub-brands from Coros. Instead, it makes more sense that we would see a larger version of Pace 3 (like Garmin Enduro). This would follow a similar theme to what the company has done with the Apex 2 Pro successor to its smaller Apex 2 sibling.
- Grit X Pro 2 AMOLED, Q2.2024
- Pacer 2 AMOLED, 2 PRO AMOLED Q3.2024
- Unite, Q2-3.2024???
Next up from Polar will be AMOLED versions of Grit X (adventure watch) and maybe also the Unite (fitness). I would expect the former in Q2.2024 and the latter much later in the year.
Set against that we could SPECULATIVELY say that Unite might be a poor performer in terms of profit generation and could be skipped or dropped.
- Suunto 5 PEAK PRO AMOLED Q2.2024 or a RACE-branded version
- Suunto 9 PEAK PRO AMOLED/VERTICAL AMOLED Q3.2024
I hope Suunto Race AMOLED is a success. If it is, it might give Suunto the confidence to price lower with new AMOLED versions of 9/9 Peak and 5/5 Peak. I don’t think we will see a Suunto 3 AMOLED fitness watch.
- Wahoo ELEMNT BOLT 3 Q2.2024
- Wahoo ELEMNT RIVAL 2 – not happening
- Wahoo KICKR Run super-smart treadmill Q3.2024
Wahoo is now on a firm financial footing and BF 2023 sales have cleaned the company of Rival stock. I had hoped for a RIVAL 2 which was previously planned but a recent interview with DCR and Chip says no watch is due.
I would assume Bolt 3 is likely for Q2.2024, perhaps with ROAM 3 also in 2024 but maybe Q2.2025. Expect a spec bump with better battery lives, a better GPS chip and a better colour touchscreen (perhaps larger but not AMOLED)
- Karoo 3 Q2.2024
Gradually I see more of these on the roads.
A Gen 3 bike computer is highly likely for 2024 and my bet is for Q2.2024. An outside bet on there being a medium and large format version would be a good accumulator bet.
- Apple Watch – Q3.2024. Maybe…just maybe 😉
- Apple Watch will feature updated algorithms to detect hypertension and Sleep Apnea
- Either the Apple Watch SE 3 or the Watch X will be redesigned. I’m unsure if this will be a round screen, which would require significant changes to watchOS 11.
We will see the Apple Watch X (10) and a 3rd generation SE but not an Ultra 3.
Don’t get excited by features the Apple-rumour sites want to see or the hardware upgrades they won’t get. Micro LED screens and super-sensors WILL come but that’s for 2025.
We should see if Google plans to iterate PIXEL watch every year. I guess they will.
Perhaps the most exciting evolution will be to see what happens with the next generation of Fitbit VERSA 5/ Sense 3. Google will have set the direction for Fitbit and we will see those plans come to fruition with the next generation of Fitbit watches.
2024 again sees the sports tech brands & products at an interesting juncture.
The era of companies easily adopting advanced technology for continuously expanding global markets has come to an end. Significant technological advancements are now more challenging to achieve, and the certainty of ongoing economic growth in Europe is no longer guaranteed.
Global powers (countries) are making significant geopolitical moves to secure their positions for the rest of the Century. There’s a decline in birthrates, mass population migrations, and changing climates. Smartphones and smartwatches have reached a mature or peak stage of development. Thus, studying AI or robotics might be more promising than electronics if you’re thinking about your kids’ future. In my opinion, only the USA possesses the security, size, raw materials, population demographics, democratic structures, and growth potential necessary for a country to prosper. (Brit here, we’re stuffed as is the EU! 51st state anyone? #NAFTA)
- Garmin has filled all the main product niches. Can a US-Taiwan-based company improve sales in its weaker markets like China? Probably not.
- Polar still has no running track mode and once admitted it can’t compete in triathlon. Its web platform and app may well get a makeover, the first hints at that come as Flow Sync has entered sunsetting. Wear OS is still a possibility for the company.
- Suunto seems to be moving in many of the right directions – aesthetics, price and on-watch apps. Its Chinese owners can likely make the Suunto brand sell more in Asian markets and hence have more confidence to expand the brand offering beyond what we currently see with Haylou (part of the same group). It will need more than 3rd party watch faces from its app store or a Wear OS model to become a key player.
- Coros has done very well in the last few years but it faces the dilemma of how to incorporate modern hardware coupled with highly competitive prices at its chosen price points. I don’t see it making much profit from Vertix/Apex; so it’s a small company that makes its profit in in the volume game with Pace 3/4. That volume game requires noticeably lower prices than Garmin and it requires Garmin not to care about it…or Garmin will crush it (FR165 🙂 ). Coros runs the risk of disaster if it makes one key mistake with its products.
- Wahoo has many technological ways forward but the indoor bike training market must surely not be the cash generator it once was. There’s probably little scope for Kickr Move 2 to be any different to the current model (which isn’t selling that well in a deathly quiet market), the company is refocusing its online training services. So can it make a financial go of 2 new bike computers and a treadmill over 2024/25? IDK. It won’t be easy. Having great products only gets you so far.
- Smaller companies like Sigma, Bryton, and Magene will continue to innovate but I can’t see any of them making much progress in Western Europe or North America. Magene is most likely to progress.
- There are a large number of lesser-known smartwatch and sports watch brands emanating from SE Asia and India. It would just take one of them to get some financial backing and buy Polar to become a global player rather than a struggling regional player few in the West have heard of.
Smart Fitness, Wear OS, WatchOS & Similar Smarts
As I’ve now said for several years that the end-game is: Apple’s watchOS vs Google/Fitbit/Samsung’s Wear OS vs Domination of low prices by Asian brands (China/India).
Proprietary sports platforms like Garmin, Polar, Suunto, Wahoo will still be here in 3 year’s time. But…how big will they be?
I would bet money that this year will bring ever-more competent SMART watches to eat into the traditional customer base of sports watches: high-end Fitbits/Pixel 3, Apple Watch 10, Apple Watch SE Gen 3 and Samsung Galaxy Watch7. EVERY year they get better.
The Wear OS bounce has happened and it’s apparent that Samsung and Google get first dibs at new versions of Wear OS before the likes of Michael Kors/Fossil to the point now where Fossil has decided to exist the Wear OS market.
Something big needs to happen to disrupt markets and change the medium-term trajectory. Be that a war over Taiwan or the EU forcing Apple to open up iMessage to a common API. Without such disruptions, the inevitable trajectory is for the Apple vs Google/Samsung showdown.
Huami (Amazfit/Zepp), Huawei, Realme, Redmi, TicWatch and others will continue in the battle of the budget smartwatches. Several of these have significant sales figures in some Far Eastern markets and some of the products might even be described as increasingly competent. Indeed what we are perhaps seeing right now are the Chinese companies building up significant competencies and sales volumes in their domestic markets before using that strength in other geographic markets. Many of them cannot be cross-sold with a top smartphone from the same brand. Even those that have a decent partner smartphone like Huawei face other issues (Huawei is effectively excluded from many Western markets for political/security reasons)
But then what happens if China/Taiwan tensions escalate into some kind of conflict? That’s the end of Chinese smartwatch companies exporting to the West. And, although large, the Chinese economy does not generate sufficient domestic consumption to keep all those companies going, it has to export…but won’t be able to. (And Suunto is Chinese-owned…hmmm..)
Bike Computers – Hope or Hopeless?
Garmin holds a clear dominance in this sector, with Wahoo emerging as the main challenger brand. The long-term impact of SRAM/Hammerhead Karoo 2/3 remains uncertain, but it is viewed as a hopeful contender with realistic success potential. Lower-end brands, such as Lezyne or budget high-spec options like Bryton (Taiwan)/Magene(China), appear to face challenges.
Wahoo, adept at maintaining secrecy, is not expected to leak information; so keep on quietly hoping for exciting developments. Despite already offering medium and large-format performance satnavs, Wahoo seems to cover most commercial bases in the bike computer market. Apart from iterative model strategies, there are few gaps for significant profitable sales.
While Apple, Google, and potentially Asian markets may dominate the watch market, Garmin stands strong in the bike computer domain. Many challengers exist to Garmin’s Edge Series but only Wahoo/SRAM-Hammerhead(Android) seem to be coherent challengers and whilst they lack in numbers of features they are catching up but it is very difficult. Will Bolt 3/Roam 3 be able to withstand an onslaught from Edge 550/850/1050? It’s an interesting market position to debate as Garmin Edge will NOT pull further ahead either in terms of features or market share as their tech is already well-advanced and their market position is too dominant. Catching up in each of those respects is MUCH easier than Garmin pulling further ahead.
Smaller companies face a challenging task in surpassing Garmin in cycling. The likelihood of a new product outperforming Garmin is higher if it’s Android-based, owing to the advantages of apps and a shorter development cycle, as seen with the Karoo. Stages, with its L200/M200, seems interested in this competition, despite being somewhat behind but possessing great features.
Garmin’s focus on higher price points may leave room for smaller companies like Bryton, Sigma, Lezyne, CatEye, and Polar to compete in the lower-priced, less profitable arena. Ancient rumours about Polar releasing a bike computer are ever-wishful thinking.
While there are well-featured bike computers like Stages M200/L200, Sigma ROX 12 EVO, and high-end Bryton models, they seem to lack the unique appeal that propels them to Wahoo’s level. Wahoo BOLT Gen 1’s enduring success beyond its fourth birthday suggests that riders may prioritize reliability, user-friendliness, or brand image over high technology. [Manufacturers, if you are reading that, re-read it and take action before you make a slightly better ClimbPro that no one needs. Just make your devices super slick and never, ever crash or lose a ride]
Lists of all Firmware Updates
- Suunto updates are here: link to Suunto.com
- Polar updates are here: link to Polar.com
- Garmin updates are here: link to gpsinformation.net
- Elemnt Updates are here: link to wahoofitness.com and here
- Fitbit updates are here: link to Fitbit.com
- Hammerhead Karoo is here: link to Hammerhead.io
- Lezyne is here: link to Lezyne.com
- WatchOS 5 is here: link to Apple.com
- WatchOS 6 is here: link to Apple.com
- WatchOS 7 is here: link to Apple.com
- WatchOS 8 is here: link to apple.com
- WatchOS 9 is here link to: apple.com
- Stages DASH is here: stagesdash.com
- Sigma Rox 12 here: sigmasport.com
- Mio Cyclo: mio.com
- Coros: link to Coros
- Bryton: Facebook page for announcements
Please let me know of any I’ve missed
Also useful for checking compatibility and new ANT+ devices. VERY occasionally you might see a special ‘leak’ appear here by accident.
The following link covers a discussion of the trends in emerging technology and new technology – for example covering payments, GPS, OHR, Safety, Mapping and much more.
Recommended Reading: Endurance Technology Trends
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