Sunday, March 18, 2012

Garmin Introduces Fēnix 3 Watch

fenix lineup 2

Garmin has finally released details about their newest multisport GPS watch, the Fēnix 3. This awesome watch does, well, everything, and is clearly Garmin’s reponse to the concern that GPS watches are in danger of being replaced by smartwatches. And I have to say, while the watch is a little pricey, it definitely sounds like its worth it.

The watch itself isn’t expected to be available until sometime in the first quarter of this year, and will retail in the $499 – $599 range, depending on which version you buy. The Fēnix 3 will be available in gray and silver with a premium sapphire edition with a sapphire glass screen.

As far as specs, well, this little beauty basically does a little bit of everything, and I can only hope that I’ll be able to get my hands on one to try it out. Keep your fingers crossed! Anyway, here are the details Garmin gave me about the device:

Everything, All At Once

The fēnix 3 is designed to be your all-in-one watch, and the list of things it can do is as exhaustive as it is impressive. While the price will be a barrier to casual users, this device is clearly meant to replace smartwatches and activity trackers while providing even more GPS functionality than ever.

Sport Training

The fēnix 3 has tons of use as a training watch whether you’re running, biking, hiking, swimming, snowboarding, skiing, hunting or, well, just about anything. From what I understand, the watch has predetermined settings for each activity and can track a range of statistics depending on what activity you’re doing. It is water rated to 100 meters and can be paired with a heart monitor and a range of other devices to further add to its abilities. As far as exactly what it tracks, most of the abilities are pretty standard: heart rate, cadence, oscillation, distance, speed, stroke count (for swimming), vertical drop (for snowboarding/skiing), etc.

The watch also has a pretty cool LiveTrack capability, where you can broadcast your training session to friends and family  members in real time so they can follow along with you during a hike or a big race.

Fitness Tracking

In addition to acting as a traditional GPS sport training watch, the fēnix 3 also has some more traditional fitness-tracking abilities like calculating a customized step goal each morning, counting calories and steps taken throughout the day, a vibration alert to move after one hour of inactivity and a sleep mode to monitor sleep. The watch also has more traditional watch features, most notably an alarm clock. I’m not sure if the alarm clock works with the sleep monitor, as you so frequently see in dedicated fitness trackers, but even if it does not, that’s hardly a deal-breaker.

GPS Navigation

As is expected from a Garmin product, this watch also features a full navigational toolset with a 3-axis electronic compass, parometer and an auto-calibrating altimeter. It has the ability to provide navigational aid and lay waypoints and POIs as well offering trip planning and the popular TrackBack feature to retrace your steps.

The press release claims that the device has an omni-directional steel EXO antenna which pairs with GLONASS and EPO to provide an even faster fix than GPS alone, but as the watch hasn’t been released, I’m not sure if it’s even a noticeable difference or not.

Smartwatch-like Abilities

All of those things are nice, but they’re not really all that different from any other GPS watch on the market. To me, what makes the fēnix 3 stand out is the smartwatch-like capabilities. This device can pair with your smartphone to receive call, text and email alerts right on the watchface, much like a traditional smartwatch.

This watch also is the first watch to use Connect IQ, an open platform where third-party developers can create apps and widgets so that users can customize the appearance and use of their watch. Connect IQ will be available on the Garmin Connect Mobie app, and I predict this ability will really push Garmin ahead of the competition. The press release listed out a few example apps for the fēnix 3 that are in the works, and should be available when the watch is released:

  • Tempo is building a calendar app
  • LifeLine Response is making a personal safety app that will provide 24/7 Professional Safety
  • AccuWeather will offer an app to give users air quality and allergy information at a glance
  • iSKI is working on an app to provide the latest weather, snow, lift and slope information
  • Octane Fitness is building an app to bridge the gap between outdoor runs and indoor workouts
  • Moxy is creating an app that monitors the oxygenation of critical muscle during a workout

According to Garmin, custom watch faces will also be available, in the hopes that users will wear the watch not only as a GPS and sport training watch, but as an everyday accessory. Did I mention it has a sunlight-readable color display?

As you can probably tell, I’m pretty excited about this new device, and I won’t be surprised at all to see it push Garmin’s profit even further up. I am sure the device will have some bugs an such, as is the norm with all technology, but it definitely seems like it will be worth it. Of course, a solid release date hasn’t announced, as far as I could find, but it should be sometime in the next few months.

Comments

  1. The Garmin Epix watch is what has my interest peaked. Not that I need another GPS unit but it would help me fulfill my wildest James Bond fantasies. Well, some of them anyway.

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