It’s coming up to almost a year since Garmin launched the Fenix 6 series, its family of multisport watches firmly built for the adventurers that also offer plenty for smartwatch fans too.
Will we get a Fenix 6 Plus edition just like we got with the Fenix 5 series, or will we get a more radical update in the way of a Fenix 7? As long-term users, we’ve drawn up a wish list of what we hope Garmin is working on and whether it should take some inspiration from its rivals.
Hydration and nutrition
Polar Grit X
For anyone that spends hours on the trails or hiking for days, getting your fuelling right is a pretty big deal. Most who are planning to go on big expeditions are no doubt well aware of that, but it’s also easy to forget or miss the right moments to grab some food or down some electrolytes.
So what we are hoping for on the next Fenix is something more advanced to manage that fuelling. So we can better understand when and how much to consume for certain activities to help keep those energy levels high.
We’ve seen Polar tackle this very thing on its Grit X outdoor watch with its FuelWise feature. It offers smart carb reminder alerts that are based on estimated effort intensity through heart rate zones and size of carb portions in grams. In addition to that, it also offered simple hydration alerts to remind you to drink up.
On its Edge bike computers, Garmin does offer the ability to set smart eat and drink alerts based on current ride conditions. These alerts look at temperature, elevation gain, speed, duration, heart rate and power data. These are all metrics that the Fenix appear to be able to record as well. Running power though does require additional hardware. It can now also deliver heat and altitude performance acclimation, so it feels like there are the foundations of building something smarter in the way of fuelling on its outdoor watch.
A colour screen option
Garmin proved last year with the launch of the Venu, that it can now make a sports watch with a color touchscreen display and that it can last for more than a couple of days. Now we’re not saying that all Fenix options should be packing a color display, but it would at least nice to have the option.
One of the reasons we like the Fenix is because the battery life is so good. Understandably, adding features like music streaming and battery-sapping sensors like a pulse oximeter are putting greater demands on that battery performance. It’s clearly a big reason why Garmin added battery saver and power modes to the 6 series to help people better manage things.
We’d only like to see it added if Garmin can still deliver those big battery numbers and offer strong visibility in all conditions, which are key reasons why it still opts for transflective display technology on its top end watches.
It would definitely elevate the look and feel of a watch that already has a pretty attractive exterior and even make maps nicer to view.
Share the solar power
Since Garmin decided to break out the Fenix into a family of watches, the X model has become the option that gives you something a little extra in the features department.
The 5X got topographic maps while the 5 and 5s missed out. The 5X Plus packed a pulse oximeter first before the 5 Plus and the 5s Plus. With the Fenix 6 series, the 6X got a solar edition, providing extra juice through its new Power Glass solar charging lens.
That solar feature promised 24 days (3 hours over the normal Fenix 6 Pro) in smartwatch mode and 16 hours when using the GPS (+1 hour on the standard Fenix 6 Pro).
Any way Garmin can beef up an already impressive battery performance on other Fenix models is definitely something we can get on board with, as long as it doesn’t come at the expense of form factor.
It wouldn’t be out of the realms of possibility to think Fenix will share the solar charging love and we’d definitely be keen to see it added across the range.
On board mapping is one of the Fenix 6’s best features – although you need to go up to the Pro version to get it. The Fenix’s mapping skills are in our opinion a step up from what you’ll find from the likes of Polar, Suunto and Coros – but there’s certainly still room for improvement based on our experience.
While we found it a very solid performer in built up areas with sprawls of roads, it felt a little more lacking in the wilderness.
We’ve already seen moves to improve this with the recent software update to make it easier to push routes to a Garmin from a third party app.
One of the first third party apps to offer that support is Komoot, a mapping app that Polar offered integration with on its Grit X outdoor watch.
It’s an app that feels better designed for outdoor adventuring and we’d be keen to see if that integration and support for Garmin’s Fenix watches will actually lead to offer more detailed mapping for those times when you’re really off the beaten track.
LTE and safety features
While we’ve seen cellular connectivity land on the Vivoactive, we’d love to see LTE come to the Fenix range too. Adding extra data while we’re out in the wilderness would be superb, and it could be used to enrich mapping and offer extra safety features.
Over the last year, Garmin introduced new incident detection and assistance safety features across a bunch of its watches including the Fenix 6.
These features will only work with a paired smartphone, but cellular could solve this problem – and offer peace of mind when out on the trails.
It would be interesting to see if Garmin can add this kind of extra connectivity, but still manage battery life expectations. Adding LTE would always have an impact, but the benefits could offset a small hit.
Bring weather and tracking closer together
The Fenix does do a fair bit in the way of giving you an insight into current weather conditions. The weather widget gives you hourly, daily and even 12-hour trend insights for starters.
There are weather apps lurking in the Connect IQ store and you can of course put that weather data front and centre on the watch face.
What we’d like to see though is a smarter union of weather data and when it’s time to start tracking.
Before you hit that start recording button, it could let you know that in an hour’s time, rain is expected or the sun is going to pick up in your current location. That way you’ll know just before you head off whether you need to step back inside to grab a coat or whack on some sun block.
It’s about taking the rich weather data that the Fenix already provides and just putting it to better use.
Smarter gym tracking
This is a bit lower down on our list of things we’d like to see, but it would be nice if the next Fenix worked better as workout partner as it does out exploring.
We’ve seen automatic rep counting added, though it still does feel like a feature that’s very much a work in progress. More recently with Garmin’s Venu and Vivoactive watches, it’s brought animated workouts, though we are thinking of something more in the way of way of what Polar has developed with FitSpark.
That’s a feature that appears on its Vantage, Ignite and Grit X watches where exercises are suggested based on the types of activity logged and the kind of recovery needed in between workouts.
Understandably, it’s a feature that takes a few weeks of logging activity to really reap the benefits of the personalised cardio, strength or supportive training exercises.
It does work well enough to be of use and it feels like offering similar recommendations on Garmin’s Fenix watches would give it more reason to keep it on for gym sessions and actually put it to good use.