Garmin Fenix 6: Features we want to see in the next outdoor watch

What we hope to see in the Fenix 6, 6S and 6X Plus

Let’s be honest, when it comes to outdoor watches, the Garmin Fenix range sits very smugly at the top of the pile.

In the Fenix 5 Plus series, we saw the top-end multisport watch get a nice little boost in the smartwatch and sports tracking departments and we were more than impressed with the additions.

Essential reading: Garmin Fenix 5 v Garmin Forerunner 945

The Fenix 5 Plus launched in the summer of 2018 and while Garmin doesn't necessarily stick to a strict launch plan like other wearable companies, it's hinted in its latest quarterly earning results that it could have something to announce soon.

So how can this outdoor watch fave get better? We've spoken to current Fenix users, jumped into the forums and explored the social media chatter to find out exactly what people want.

Here’s our lowdown on what we, and the internet, want to see from the Fenix 6.

What do you want to see from the next Fenix? Let us know in the comments section

First, let's talk about Marq

Garmin Fenix 6: Features that Fenix fans want to see in the next outdoor watch

Garmin launched the Marq, its luxury watch, earlier this year and introduced a host of new features that are currently not available on the Fenix. It's probably safe to suggest some of the features that debuted on Garmin's most expensive watch will make their way onto the next Fenix.

We're talking about things like the inclusion of Sony's more power-efficient GPS chipset, Garmin's next generation Elevate heart rate monitor tech and even a bump up in storage to give you more room for apps and music.

While the current Fenix and Marq use the same high-grade materials in their designs, we could well see some Marq-inspired looks to make the Fenix a nicer watch to wear in between those big trekking sessions.

Slimming down, new screen tech

Garmin Fenix 6: Features that Fenix fans want to see in the next outdoor watch

The Fenix series are a nice looking range of sports watches, there’s no denying that. But as the lines between fashion, comfort and fitness blur, Garmin still has a bit of work to do in streamlining the entire Fenix range.

Essential reading: How Fenix became the king of the outdoor watches

The Fenix 5X Plus, with its advanced range of features, is a seriously chunky bit of kit. That may be fine for a hiker or cyclist, but for a long-distance runner, or just for normal day wear and sleeping, it’s a behemoth. We know that in the Fenix 5S Plus we do have a slimmer alternative to the 5 and 5X, but we'd like the other models to shed some weight too if Garmin can make it happen.

Finally, we need to talk about that screen. The display on the Fenix is good and a nice size too, but compared to something like the Apple Watch, the clarity, screen resolution, and pixel density sharpness doesn't really match up. Yes, we know they are very different watches, but looking at them both side to side, we can’t help but wonder if the next Fenix could ramp up the screen quality without impacting on the already strong battery life.

Improved music features

Garmin Fenix 6: Features that Fenix fans want to see in the next outdoor watch

Music is a big deal with smartwatches these days – with phone-free running sitting on the wish list of most fitness people. Nobody, including Garmin, has quite nailed it. The inclusion of music in the Fenix Plus range has meant that Garmin has stepped ahead of the competition, but the functionality and ease of use are a long way from perfect.

The bulk of the functionality for listening to downloaded music, whether that’s through MP3 files stored on the watch or downloaded playlists via supported services like Spotify, is done via the phone app. The result of which turns the watch interface as a sort of quick access to the playlists you’ve previously set up.

Management through the watch is fine but can be clunky, and you need to preplan the songs you want to listen to well in advance of leaving for a run. Without a dual sim to access music using the smartwatch alone, there are of course limitations, but we’d love to see a smoothed-out Spotify connection that allows fast and simple access to songs on a whim before heading out.

There are also a few issues with switching between workout modes and music settings when you’re out for a run. The result of which can be a bit cumbersome if you want to seamlessly check your progress and flick between tracks on your playlist. We’re a long way off from any watch hitting the sweet spot for this, but Garmin could make a lot of people happy if it refined those already decent music features.

New sensors

Garmin Fenix 6: Features that Fenix fans want to see in the next outdoor watch

In an age of data-focused athletes, the thirst for new sensors to provide more accurate and in-depth fitness stats grows all the time. The inclusion of a wrist-based pulse oximeter was one of the headline features for the Fenix 5X Plus. This sensor measures oxygen saturation levels and can be used to help measure sleep or how your body is adjusting at high altitudes. The idea that this sensor could be rolled out onto other Fenix models, especially when it's landed on Garmin's new Forerunner watches, seems like a no brainer.

As with any completely new device, there’s always a desire to see more groundbreaking and ultimately more useful sensors. Blood pressure, sweat analysis, glucose levels and hydration are all measurements that would be great additions to the Fenix.

Kieran Alger from Manvmiles told us: "The Garmin Fenix 5 is a very capable watch and there's not much missing, but if I had to pick something from a running perspective, I'd like to see more running dynamics tracked from the wrist without the need for an accessory pod. Things like ground contact time, vertical oscillation, stride length, and power – all those form efficiency metrics."

Getting analytical

Garmin Fenix 6: Features that Fenix fans want to see in the next outdoor watch

Garmin's Forerunner 945 introduced new training analysis features

Sports watches have become pretty adept at tracking our performance, but the next big step is taking that data and putting it to good use to get us in the best shape for the next training session or race.

Read this: Understanding your running watch stats

We've already seen Garmin offer more advanced features focused on better analysing your data and presenting it in a manner that makes it easier to understand and help you make changes to your training. This is something that journalist and Fenix user Nick Harris-Fry was keen to see more of when comparing the Fenix 5X Plus to the Forerunner 945.

"Despite costing more than the Forerunner 945, the Fenix 5 Plus lacked a couple of the more advanced training features on the 945. This includes the particularly useful four-week training load analysis that breaks down your training into three categories – anaerobic, high aerobic and low aerobic – and tells you if you needed to focus more on one area.

“This can help shape your training to get the balance of it right, and frankly, it’s annoying that Garmin didn’t update the Fenix 5 Plus Series to include this feature after the 945’s launch, so I’d expect it to be on the next Fenix."

Some LTE love

Garmin Fenix 6: Features we want to see in the next outdoor watch

There are smartwatches out there that can offer phone-like features without your phone nearby. For sports watches though, it's not really the same story.

Garmin did introduce its first watch with LTE connectivity in the shape of the Vivoactive 3 Music – Connected by Verizon (yes, that's what it's really called). That extra connectivity support means you can receive texts and download music from Spotify and Deezer without your phone.

But it's the introduction of new assistance and incident detection safety features with Garmin's first LTE watch that would make the extra connectivity a good fit for the Fenix. These features let you raise the alarm if you get lost, sharing your location and alerting emergency services and contacts. Right now, these features require your phone nearby (if you don't have the LTE Vivoactive), so the addition of LTE would make a lot of sense for the watch in Garmin's collection that is aimed at exploring and being outdoors.

Google Maps integration

Garmin Fenix 6: Features we want to see in the next outdoor watch

The mapping functionality that sits within the full Fenix range is actually one of the best we’ve seen. The Worldwide DEM Basemap that underlies the navigational tools is an impressive feature and ticks the boxes for most outdoor users.

However, as yet there’s no inclusion of Google Maps, a system that undergoes constant updates to improve the service and features and offers incredibly accurate location-based data. Utilising this data, along with the accessible TOPO maps that Garmin uses, would have massively powerful implications for training accuracy and navigational use.

Some sweet wireless charging

One last thing that we'd really like to see. While the current battery power of the Garmin Fenix range is impressive, especially with the array of features that needs to be powered, we'd love to see some wireless charging.

The way you charge that Fenix hasn't really changed since its first iteration, but having the convenience to throw it down on a wireless charging mat or stand instead of scrambling around for a charger would really be a nice touch.

We know there are some smartwatches that can do it, so maybe a new Fenix could give us our first sports watch that's a whole lot easier to power up when it hits 0%.

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4 comments

  • Lightwater·

    Yet another article mistook Fenix series as a flagship well-around watch. You already know it's Apple watch that you need, not Fenix. (LTE? Spotify? Give me a break)

    Now a real review of Fenix 6 will start to consider how to make Fenix better doing what they do. First of all accuracy and battery life are not negotiable. Nothing matters if they couldn't deliver accuracy with no battery life degradation. They made a horrible mistake in Fenix 5 to trade battery life and they quickly correct it in 5 Plus.

    Then I would argue the current control of the watch. It is old school, solid but hard to use. Touch screen or rotatable ring are entirely possible, with pros and cons.

    Display is definitely improvable. But comparing to Apple watch is a newbie mistake. They waste too much space on the face. Increase the screen area and drop these cheesy fake bazel. High contrast is absolutely a big differentiation when they discourage back light.

    To be creative, they should redesign that watch band to allow contact for possible extension. That would be a big cash generator for selling accessories. (batteries, additional sensors, you name it... )

    I don't want an alternative for Apple Watch. I want a utility watch that I could better count my life on it when I am outside. That's what Fenix is for.

    • Espartak·

      100% agree! For me TOP 5 would be in this order of importance:

      1. Improvement of GPS signal. In open waters for example this watch is useless I gave up for this kind of sports.

      2. More reliability in wrist HR tracking. Sometimes the watch says (early in the morning) I’m 90BPM! Excuse meee????

      3. Less heavy without compromising battery life.

      4. More data. Power running for example?

      5. Touch screen for faster navigation in the menus.

      Nice to have: LTE / GPS connection to allow us working out without carrying our phone with us!


    • m.sawh·

      Thanks for your comments. We are in no way saying the Fenix is the same as the Apple Watch, but you can't ignore that in the 5 Plus series, Garmin sought to add more smartwatch-like features. That might not be the features you want, but having spoken to Garmin directly on numerous occasions, they have told us that there are a lot of people who do want those features in a Fenix. We agree the outdoor features should be the priority and we are sure they will be when a new Fenix arrives.

    • j.stables·

      The Fenix 5 Plus has worse battery life than the Fenix 5 in terms. But I actually agree that GPS performance has some way to go – especially under tree cover. The Suunto 9 nicely augmented GPS data with the accelerometer, so you suddenly didn't see your pace degrade when there's a few overhead trees. That would be a nice feature also.