​Garmin Lily review: true female-friendly smartwatch but not for athletes

A stylish female-focused smartwatch that occasionally loses its way
​Garmin Lily
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The Garmin Lily is a health and wellness focused smartwatch aimed at women, with a smaller case size, slimmer straps and a selection of female-oriented features.

It comes in two flavours: the more expensive Classic, with a stainless steel case and leather strap, and the £50-cheaper Sport, which has an aluminium case and a more sweat-friendly silicon strap.

Whichever option you go for, you’ll get phone notifications, sleep, stress and activity tracking, continuous heart-rate monitoring and five days of battery life.

It goes up against Garmin's hybrid watches such as the Vivomove 3 and other devices such as the Withings Move or Fossil Hybrid Monroe HR. But make no mistake: this is a full screen smartwatch – just stripped back.

The screen is basic (although the glass patterned so it looks good when dimmed) but while Garmin is synonymous with GPS watches, the Lily doesn’t have it built in, relying instead on a connection from your smartphone.

We’ve spent a few weeks getting to know the Garmin Lily to find out. Here’s our full verdict.

Price when reviewed:£229.99 (Classic) £179.99 (Sport)

Garmin Lily: Design and screen

Garmin Lily reverse

  • Low-res LCD display
  • Patterned lens
  • 34mm case/14mm strap

If you’re used to chunkier smartwatches – even the smaller models generally offered to women – the first thing you’ll notice about the Garmin Lily is the case size and strap.

At 34mm it's the smallest smartwatch we've reviewed on Wareable, and a true riposte to the idea that connected watches are too bulky or only built for men. It's unapologetically aimed at women that feel that smartwatches and sports watches are too big and/or too ugly.

The 14mm strap goes a long way to make the Lily feel like a “real” watch – one of those stylish, metal and leather watches we wore to tell the time. The T-bar connector brings it up-to-date with a contemporary yet practical feel.

There’s also a standard watch strap buckle to fasten it – no Velcro or magnets or straps that need tucking inside themselves. The Classic version comes with a leather strap, in black, brown or white, while the Sport model has a silicone strap in white, sand or orchid (purple).

Garmin Lily side on

You can also buy replacement bands if you want to change up the look, or switch between leather in the day and silicone for exercise.

We tested the Classic model, with a light gold bezel and black leather strap, and it sat snug and comfortably on our slim wrist, perfect for getting a good heart-rate reading. It’s also very light – you’ll quickly forget it’s there.

The screen itself is a monochrome LCD display (240 x 210 pixels) that’s entirely touchscreen – there are no buttons or even a fake crown.

The screen is not always on, and switches off when not in use to preserve battery life. You’re not left with an entirely blank watch face though, as the Lily has patterned glass that adds a dose of design, even when the screen is blank.

It’s a nice touch that does raise it above the likes of the Apple Watch SE or Fossil Wear OS watches in terms of how it looks on the wrist as you're going about your day.

Garmin Lily screen off patterned glass

You can choose from a selection of digital and analogue displays that all incorporate a revolving info section – tap on the screen to scroll through data such as battery life, weather, steps taken, current heart rate and body battery. Though there are some stylish screen options here, none of them quite live up to the classic looks of the watch itself.

While you’re using the Garmin Lily, the screen is nicely responsive, but unfortunately getting it to light up can sometimes be a challenge. When first setting up the watch, we found that it struggled to recognise a wrist raise or twist if we were sitting down. We quickly found the setting to increase the sensitivity, which improved things, but it’s still a long way from perfect.

Checking the time in bed, in particular – even outside of the designated sleeping hours – often involves several grumpy taps at the screen before it will light up. And if you’re just wanting to glance at the time when you’re doing something else with your hands – making a cup of tea, for example – you’re out of luck.

In conclusion we love the Garmin Lily look and feel, but the responsiveness from rest could definitely be improved.

Garmin Lily: Software and smartwatch features

Garmin Lily notification

  • Notifications
  • iOS and Android

As with other Garmin watches, the Garmin Lily syncs up with the excellent Garmin Connect app, on iPhone or Android. During our review we had it paired with an iPhone XR.

The Lily offers a range of Widgets which can be selected in Garmin Connect and then scrolled through on the watch.

“My Day” shows you your step count and calories burned, plus intensity minutes for the week, while “Health Stats” shows Heart Rate, Stress Level and Body Battery. You can also choose options such as Weather, Music Controls, Heart Rate and more.

For data which also appears in the round-up Widgets such as Calories, a separate Widget will give you more detail, such as the active and rest calories for the day, while the dedicated Heart Rate widget will also show your seven-day resting heart rate.

There’s also a Widget for Women’s Health Tracking, which will give you the predicted date of the start of your next period. Within the app there’s room for plenty more information, much of which is related to pregnancy planning and tracking, such as the ability to log sexual activity. If you’re not actively trying to get pregnant, you may find that a step too far.

As you scroll through there’s a small delay as data screens load, which isn’t too annoying but is noticeable.

You can’t respond to notifications from the wrist, but they’re useful to save you pulling out your phone, and they’re clear and easy to read.

Everything looks good and works well at what it does, but it all feels simple and quite basic. For plenty of people though, it’s more than enough.

Garmin Lily: Fitness tracking

Garmin Lily my day fitness stats

  • Good sleep tracking
  • Insights not that helpful

Garmin Lily’s sleep tracking accurately recorded waking times in the night, and nights where we’d woken straight from an intense dream also showed REM sleep right up to wake-up. We also found that sluggish mornings often followed nights that showed little deep sleep.

Features such as body battery, stress and pulse ox are nice to have – but not massively helpful.

Pulse ox were generally as expected, while the stress and body battery seemed mainly to correlate to workouts and sleep rather than offering any individual or helpful insight.

A bout of exercise seems to be recorded in a similar way to a stressful work meeting, despite having very different effects on our outlook. It’s important to know that Garmin’s ‘stress tracking’ is purely physiological, monitoring changes in heart rate variability, rather than a measure of mental or psychological stress. Therefore an intense and depleting run may have the same effect as something that’s worrying you. Therefore you will need to interpret the results yourself, and it won’t guide you on taking action.

There are also the familiar prompts to get moving after periods of inactivity, which are friendlier than a lot of other watches, offering advice to “Have a break” or “Go for a walk”. And there’s a Hydration app for you to record your water intake, if that’s something you struggle with.

One feature that’s particularly useful for women is “Live tracking”, so a trusted contact can keep track of where you are when out on your own. This worked perfectly in testing – our contact was emailed a link when we started a run, and could then see our route and movement on a detailed map. It feels a really useful safety feature if you’re heading off on your own, though the fact that you’ll have to have your phone with you anyway makes it less useful than on a standalone watch.

Garmin Lily: Sports tracking and heart rate accuracy

Garmin Lily mid run data

  • Connected GPS only
  • Good display during exercise
  • Accurate heart rate monitor

The Garmin Lily isn’t branded as a sports watch – but given Garmin’s pedigree it didn’t feel like too much to hope for that it might support casual exercisers wanting to track their workouts. Alas, it wasn’t to be.

It offers activities of Walk, Run, Cardio, Strength Training, Yoga, Pool Swim, Bike, Treadmill, Stair Stepper, Pilates, Breathwork, Elliptical and ‘Other’ (an open timer). The majority of these are simple interval trackers that allow to you put in repeats and track time and heart rates to estimate calorie burn, with simple adaptions for different activities.

For example, the Yoga app will prompt you to tell it when you move to a new pose, or the Strength Training will record a rep when your arm returns to its original position.

The Walk, Run and Bike options will connect to your phone’s GPS to give more detailed recording of your exercise – but the accuracy of these depends on your Bluetooth and phone connections, and burying your phone inside a bag or pocket can negatively affect GPS accuracy.

On a local run through old railway tunnels, normally recorded perfectly by a Forerunner 35, we found that the watch simply assumed a straight line through the start and end points, cutting distance off our total and lowering our pace for the run.

Garmin Lily heart rate

You can also set-up auto-tracking for running and walking, telling the Lily how long to wait before recording. Unfortunately this was hit and miss in our experience. The first auto-recorded walk showed the time spent and calories burned, but with a total distance of 0.02 miles. Later walks showed the correct mileage, but never gave a map of the route, unlike walks that were manually started and stopped.

Another time, when we told the Lily not to record the current walk, it continued to try and record through the journey, and then gave “Failed to save” notifications for several days afterwards.

While working out, we found the displays to be clear and useful, showing distance run, pace and time passed. You can also tweak what you want to see and your preferred units in the app.

To test the heart rate monitor, we put it up against a Garmin heart rate strap connect to a Garmin Forerunner 35, and tested it on a straightforward run as well as an interval session.

It managed well on the standard run. Both average and maximum heart rates were within 1bpm of each other, with the peaks and troughs following each other closely.

Garmin Lily heart rate accuracy

Garmin chest strap (top) vs Garmin Lily (bottom)

On an interval run, however, it showed its shortcomings. The average heart rate was 5bpm below the monitor (not awful by optical HR standards. But comparing the two graphs shows the difference through the run – the Lily gives a much smoother chart, failing to catch up with the fall in heart rate during recovery before it rises again for the next effort. It also took a while to get up to speed, with some duff data early in the run.

It’s useful for recording general exercise and monitoring resting heart rate, but not if you need more accurate records for training with heart rate zones. If that’s what you’re looking for, we’d heartily recommend a more dedicated Garmin sports watch, such as the Forerunner 245.


Garmin Lily: Battery life

  • Up to five days stated battery life
  • Real life testing around four days
  • Fast charging

The Garmin Lily uses the same clip charger as other Garmin models, attaching on to the edge of the watch and charging from 1-100% in about 90 minutes.

Garmin estimates up to five days of battery life with an average amount of activity and interaction and the pulse ox mode switched off. We found a life of close to four days with the pulse ox on, with a drop of around 10% overnight.

More exercise sessions will also drain the battery quite a bit faster – we found a drop off of around 15% over a 20-minute run – so you’ll probably need to charge it around twice a week with casual exercise.



Garmin Lily
By Garmin
The Garmin Lily is a great looking smartwatch with a focus on wellness rather than sport. It’s ideal for anyone who wants something closer to a “dumb” watch, with good features such as phone notifications, step and sleep tracking, as well as oft-forgotten features such as period tracking. The lack of GPS is our biggest gripe downfall, but it’s a calculated choice that the target market won’t be too bothered. Runners can look elsewhere in Garmin’s range, but those that enjoy gym or class-based workouts will find plenty of like about the Lily.

Hit
  • Great looks and gorgeous strap
  • Good battery life
  • Reliable tracker
  • Good selection of female-focused features
Miss
  • Lack of dedicated GPS
  • Raise to wake not very responsive
  • Syncing occasionally glitchy
  • Low-res, monochrome display