Why Garmin buying Firstbeat is big news for sports watches

Garmin takes the power back
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Garmin has bought Firstbeat, the company that powers most of its advanced fitness algorithms – and it’s big news for the wearables market.

You might not know what Firstbeat is, but essentially it powers all the really fun parts of Garmin fitness watches. The Training Effect, Training Load, Performance Condition, Recovery Advisor, VO2 Max – and all data that uses heart rate variability is powered by Firstbeat’s algorithms.

Why Garmin buying Firstbeat is big news for sports watches

Firstbeat's Training Load feature on Garmin

Firstbeat doesn’t make any hardware, it just licenses the tech that make sense of the data from Garmin’s heart rate, GPS and motion sensors.

But things have got interesting because Firstbeat has been providing the same thing for a lot of companies, and essentially helping other wearables provide Garmin’s USPs for less money.

We’ve seen Firstbeat stats – the exact ones you’ll find on immensely expensive devices such as the Fenix 6 – appear on budget devices like the Huawei Watch GT2e, Amazfit Ares, Casio G-SHOCK H1000 and even Xiaomi Mi Watch Color.

And these devices are coming and eating into Garmin’s piece of the pie.

Garmin recently emerged as the third biggest manufacturer of smartwatches, behind Apple and Samsung.

However, Huawei has already usurped it with monster sales in Q1 2020, and there’s evidence that Xiaomi, Amazfit and Oppo could start encroaching if they ever get their act together in the US.

We’ve often wondered how Garmin will fight back against the budget tech coming out of China, which now feature accurate sensors at low prices.

Why Garmin buying Firstbeat is big news for sports watches

Firstbeat VO2 Max on Huawei Watch GT2e

So Garmin has moved to secure ownership of some of its best features, and now it owns Firstbeat’s algorithms and licensing business.

The first and immediate questions are about whether the company will still let third parties use Firstbeat tech.

The short term answer is yes, as referenced in Garmin’s press materials and confirmed to DCRainmaker.

"Firstbeat Technologies will continue operating its Wellness and Professional Sports businesses," read the statement.

Licensing money will swell Garmin’s coffers, but it can also make decisions about which companies are allowed to compete with it.

Head-to-head: Garmin Forerunner 745 v Garmin Vivoactive 4

We’re sure that the likes of Amazfit and Huawei will soon replicate these features for themselves.

But for now it puts the power back in Garmin’s hands.


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James Stables


James is the co-founder of Wareable, and he has been a technology journalist for 15 years.

He started his career at Future Publishing, James became the features editor of T3 Magazine and T3.com and was a regular contributor to TechRadar – before leaving Future Publishing to found Wareable in 2014.

James has been at the helm of Wareable since 2014 and has become one of the leading experts in wearable technologies globally. He has reviewed, tested, and covered pretty much every wearable on the market, and is passionate about the evolving industry, and wearables helping people achieve healthier and happier lives.

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