It's time for Garmin to get its groove on

Music features should be a top priority for the company
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You can't say that Garmin hasn't been innovating in recent times. This year we've counted seven wearable tech releases from the Kansas company, and we still have one major show to go. But for all the great innovation – it's baffling that music is still largely ignored by the company.

Let's look at some stats. Research suggests that listening to music while exercising can reduce the perception of effort and tiredness by up to 12%. And in a 2012 study by Sheffield Hallam University, participants who cycled in time to music used 7% less oxygen than those without a background soundtrack to synchronise too. In a word: it's not just preference that drives people to music while working out, it's science.

Essential reading: Best running watches with music playback

Yet music is barely part of the wearable tech conversation. TomTom has embraced it to a certain extent, with Wareable favourite the TomTom Spark. And the Adidas Smart Run (from 2013) supports music ­– but from Garmin there's been silence. Own a Garmin but want to go for a two hour run with music? Taking your phone along for the ride is the only option.

It's time for Garmin to get its groove on

The new Polar M600 uses Android Wear, and comes with 4GB of built-in memory for MP3s. Likewise the Moto 360 Sport and Nixon The Mission, which also feature GPS tracking and leverage Android Wear. And the Apple Watch – while a bit of a joke in terms of fitness cred – can leverage an Apple Music subscription too.

Yet Garmin has remained steadfast. Storage – which costs pennies – hasn't graced the company's roadmap nor has the support for headsets, that enables people to leave their phones at home. But the company hasn't been shy to add smart features. It's engineered wonderful innovations in smart notifications, fitness tracking, music controls and battery life. Yet the open goal of playing a few MP3s has gone unrealised.

And yet while we plea for sports watches with a tiny amount of storage for a few MP3s, it's easy to forget the bigger picture. When the TomTom Spark was released last September, I remember initially being mortified that there was no Spotify support. That seems like a distant dream. Forget streaming – when it comes to music, the fitness tech industry isn't even out of the Napster era.

So who should be look to? Well, as I mentioned, Google's expansion of Android Wear makes the Polar M600 a serious play. Finally, a smartwatch with real proper fitness credibility – not the half-baked imitation served up to fitness fans by Motorola, like a family of aliens trying to learn human customs from a textbook.

Pebble – creators of the original and ultimate nerdwatch – also look to be taking an interesting path with the Pebble Core, using Android to leverage offline Spotify playlists.

But it's not enough. It's 2016, yet I'm listening to tired old MP3 mixes from 2009 on my TomTom Spark and taking my phablet out for a run in a glorified fanny pack.

Garmin – I need you to do better.

Do you agree with James? Let us know your thoughts in the comments section below.

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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 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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