Garmin shrinks navigation to wrists, makes fitness gadgets more stylish

Looking to get fit in 2015, possibly by exploring new places and making holes in those new walking or running shoes? Garmin looks to have you covered with a slate of wearables on the way. 

In 2015, expect to see a pretty strong investment in wearables from Garmin, a brand that has already shown a particularly strong force for people who love to track what they do in and out of the gym, as well as where they’re traveling to in a car.

This year, Garmin will even merge the two areas, culminating in a smartwatch called the Garmin Epix, a 1.4 inch square touchscreen wearable with a GPS built inside and hands-free navigation, showing where you are, where you need to go, and relying on an omni-directional steel antenna to make the GPS with GLONASS support get a lock on where you are quickly.

Epix will be rugged, supporting up to 50 metres of water resistance, and include 8GB of storage inside, and while it will come with maps, it will be able to have other maps downloaded inside, making it possible to bring the car style of GPS everywhere you go, with navigation from your wrist, as well as sensors to monitor barometric pressure to tell you if the weather is about to change.

GPS navigation is only one part of the watch, as there will be support for tracking walking, running, cycling, and other activities, with Garmin’s Epix able to track distance travelled, speed, calories, pace, and can even be paired with a heart rate monitor to handle that, too.

Smartphones will talk to the watch, too, to make sure you know if you’re receiving a phone call, email, or SMS notification, handling the message or call on the watch.

It won’t be cheap, that said, but it is one of the few gadgets announced at CES that already has an Australian RRP, with the Garmin Epix expected to land in the next few months for a recommended retail price of $739.

Joining it will be another smartwatch, though this one more about movement and activity tracking, and without the navigational GPS.

This will be the Garmin VivoActive, a GPS-equipped smartwatch that won’t tell you how to get to point A, B, or C, but will tell you where you were running that morning.

We’re told it’s water-resistant to 50 metres, and will even work with swimmers to measure laps and distance, while workout on-ground will track steps, calories lost, and distance travelled, even showing how much weight you’re losing when you’re not doing much at all, like sitting behind a desk and working on an article (hey, that’s us!).

Like the Epix, you can expect some connectivity to a smartphone, with call information, email alerts, and text notifications, as well as some social media tracking and music controls, though this will be a Garmin operating system, from what we understand, and while it will have app support, it will be through Garmin’s Connect IQ platform.

Pricing on this one will come in at $339 without a heart-rate monitor, and $399 with heart-rate technology, and it will be available in the next couple of months in black and white.

And if you don’t need fitness tracking in a watch, and much prefer the whole wearable smart-band concept that is making its way out into the world, Garmin will even have a new version of the Vivofit out shortly.

“Vívofit 2 removes all obstacles holding you back from establishing healthy habits,” said Matt DeMoss, General Manager at Garmin Australasia.

“Designed to be with you 24/7 with features including one year battery life, audible move bar alert, always-on display with backlight and fashionable band options from the Style Collection, vívofit 2 keeps you motivated wherever you go.”

The new model appears to feature sound alerts to remind you to get up, as well as a much-needed backlight so you can see the screen in the dark, and even a “style collection” to make the fitness tracker blend in better with a wardrobe, with premium materials used here including leather and stainless steel.

We’re not sure if fitness folks will see the benefit in having either of those materials, but if you never take your fitness gadget off and you’re dressing for a night out, having an option to switch out for a more premium look and finish might be something you see as a great feature.

Garmin hasn’t yet told us if the synchronisation has been improved from the last model, or whether the Vivofit band will intercept phone calls or messages with a vibration, but given that competing products are out from other wearable makers, we’d be surprised if it didn’t include them.

Priced from $139 without a heart rate monitor or $169 with one, you’ll find it in stores within the next couple of months in Australia in black, white, pink, and navy, with the Style Collection (above) set to be available soon, as well.