Understanding smartwatches

I was wrong. Several years ago I reviewed the first Garmin Fenix 3 smartwatch. This was before the release of the Apple Watch. That’s key to this story. I declared Garmin would have a hard time selling the Fenix 3. The Apple Watch would be better in every way, I pointed out. Therefore, there would be little reason to buy the Fenix 3.

But here I am, in the middle of the woods, wearing the fifth generation of the Garmin Fenix while my Apple Watch sits at home on my desk.

In some ways I was right. The Apple Watch is better by most measurable attributes: there are more apps, the screen is superior, there’s a vibrant accessory market, and it’s thinner, faster and cheaper.

The Garmin Fenix is big, clunky and the screen looks like it’s from a Kindle. It’s not a touchscreen nor does it have the number of apps or band options of the Apple Watch. I like it. To me, the Garmin Fenix is akin to a modern Casio G-Shock, and that’s what I want to wear right now.

Smartwatches are often reviewed like phones or vacuums. Specs are compared, and conclusions are drawn. Wearability is talked about, and functions are tested. If the watch has a swimming option, take it in a pool never mind the fact the reviewer hasn’t done a lap since high school.

I started out doing the same thing with this Garmin. I took it kayaking. I had kayaked twice in my life, and dear reader, I’m here to report the watch performed well on this kayak trip. The watch has topography maps that novel though not useful since the river. It has a cadence beat to help keep strokes consistent. I tried it all. I ended up drinking a lot of Michigan beer instead …continue reading