All About Wearable Tech

Garmin Connect Mobile Beta: Fitness Tracking Features We’d Like to See


More than three months have passed since Garmin launched a beta version of its Garmin Connect Mobile smartphone app.When Garmin initially rolled its beta Connect Mobile app, it was clear that changes were only affecting the app’s home page and the way daily fitness stats were being presented. I thought additional new features and/or design adjustments would keep being added to this beta version, but apparently that has not been the case.

And here we are a few months later with the beta version pretty much unchanged from day one and still not publicly released. In the meantime Garmin has launched the new Garmin Vivoactive 3  and other devices, which would have been a perfect moment to incorporate the beta redesign into the official app.

My take: someone at Garmin is not happy with this beta design of the Connect Mobile App. If that is the case I can’t really understand why because I like it quite a lot. So I guess now it is a good time to give my opinion on the matter and try to add into what I believe it is already a good redesign step in the right direction.

First of all, let’s start with some considerations regarding the standard Garmin user and how that should affect the Garmin Connect Mobile app:

  • A large portion of Garmin users have bought their watches for their sports tracking features. Yes, I know the Vivoactive 3 is meant to widen the target market. I also know that Garmin has the new Garmin Vivomove HR and the Garmin Vivosport,and also the older Vivosmart and Vivofit ranges. And that to a large extent these watches / bands may be considered more as activity trackers rather than fully fledged sports watches. But in the end the connection between Garmin and sports tracking is almost always in the mind of a consumer when opting to buy a Garmin device.
  • Garmin Connect Mobile is mainly used to check daily activity stats and therefore these stats should be there upfront (app home page) when someone opens the app. However given the activity-inclined nature of many Garmin users, sports tracking stats, at least from recent activities, should not be more than one click away from the app home.
  • I disagree with some design gurus who claim all critical data should fit into one screen and be available to the user with no required interaction. I believe that scrolling, up and down, is such a “natural” move for smartphone users that the concept of “initial screen” that those design gurus refer to should be extended to the data on screen plus any other available by scrolling down.
  • Garmin Connect Mobile is critical as the showcase of Garmin’s fitness tracking capabilities. Fitbit is still regarded by most industry experts as the best fitness tracking experience. I believe Garmin is not significantly behind Fitbit in terms of software or features. However Garmin is behind Fitbit in terms of user experience. And the user experience mainly refers to two aspects: i) usability of phone app, and ii) social experience.

So here are my views on changes already implemented, in the beta version, plus some additional suggestions:

  • Big thumbs up to the new “My Day” (app home page) redesign. The new card system is a big improvementIt’s more visually appealing. It’s much clearer. It’s more colorful. In summary, it’s way better. Also the dynamic nature of the cards, with same day sports activities showing up the top and being able to click into each of the cards for additional information, is a positive design change.

  • I like the addition of Yesterday and Last 7 Days data when scrolling down, but both Yesterday and Last 7 Days should have the option to expand/collapse just as there is on My Day. Right now only the “collapsed” data shows.
  • I like the customization and reordering features of My Day accessible through the Edit My Day link. You may select which cards will show and in what order. Pretty neat solution to avoid empty boxes if you have a watch which does not support a certain stat (i.e. stairs for watches without altimetric barometer).
  • There are now five tabs at the bottom of the home screen: My Day, Challenges, Calendar, News Feed and Messages. It’s again a usability improvement over the official app where these items were accesible through the menu. What I do not like that much is the selection of items shown in this “footer navigation bar”.
  • Calendar is totally fine being in this footer navigation bar. But when clicking on any day, data is shown with the same design as in the old official app. Data for calendar days should be displayed just like on My Day. Garmin: please provide more consistent, better design!
  • There should be an Activities tab in the footer navigation bar. Right now to check your activities (i.e any type of sport training session) you have to go into the menu, expand the Activities element, select a sport and then click on the specific activity. That may be fine for other companies, but many Garmin users are die hard athletes or at least they exercise regularly. Data on training sessions should be easier to access. I’d have an Activities tab which shows a list of cards similar to those showing on My Day with all training sessions. They would be organized by date and with specific colors for each sport. It would show last 10-15 exercises plus either a “load more” button or an infinity loading script.
  • Challenges, News Feed and Messages all relate, in some form, to the social side of the app. If we were to include the suggested Activities tab, then one would have to go. I personally don’t like how all the social stuff is presented in Garmin Connect Mobile. I like the features and functionalities but I believe the way it shows in the app is somewhat confusing. And this includes these News Feed and Messages tab. News Feed??!!! Isn’t there any better name for what that is? Anyway, my opinion is that the design of all social sharing features, and its usability, should change entirely. It has to be much more intuitive. Maybe looking at how other companies do it might help.
  • Finally I’ve got a couple of suggestions regarding the Main Menu. I like that it is somehow divided into five main groups: Activities (i.e. sports), Health (i.e. daily fitness tracking data), Performance Stats (VO2 max and other advanced data for higher end watch owners), Insights and Social stuff:
  • I would add a My Day link at the top as in the beta version you have to be clicking the back arrow all the way back to the home page.
  • I would reorganize some items like steps which now appear under activities. I’d take Steps into the Health section. I know Steps are an activity but I believe most people differentiate sport tracking data from fitness tracking data and Steps better fit in the latter category.
  • I would include a Goals section where users can see all their goals for each daily fitness stat and could even edit them. This is no new feature as it can be done now individually. I guess having all goals accesible and available to edit in a single screen can add to the user experience. Also I would add default goals for those stats which now do not have (i.e. calories). We all love having goals, lots of them.

Garmin may or may not roll out a new redesign for its Garmin Connect Mobile app soon. But the fact that they felt the need to show a beta version and that it is taking so long to get any changes transferred into the official app shows that they know things can be done better. Or at least that things can be shown better and in a more user friendly way.