I gave up wearing my analog watch a few years ago. I’d been wearing a watch since a teenager, and 20+ years of flicking up my wrist to tell the time was over; replaced by grabbing my phone out of my pocket to check the time. I figured I had to check my phone constantly for other alerts anyway, and I didn’t need to check the time that often – so why wear a watch at all? I’d also been tempted a few times to try a smart watch, but the idea of charging every day or two was an instant dismissal from me.
Browsing ozbargain.com.au, I came across a post about a Garmin watch with 24 days of battery life. This was sounding a bit more tempting; and I went into research mode. So many watches to choose from, just from Garmin:
I don’t use an iPhone so an Apple Watch was out of the question, and others such as Samsung and a potential Google Pixel watch were never going to focus on long battery life without an E-Ink screen like the Instinct series has, and the Garmin Fenix 7 series have colour E-ink screens with long battery life, but a pricepoint of over $1000AU that I really can’t justify.
As you can tell by the title of this post, I ended up finding a relatively newly released Garmin Instinct® 2 Solar on Amazon shipped from the UK for $481AU – a decent discount from the $699AU RRP (and for some reason, shops are still selling the previous generation at the exact same price?) and a watch that claimed unlimited* battery life!
A few weeks later, the watch turned up in a relatively small box.
The box itself wasn’t even sealed, which worried me a bit – but the insides seemed untouched. A fake display was stuck onto the watch face to show you what you’d be in for. Inside the box wasn’t much else, beyond a proprietary charging cable with a USB end, and some manuals which I refuse to look at. If you’d like to check out the 114 pages, you’re more than welcome to :)
On the wrist, the watch is quite comfortable. It only took a few hours to have a watch feel ‘normal’ again. The watch isn’t chunky or heavy, and the rubber wrist band doesn’t dig in anywhere and doesn’t slide around.
The experience of setting up the watch was better than I expected, but also not the smoothest possible. After starting up the watch, it will ask for you to pair with the Garmin Connect app. Easily found in the Google Play Store, I installed it and quickly paired. I then had to set up my profile of height, body weight, age, gender etc. One of the first options I was presented about custom watch faces as part of it’s ‘getting started’ wizard asked me to then install the Garmin IQ Store app. I installed that, picked a watch face, which then advised me to install Garmin Express. I couldn’t find THAT on the Play Store, and after a quick search worked out it was a Windows piece of software, so gave up there.
Apart from this, the setup process worked and I was up and running with a watch that I had no idea how to use. Eventually I worked out what all the buttons did – and although I won’t be using the watch for any sports specific activities, there’s still a bucketload of features that will take a long time to learn. The basics of receiving a notification that comes through from the phone just worked – and each notification I had (which lightly buzzed my wrist) the option of blocking the app, which was a useful way of slowly filtering out noise I didn’t need while leaving the important stuff. I also had the option of dismissing notifications from the watch, or if I did it from my phone, it would clear the watch notification which was useful in avoiding double up actions.
Information such as the temperature, date, and step count are on the watch face I’m using at the moment, but I might change to include more data such as heart rate. It’s hard to go through so many options – and the faces themselves can then have each section configured to display different types of data (e.g. changing the battery left % to sunrise time) which results in a huge amount of choice.
At some stage I’ll dive into the advanced options more – I’m not sure when I’d need the ‘area calc’ option which seems to be walking around an area using GPS then having the estimated floor space shown – but one day that might be useful. As might be a compass on my hand, or wind direction – or a bunch of data that I really don’t understand what it even is (I think there’s one for how far above sea level I’m at, and another for my ‘body battery’). I’m sure the point here is that not everyone will use everything, but you have a giant toolkit to use and configure as you please.
Navigating the watch itself is done via 5 buttons as there’s no touch screen – 3 on one side, and 2 on the other – and both acting differently if you just press them, or hold them down. The buttons are easy to press and I’m quite fine with this method rather than swiping on the face.
Unlimited battery life? Probably not based on how much time I spend in the sun (not much!) but I’ve gone from 47% which the watch had out of the box, down to 25% in a week. I’m expecting to charge it occasionally – but it will be more like filling my car with petrol; once it gets low enough I’ll leave it plugged in for a few hours (officially 123 mins to fully charge). Without solar and GPS usage, the non-solar version claims 28 days battery life, and the solar version requires 3 hours in the sun daily to be unlimited.
The amount of data the Garmin Connect app saves and shows is huge – and honestly I’m probably not going to really look at this very often, but I still respect the beauty of data:
Also when setting up, I was prompted to set up my credit card, and thought this might be a quicker way to pay using Paywave rather than my credit card. I had to look up on how to actually use this feature, and it’s a bit clunky, particularly entering a 4 digit passcode with up and down buttons on a rotary phone type display. I get the security side of it, but it’s clunkier than taking a credit card out of my wallet so probably won’t use this feature often.
Wrapping up, I’m very happy with this watch so far. Highly configurable and feature packed, despite not being touchscreen. Easy enough to navigate, and great at giving me wrist accessible notifications instead of having to pull my phone out of my pocket to check. Light and comfy to wear, with a great battery life. Viewing angles are alright – there is a noticeable difference between straight on and a very slight angle, but not enough to prevent me from reading what it says. For the price point I was able to get it for, I consider it a good purchase.