Garmin's Connect IQ shoots for more functional, better-connected wearables
Though Garmin has been in the wearables game for a lot longer than most companies, its offerings are a little lacking when it comes to non-fitness related functionality. To combat this, the company is enlisting the help of third-party developers, with the goal of drawing its functionality a little closer to fully-blown smartwatches.
While Garmin’s wearables are more focused on outdoor and fitness use than key smartwatches like the Moto 360 or Apple Watch, the company believes that they could benefit from some of the extra functionality found on those devices.
Connect IQ is an SDK that will let developers get their apps and widgets running on Garmin hardware for the first time. The company hopes that developers will take advantage of both the connected and autonomous functionality of its wearables, as well as built-in GPS tech, durability and long battery life. The company has yet to announce which of its devices will be compatible with the SDK, but plans to launch a Connect IQ Store in early 2015.
Once developers get on board, we’ll likely see popular fitness tracking apps make their way to Garmin’s wearables, but the company hopes that making the SDK available will help increase the functionality of the platform elsewhere, creating widgets that can be added to the UI’s carousel, showing info such as sports scores on the device’s main screen, or telling users that they need to hydrate during exercise. The tools will let developers design custom, always-on watch faces for the devices, as well as providing access to full GPS and sensor data, and the ability to utilize a connected smartphone’s internet access.
If you're a consumer that's approaching wearables from a fashion-centric standpoint, or you're looking at the category with a "how does this device improve my day-to-day life" mentality, then the improvements that Garmin is planning may not be enough to nudge you towards its products.
However, if you're a fitness buff that isn't satisfied with the sensors available in other smartwatches, and yearns for little more from a fitness-tracker, then the augmented and extra functionality that Connect IQ promises will likely make Garmin's wearables more appealing than ever.