Just as some watch makers are figuring out how to stream music from our tiny wrist-computers, Garmin is catching up to the times and starting to offer music storage on its GPS watches.
Garmin’s newly-announced Forerunner 645 watch, revealed at CES, stores music locally on the watch and pairs with Bluetooth headphones so you can run without your phone and still listen to music. It’s shipping now and will cost $450. A version of the same Forerunner watch without music will cost $400.
The watch’s music capabilities are somewhat basic. The Forerunner 645 can store up to 500 music files, either transferred from a computer or downloaded as offline playlists from streaming services like iHeart Radio and Deezer. But it doesn’t work with other popular streaming services (the most obvious one missing is Spotify), at least at launch.
Garmin's wearable competitors, from TomTom to Polar to Apple to Fitbit, have all offered some form of local music storage or offline playlist downloads before. Apple and Samsung even do music streaming now from their flagship watches.
Some of Garmin’s earlier watches have had music control, which means you can use the watch to play or pause songs that are playing from your phone. But music directly on the watch is feature that a lot of runners have requested from Garmin. A Garmin spokeswoman said the company has just been waiting for the right time, and that “technology advancements and increased customer interest both came into play when making the decision to add music.”
Music aside, it’s still a jam-packed fitness watch. It has built-in GPS and GLONASS and wrist-based heart rate sensors. It tracks running, cycling, swimming, with a few of Garmin’s more advanced training features (like training load and anaerobic training effect) worked into the software.
It’s also nicer-looking than Forerunners past. It has a stainless steel metal bezel, a glass face, and an always-on display. Garmin claims its battery life with last up to seven days with normal usage and up to five hours in GPS mode.
And it will work with Garmin Pay, the company’s recently rolled-out NFC tap-to-pay feature, which only works on one other Garmin watch, the Vivoactive 3.