Gear and Gadgets

Eurobike 2017: My opinion on the new Garmin Edge 1030

Garmin launched the Edge 1030. I recognize that it's going to dominate the market, but I'm feeling underwhelmed.

Garmin finally launched a successor to its aging Garmin Edge 1000 bike computer. It is the expected evolutionary rather than revolutionary upgrade. To make things super short: It’s maybe a solid device for new clients or for owners of smaller bike computers that want to upgrade to a bigger screen. I don’t think average owners of the Edge 1000 should switch to the Edge 1030. Not at the requested price point of 599 Euro.

DC Rainmaker’s review gives away that Garmin excels once more in implementing training functions and integration of third-party software and hardware. From my perspective, the latter is the most compelling reason to buy a Garmin. There is no other device yet that out of the box can so easily communicate with all sorts of power meters, fitness watches, whatever-accessory-comes-to-your-mind, and training platforms. It’s a huge ecosystem. For now, that’s the anchor of the Garmin business model. Plus, the thought that a dedicated bike computer will always be sturdier, longer-lasting, and more accurate in tracking data than a phone. I disagree with that, but I recognize that this is what people think.

But so, here are the key novelties of the Edge 1030.

  • It can handle both ANT+ and Bluetooth sensors
  • It has a revamped user interface, reflecting the current GUI of the smaller units
  • It comes with 20 hours battery life and a dedicated external power bank
  • It allows to message one of a few predefined texts to other Edge 1030 users
  • It makes use of cloud intelligence in identifying good route suggestions

Sounds good. And again, I’m not going to go into the details. There are more things that came along. You are covered better for this here and here, since I don’t have a unit at home.

Meanwhile, here is what other companies are doing in the mean-time.

Karoo is pushing their Hammerhead head unit. It’s an Android powered device with an inbuilt browser, a high-resolution screen, and much more detailed mapping. I’m not a fan of the map layout, but it’s a big step forward in the ease-of-use of on-screen route creation. Though I think this will always have some severe limitations if it’s not paired with some intelligent routing as the one that Garmin proposes. The key feature for me is how progressive it appears and how close it comes to a smartphone-like intuition.

Wahoo has gotten its foot in the market and is now considered the main alternative to Garmin. More and more, you hear people say that their Garmin replacement is likely going to be a Wahoo unit. Its most recent innovation is aerodynamic optimization, and the Wahoo app is better developed than the Garmin counter part. (Bit of evidence: The Play Store ratings sit at 4.2 and 3.8, respectively.) Lastly, Wahoo’s bigger units are superior in assisting with navigation on-the-fly.

Xoss launched a Kickstarter today for a new cycling unit that’s positioned against the smaller Edge 520. They claim it comes with 37 hours of battery life in the device itself. No extra battery needed. (But there are some catches there, which I’m going to address in a separate post.) It comes as a much lower price point – 169 USD on Kickstarter, still less than 300 USD recommended sales price.

Acer has finally started shipping the Xplova 5. This one is a combined bike computer and action camera. The camera has a small resolution (not even Full HD), so that’s merely an interesting idea. Meanwhile, good action cameras have reached 4K, and decent full HD cameras are available for as little as 50 EUR from Chinese suppliers. Personally, I prefer to film in Full HD with 60fps, both because that’s the maximum resolution of YouTube and because I can’t edit 4K video with my notebook.

These are just some of the companies that are also producing dedicated head units, i.e. those that recently came along with noteworthy developments. That’s not one bit talking about the big universe of bike computer apps that are now out there in smartphone universe.

So, on the one hand we have Garmin focusing on fine-tuning features. On the other hand, we have a bunch of companies who are trying to match Garmin while also innovating with some new key features. Many of which are by now matched by Garmin. Most successful in catching up so far has been Wahoo, i.e. the one most echoing the Garmin experience, but in a less buggy, slightly more user-oriented environment.

I firmly believe that Garmin will continue to dominate the market, even though it might see some of its market share wander off to Wahoo. The guys from Hammerhead have to nail their product launch, but I think that their decision for Android helps them to attract people with continuous map updates and internet functionalities without the need to use an app. It’s missing only a SIM card to make an extra phone (which most of us carry) obsolete. But for the rest, Garmin’s case is a great example of incremental responses to relevant developments from the competition.

Why not an inbuilt camera? Because that makes little sense. First, it would cannibalize Garmin’s own VIRB product line. Second, space inside the device is limited. Third, it eats into battery life and competes for storage.

The future

Still, I believe that there is an immanent threat to the market: The phone. All it needs is one smart group of Chinese entrepreneurs to take fairly standard smartphone components, add ANT+ and a barometer (which Samsung and Sony add already anyways to some of their phones), a sturdy case, a decent camera (for photos, not video), and physical buttons. In fact, you just need to take a Sony Xperia Z3 Compact, add a bigger battery, and a mount-plus-case for safe riding, and you are done! Then pair it with a free app that can do navigation, Strava live segments, and workouts, so lazy consumers have an all-in-one solution to start with. And then don’t sell it as a phone that can be a bike computer, but as a bike computer that can be a phone.

The Z3 Compact is a phone from 2014. Hence, I appreciate that Garmin’s 1030 is greatly prepared for the competition. I don’t see it to be very attractive for consumers to upgrade from an existing Edge 1000, but for new clients, it’s arguably the option I would most likely recommend alongside Wahoo. Despite its deficiencies which I mostly see where it comes to navigation. Garmin might share these deficiencies with much of the competition, but these deficiencies exist, already in comparison to a phone from three years ago that runs an app which is developed as a hobby by a single guy. Hence, I think that, technologically, we are not getting the product that would be possible in a more competitive market, and therefore still feel underwhelmed by the Edge 1030.


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