It’s that time of the quarter that each of Garmin’s various quarterly beta programs for fitness/outdoor products goes live, and with it, we get to see the first tranche of new features for each watch. Last week they released the first alpha build for the Fenix 7/Epix/Enduro 2/MARQ 2 watches, which brought dozens of new features including Jetlag Advisor, more sport profiles, and expanded Race Day features.
Garmin last night published the first update for the Instinct Series 2 Alpha in the Garmin Public Beta program, which adds a number of features that other watches got in the previous quarterly update cycle (such as wrist-based actuation force and Grade Adjusted Pace (GAP)). This is available for all Instinct 2 Series watches.
As a brief reminder, Garmin has switched to a quarterly release system for feature updates, but this also includes bug fixes. As usual, other bug fix updates can happen outside of this schedule as needed – but major features are released quarterly now, ideally all at once across all current generation watches (or bike computers/etc…). As part of that, Garmin has its own beta program for every device model. This beta program starts with what are called “Alpha Builds” and then, after what is usually 3-5 weeks, escalates to “Beta Builds”. Alpha builds have to be downloaded manually to your watch using a PC, while Beta builds automatically appear on your watch using WiFi/Bluetooth. Both are part of the “Beta Program”.
If you want to join the beta program, you can do so here, or I wrote instructions here.
Now as with last week’s Fenix 7/etc series update, keep in mind that the first published alpha ride of the quarterly update train tends to be just the tip of the iceberg in terms of features. Meaning, they’ve historically added more new features as they go forward. For example, we don’t see Connect IQ System 6 in this update roll yet, but we know this is definitely coming. Heck, even the Fenix 6 series got an Alpha update for that yesterday, too. The same goes for indeterminate gender support, which the Venu 2 team added to the Alpha update yesterday, after seeing it in other Alpha updates over the past week.
You can generally look for other alpha/beta versions of the product to get a good idea of what’s going to happen. Obviously, not everything lands on the watch, but they do provide some hints. Also, again, this requires cable installation, as it’s an alpha build. While the Beta releases will go down wireless (and the image above would be more correct).
Here is the official list of changes for Alpha 11.08:
He added the morning report.
Sleep mode has been added.
Basic race and race calendar looks added.
Wrist-based triggering force added.
Suggested daily workout improvements added.
Modified speed class has been added.
Backcountry snowboarding activity added.
Added Physio TrueUp – Training condition improvements.
Added RTS support for activity alerts.
Added temperature logging activity setting.
Updated phone app pairing flow to use PIN comparison.
Now, as a quick reminder, late last month Garmin released firmware 10.10 (production) for the Instinct 2 series, which while smaller than the list of changes for other watches, did include an important addition to the sportier profile. Added Surf / Windsurf / Kiteboard activities to *ALL* Instinct 2 Series watches, whereas previously these sport profiles were only available on Surf versions (which were functionally identical devices):
Surf, Windsurf, Kiteboard and Tides app added for all Instinct SKUs.
Added app notification icons for Garmin Jr. apps. and Garmin Messenger.
Added option to delete copied activity from device.
Additional course point icons have been added for the new Garmin Connect course point types.
Added the setting for backlight behavior when a key is pressed while asleep.
Improved energy data screens by showing heart rate in the dial.
Note that I only selected the specific new features page, not all of the “Improvements/Changes” area, nor all of the bug fixes. All of those are fully included here (and here for the previous production build 10.10).
So, just a quick look at some of the features. Some are self-explanatory, and some are worth a quick click. The morning report has been around since Forerunner 255/955 days, and is now in the Fenix 7/Epix/etc series. Covers the next day as well as last night’s sleep. It will show things like planned workouts, HRV status (which the Instinct Series 2 got in last summer’s update), as well as the weather. You can customize this in Instinct 2 in the Settings menu (Settings > Appearance > Morning Report):
After that there is sleep mode. This is a subtle but very useful feature that was introduced with the Fenix 7 series watches a year ago, and it basically has a minimal sleep watch face:
They added a wrist-based actuation force that knocked out nearly all other current-gen Forerunner/Outdoor watches in the last quarterly update, but the Instinct 2 didn’t cross the finish line there. Wrist-based power on means you no longer need any external Garmin sensor to get running power data. It also gives you more flexibility to choose your running power data (external Garmin sensors against the wrist, or simply turn it off). This is useful for Stryd users who may simply want to turn off Garmin’s operating power values, as they will not be the same as their Stryd sensor.
I previously ran Garmin wrist-based powertrain comparisons when it came out. In short, it’s basically the same as the current outdoor sensor in terms of numbers.
Moreover, most of the other changes are pretty obvious. You see the item listed: “Physio TrueUp – Training Condition Improvements” added in the firmware notes. In the case of last week’s update, this was the start of syncing more metrics via Physio TrueUp, including HRV status (that and body battery haven’t synced yet). It also meant removing the toggle for Physio TrueUp, as Garmin would move to a model where it’s always-on, always-on, for everything (similar to what other companies have done).
In the case of the Instinct 2 and HRV syncing up, it looks like the plumbing foundations are being laid. This Instinct 2 spent the night in a DCR cave sealed in a box (no firmware update). While on my wrist was an Epix tracking HRV. After updating Instinct 2 and allowing it to sync, I can see some details of the migrated HRV status:
Like last week’s Fenix 7 HRV Physio TrueUp sync bit, it’s clearly not out. Both the actual HRV status label are missing, as well as details of the night. But at least I see the unique value on offer (a record low night for me, no less…the wine seemed to be strong!). Again, given the pattern when Garmin introduced training-readiness features to its Outdoor lineup last summer, they’ve worked it in parts, adding one piece at a time with each beta update.
Finally, they’ve added the Race Calendar and Primary Race widget looks, which show your upcoming races, as well as details about those races including expected finish times.
Unfortunately, my work was unsuccessful in finding a transparent Santa image for this race, as the Instinct 2 doesn’t seem to support the race logo/image feature like some other watches. Some win, some lose.
With that said, thanks for reading!
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