The Fascinating Cause Why The Garmin FR945 & Fenix 6 No Longer Exhibits Pool Temperature

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Again in August Garmin launched a minor firmware replace for the Forerunner 945 multisport GPS watch. On paper, firmware replace 7.80 was about as boring as they get. The discharge notes solely contained a handful of things, none of which gave the impression to be even glance-worthy. Right here’s the official record:

“Forerunner 945 – System Software program model 7.80 Change Log

  • Enhance GPS ephemeris downloads
  • Repair a barometer situation that might result in inaccurate elevation
  • Different minor enhancements and bug fixes

Updates will be put in via Garmin Categorical or the Garmin Join Cellular app.
This replace is dwell as of 11:15AM CST 8/19/2021”

Nonetheless, behind that curtain of mundane was truly a major technical and buyer assist change that wasn’t oddly listed (in my thoughts, it ought to have been): Disabling the watch from gathering temperature information throughout a pool swim. Now – I didn’t say that it was a major change to shoppers. Usually, you’d most likely by no means have observed except I discussed it. However as of that firmware model, the FR945 will not collect temperature information throughout a pool swim. It’ll nevertheless proceed to take action in an openwater swim.

Seems although, regardless of not being listed, somebody did discover this variation. And as regular, all damaged roads result in the Garmin Boards, the place they posted their lack of fishbowl climate recording capabilities close to instantly. And a brief bit later, one of many Garmin buyer assist of us posted the rationale why this was eliminated:

“The flexibility to measure water temperature readings throughout a pool swim exercise was eliminated in model 7.80. After via testing and investigation, we’ve got found that having the barometer-thermometer (a mixed digital half) powered on throughout publicity to chlorine dramatically accelerates the failure of the half. Due to this fact to offer prospects the most effective expertise and product longevity we determined it was essential to make the change to show off this half throughout pool swimming. “ –Garmin-Brooks

I discovered this randomly tremendous fascinating (as did the DCR Reader who flagged it to me, thanks Tom). Not as a result of I typically care about recording the pool temperature, however simply concerning the logistics of figuring this out from a assist standpoint. Garmin has recorded pool swim temp information on items with a barometric altimeter for years.  Right here’s what it sometimes seems to be like for pool swims, summarized down on the backside (this on a FR945 pool swim some time again):

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I attempted to determine precisely how far again Garmin supported pool swim temperature, and used the filtering choices in my Garmin Join account to see when it began. It wasn’t out there on the Fenix 2 or FR910XT (regardless of having barometric altimeters, which in flip have temperature sensors). Nor the later 920XT or Fenix 3/3HR. In the end, the primary swim information I can discover in my historical past which have pool water temp is from the unique Fenix 5, again in February 2017.  In the meantime, the primary Forerunner I see it in my information is the FR645 Music in March 2018.

However that journey down reminiscence lane is irrelevant. The purpose is that this little line:

“After via testing and investigation, we’ve got found that having the barometer-thermometer (a mixed digital half) powered on throughout publicity to chlorine dramatically accelerates the failure of the half.”

They go on to notice in one other brief remark that:

“Open water swimming is unaffected that is solely tied to pool swimming.”

Which means, as specified within the authentic remark, this is because of chlorine and never saltwater. Which means, you’ll nonetheless get openwater swim temperatures simply effective, and certainly, my openwater swims present that’s true.

In fact, anybody who has been across the endurance watch scene lengthy sufficient is aware of that the barometric altimeter port/inlet can usually be the reason for altimeter-related points (from many manufacturers). Corporations take nice pains to attempt to be sure that the port on the watch resulting in the sensor itself can simply be cleared of particles (reminiscent of dried sweat/salt, mud, and so forth…). Else, you get inaccurate altimeter information.

However there’s additionally been quite a few instances on sure watches the place there gave the impression to be a tie-in with individuals who swam rather a lot, and individuals who had extra frequent barometric altimeter failures. With some individuals going via 2…3…4 watches by way of the assist/return course of (generally Garmin, however not at all times). However there’s by no means been a transparent tie-in that I’ve heard to the chlorine within the water, and particularly having that half powered-on with chlorine inflicting points.

I reached out to Garmin, curious in the event that they’d increase any extra on this. Whereas they declined to, they did agree with part of the e-mail the place I stated to them that this appears to be a type of issues that “you solely be taught at scale”.

Which means that this isn’t one thing any firm would simply determine except they’d huge scale or information factors, or previous expertise with a really particular edge case (e.g. chlorine on a given part). Undoubtedly somebody will say “they need to have examined it”, the fact is – there’s merely no firm within the GPS watch trade with deeper expertise in watch parts and altimeters. Whereas Apple sells extra items lately, they’ve solely had a barometric altimeter on the Apple Look ahead to a few years in three fashions. Garmin, Suunto, Polar, and others have had it for greater than a decade on dozens upon dozens of fashions. For instance, right here’s a swim in 2012 on a Suunto Ambit 2, that’s recording the temperate throughout a pool swim:

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Had this been an issue traditionally, they’d have caught it years in the past. Thus, clearly one thing modified with the precise part getting used within the FR945 (or, a batch of watches in that timeframe). Parts change on a regular basis in watches as part suppliers replace stated parts with newer variations. If this was an issue throughout the trade, somebody would have realized it by now and shut off pool swimming temp.

The entire at-scale factor jogs my memory a little bit of one in every of my favourite endurance sports activities tech quotes, from James Meyer, one of many co-founders of Quarq energy meters (now a part of SRAM). He stated, paraphrased, ‘While you construct your first 100 energy meters, you suppose rather a lot. Then if you construct your first 1,000 energy meters, you notice how a lot you didn’t know again at 100. Then if you construct your first 10,000 energy meters, you notice the way you didn’t know again at 1,000, and so forth’.

Undoubtedly, based mostly on Garmin’s “intensive testing” remark, there are most likely huge e-mail threads and paperwork inside the firm now on the way to take a look at parts on watches with most likely not simply totally different chlorine ranges (and being powered on), but in addition different water salinity ranges. And since this factor is one thing that isn’t simply ‘take a look at as soon as and be completed’, however somewhat longer-term life stuff – I’m positive there’s much more checks on how they onboard new parts from suppliers on this space.

And in addition undoubtedly, I’m going to take a guess that each different firm on this area is now forwarding this publish round, wanting up of their customer support databases round barometric port failures, to see if there are patterns round pool swimmers and better charges of failures. I wouldn’t be stunned to see the pool temp information subject disappear not simply from different Garmin wearables, however from others’ watches out there. Many corporations on this area use the identical part/suppliers. On the Garmin aspect, I observed my FR745 not data pool temp information, which is a watch that seemingly shares a lot of the very same parts because the FR945.

And, within the Garmin Boards, Garmin worded it barely in another way on a current Fenix 6 firmware beta launch. Albeit, of us with probably the most present manufacturing model are nonetheless seeing pool temps. So both this variation continues to be incoming, or modified path.

“Our Fenix 6 collection engineers have chosen to disable the temperature sensor for the Indoor Swim APP solely. The intention is to enhance reliability of your temperature sensor together with different sensors.” -Garmin-Chris

Will this meaningfully influence many individuals? Nah, not likely. Some have argued that having a separate exercise profile for ocean-fed swimming pools (which aren’t chlorine) would nonetheless be helpful. And true sufficient, it might. Although I may see it’s most likely a bit complicated from a consumer interface standpoint.

In any occasion – I discovered this attention-grabbing, and I figured I’d share it.

With that – thanks for studying!