First look: new Garmin Connect

Garmin updates its Connect online training tool, we take a look at the new features including segments

by David Arthur   May 14, 2014  

Garmin have completely redesigned their free Connect online fitness community and training log and added a bunch of new features including segments and improved social media interaction. We’ve been having a nose around at the new website and here’s a quick overview of the new features that Garmin hopes will usurp its rivals.

First up, the Connect homepage has been revamped with a modern tile-based layout that is visually far more appealing. The tiles, or “widgets” as Garmin are calling them, are used to represent important data like your recent activity, a calendar of your workouts, courses, total distance, connections to friends, and the newest features, segments, personal records, workouts and training plans.

These tiles – sorry, widgets – can be moved around, hidden and new ones added, so you can completely customise the layout to suit. An expandable sidebar lets you shortcut straight to any section. It’s all very intuitive and everything you need is clearly presented and easy to find. A small magnifying glass on each widget makes it full screen so you can delve into more detail.

Click into an activity and you go to an page full of detail, presented in the same style as the previous Connect website. It shows a map of your ride and distance, speed, altitude and much more. While it all looks familiar to anyone who has used Connect before, there is the introduction of the new segment feature, which has been the big talking point since Garmin announced the changes to Connect.

Adding segments to Connect is a clear response by Garmin to the popularity that rival training website Strava has achieved with segments. These are sections of a ride, such as a climb, that are given a leaderboard so you can see how you compare to other people cycling over the same segment.

Creating a segment in Connect is easy. Simply drag the start and end markers to where you want on the road, give it a name and you’re done. Click 'save' and you’re shown a leader board for that segment, with dropdown filter lists for different categories.

Garmin have also added the ability to specify the segment type (hill climb, sprint, downhill, hills) and surface type (paved, gravel, dirt, mixed). One feature they’ve also added that will be well received is the inclusion of wind direction and speed data, so you can tell if someone had a headwind or tailwind when they hit the top of the leaderboard. That’ll cancel out a few excuses…

How does Garmin Connect know this? It comes from a subsidiary of Garmin's called Digital Cyclone. Garmin originally bought Digital Cyclone for aviation and marine applications but they are now using the service across other products.

As well as introducing segments to common cycling lexicon, Strava also popularised the social network aspect, being able to follow friends and so be able to see how much riding they’re getting up to. Garmin hope to tap into this success and have added Connections so you can 'connect' with friends on Connect. Being able to comment on rides and events and offer ‘kudos’ – virtual high-fives – has also been a resounding success for Strava, Connect aims to replicate this interaction with a like button and comment functionality.

If you're not already using it, Garmin have a desktop app called Garmin Express which is a replacement for WebUpdater. Once downloaded and installed, it pops up a window on your desktop when you plug your Garmin into the computer and allows you to upload your latest activities to Connect, and make sure your Garmin unit is up to date.

It’s still early days for the new Connect but first impressions are good. It’s really simple to use, neatly and intuitively laid out and with lots of new features bolstering the high level of detail it already provided, making it easy to track and monitor your training. It’s clear it’s still being developed because at the time of writing there are some interesting features that aren’t currently available. Groups is one that will be useful for clubs, local riding groups and friends.

We keep comparing Connect to Strava because they are both seeking to attract the same users (there are, of course, many other training tools out there also vying for attention: MapMyRide, Endomondo etc). It's been a long overdue update but the new version of Connect is impressive. But will it be enough?

Garmin have developed the new Edge 1000 in tandem with the upgrade Connect, so you can do things like download segments to the computer and get live progress updates when you’re out riding. Directly tying in Connect features with the new Edge 1000 is a step in a new direction for Garmin and it will be interesting to see how it actually works. An Edge 1000 has arrived for review so we’ll put this to the test.

Have a look for yourself at http://connect.garmin.com/

 

46 user comments

Latest 30 commentsNewest firstBest ratedAll

No new view here either, must be on a slow roll out if some of you have had it for over a week.

STATO's picture

posted by STATO [423 posts]
14th May 2014 - 12:22

10 Likes

Tomsk wrote:
@Jimbonic: the calorie count is off because both sites are guessing, and use different algorithms to make those guesses.

This new Garmin is so awful I've stopped using it. It's slow, buggy and I don't give a shit about any of the panels except 'activities', which doesn't actually display any of my activites. It doesn't even manage the updates for my Edge properly. Great job Garmin!

Spot on, on the calorie count. I have the opposite issue; Strava states about twice as many calories as Garmin Connect. I think it's because I setup as a 'lifetime athlete' on my Edge.

As for Connect, it's just typical Garmin. They don't have enough competition to drive real improvements in both software and hardware. I can't believe that Shimano will stay out of their market for much longer and then they will be toast, in much the same way that the Shimano camera could well be GoPro's nemesis for cycling applications.

posted by pwake [313 posts]
14th May 2014 - 12:30

7 Likes

Argh... it's been completely metro-ified and non-intuitivised, though to be honest I didn't use it much in the first place.

I think they are way too late to game to try with segments although the local search shows zero so I may set some just to be lone KOGM for a short while.

Maybe they should just concentrate on the hardware and do more 'partnering' with services like Strava.

joemmo's picture

posted by joemmo [914 posts]
14th May 2014 - 12:36

9 Likes

Keep seeing this, infact I saw it several months ago, possibly last year.

STILL NOT LIVE.
Please stop writing about this until its actually live or at least they've given a friggin date for everyone.
Its wasting my time.

At Wits End

posted by pmr [175 posts]
14th May 2014 - 12:41

8 Likes

Given Garmin's complete lack of interest in resolving issues with the Edge 500 software, I shall not be holding my breath for improvements on Connect. As such, I will continue to use Strava.

A (very) small instance of Garmin reaping what they sow.

Regards,
Gordon

posted by legendary27 [5 posts]
14th May 2014 - 12:59

11 Likes

If you're using an older Garmin 305, 205 (705?) the whizzy new Garmin Express won't work and you have to switch back to old school Connect using the Communicator plugin. Looks like they're doing an Apple.

Hamster's picture

posted by Hamster [78 posts]
14th May 2014 - 13:17

9 Likes

The new look Garmin Connect has finally pushed me to sign up to Strava. Sad

Twitter: @velosam

SamShaw's picture

posted by SamShaw [281 posts]
14th May 2014 - 13:19

8 Likes

I like it.

posted by redmeat [112 posts]
14th May 2014 - 13:21

7 Likes

Another annoyance with Garmin's segments - you can only set end/start points on your recorded GPS points - which could be tens of metres apart. So if you want have a segment start or end at some recognisable point on the road - tough luck pretty much all the time.

posted by Paul J [680 posts]
14th May 2014 - 13:41

9 Likes

I've just been chatting to Garmin about some of the issues raised in the comments, here's what they told me:

1. It is a phased roll out of the new site, currently adding around 200 – 300k users per week, but this will grow quickly and our current goal is to have everyone transferred over in 6 – 8 weeks.

2. Segment leaderboards will be backdated 12 months from the creation of the segment. Populating the leaderboards is taking some time at the moment due to the sheer volume of activities to sift through (we get between 300k – 500k uploads per day depending on the season.) The other factor that is slowing down the leaderboard population besides the number of activities we have to sift through is the sheer rate at which segments are being created.

Both of these are ‘temporary / start-up’ issues that will disappear over the coming weeks.

David Arthur's picture

posted by David Arthur [1761 posts]
14th May 2014 - 13:49

6 Likes

legendary27 wrote:
Given Garmin's complete lack of interest in resolving issues with the Edge 500 software, I shall not be holding my breath for improvements on Connect. As such, I will continue to use Strava.

A (very) small instance of Garmin reaping what they sow.

Regards,
Gordon

What issues are they then? I've not had any problems with the 500 I'm still using, and have been since launch

David Arthur's picture

posted by David Arthur [1761 posts]
14th May 2014 - 13:50

10 Likes

Garmin should buy Strava before Nike or Facebook does.

posted by seanbolton [145 posts]
14th May 2014 - 14:08

7 Likes

Garmin is a dead company walking. As soon as Apple/Google sort their battery life out, that is Garmin's only current USP gone. Lack of other decent competitors also makes them lazy in terms of customer service, usability etc.

posted by Yennings [228 posts]
14th May 2014 - 14:29

11 Likes

while Garmins cycling GPS hardware seems to be head and shoulders above all others, you definitely get the feeling that their developers are either absolutely terrible, or just don't care.

if I had to guess, I would say that Garmin has outsourced their development to a company that only cares about fulfilling a contract, instead of caring about the actual finished product. this is reflected in the extraordinarily poor execution of their firmware for various of their devices, and especially this "modern" Carmin Connect, which is just riddled with problems.

Costrast this with Endomondo or Strava, where (my understanding is that) the people who starting programming the sites actually own them, and care about the finished product.

I would also hazard a guess that Strava and Endomondo programmers use their own sites, but not many Garmin developers use GC or the various Garmin sports devices.

just speculating...

posted by durrin [20 posts]
14th May 2014 - 14:46

10 Likes

I cant get on with it. I find it much slower and more cumbersome.

Will persevere though and try and get to the benefits.

jimmythecuckoo's picture

posted by jimmythecuckoo [1299 posts]
14th May 2014 - 14:58

15 Likes

Yennings wrote:
Garmin is a dead company walking. As soon as Apple/Google sort their battery life out, that is Garmin's only current USP gone. Lack of other decent competitors also makes them lazy in terms of customer service, usability etc.

I disagree. Most smartphones are not rugged or waterproof enough to attach to your handlebars, that is very unlikely to change due to the extra cost that would be involved for something most people don't care about in a phone. Many are too big or unsuitable for operation with reduced dexterity so a small, specialised unit still makes a lot of sense.

joemmo's picture

posted by joemmo [914 posts]
14th May 2014 - 14:59

14 Likes

joemmo: Sony make a smartphone which was heavily advertised as being rugged and waterproof.

Not quite a smart-phone, but still an Android device - have a look at the Motorola Motoactv. That specific device is probably too closed and controlled to be interesting to buy, but that's just the software and Motorola's decision. It does show a direction smartphone platforms likely will expand and expand into though in the future.

I agree that the future is bleak for Garmin, unless they choose to be the ones to lead with building rugged, small-form factor Android devices.

posted by Paul J [680 posts]
14th May 2014 - 15:07

7 Likes

@joemmo: Nothing that the kind of cheap relay screens that are already on the market cannot solve. Phone stays safely in jersey pocket the whole time...

posted by Yennings [228 posts]
14th May 2014 - 15:40

10 Likes

legendary27 wrote:
Given Garmin's complete lack of interest in resolving issues with the Edge 500 software, I shall not be holding my breath for improvements on Connect. As such, I will continue to use Strava.

A (very) small instance of Garmin reaping what they sow.

Regards,
Gordon

Whats the 500 software issue?

glynr36's picture

posted by glynr36 [506 posts]
14th May 2014 - 15:42

12 Likes

@ Paul J: thanks, I'm aware of those examples but they are still the small exception to the rule. Devices like the moto active are an interesting direction and I guess the smart watch trend could go that way too. I still think dedicated devices have distinct advantages.

In predicting death for Garmin, people are ignoring the fact that they also have business beyond sports devices and in areas that are not so easy to replace with a smartphone, marine and aeronautics for example.

joemmo's picture

posted by joemmo [914 posts]
14th May 2014 - 16:05

8 Likes

seanbolton wrote:
Garmin should buy Strava before Nike or Facebook does.

Strava don't strike me as a startup interested in selling out. If they were, I suspect they would have been snapped up long before now, especially with the huge interest in fitness technology from the major players right now.

It will all boil down to the magic subscriber to freeloader ratio I guess.

posted by giobox [342 posts]
14th May 2014 - 19:40

7 Likes

durrin wrote:
while Garmins cycling GPS hardware seems to be head and shoulders above all others, you definitely get the feeling that their developers are either absolutely terrible, or just don't care.

if I had to guess, I would say that Garmin has outsourced their development to a company that only cares about fulfilling a contract, instead of caring about the actual finished product.

This is more or less exactly what happened. Garmin Connect started life much like Strava, in a product called MotionBased.com. Garmin bought them out and relabelled it Garmin Connect.

When Garmin asked the development team to relocate from San Francisco to Olathe, KS, the dev team quit en masse and actually advertised the team as available to hire as one mass group. They even setup a website (no longer up) called thegcteam.com, describing themselves as the creators of Garmin Connect and offering their services for hire. You can read up on the full story here.

In short, a very stupid and short sighted decision. MotionBased.com was arguably a little ahead of its time, sadly the product has really stagnated under Garmin.

posted by giobox [342 posts]
14th May 2014 - 19:46

10 Likes

Buggy, doesn't show what I want, not intuitive, nothing that Strava doesn't already do better. Why change? Thinking

Extra bike? What extra bike dear?

goggy's picture

posted by goggy [116 posts]
14th May 2014 - 21:20

10 Likes

Difficult to overtake Strava, would make more sense just to make a deal with them, join the two.

Canyon Roadlite Centaur/ Veloce groupset, Shamal wheels

Miles253's picture

posted by Miles253 [205 posts]
14th May 2014 - 21:33

7 Likes

Garmin need to put new people in charge of their software development and writing.
I have an 810, and it's Mac connection and software (with Garmin Express) just don't work!!
Not happy.
R

Roager's picture

posted by Roager [2 posts]
15th May 2014 - 2:08

13 Likes

It would be interesting to get some figures on active users from Garmin and Strava. I will try and do that. There's a lot of assumption here that everyone is using Strava, but that might not be the case

David Arthur's picture

posted by David Arthur [1761 posts]
15th May 2014 - 6:39

17 Likes

Have to agree Garmin is playing catch-up, while at the same time losing the plot. I'm that odd recreational biker (on this forum Smile who actually bought a bicycle GPS to use for its mapping ability.

Now, the Garmins are probably fine if you ride the same routes over and over and want to record the data, but plotting a new route in unfamiliar territory? Garmin's forgotten this use.

I'm not offered the new Connect site on login, but will I be able to default to a "home" position for my route mapping? Because now I have to find it (defaults to London) each time I use it. Will I be able to plot a circular ride (I know, how weird) without it trying to tell me to go the wrong way? Will I be able to see the route on the miserable little 800 screen? Will it default to turn-by-turn directions without changing settings for each ride? Will it not freeze when trying to plot routes "home"? And will the Connect site now offer some local save ability, because about 30% of the time, mapped routes just refuse to save and disappear - frustrating as the need to choose the route just past each junction is laborious.

I can only hope someone brings out a real touring bicycle GPS. In the meantime, a used Android smartphone (£100) runs rings around Garmin (and offers a replaceable battery, so you can carry a spare).

Ride your own ride

posted by CanAmSteve [169 posts]
15th May 2014 - 7:03

6 Likes

glynr36 wrote:
Whats the 500 software issue?

There have been issues with courses for literally years now, with Garmin seemingly making little or no effort to resolve them. There are problems with the course line disappearing, as well as the Edge 500 freezing completely when following longer courses. These problems - along with others - are well documented on the Garmin forum:

https://forums.garmin.com/forumdisplay.php?219-Edge-500

I appreciate that this is perhaps a niche part of the product and that a lot of people will not use it, but that does not change the fact that Garmin have completely failed to resolve the problems, which does not fill me with a great deal of confidence in their software developers (or Garmin's appetite to resolve issues !).

Regards,
Gordon

posted by legendary27 [5 posts]
15th May 2014 - 9:11

6 Likes

Like a lot of people I don't have a "switch to modern" on my 'dashboard' and judging by a lot of the comments in this string I think I'm quite thankful.

Anyway, I like the old page; it's simple just like me.
If I wanted Strava I'd get Strava.

posted by levermonkey [395 posts]
17th May 2014 - 10:55

4 Likes

What were they thinking? The new interface is an epic disaster.

The old (classic) interface was at least usable. To upload a new activity was fairly painless:
- Log on
- Click Update and then it found my connected device
- Click Upload all new activities

It was so easy.

The steps in the new Modern interface, at least for me are:
- Log on
- Click on the obscure icon with arrows
- Click on obscure Send Now button (why on earth is it called that?)
- Launch the interface program it tries to open
- Go to the new window (that opens in the background sometimes)
- Change device to the right device (I have an old one that comes up first usually)
- Click on a little green refresh icon (because the big Sync Now button is greyed out)
- Click on Sync Now
- Wonder if its done anything
- Go back to the original window
- Refresh the activities page

I find it very hard to believe they have created such an utter abortion of a system.

Even the popout menus don't work right - you try to get to the scroll bar and the menu disappears - I assume they don't handle font sizes correctly or something.

Note that even if you don't have a link to the Classic interface, you can get to it with this URL:

http://connect.garmin.com/classic/

Basically just change modern to classic in the URL

posted by jez6363 [1 posts]
19th May 2014 - 11:11

5 Likes