Which music services work with Garmin smartwatches?
Garmin smartwatches are some of the most feature-packed wearables out there, but they didn’t actually gain music support until 2018. There are only a handful of music streaming services available on Garmin devices today. Below, you’ll find a list of all the Garmin music services available and how to set each one up.
Which music services work with your Garmin smartwatch?
A total of four music streaming services are compatible with Garmin watches:
- Amazon Music
On all watches that support these services, you can also upload your own local music files for listening on the go.
You’ll also need a pair of Bluetooth earbuds to connect to your Garmin watch. Be sure to check out our lists of the best workout earbuds, best true wireless workout earbuds, best earbuds for running, and best workout headphones if you’re in need of a pair.
Now that that’s settled, check out how to set up each service below.
How to sync Spotify with your Garmin device
Jimmy Westenberg / Android Authority
Spotify is most people’s go-to music streaming app nowadays, and Garmin added support for it back in October 2018. It first came to the Fenix 5 Plus lineup and Forerunner 645 Music.
To get Spotify on your Garmin smartwatch, you’ll need a Spotify Premium account (sign up here). If you’ve never tried Spotify, the streaming service offers a 30-day free trial for new users.
Once your account is ready, download the Garmin Spotify app from Garmin’s Connect IQ store to your smartwatch. You’ll be prompted to sign in to your Spotify account from your smartphone. Once you’re signed in, switch back over to your watch, navigate to the music widget, and select the playlists and podcasts you’d like to sync to your Garmin.
How to sync Amazon Music with your Garmin device
Amazon Music is another popular music streaming app, especially for those who are already Amazon Prime subscribers. Garmin added Amazon Music support to its devices in August 2019.
Again, you’ll need an Amazon Music Unlimited subscription (sign up here) to use the service on your watch. A 30-day free trial is available for new users. Or, if you’re simply an Amazon Prime member and haven’t signed up for Music Unlimited separately, it should work for you just fine.
Once you’re signed up, download the Garmin Amazon Music app from Connect IQ to your Garmin smartwatch. Navigate to the music widget on your Garmin watch, select the overflow menu (three dots), and select the Amazon Music icon. You’ll be given a six-letter code, which you’ll need to type in at amazon.com/us/code. This can be done on your phone, on your computer, or wherever else you have access to the internet. Once authorized, hit the Browse button on your watch and you’ll see the playlists available to you on Amazon Music.
Related: Everything you need to know about Garmin Pay
How to sync Deezer with your Garmin device
Deezer was one of the first music streaming services Garmin added to its watches. Of course, you’ll need a Deezer Premium subscription (sign up here) if you want to sync your Deezer playlists with your Garmin. A three-month free trial is also available if you’re a new user.
To set it up, download the Garmin Deezer app from Connect IQ to your Garmin watch. Then go back to the media widget on your watch and select Deezer as the provider. You’ll be prompted on your phone to sign in to your Deezer account via Garmin Connect. Sign in to your account, then head back to your watch to start syncing your Deezer playlists.
How to sync iHeartRadio with your Garmin device
iHeartRadio seems to be available on every fitness platform I’ve tried. Like the other services, you’ll need an iHeartRadio All Access subscription (sign up here) to create your own playlists and sync them with your watch. iHeartRadio also offers a 30-day free trial for new users.
To begin the setup process, download the Garmin iHeartRadio app to your Garmin from Connect IQ. Once downloaded, select iHeartRadio as the music source in the media widget on your Garmin watch. You’ll be presented with a five-digit code which you’ll need to enter at iheart.com/activate. Once verified, you can go back to your watch and choose the playlists you’d like to sync to your Garmin device. We would love to test out the service on Garmin’s platform, but iHeartRadio only supports a few older devices.
Also read:The best running watches you can buy
How to upload local music to your Garmin device
Not all-in on music streaming services? You can also upload local music files from your computer to your Garmin device. The process is pretty simple.
First, you’ll need to download the Garmin Express app on your computer. After Garmin Express is installed on your computer, select Get Started, then Add a Device. Plug your watch into your computer with the charging cable, select Add Device, and sign in to your Garmin account. Select the Music option on Garmin Express, click the folder icon to search for the music you’d like to transfer to your Garmin watch, select the local music files or playlists you’d like to transfer, then click Send to Device.
Alternatively, if you have the Android File Transfer tool available on your computer, you can use that to transfer music to your Garmin, too. If you use this method, you can simply drag and drop the music files you’d like to transfer instead of searching for them through Garmin Express. However, Android File Transfer and Garmin Express can’t be used at the same time. If you have Garmin Express open, it may prevent Android File Transfer from opening when your Garmin is plugged in. If this happens, simply close Garmin Express and plug your Garmin back in.
Note: Garmin devices support the following music files: .mp3, .m4a, .aac, .adts, .wav, .m3u, .m3u8, .wpl, .zpl, and .pls.
Garmin has been pretty aggressive in adding new music services to its lineup, but there are still a handful of big names that aren’t there yet. The following streaming services aren’t yet available on Garmin: YouTube Music, Apple Music, Pandora, Tidal, and SoundCloud.
Garmin smartwatches with music capabilities
Of course, you’ll need a Garmin smartwatch to use the music services listed above. Below you’ll find a list of all the Garmin smartwatches with music capabilities available today.
Garmin didn’t start adding music capabilities to its GPS watches until 2018’s Vivoactive 3 Music, so all devices before that don’t have music support. It’s crazy to think that high-end devices like the Fenix 5 and Forerunner 935 don’t support music storage.
Next:Everything you need to know about Garmin wearables
Featuresfitness trackers, Garmin, Garmin Venu, Music Apps, smartwatches, Spotify, Wearables
For years, I've ran with a Garmin Forerunner 235. This GPS watch has seen me through half marathons, full marathons and countless 5Ks, dutifully tracking my every step along the way. I've loved its large, easy-to-read display and customizable menus.
So Garmin had a high bar to clear with its successor, the Forerunner 245 Music. And it does, in every respect. The Garmin Forerunner 245 Music is smaller and lighter, yet has a more colorful display, and it can store music onboard—no more lugging a smartphone along! And it does all this without sacrificing battery life. As I learned logging miles for this Garmin Forerunner 245 Music review, it's one of the best sports watches and best Garmin watch for runners.
Garmin Forerunner 245 Music: Price and availability
The Garmin Forerunner 245 Music costs $349, and is available with a black, white, or aqua band and case. For those who don't want the music feature, the Garmin Forerunner 245 is $299, and comes in black or berry red.
Garmin Forerunner 245 Music review: Design
The Forerunner 245 has a softer, more refined design than its predecessor, the Forerunner 235. Notably, the edges are rounder, giving it a less boxy shape.
However, the 245 retains the five-button design common to many of Garmin's running watches, with a small tweak here and there. The Start/Stop button in the upper right now has a red ring around it, as well as a red hash mark on the watch bezel, making it stand out just a bit more.
Despite having a smaller 42mm case (compared with 44mm for the 235), the Forerunner 245 has nearly the same size screen — 30.4mm — as its predecessor. It has a higher 240 x 240 pixel resolution, and more important, it doesn't have the flat-tire look (the top and bottom of the 235's display was cut off). The display just looks brighter and more colorful.
While both watches have transflective displays — which reflect sunlight to make them more viewable outdoors — the 245's backlight is much brighter, too. I had no problem seeing what was on the display, day or night.
Forerunner 245 Music review: Interface
Since the Forerunner 235 came out in 2015, Garmin's devices have become a lot more sophisticated — almost like any of the best smartwatches — so it was only natural that the company integrated features found in the Fenix 5 into its flagship running watch.
As with all of its dedicated running watches, the Forerunner 245 lacks a touch screen, which is fine by me. In my experience, it's a lot harder to swipe and tap than it is to press a button while running, and I didn't have any issues with the Forerunner 245 as I took it out for a run.
Cycling through the Forerunner 245's various screens, you can view the weather, your calendar, notifications, workout history, heart rate, steps, health stats and more. Each of these screens is referred to as a widget, and you can add, remove and rearrange them as you see fit.
Garmin Forerunner 245 Music Specs
Display Size: 1.2 inches
Resolution: 240 x 240
Weight: 38.5 grams
Water resistance: 5 ATM
GPS Battery life: 6 hours w/ music, 24 hours w/o music
Connectivity: Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, ANT+
Music storage: Up to 500 songs
When diving through all the menus, Garmin keeps things simple. Pressing and holding the middle button on the left side lets you adjust settings such as watch faces, widgets and sensors. However, there are so many menus and submenus — a result of all of the watch's features — that it's not hard to get lost. Pressing the Back button will eventually get you to the home screen.
The Forerunner 245 will also show notifications from your smartphone, but unlike a bona fide smartwatch like the Apple Watch Series 6 or the Samsung Galaxy Watch 3, you can't reply, make phone calls or interact with an assistant like Siri.
Forerunner 245 Music review: Running features
While not all are necessarily new to Garmin's GPS watches, the Forerunner 245 incorporates a few more metrics catering to runners. In fact, it's one of the best running watches and one of the best fitness trackers for running. Training Status analyzes your activities to see if you're progressing as you should; Training Load, which looks at your previous seven days of workouts; and anaerobic and aerobic Training Effect, to see the effectiveness of your individual workouts.
If you have your phone with you during a run, Incident Detection and Assistance will let you use the Forerunner 245 to contact emergency services, and will send them your location.
Some of the other more running-focused features include the ability to race one of your previous runs, and, when you pair the watch with a running dynamics pod ($69), you can get additional data such as the amount of bounce in your step, ground contact time and stride length.
You can also connect the Forerunner 245 directly to Wi-Fi networks, so it will sync automatically without you needing to open the Garmin app on your smartphone.
Forerunner 245 Music review: Features
As its name would suggest, you can store your tunes on the Forerunner 245 Music. This way, you can leave your phone or aging iPod at home if you want to listen to something while you're out exercising.
You can download music to the watch from your computer, or from Spotify or Deezer if you have premium subscriptions from those service. After signing into your account through Garmin's app, you can then view and sync your playlists to the Forerunner 245 music. Downloading my running playlist, which has 11 songs, took about 3 minutes. You can also sync podcasts via Spotify, too.
The Spotify app also recommended a number of workout-related playlists, such as "160 BPM Runner's Club," "Power Workout," and "Beast Mode," but you can't preview the songs on the lists on the watch without downloading them first.
Garmin Forerunner 245 Music review: Performance
Out in the burbs, the Forerunner 245 picked up a GPS signal within 10 seconds of me starting a running activity, and accurately tracked me throughout my runs. The screen was bright, and I liked that I could customize it to show the stats I preferred to view. You can also cycle through multiple screens, so one could show your stats for your overall run, while a second screen could show your metrics for the current lap.
The Forerunner will also show you a map of your run. But you'll just see the route, and not a map with streets.
The watch maintained a steady connection to my Bose Soundsport wireless headphones during my run. Not once did a song skip or cut out as I jammed along to Eye of the Tiger. It's fairly easy to change tracks using the buttons on the watch, but I suspect that many (like myself) will prefer to use the controls on their headsets for this purpose. You can also switch between playlists on the watch while running, but it's a little more of a pain. My advice would be to load up one playlist with all the songs you'll need.
Garmin Forerunner 245 Music review: App
Like the watch itself, Garmin's app (Android, iOS) has a lot of features that can be difficult to navigate. The main My Day screen shows your daily stats at a glance — heart rate, steps, calories burned and more. One of these is Body Battery, a metric that Garmin uses to show you how much energy you have on a scale from 1 to 100. A good night's rest will boost your number, while strenuous activity or stress will lower it.
Also new to the Forerunner 245, as well as Garmin's other new fitness watches, is menstrual-cycle tracking.
Other tabs along the bottom of the screen show you challenges you've completed, a calendar of your activities, and a News Feed displaying what your other Garmin-equipped friends are doing.
Finally, a More tab brings you down a rabbit's hole of settings and advanced metrics, like VO2 Max and Lactate Threshold. Here, you can also start workouts and customized training plans for 5K, 10K and half marathons, and access the Connect IQ Store, Garmin's ersatz app store, where you can download additional watch faces and widgets to the watch. However, you won’t find apps as you would for the Apple Watch. For the most part, there are only watch faces and some other fitness-related apps, such as Strava.
Forerunner 245 Music review: Battery life
One of the benefits of using a fitness-first watch, rather than a smartwatch, to track your runs is battery life. Garmin's watches will last for days longer than any Apple Watch or Samsung Galaxy Watch. Without GPS, the Forerunner 245 should be good for up to seven days. With the GPS turned on, Garmin says that the Forerunner 245 Music will last up to 24 hours.
If you're using the watch to play music, too, battery life takes a hit: The company says that the 245 Music will last just 6 hours in GPS mode with music. My testing would seem to bear that out: A half-hour run using GPS, the heart rate monitor and playing music drained the battery by 8 percent, roughly in line with Garmin's estimates. Still 6 hours is more than enough time to get most people through an entire marathon.
Garmin Forerunner 245 Music review: Verdict
I've tested a number of running watches over the years, but when it came to actual training and racing, I always went back to the Garmin Forerunner 235. It had everything — a big and bright display, accurate tracking and a great battery life. Its successor, the Garmin Forerunner 245 Music, has all that and more.
At $349, the Forerunner 245 Music is nearly as expensive as the Apple Watch 6 ($399), but its in-depth tracking features and much better battery life makes it the better choice for serious runners. If you want to save some money, the Forerunner 245 ($299) has all the same features as the Forerunner 245 Music, but without the onboard music storage. Garmin fans on a budget should also check out the Garmin Forerunner 45 ($199), which has fewer features, but a similarly attractive design and display, as well as 13-hour battery life in GPS mode.
After all these years and all those miles, my Garmin Forerunner 235 still works great, but it doesn't do music. If I were to upgrade, the Forerunner 245 Music would be my pick.
Prices - Garmin Forerunner 245 Music:▼
Michael A. Prospero is the deputy editor at Tom’s Guide overseeing the home, smart home, drones, and fitness/wearables categories, as well as all buying guides and other evergreen content. When he’s not testing out the latest running watch, skiing or training for a marathon, he’s probably using the latest sous vide machine or some other cooking gadget.
Amazon Music Launches on Garmin Watches: Everything you need to know
When Garmin first got into the music wearable industry some 18 months ago, I don’t think anyone would have sat back and said: ‘Garmin will become the most widely supported music streaming services wearable on the market’. But oddly enough, as of today, that’s actually what’s happened. No wearable on the market today supports as many music services as Garmin does for offline use (no, not even the Apple Watch). And as of today, Garmin’s list now includes Amazon Music.
If you’ve got Amazon Music (of any variety), you can now offline sync it to your music-enabled Garmin watch. That allows you to go for a run without your phone and listen to Amazon Music. And somewhat unexpectedly, there’s actually another first here: The first company to support Amazon Music offline. No other company except Amazon’s own app has that capability.
Now many of you know that I’m a huge Spotify user. I listen to Spotify all day long. Except, when I don’t. Which is when the kids are streaming Wheels On the Bus, or The Girl is streaming Jack Johnson. In which case, I’m listening to Amazon Music. As I type this, I’m listening to Amazon Music. I don’t pay extra for the Unlimited variant, I just have the one that comes free with Amazon Prime.
If you’re looking for a video run-down of everything, here ya go:
With that, let’s cook on to getting it all configured. Don’t worry, it’s painless. Oh, and if you’re looking for my previous guide on setting up Spotify on a Garmin wearable, that’s here.
Getting It Set Up:
I’ll first preface this section by noting that this these photos probably make it more complex than it really is. Basically, you just download the app from the Connect IQ store and then follow the prompts to authorize your account. That’s it. But, for the sake of making things super clear and non-short, here goes.
First up, here’s the list of compatible watches. In a nutshell, it’s every Garmin music-enabled wearable ever made, and will undoubtedly be any future watches as well.
Garmin Forerunner 245 Music
Garmin Forerunner 645 Music
Garmin Forerunner 945
Garmin Fenix 5 Plus Series
Garmin MARQ Series
Garmin Vivoactive 3 Music
You’ll need that watch handy, and if your battery level is below 50%, then you’ll want a charging cable handy to sync music (not required for setup though). And finally, you’ll need WiFi already setup on your device to make this work. As with virtually all wearables, it can’t be something like a Starbucks hotspot or hotel wifi.
First up is pulling up the Garmin Connect IQ app store for your device, be it on your mobile phone or the Garmin Connect site (if on desktop), then searching for Amazon Music. You can use either the Garmin Connect Mobile app on your phone, or the Garmin Connect IQ app. Two methods, same result:
Once that’s done you’ll click to add it to your device, and in a short bit it’ll sync to your watch, which you can then confirm there. At this point you can go ahead and access it on your watch by scrolling up to the Music menu (it should show up by default there, but if it doesn’t for some reason you can go into the Widget Settings on your watch and add it to the widget roll).
Then depending on how much you’ve used music on your Garmin it’ll either show up immediately in the sources list, or you’ll need to change your music source to Amazon Music:
You’ll want to be sure you’ve got Garmin Connect Mobile still running in the background of your phone somewhere. It’s how the watch talks to Amazon. Minor note, you do need to have gotten time via GPS at least some time in the last forever. Meaning, as long as you’ve done a workout then you’re good to go. But if you just got the watch it’ll ask you to check GPS to get time (it doesn’t care where you are, it just wants the time – smartphone synced time isn’t trusted enough).
Once you’ve opened up Amazon Music it’ll then give you a code to enter in online at Amazon:
You can use a desktop or smartphone for that. It’ll ask you to sign-in to your Amazon account if you’re not already signed in:
Then it’ll confirm Garmin has access to your Amazon music account:
Once you’ve done that, Amazon will tell you you’re good to go:
Within about 10-15 seconds, the watch will get its golden ticket (authorization) and then it’ll bring you to the screen to download music. At this point you’re ready to roll!
The app allows you to download any music you’ll find on Amazon (or at least, I haven’t found any blockers yet). You’ll start by hitting the ‘Browse’ button on the main app. This gives you a slew of ways to start your music search. Again, Amazon Music Unlimited is not required, only a regular Prime Membership is. Though, there is a free 30-day trial if you want that.
The app methods are as follows:
– Try Amazon Music Unlimited: If not already on that paid tier, it’ll offer a deal to get you to sign-up
– My Music: Anything you’ve saved within the regular Amazon Music app on your phone/computer/etc…
– Playlists: This gives you recently played playlists, as well as sorted by moods/genres, and top playlists
– Charts: Top Songs, Top Albums, Top Playlists
– Recommended: Tracks, playlists, and albums recommended by the Amazon magic music machine
– New: Self-explanatory
We’ll just go with downloading something I’ve already selected as part of my account by choosing ‘My Music’. This will enumerate the various playlists that I’ve saved via the other Amazon apps. It’ll allow me to choose my Playlists, Artists, Albums, Genres, Tracks:
I’ll select Playlists, and then it shows me those from my account:
The down arrow means to download the playlist, so once you tap it, it’ll go ahead and start searching for WiFi:
If however, your battery is below 50%, it’ll require you plug in. I’ve always thought this Garmin limitation (same for other Garmin music streaming platforms) is a bit too conservative. I’d prefer something like 25-30%, and then simply cut me off at 10-15% battery remaining.
In any case, once you either plug in or juice up, then it’ll show you the status of downloading:
I’ve found Amazon Music on Garmin devices slower to download than Spotify on the same device (even when done back to back). On Amazon Music I’m getting about 3-5 songs per minute (download speed), whereas Spotify is nearly double that at about 10 songs per minute. However, there are numerous times when I’ve only gotten 1-3 songs per minute on Amazon Music.
This is testing across all of the compatible Garmin devices (for realz, I loaded it up on all of them): MARQ Athlete, FR945, Vivoactive 3 Music, Fenix 5 Plus, FR645 Music, and FR245 Music. And this is with average download speeds for both home and office being 450-500Mbps. Garmin says this is somewhat expected, and that download rates vary between music services based on a slew of factors including encoding rates.
Either way, just a heads up on that.
Once downloaded you’ll see the playlist listed at the top of the Amazon Music app:
You can simply select it to start playing it. At this point, if you’ve got your headphones connected, it’ll automatically begin playing. If not, it’ll ask you to connect them:
And then it’ll start playing:
From here on out the controls/etc are all the same as any other music you’ve got on your watch. Skip/play/pause, etc. Unlike Spotify however, you will get album covers for all songs:
When Spotify gave a presentation at the Connect IQ Summit back in April, they noted they made the specific choice to not include album covers as it didn’t convey anything to the user except to remove real estate for song title/etc. While perhaps true, I’d argue the album cover conveys the artist’s emotion, and that’s a huge part of music. So I like the album covers, even if they look like they were rendered on a Commodore 64 and take away text space. Here’s side by side Spotify vs Amazon Music (different songs obviously).
Finally, if you want to update your playlists with the latest music, simply choose the ‘Sync’ option. This will go out to Amazon and grab any new/extra songs added to any playlists you’ve already downloaded.
All in all, it ‘just works’ for me. No complaints here on functionality for the most part. I will note that every once in a while I’ll go to download a playlist from some sections (not in ‘My Music’) and it’ll say that playlist was only available for Amazon Music Unlimited peoples. It’s like a passive-aggressive thing. Feels tacky (since the first option anytime I browse for new music to download is already an Amazon Music Unlimited ad), but shrug.
We’ve seen a pretty impressive transformation by Garmin over the last 18 months. They’ve gone from a company that didn’t even have a music wearable in the market, to one that now has half a dozen devices and supports more music streaming platforms than anyone else. They’ve got a dedicated music industry team onboard, and the fruits of that are starting to show.
From Spotify last fall to Amazon today, these are major platforms to sign-up. But I get the impression Garmin is only just beginning in this space. It likely starts with having some level of neutrality in their devices, they’re able to more easily convince these platforms to give it a whirl. But in talking to some of them, it’s also simply because Garmin’s underlying music provider interface is simply more advanced and more easily adoptable to these streaming platforms.
Which of course, doesn’t mean Garmin’s solution is perfect either. All of these options require downloading your music via WiFi ahead of time. None of them support cellular on-demand streamed connectivity, even Garmin’s own Vivoactive 3 Music LTE. There’s gaps in hardware and battery conception that make that more difficult for Garmin than other watches that advertise only a day or so of battery life.
Finally – if you’ve got Amazon Prime already (which boatloads of people do), this is kinda a no-brainer to get music on your watch that doesn’t cost anything extra. I’ve added it to my devices, merely to mix things up a bit. It probably won’t become my daily driver, but, I like having it there just for the variety.
With that – thanks for reading!
Garmin Forerunner 245 Music review: a runner’s best friend
The Forerunner 245 is Garmin’s excellent performance running watch and sets a new benchmark against which the competition should be measured.
Two versions are available: one which can download music and one which cannot at a recommended retail price of £299.99 or £249.99 respectively. It came out in April 2019 to replace the popular Forerunner 235.
The Forerunner 245 resembles a round digital watch and is just 42.3mm wide, 12.2mm thick and 38.5g in weight, which by sports watch standards is tiny, comparing favourably with the likes of Samsung’s Galaxy Watch Active 2 and the Apple Watch Series 5. It takes standard universal 20mm watch bands and comes with an excellent traditional silicone strap that fits wrists between 127mm and 204mm in circumference: in other words most wrists.
The colour transflective LCD display – which is not a touchscreen – can be seen in direct sunlight without the need for a backlight, although there is one for the night. The display is clear and easily readable at a glance, but is pretty basic compared with the flashy OLED screens on smartwatches. Think of it more like an advanced colour digital watch and you will get the idea.
There are quite a few watch faces to choose from, including digital and analogue options, plus many more available from third parties via Garmin’s Connect IQ store.
The up, down and back buttons take you around the interface. The start/stop button doubles as a select button and the light button powers the watch on and accesses quick settings. Press and hold the down button to access music controls or the up button to quickly jump to the full settings menus.
From the watch face you can also access a long list of customisable widgets using the up and down buttons, including smartphone notifications, calendar, the weather, health stats, stress levels, your heart rate, previous runs and many others.
Screen: 1.2in transflective MIP (240x240 pixels)
Case size: 42.3mm
Case thickness: 12.2mm
Band size: standard 20mm quick release
Storage: 3.5GB/500 songs
Water resistance: 50 metres (5ATM)
Sensors: GPS/Glonass/Galileo, compass, accelerometer, heart rate, pulse Ox
Connectivity: Bluetooth 4.2, ANT+, wifi (Music only)
Charging and syncing
The Forerunner 245 fully charges in two hours via a short snap-in USB cable that plugs into the back of the watch and can connect to Garmin’s desktop Express software on Windows or Mac.
The watch connects to your Android or iPhone via Bluetooth and the Garmin Connect app, which handles syncing data, updates, smart notifications and other bits. The separate Garmin Connect IQ app handles installing apps, including watch faces, widgets and music services.
The Forerunner 245 Music also has wifi for syncing your activities straight to the cloud, downloading music and software updates.
The Garmin Connect app is extremely comprehensive, able to display an almost bewildering amount of information, with analysis often reserved for pay-for subscriptions elsewhere, such as how effective your training is. Recent updates have made the app a lot more beginner-friendly, particularly for day-to-day health tracking.
The Forerunner 245 is generally repairable, but Garmin typically replaces damaged devices with refurbished units for a fee. The battery is not user replaceable, but straps are. The screen is covered in Corning’s Gorilla Glass 3, similar to a smartphone.
The Forerunner 245 tracks lots of sports but excels for running with practically every feature you can think of, whether that’s on a treadmill, track, trail or road. The battery lasts up to 24 hours tracking with GPS, and just under six hours playing music.
The GPS trails are the most accurate I’ve tested in suburban London, matching distance and routes with very little deviation from maps and race lengths. The time it takes to get a GPS lock, and the strength of that lock, has been drastically improved with a recent software update too, getting a lock within 20 seconds of stepping outdoors most of the time.
Garmin’s third-generation heart rate sensor is about as accurate as optical scanners can be too, and for the majority of people will be more than accurate enough for training purposes. If you need better you can connect a chest strap via Bluetooth.
During a run you have a series of customisable screens with a varying number of fields and stats on display. The screens are well designed and easy to understand with just a quick glance mid-run.
My primary screen has pace at the top, a run timer and distance in the middle, and heart rate at the bottom. But you could show fewer fields or swap any of them for a vast list of stats, including: various timers and laps, distances, paces, speeds, heart rates and zones, running dynamics (with optional Running Dynamics Pod accessory), cadence, race info, temperature, elevation and other bits. There’s a stat for practically anything you want to see at a glance.
Targets, performance and workouts
You can get the watch to beep and vibrate when you’ve hit certain milestones, such as laps or distance, and speak things like your average pace every three minutes through Bluetooth headphones. You can also set a target based on distance, time or pace, which is extremely handy for running a 5K without a running track.
Alongside VO2 Max estimates, used as an overall measure of fitness, the Garmin can measure performance and tell you if you have worked hard enough. Between six and 20 minutes into your run the watch will beep and give you a positive or negative score, which is either a kick to run harder or confirmation that you’re on track. I find it extremely useful.
The Forerunner 245 can track workouts such as interval training too. The watch has a built-in coach with adaptive plans for beginners to intermediates with a 5K time over 21 minutes.
But you can easily programme your own or download sessions, based on pace, distance, heart rate zone or other metrics. Running at a pace, for instance, the watch beeps a countdown to the start of the interval.
During the sprint the watch beeps when you are over or under your target pace alongside a glanceable dial on screen. It works really well and means you do not need a track, a set place to run or someone with a timer to do effective interval training.
The only thing missing is a barometer. You’ll still get elevation data from maps, but if you look to train using elevation this might be a deal-breaker.
The Forerunner 245 does a good job of tracking most of the basic cycling stats similar to running (pace, distance, heart rate etc) and can be paired with various external sensors for speed and cadence, plus Garmin’s smart lights.
Swimming, including heart rate, lengths, distance, stroke type and count, calories and other bits can be tracked in the pool too. Plus gym workouts and a handful of other activities profiles, such as walking, yoga, rowing and weights.
Overall health tracking is also extensive, covering all the usual suspects such as steps, calories, distance, intensity, heart rate, move notifications, menstrual tracking and stress.
Garmin’s body battery attempts to track your energy levels during the day to show when best to exercise or rest. The watch tracks sleep, including cycles, heart rate and estimates blood oxygen saturation, and it can alert you when if heart rate spikes when not active. The only thing missing compared to the very best fitness trackers on the market is ECG measurements for your heart.
Both versions of the Forerunner 245 can control music playback on a smartphone, but only the Forerunner 245 Music can download tracks and play them without a phone, with a capacity for 3.5GB or 500 tracks.
Music in MP3 or AAC format can be transferred via USB cable from the computer using Garmin Express. If you’re a Spotify Premium, Deezer or Amazon Music user, you can install the associated app on your watch and sync music and podcasts directly to the watch via wifi. The Spotify app works really well, although downloading large playlists takes quite some time. Playing Spotify on runs without a phone is a killer feature but reduces the battery life to six hours.
Alongside health tracking, the Forerunner 245 has basic smartwatch features, vibrating when you get a text, notification or call on your phone. You can scroll through the text of a notification and clear it, reject a call and that sort of thing.
The battery lasts about a week with the screen on, notifications and health-tracking active, including heart rate, which is significantly longer than most smartwatches that only manage up to two days.
The smartwatch functions work with both Android and an iPhone. They will not match a true smartwatch, but if you are looking for alerts on your wrist the Garmin does the job.
Syncing and updating the watch via wifi is much faster than via smartphone.
You can’t listen to music and sync via wifi at the same time.
Garmin and Beats headphones have a bug that breaks the on-earphone volume controls.
The watch can take a beating – I fell while running, landing on the watch and taking a bit out of the plastic but it was otherwise unaffected.
The Forerunner 245 doesn’t support Garmin Pay/mobile payments.
The Garmin Forerunner 245 costs £249.99 RRP without local music playback or £299.99 RRP with music playback, but are frequently discounted.
For comparison, the Garmin Forerunner 45 has an RRP of £169.99, the Forerunner 945 £519.99, the Polar Vantage M costs £249, the Suunto 5 costs £299, the Samsung Galaxy Watch Active 2 costs £269 and the Apple Watch Series 5 costs £399.
The Garmin Forerunner 245 Music is a runner’s best friend, and sets a new bar by which most other running watches will be measured.
The watch is small, slim and light. The display is very clear and easy to read. It has practically every stat and aid necessary to track, measure and help with running and training, and comprehensive analysis and export of data to many popular services, including Strava.
Much of the information will be overkill for casual runners, but for those looking for a tool that works reliably with real buttons and helps them analyse their runs, do intervals and train better, the Garmin ticks practically every box. Seven days’ battery as a watch or 24 hours’ tracking runs doesn’t hurt either. Buy the one with music and free yourself from your phone for motivational tunes or podcasts, including offline Spotify support.
It also does a great job of tracking a lot of other activities and features comprehensive general health monitoring too, including sleep, stress and heart rate alerts. Its smartwatch-like features get the basics right without trying to do too much, plus it has a fair few watch faces available and easy-to-swap standard straps.
It’s not the cheapest, but the Garmin Forerunner 245 Music is a truly great running and fitness watch that is easy to live with on a daily basis.
Pros: slim, light, real buttons, clear screen, accurate GPS, good heart rate, extensive stats, comprehensive health tracking, highly customisable, long battery life, optional offline music, Spotify, basic smartwatch features
Cons: expensive, no barometer, no touchscreen as well as buttons, interface can be a bit clunky, screen fairly basic compared with smartwatches
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