Why are Garmin GPS watch batteries not replaceable?
Yesterday on my 12-miler, my Forerunner 220 battery seemed to run down more quickly than usual, but it was far from dead when I finished. I chucked it on the table when I got home; later in the afternoon I noticed it had completely died. I put it on the charger and it turned on again. It seemed to jump back to 100% faster than it should have, but I took it off the charger anyway.
This morning, because a cold front blew in an dropped temperatures 20 degrees, I decided to go out for a short run. Another attempt at running on tired legs, since the Cleveland back-to-back races are coming up soon! So instead of my usual 20-minute Sunday recovery run, I took a longer route for just over three miles. When I got back, my Garmin showed 40% charged. Well, that just isn’t gonna cut it for distance training.
Then I tried to sync my run to my phone, but I kept getting a connection error. I un-paired the watch from my phone, but then it would not re-pair. Same connection error. It was weird–clearly they talked to each other because the app asked me if I saw the same code on the watch, which I did, but it couldn’t finish the process somehow. So I attached the charger to my laptop and manually uploaded my run to Garmin Connect–at least I wouldn’t lose that data. Oh and the battery level jumped back to 100% again by the time I was done uploading the data.
Back to my phone, I shut down the app, shut down the watch, restarted everything, and tried again. It eventually re-connected, but I was skeptical of the whole thing.
I have had this 220 for more than four years, and while it’s been mostly reliable, it’s had some weird glitches. Sometimes it randomly shuts itself off and restarts–once it happened at the beginning of a race, and several times it happened just after I finished running and paused it. When it restarted, the mileage was off–which was annoying if I stopped at exactly 8.0 miles and when it came back on it said I only went 7.98 or something.
Last summer it had all kinds of problems with GPS mapping, showing I was running through fields and people’s yards, but since I reset it, the maps have been pretty accurate. I had to replace the watch band last summer as well, since the original one had all those holes that eventually wore out. But that was an easy $8 fix.
But this battery thing appears to be a hardware problem. And from what I can tell, unlike watch bands, batteries are not DIY-replaceable. Considering the initial cost of the device and the amount of complicated GPS crap inside it, having to trash the whole thing because of a battery seems really stupid.
But I have races coming up and don’t want to screw around with an unreliable watch.
I hadn’t planned to replace mine anytime soon, so I really didn’t know what I wanted, or even what was out there. I narrowed it down to the Forerunner 235, the 230, and the 225. The 235 is the most expensive, although Amazon had a less-expensive refurbished one that was almost in my price range. I learned the 235 is the 230 with an optical heart rate monitor, and since that’s not an important feature to me, I can’t justify spending the extra money on a 235. A refurbished 225 briefly intrigued me, but I decided the 16-hour battery life on the 230 was a major selling point over the 225.
Although basically the updated version of my 220, the 230 still probably does more things than I need. It has an activity tracker function that I won’t really use. I mean, even if I hadn’t just replaced my Vivofit (April was apparently hard on my Garmin stuff) I still wouldn’t wear a GPS watch every day–I prefer the Victorinox watch M had made for my birthday a few years ago. The 230 also has text notifications, music control functions, and audio prompts for lap times and such. Now that’s not to say I won’t use those once I get used to them! But I’ve run with my 220 for four years without those features and wasn’t pining for them, if that makes sense.
One thing that I’m kind of excited about is the finish time estimator–something that may or may not cause more stress during my goal race. 😉 And the 230 tracks cycling too. I don’t do a lot of cycling, but my 220 didn’t have a cycling function and always thought I had suddenly turned Kenyan because of the speeds I was producing. I could change the type later on Garmin Connect so it wasn’t a big deal, but it was another plus for the upgrade. I think the larger screen also allows for more data fields–my 220 had three, so I had to let it scroll to the next screen to see whatever other data I wanted to know. Again, small feature to solve a problem I didn’t really have, but something interesting anyway. The specs say it’s got Run/Walk mode, which I assume is the intervals setting I sometimes use in training. I’d be surprised if they had eliminated that feature on an upgrade, but I’ll have to play around with it to be sure.
The final selling point of the 230? When I put it in my cart, Amazon told me if I ordered within the next nine minutes, I could have it same-day. The Purple Strike 230 was $161 at the time, although it seems to have gone up to the same $174.95 price as the other two colors now. I got it for $161 (plus $10 in tax) and same-day shipping. Talk about instant gratification.
Odds are good that as soon as the new one arrives, my 220 will snap back to its normal battery usage and pretend nothing ever happened. Or I’ll find a DIY battery replacement kit. Just don’t tell me that you have the 230 and you hate it. 😉
(Stay tuned for Part Two, in which I get used to something new)