Think about it: you’re out running, usually in the sun, quite often. Why not save yourself the bother of charging by using a solar-powered smartwatch?
If you run a lot, chances are you use a smartwatch to track your runs and progress. I currently use the Huawei Watch GT Pro 2; it is amazing and has 14 days of battery life – or about 12 if you bash the GPS.
I switched out my Apple Watch for the GT Pro 2 for this exact reason: I needed something that lasted longer than 48 hours, had GPS, and could give me reliable, actionable data on my runs.
I also have a Garmin too, and it is great. But its battery life just isn’t comparable to the Huawei Watch GT Pro 2, especially if you use its GPS function as often as I do.
Although Garmin has a solution to this problem. And it uses the sun to solve it…
Enter Garmin’s Solar-Powered Smartwatches
Battery life is the problem ALL wearable suffer from. Because of their size, you simply cannot fit large batteries inside them. In order to extract more battery life, concessions need to made, features removed.
This is why Garmin decided to leverage the power of the sun to keep its range of solar-powered smartwatches topped up while you’re out on a run.
It’s a simple yet novel idea. Garmin knows the vast majority of its users are often outside, running, or biking.
For this reason, it stands to reason that they’ll be exposed to direct sunlight.
By using the sun to charge a smartwatch, you could technically never have to charge it again, so long as you live in and around the dessert or the equator.
In the UK, especially near Manchester, not so much. Sunlight is a premium here, we don’t get much and when we do it is often short-lived.
But even in the UK, you can run one of these Garmin Solar watches for weeks at a time without recharging it. And this is a huge boon for runners that are looking for a tracking watch that’ll last longer and require fewer charging sessions.
How Do Garmin’s Solar Watches Actually Work?
Garmin uses a proprietary technology called Power Glass Solar Charging to harness the power of the sun and channel it into your watch’s battery cell.
Here’s the official line on how Power Glass Solar Charging direct from Garmin itself:
“Garmin solar watches use a Power Glass watch lens to convert sunlight into battery power, extending your time between charges. The solar charging is not designed to be used as the primary charging source or to achieve indefinite power. The solar intensity will be displayed on the solar watch face or Solar Intensity widget as an icon that fills in as solar intensity is increased.“
It added: “When the watch is in full direct sunlight with a solar intensity of 100%, it is receiving approximately 50k lux or more. Additionally, a line graph will be visible on both the widget and a watch face displaying solar intensity over the last 6 hours.”
Battery Life Benefits
This means you could leave the house for a long run with 70% battery life and come back with 85% once you’re finished, providing the watch has had enough exposure to the sun.
Garmin says its Power Glass Solar Charging cannot be used as an alternative to standard charging by a wire. And this is true. But as a tool for topping up your battery life, it is amazingly useful.
None of Garmin’s watches – save for its Solar brand ones – can do any more than several days with heavy GPS use either, so this gives its Solar watches a huge USP over its other products.
With one of its Solar brand watches, you could easily eke out 14 days with enough sun exposure. And that, if you’re using something like an Apple Watch or a Wear OS device, is extremely significant.
And when it comes to solar-powered watches, Garmin now makes quite a few – across a range of price points. Here’s a breakdown of all the current models inside Garmin’s Solar lineup of watches:
- Garmin Instinct Solar
- Garmin Fenix 6 Solar
- Quatix 6X Solar
- Garmin TACTIX Delta Solar
- Garmin Enduro
The cheapest solar-powered Garmin watch is the Garmin Instinct Solar, and the most expensive is the Quatix 6X Solar and the Garmin TACTIX Delta Solar – they’re both nearly $1000.
Unlike Garmin’s more expensive models, the Garmin Instinct Solar doesn’t have a very good display – it is black and white and, while it does display all the information you need, it is not as good as a color display with proper graphics.
If you want a full-color display, complete with graphics and color, you’ll need to pony up for one of Garmin’s pricier watches – either the Garmin Enduro or the Garmin Fenix 6 Solar. Both are exceptional options if you have the budget.
What Do Garmin Watches Track?
Garmin watches are considered some of the best for runners and are used by professional and hobbyist athletes alike. And the reason for this is that they provide a wealth of data about your activities.
On the watch itself you can see details about your pace, how far you’ve run, and your current VO2 Max. But where Garmin really comes into its own is via its Garmin Connect phone app.
Inside the phone app you can mine incremental data about your runs, how you’re progressing, where you’re losing ground, and finding out which specific training zones you’re operating in – it’s actually pretty incredible, really. You get so much data.
Your Garmin watch can detail how much effort you put in, recommend trading programs and schedules, show you how much elevation you climbed, make suggestions about improving your pace and aerobic abilities, and loads more.
It will even tell you when you’re recovered and ready to go out for another run.
Me? I tend to just focus on the basics: my workout intensity, workout zone, heart rate, pace, and distance. With these, I can stay on top of a running program no problem.
I can ensure my long runs remain inside Zone 2 and I can check my pace and ensure I’m pushing myself on my longer runs. All from my wrist.
After the run, I can view ALL the data inside the app on my phone or on my computer.
This is what you’re really paying for when you buy a Garmin watch; the data and software.
Sure, its watches are quality products, infinitely better suited to running than Apple Watch, but it is the software and how it interacts with the watch where all the investment is.
If you’re serious about running, do yourself a favor and check out Garmin’s watches – they’re bloody outstanding.
And, if you go with a Solar brand one, it’ll be weeks at a time before you need to worry about recharging the watch.
Richard Goodwin has been working as a tech journalist for over 10 years. He is the editor and owner of KnowYourMobile.