Garmin has been in recent years making bigger moves into the smartwatch space, but one of the most notable things missing from that smarter play has been a proper app store.
While the Connect IQ Store has existed for a few years now, the way it was built into the Connect IQ companion app didn’t make it the most user-friendly way to find new apps, watch faces, widgets and custom data fields for your Garmin.
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So it’s finally decided to break the IQ Store out from the Connect IQ app and in the process given the place a bit of a clean up.
The Connect IQ Store is now available in the Apple App Store and the Google Play Store, so we’ve been checking it out to see what’s different and how it compares to the old version of the store.
Logging in is gone
if you’ve used the Connect IQ Store before the revamp, you’ll know how much of a pain it was to continually log in to the store if you wanted to get your hands on something new. Thankfully, that continual logging in process is no more. As long as your Garmin device is paired to your phone and Connect already, you should see your device appear up in the top right hand corner with a green light to indicate that you’re already logged in. It’s a small thing, but definitely makes the experience of using the store and getting things onto your device swiftly much easier.
From that device icon mentioned above, you now get a much better breakdown of what you have installed on your device whether that’s watch faces, apps, data fields or widgets. What we really like is that you can now see how much space you have for additional downloads at a quick glance.
This is also the place where you can adjust settings (if there any available) for each download app/watch/face/data/field/widget or simply uninstall them. So for instance, for the Stryd IQ app we can quickly edit power zones, which will then sync and save to the device.
It’s also here where you can check whether you have the latest version of those installed apps running on your watch and toggle on/off auto updates. There is also the option to receive notifications when there are available updates for those installed apps too.
The first thing to notice here is that there is a much nicer breakdown of the type of content available on the Store. So along with the usual like digital and analog watch faces or adding performance metrics, there’s now also sections for things like power tools, wellness apps and apps that are designed for sea-related activities.
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When you find something you want, and you tap to select it, the experience feels very similar to what you’d get doing something similar on the Google Play Store. You’ll see a description of the app, user reviews and crucially a list of compatible devices to make sure you can actually use it.
The downloading part has always been one of the more clumsier aspects of the Connect IQ Store process, and while it’s still not perfect, it’s definitely better. Once you hit download, there’s a bit of lag time before the installation process begins. Then the app gets queued, even if you don’t have bunch of apps lined up for installation. Like any app store, app download installation times will vary, but it usually took no more than a couple of minutes for us in general. When you go back to that My device page, you should see your new app ready to use.
Garmin introduced its Face It app back in 2016, letting watch owners build their own watch faces. There’s no need to dip into the separate app for this so you can get creative from within the new store. Simply look for the dropdown menu (top right hand corner) and Face It should be the first option. That dropdown also offer shortcuts to the different types of content you can download, if you don’t want to scroll through the various sections.
Once you’ve given permission for Garmin to access your photo library you’ll be able to pull in pic and turn it into a watch face. It’s a bit of a laggy process at the moment, but once you’ve found a picture from your library or you want to take one, you can overlay a digital or analog watch face over it, change the colors of the watch elements and then hit save to keep it and send it to your device. The watch face will be sent to a Garmin server to be created and will then install next time you sync your device.
The Connect IQ Store has been long overdue more than just a facelift and with the new dedicated store it brings it more in line with what is on offer to Apple, Samsung, Fitbit and Google WearOS smartwatch owners.
It’s much easier to navigate and things have improved greatly when it comes to downloading, syncing and installing apps and other extras to your device. Loading screens still feels a little on the slow side, but it’s nowhere near as laggy as it was in its previous incarnation. It might not be as slick an operation as the Apple App Store or Google Play, but it’s certainly a much better fit for Garmin’s smartwatch ambitions.