What you need to know
- Garmin pushed out a public beta release on October 31 for the Forerunner 255, 265, 955, and 965.
- The beta enables Sleep Insights, nap detection, and an improved Body Battery widget.
- Other updates include large font mode, embedded images in notifications, red shift mode, and up ahead voice prompts.
- The update is a "Release Candidate," meaning these updates will go public unless bugs are spotted.
The Garmin Venu 3 introduced enhanced Sleep Coaching tools, including the ability to track daytime naps and incorporate them into your Body Battery score. Since its launch, the most expensive Fenix and Epix models received the update, but we weren't sure if the less advanced watches could support the feature. Now, we know they can.
Garmin Public Beta version 17.18, available on the 2022 Forerunner 255/955 and 2023 Forerunner 265/965, adds several tricks plucked from the Venu 3. Ignoring bug fixes, these are the new features that will start in beta and eventually come to the latest Forerunner watches:
- Adds embedded images in smart notifications
- Adds naps and personalized sleep insights
- Adds new functionality to body battery
- Adds inline skating
- Adds large font mode
- Adds up ahead voice prompts
- Adds red shift. (265 and 965 only)
- Adds multi-location weather (955 and 965 only)
Gadgets & Wearables, which first reported the news, says it installed the beta and found a nap tracking widget, but not the Sleep Coaching widget found on the Venu 3. It's likely that Garmin still reserves some insights for its Venu models to keep them distinct, but otherwise is making sleep data more useful for Forerunner owners.
On that same note, the Body Battery widget will offer more useful data thanks to this update. Instead of merely showing your current energy levels and a graph over time, you'll now see icons on the graph corresponding with specific moments in your day, such as naps, workouts, periods of high stress, and so on.
With enhanced Body Battery data, you'll have actionable data on when you're tiring yourself out, and how much.
Rounding out the list of tricks stolen from the Venu 3, the Forerunner series will enable large text mode for the visually impaired, along with imported photos in notifications to make them more useful. The Forerunner 955 and 255, which use lower-resolution MIP displays, will benefit from the large font mode the most, while the newer AMOLED watches will probably display photos most beautifully.
Of course, these Forerunner models can't offer ECG readings that depend on the Venu 3's new hardware. But I appreciate that most of its software tricks have made the jump, and I can only hope that its superb wheelchair mode transfers over next.
As for other updates taken from the higher-end Fenix watches, Red Shift mode changes the colors of the Garmin UI to make AMOLED displays more readable and less blinding in low-light environments, which "reduces sleep cycle disturbances." If you're following a course, the Up Ahead tool will tell you when you're approaching a turn, hill, or water station without looking at your watch. And on the Forerunner 965 and 955, you can save multiple locations for weather forecasts on your watch.
We don't know how long it'll be before the beta switches to a public update, but Garmin has been on a roll recently with updates. The last Garmin update in September gave the Forerunner 965 Endurance and Hill scores and improved topographic shading for its maps, while the other Forerunners got muscle maps, a new workout app, and training load ratio. It's encouraging that Garmin provides so much post-launch support for watches we already like.
To join the Garmin beta program so you can test these features for yourself, sign in to Garmin Connect on your computer, select the Devices icon in the top-right corner next to your account icon, select the Garmin watch you want to enroll, and click "Join Beta Software Program" link under the version number, then "Agree" to the terms.
Then, on the watch itself, go to Settings > System > Software Update > Check For Updates and install it.
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Michael spent years freelancing on every tech topic under the sun before settling down on the real exciting stuff: virtual reality, fitness wearables, gaming, and how tech intersects with our world. He's a semi-reformed Apple-to-Android user who loves running, D&D, and Star Wars. Find him on Twitter at @Michael_L_Hicks.