Latest Garmin Forerunner update sounds great on paper but may be causing tracking issues

Heart rate zones on the Garmin Forerunner 965
(Image credit: Michael Hicks / Android Central)

What you need to know

  • Garmin update 18.22 has rolled out to 100% of Garmin Forerunner 965, 955, 265, and 255 watches.
  • The update adds a nation-wide track database, a Lap Undo button, a jump rope activity, a Sleep Coach glance, and a number of other features and bug fixes.
  • Although the update lists "improved optical heart rate performance" as a fix, some Garmin forum users are complaining about apparent inconsistent HR data since the update.

Garmin has a reputation for accurate optical heart rate data on its smartwatches for users who don't like wearing chest or arm straps. The latest Garmin update 18.22 was supposed to make it even better. Unfortunately, plenty of Garmin watch owners believe the reverse is true. 

Garmin posted update 18.22 on its forums, with a list of feature updates we've been eagerly anticipating since its January beta launch. Among them, Garmin promises that the four latest Forerunner models (255, 265, 955, and 965) will get "improved optical heart rate performance in cold weather" after update 18.22.

Elsewhere on the forums, though, you'll find various posts complaining that the heart rate data has become inaccurate, stress and sleep summaries will show gaps in data for no clear reason, and specific actions will cause the Forerunner 965 (or other models) to crash. 

Specifically, many users are reporting that their heart rate data falls significantly short of what separate heart rate straps show, topping in the 130–140 bpm range while their actual heart rates are closer to 180–190 bpm.

I intend to test these issues on my own Forerunner 965, but the number of complaints suggests we can't chalk this up to a few isolated incidents. I contacted a Garmin rep for comment and will update this post when I hear back. 

A post-run screen showing the author's VO2 Max score and estimated recovery time

(Image credit: Michael Hicks / Android Central)

It's a shame to hear, as this update adds features that I've been excited to test out. As someone who frequently does track workouts to improve my VO2 Max, I appreciate the new Lap Undo button in case I accidentally start a new lap and ruin my workout data. The same applies to starting a new mile "lap" during regular runs. 

Plus, the new "worldwide database of tracks" will give you more accurate lane data as soon as your Garmin Forerunner's GPS detects you're somewhere that another athlete has measured a track activity. I've asked Garmin if it ever intends to make this a public resource, but for now, it's only something that will passively help you track workout accuracy. 

I'm also excited that Garmin has borrowed the Sleep Coach widget introduced on the Venu 3. It's the logical next step after update 17.24 added nap detection and enhanced Body Battery, and it should help shame me into some better habits.

For triathletes, if you start a multisport activity, your Forerunner will "detect a transition to the next sport," so triathletes don't need to make the switch manually.

Otherwise, Garmin gave users the option for male-sounding voice prompts for directions and lap summaries, a new jump rope activity (which feels long overdue), and various bug fixes. You can see the full list below: 

  • Automatically detects a transition to the next sport in a multisport activity such as a triathlon.
  • Adds Lap Undo.
  • Adds the Sleep Coach glance.
  • Runners can access a world wide database of tracks.
  • Adds the jump rope activity.
  • Adds male voice audio prompts.
  • Improved headset compatibility.
  • Improved optical heart rate performance in cold weather.
  • Fixed strength profile set weight now remembered in structured workout.
  • Fixed backlight brightness level when using real time settings.
  • Fixed truncated text on map navigation data fields.
  • Fixed touch screen settings when in sleep mode.
  • Fixed freeze/crash associated with trying to update weather info on invalid location data.
  • Fixed various sport profile settings bugs.
  • Fixed text clipping issues in activity summary page.
  • Fixed backlight gesture not working in do not disturb mode.
  • Fixed slow notification updates on watch face notification data field.
  • Fixed crash when swiping left to dismiss certain smart home notifications.
  • Fixed various UI and system bugs.
  • Updated Mobile Translations.

We'll have to wait and see if these Garmin Forerunner update issues are resolved. Although this controversy pales in comparison to the Fitbit Charge 5-breaking update earlier this year, it's still going to frustrate long-time Garmin fans who pay above market price for Garmin watches with a reputation for consistent quality. 

In the meantime, you may or may not want to invest in a new heart rate monitor. Aside from Garmin's own HRM-Fit, I'm partial to the COROS Heart Rate Monitor, which is easier to wear than my Polar H10. 

Michael L Hicks
Senior Editor, Wearables & AR/VR

Michael is Android Central's resident expert on wearables and fitness. Before joining Android Central, he freelanced for years at Techradar, Wareable, Windows Central, and Digital Trends. Channeling his love of running, he established himself as an expert on fitness watches, testing and reviewing models from Garmin, Fitbit, Samsung, Apple, COROS, Polar, Amazfit, Suunto, and more.