If you’re at all familiar with Garmin’s wearables, you know that GPS-equipped running watches have always been the company’s primary strength. Garmin’s fitness watches have been a staple among athletes due to their features that aren’t found on Fitbits and Apple Watches. The Forerunner series is still where the company introduces some of its most innovative tracking and training features.
The Forerunner 955 continues that tradition. It sits atop the Forerunner series as the most feature-packed watch in the bunch, and this year it gains some modern touches like a touchscreen and daily exercise readiness assessments (à la Fitbit’s Daily Readiness feature, but free to users), while introducing new features not present on any other Garmin watch. That includes the higher-end Fenix series of watches, from which the Forerunner 955 is also starting to steal some cues, like solar-charging options and multi-band GPS.
We trained with the Forerunner 955 for a few weeks to see how its newest features improve on a platform we already love and to determine just how afraid Garmin should be about Apple or Fitbit catching up.
A new touchscreen, solar option, and multi-band GPS
The Forerunner 955 has a similar design to the 945 before it, but this is the first Forerunner to incorporate a touchscreen display you can disable manually or automatically during activities. It’s also the first Forerunner to feature a solar charging option for a $100 premium, and it’s the first with multi-band GPS support. Multi-band GPS provides more accurate location tracking that is more reliable in challenging environments. The feature was previously reserved for Garmin’s highest-end trackers.
The 955’s face grew a tenth of an inch, widening the display to 1.3 mm and allowing for a new digitized second hand going around the edges of the screen. The solar-charging version adds a neat reflective rim around the watch face where it soaks in sunlight for a bump in battery life. Altogether, this makes for a slightly bigger watch than its predecessor, but it doesn’t bulge off your arm like Garmin’s Fenix or Epix watches might.
Under the hood, we still have sensors for heart rate, blood oxygen monitoring, GPS, and 32GB of storage for music. The Forerunner is rated for 5ATM water resistance, and it can operate from -4º F to 140º F.
Same OS, new touch-based interactions
Garmin hasn’t tweaked the aesthetics or mechanics of the OS much, instead focusing on refining and creating new tracking features. I don’t have any qualms with the UI—they get the job done—but it was nice to see the introduction of interactive watch faces on the platform. It’s not much, but the default face has a carousel of quick-view stats you can tap through that include VO₂ max, heart rate variability (HRV), training load, and activity minutes.
Garmin’s inexperience with touchscreen interfaces is apparent on the Forerunner 955. It’s not immediately intuitive what each icon is telling you, and it would be helpful if you could long-press each of them to see more information, much like how watch face complications on the Apple Watch work. Hopefully, this sort of touch-optimized interface expansion will come soon.
New Training Readiness scores and assessments
Garmin’s strong suit continues to be its free, in-depth health metrics and training analysis. The company is leagues ahead of its competitors in providing training improvement features and sport-specific assessments (particularly running, but also cycling and swimming to slightly lesser extents).
With the 955, Garmin further refined these metrics for accuracy while adding two more mainstream features: Training Readiness and Morning Report. Training Readiness uses your sleep score history, heart rate variability, stress history (based on HRV), recovery time since your last activity, and Garmin’s Acute Training Load feature to assess how ready you are to exercise every day.