Amid all the excitement surrounding the launch of the Garmin Forerunner 965 and 265, two new additions to the lineup of Garmin’s best watches, another major Garmin feature was introduced this week. Released on Tuesday, February 28, Outdoor Maps+ is a new service from Garmin available for select Garmin premium watches in the US only – for a price.
This feature provides a series of “real-time maps” and advanced, up-to-date topographic maps for all 50 states, displaying information not typically included in current Garmin map setup. Details drawn from the U.S. government’s National Hydrographic Dataset, such as maps of inland lakes, streams and wetlands, are ideal for those looking for the best fishing spots.
Adventurers will be able to see landowner information, which is essential if you’re doing some serious hiking and want to avoid accidentally trespassing. Boundaries to show legal hunting areas, more information on public lands, the ability to set waypoints for hiking and running, and more new features.
Garmin Enduro 2, Epix (Gen. 2), Garmin Fēnix 7 series, and Garmin MARQ (Gen. 2) models such as the Garmin MARQ Athlete, Quatix 7, and Tactix 7 all have access to these new features (aka all of Garmin’s more expensive watches) and the subscription is set at $49.99 $.
Regular Garmin users may be upset at the prospect of paying extra for features locked behind a paywall. At first glance, it looks like Fitbit Premium and other subscription services, which lock certain features like detailed sleep tracking and daily standby scores behind monthly spending. But don’t worry: This isn’t quite the same thing, and Garmin is unlikely to get the lion’s share of your data. Until now.
The mapping features are advanced enough to be required only for fishing, hunting, ultra-running, and other serious outdoor activities. This isn’t Garmin’s only sports-specific paid subscription feature; Those who only use Garmin for general fitness may be surprised to learn that Garmin Golf has a $9.99 / £12.95 / AU$14.99 subscription tier. Garmin’s TacX virtual cycling content library, Vault for Dash Cams, and many specialty services also offer paid monthly and yearly subscription services.
Given the highly specialized nature and live service requirements of the Outdoor Maps+ feature, this is unlikely to be a sign that Garmin is planning to deny you access to any of the data you’re currently using. The fact that Garmin Connect is completely free for Garmin watch owners is a big selling point for the entire Garmin watch range – just check these out 5 Garmin Connect Features To see how useful the app really is.
However, there is no denying that live service makes money. Fitbit Premium was a move away from the company’s reliance on selling devices to make money (as we said in our Fitbit obituary), and toward using trackers as a way to keep people paying for a subscription. You can also take a look at the Battle Pass and Season Pass models that have been adopted by the biggest moneymakers in the video game industry to see how Garmin might be inclined to embrace this model.
I really hope they don’t. As it stands, Garmin’s free Connect service makes its watches some of the best value on the market. A move toward a larger subscription service would dilute and devalue the brand, potentially pushing a significant portion of its user base away into Apple’s waiting arms.