I like the fact that there are new players in the market, like Wahoo and Lezyne. But, to me, it feels like they're primarily playing catch-up to Garmin. Sure, the Elemnt might have a nice screen, and marketing might be excited about that, but I'm not. I know what I'm about to say is unfair to the engineers etc. from these new players, but I keep having this general feeling that they're just mucking around and not doing anything truly innovative.
Oh, this is interesting. I'm not sure what you mean by mucking around, but in my opinion as an engineer, Garmin is sloppy and more than a little lazy. They're leaving room for their competitors in a couple of areas:
- Their code is buggy as hell. New firmware releases routinely break previously-functional features.
- Garmin often waits months
to release fixes for the above-mentioned buggy code, even when the fixes are trivial. I'm not sure why that is. It can't be due to the time required for regression testing...if that were the reason, they wouldn't be releasing such buggy code in the first place.
- For a long time, Garmin didn't really understand cycling. They implemented lots of features that didn't matter much to cyclists but failed to address cyclists' actual needs. (For example, smart recording was basically useless with power...or for courses that were not dead-straight, at least the last time I checked). Additionally, before they switched to a binary file format (.fit files) their data files referred to our activity as "biking," which speaks volumes about how many cyclists (bikers?) they had working on their stuff for the cycling market.
- They used to charge outrageous sums for street maps. Maybe they still do, but OpenStreetMaps has come along and taken that business away from them. My heart bleeds for Garmin's lost revenue.
- My Edge 500's screen has a resolution of 128x160 pixels. This is lower-res than the Texas Instruments TI-92 graphing calculator, which was introduced in 1995
. There are office buildings with way more windows than my Garmin has pixels. Readability and information density are both limited by this resolution. The Wahoo Elemnt's resolution is 240x400. It's a bigger device, but Garmin's low-res displays are still generally low-hanging fruit for its competitors.
So what do I find really innovative?
First of all, good for you for asking that rhetorical question. Many people just stamp their feet and demand "more innovation," which is silly. You're willing to try to describe what you'd like to see. Cheers!
Secondly: I mean this in the best possible way, but I can't help thinking that by "innovation" you mean "features which I personally find exciting." Seriously, this is not a criticism. But "innovation" is such an ill-defined term that it ends up meaning whatever the speaker wants it to mean. As a result, it doesn't mean much to the people who are actually doing what most people think of as "innovating."
Your comparison with the iPhone is apt. GPS-based bike computers and smart phones were introduced around the same time and have since become mature products. It's not that people have run out of ideas for these things; it's that all the interesting/hard stuff has already been done for these products.
You suggest that maybe "tech has plateaued," but I'm not sure what this means. We're no longer finding new planets in our solar system, but I can't imagine anyone arguing that "astronomy has plateaued."
For a long time, Garmin was the only game in town for GPS-based bike computers. They became fat and happy, and now competitors are starting to nibble at them with products that cost less and show (a lot) more attention to detail. Either Garmin will ignore the competitors until Garmin becomes a non-entity in that market, or they'll respond with cheaper, better computers to compete with Lezyne, Polar et al. Either way, consumers win.
Excellent! Completely agree.
In addition, Garmin is schizophrenic as hell; they shift around ideas and fundamentally change designs in the same product tree, then revert back to form once it proves to be idiotic (getting rid of the touch screen and hiding zoom deep in the menus on the 520, then binning that blatantly insane idea and going back to touch for the 820, for example)
Their customer service is a joke too.
I would like to see an open source standard bike computer OS along the lines of Linux come out.