Garmin Engineer Talks SatIQ: Longer Battery Life, Same Precise Tracking

Garmin is no stranger to the navigation and tracking space. Our GPS handhelds have been the trusted companions of adventurers for decades, and we offer a durable tracking device for almost any activity. But if you’re using tracking technology often, you know that it’s important to select the right satellite mode for your environment. In an open sky area, you may only need GPS mode. In a canyon or in an urban landscape between tall skyscrapers, you might need to kick it into a higher gear — like All Satellite Systems and multi-band frequencies combined — to determine exactly where you are and where you need to be going.

Here’s where Garmin SatIQ™ technology comes in. Consider it your personal navigation assistant — it works in the background of your compatible device to determine which satellite mode your environment calls for, delivering the accuracy of Garmin multi-band frequency technology while preserving the battery life our smartwatches are known for. Below, Garmin engineer Ben Collins answers a few questions about the latest and greatest in GPS technology.

What Is SatIQ?

SatIQ extends battery life while delivering the accuracy of multi-band GPS throughout your activity. It’s a technology that works in the background to automatically select the right satellite mode for your environment.

How Does SatIQ work?

What satellite setting is needed to get an accurate position from a GNSS device depends on the environment. In open sky, GPS-only mode might provide the same level of accuracy as All Satellite Systems + Multi-band mode. In a canyon or between tall buildings, the chip must connect to all the available satellites and frequency bands to deliver high accuracy. That comes with a significant drain on battery life. To give an example, the fēnix® 7X Solar Sapphire can achieve up to 63 hours of battery life when locked into All Satellite Systems mode. If you change the satellite setting to All Satellite Systems and Multi-band mode, that drops to 36 hours, while GPS-only mode gets up to 89 hours.

Prior to SatIQ, you had to choose what setting to use for an activity ahead of time, but it’s hard to know what mode is needed. What’s more, if you only needed multi-band for a short period during a run, you had to choose between poor positioning in that one location, or higher battery drain throughout the entire activity. SatIQ takes the guesswork out of the satellite settings and lets the device switch between modes in real time based on the environment. That means better battery life while still using All Satellite Systems mode and multi-band mode through the Auto Select mode.

What’s the difference between multi-band GNSS and a lower power GPS mode?

There are two main differences. One is the number of satellites the device connects to. In GPS-only mode, the device only connects to the GPS satellite system, which is just one of many GNSS satellite systems. With All Satellite Systems mode, the device can connect to others as well.

The second difference is the frequency band that the watch connects to. With GPS-only or All Satellite Systems modes, the watch is only detecting satellites on one frequency. That extends battery life, but it is susceptible to error when there’s dense tree cover or tall reflective objects like buildings or cliffs. Multi-band mode uses more than one frequency, which uses more energy, but allows the watch to filter out errors.

Will users know whether their device is using multi-band GNSS or the low power GPS, or will SatIQ quietly toggle back and forth in the background?

SatIQ will quietly toggle back and forth. You set it and let the watch do the work while you enjoy the outdoors with confidence.

Which devices support SatIQ?

This will be coming to the devices with multi-band support, including  fēnix® 7 Sapphire seriesForerunner® 255, Forerunner® 255 MusicForerunner® 955epix™ (Gen 2) Sapphire Editions and Enduro™ 2.

I already have GPS technology. Why should I upgrade to a device with SatIQ?

If you live in an urban environment with skyscrapers, or if you spend a lot of time in the mountains, you’ll see a big difference in the accuracy of your track logs, and only a minimal hit to battery life compared to the All Systems mode. Even if you don’t spend a lot of time in places where satellite accuracy is challenging, SatIQ means you don’t need to ever think about it. You go on vacation to the Grand Canyon, and the watch will track every switchback without ever needing to change settings from what you use at home.

Exactly how much battery life does SatIQ save?

In extensive testing, we found that multi-band is used only about 15% of the time during an activity. That means that without multi-band turned on, 15% of your route could have low accuracy, but without SatIQ, it was a major hit to battery life to correct that. With SatIQ, you get accuracy nearly 100% of the time and only take the hit to battery life 15% of the time (in those conditions).

Ready to roam the unknown? The Garmin fēnix 7 Sapphire seriesForerunner 255, Forerunner 255 MusicForerunner 955epix (Gen 2) Sapphire Editions and Enduro 2 all come with SatIQ technology or will have it shortly.