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Garmin’s fenix 2 GPS watch captures more data, serves up phone notifications

Garmin today announced the update to its “Swiss Army Knife” of GPS watches, the fenix. The original fenix was one of our favorite GPS watches, but we found a few things missing. With the fenix 2, scheduled to go on sale in March 2014, Garmin appears to have filled in those missing pieces and cleaned up the watch’s somewhat difficult interface.

From the outside the fenix 2 seems hardly changed. It remains a ruggedly handsome, stylish watch that can be worn 24/7, however, inside it promises to be dramatically different. Garmin has added both snowboard/ski and swim functionality, as well as bundled in the latest tech from its top-of-the-line Forerunner 620 running watches.

Related: Garmin fenix 2 review

In ski-board mode, the fenix 2 now counts ski runs, logs distance, and records vertical feet as well as automatically pausing while you’re stopped or on the lift. Swim mode records strokes, distance, pace, and in a pool will keep track of laps and automatically record what stroke you’re swimming. For runners, the fenix 2 interfaces with Garmin’s new HRM-Run heart rate monitor, allowing the watch to measure cadence, vertical oscillation and ground contact time, giving feedback on form and allowing indoor treadmill training to be tracked without requiring a foot pod.

When paired with Garmin’s LiveTrack app and service, the fenix 2 can let friends and family follow along in real time, knowing exactly where you are while you’re cycling, running, or hiking. For the action-camera “record everything” crew, the fenix 2 can even act as a remote control for Garmin’s Virb cameras, allow the starting and stopping of video recording right on the watch.

While all this is well and good, the new feature we’re most excited about is Smart Notifications via Bluetooth Smart. When paired with an iOS device (iPhone 4s or newer) fenix 2 displays incoming calls, texts, and email notifications right on the watch.

Because many of these features come through a firmware update, owners of the original fenix watch can test smart notifications, indoor training mode, and ski-board mode right now by installing the beta version of the firmware. The firmware (and instructions on how to install it) can be found here.

The fenix 2 is scheduled to go on sale in March 2014 for $400, or $450 for the Performance bundle that includes the HRM-Run heart-rate monitor. We haven’t tested the watch yet, but we’re looking forward to it.

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