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Garmin Connect is an app developed by Garmin to gather your health and sport activity data. It is a popular app and is generally among the top apps to review your activity metrics as well as create routes. But if you have just heard about this app, it might not be clear to you if this app is free or not; if it requires a subscription, and most of all if you can use it without owning a Garmin watch (or any Garmin device).
I will cover all these topics below to give you all the information you need about Garmin Connect. I will especially focus on what you can do without owning a Garmin device within the app.
Does Garmin Connect cost money?
Garmin Connect doesn’t cost money. It is free to use, both on the app and on the website. You are required to create a user account, but this is free.
Garmin has a separate app called Garmin Connect IQ store, which is a store where you can buy third-party developed apps and additional faces for your Garmin watches and bike computers. Some are free some aren’t. But these apps are not required to use a Garmin device, nor Garmin Connect.
So whether you own a Garmin wearable or not, Garmin Connect is free to use.
Does Garmin Connect require a subscription?
No subscription is needed to use Garmin Connect. It is entirely free, even if you don’t own a Garmin device. Only Garmin Connect IQ store has some paid third-party apps developed for Garmin devices.
The only subscription that Garmin offers is for their kids’ line of products such as the Garmin Bounce or their satellite communicators such as the InReach. It makes sense since these products can send messages, but it has nothing to do with Garmin Connect.
Can you use Garmin Connect without a watch?
You can use Garmin Connect without owning a Garmin watch (or device). However, you will have to manually upload all your activities and the health data is very limited (no steps, no stress level, no sleep tracking). On the contrary, you can benefit from the route creator and export the .GPX files.
What can you do in Garmin Connect without owning a Garmin watch?
Upload your activities manually
You can upload your activities manually within the app: you either manually use the “add activity” button in the app to log in your last activity. But this is not very precise as you will only log sport type, distance, and duration.
If you have recorded your activity with another non-Garmin device, then export the associated .FIT file from the native app of your device. And then manually load it onto Garmin Connect website.
For more explanation on how to upload manually your activities, I have made a detailed explanation for Coros, Polar, Suunto and Apple watch in this dedicated article.
If you are interested by the Apple watch only, you can go directly here.
Please note you can also import .GPX activities into Garmin Connect. But it can be trickier to do since .GPX files aren’t necessarily activities (contrary to .FIT files). For more information, please have a look at this dedicated article: How to import .GPX files to Garmin.
Upload your activities (auto-sync)
It is not possible to auto-sync your data even using a third-party app, except on iOS. It used to be possible on Healthsync app and on Tapiriik web app but apparently Garmin has modified its API and it is no longer possible.
Please find below a quote from the Tapiriik web app:
But if you are using iOS, RunGap can still autosync your activities to Garmin Connect. I am not sure why but I have checked with them and they confirmed this option is still working.
For more information about using RunGap to auto-sync your activities you can follow this methodology I wrote for the Apple watch: see article here.
Create routes and export them manually to your device
If you are interested by creating some routes for your next rides or runs, you can use Garmin tool without limitations. Of course, you can’t send directly the route to your device at the end, so you will have to export the .GPX file instead, but all in all it’s quite easy. It is perfect if you prepare your routes from your home, but won’t help you much if you are out on a ride and need to load a track on your non-Garmin device. And you can’t do turn-by-turn directions with the phone directly.
How to create a route without owning a Garmin device?
- In the mobile phone app, go to Training & Planning -> Courses, then select the ‘+‘ button to create a new course and follow the instructions on the screen
- On Garmin Connect website, go to Training & Planning -> Courses. Then click on ‘create a course‘ and follow the instructions on screen.
Once the course is created, save it.
You now need to export the .GPX file to use it on another app or device of your choice. To do so, you can only perform this action on Garmin Connect website. Go to Training & Planning -> Courses. Select the saved course of your choice, and then select the ‘…‘ to open the extra menu. Click on Download (GPX).
The option to track menstrual cycles within the app works very well. No need to have a Garmin watch to do so. So feel free to use it.
You can also collect some of the badges, add some friends, use the calendar, enter some data manually (like Heart Rate), and view training plans and workouts proposal; but all these are quite limited without being able to send the information to your watch.
What do you miss on Garmin Connect without owning a Garmin device?
- Auto sync of activities
When you own a Garmin watch (or bike GPS…) any workout or activity performed on your device will automatically sync to Garmin Connect. This is what makes using the app so much easier.
- Health stats
Follow up of your daily health stats: sleep, heart rate monitoring, steps, floors climbed, …
For a number of these parameters, you can still enter manually a value but that’s really not worth the bother.
- Badges & friendly challenges
Garmin Connect has a badge system – a bit like Strava. For several of the badges, you are required to perform the activity on a Garmin device. There is not much point in starting to collect badges if there are several you can’t get. Same with friends’ challenges, some like the step challenge won’t be possible.
All these little incentives to keep you motivated on your fitness journey aren’t worth it without owning a Garmin watch.
Garmin Connect is free for all, but it was intended for the owners of a Garmin device. Without one, you are very limited in what you can do in the app, and all automated functionalities aren’t accessible. You can import your activities and have stats with pretty analytics, but it is fastidious to do manually. An interesting benefit though, is using Garmin Connect website to create routes and download the .GPX files for use elsewhere.
For more insights and hidden tips about Garmin Connect, do not hesitate to go through my Garmin Connect guide: