Wearables are broadly categorised into fitness bands and smartwatches, but I’m finding it tough to put a label on Garmin’s latest Instinct Crossover. Garmin calls it a rugged GPS multisport smartwatch, and that does seem apt. Part of the Instinct series, the Crossover is a device that stands out from the herd — both visually as well as due to the features it brings to the table… or in this case, your wrist. Priced at Rs 55,990, it’s certainly not for the faint-hearted or the light-pocketed, and requires some serious commitment that goes beyond its drop-dead gorgeous looks. Let me try and summarise its pluses and minuses below.
- Right from the get-go, the Instinct Crossover impresses with its looks. Of course, you might not like it if you don’t prefer chunky watches, but otherwise, it carries a superb Casio G-Shock vibe that’s unmissable. The Crossover is actually a hybrid device that features physical watch hands placed on a digital display. The hands, along with the time markers, are luminescent and can be seen from a mile away. Whichever way you swing, the Instinct Crossover’s bold look is hard to ignore if it’s sitting on any wrist in the vicinity. Plus, it’s a design that shouldn’t look out of place regardless of where you are — at the club, or inside the boardroom. Of course, it feels right at home outdoors, which is its natural habitat anyway.
- The Instinct Crossover is quite rugged and inspires confidence. Now I usually treat review devices with kid gloves, and avoid situations where they’re likely to be exposed to rough usage. But the Crossover is designed to handle that, and its solid build made me feel confident enough to wear it on a recent trip abroad. It conforms to MIL-STD-810 military-grade standards as far as durability is concerned and is impervious to rain, dust, extreme temperatures, shock, high altitude and low air pressure as well. It’s waterproof up to 100 meters too.
- Despite its rugged build, the watch is surprisingly lightweight and can be worn for long periods without weighing down your wrist. The straps are quite comfortable and don’t cause any sort of irritation on the skin.
- Thanks to an upgraded chip and support for a plethora of positing systems, GPS tracking on the Instinct Crossover is very accurate. Apart from tracking your outdoor runs and bike rides, the device offers advanced features like TracBack, which lets you retrace your steps. There’s LiveTrack as well, a feature that lets emergency contacts track your location whilst you’re outdoors on a run.
- While I’m on the subject of safety features, there are others as well. There’s the Assistance feature that lets you request help from your emergency contacts directly from the watch, and the Incident Detection feature that uses sensors in the watch to determine if you’ve been in a mishap during an outdoor activity, and alerts emergency contacts via SMS or email. Incident Detection can be set on or off on a per-activity basis, though I can’t really understand why anyone would want to turn it off.
- There’s support for over 30 indoor and outdoor sports modes, and everything from skiing, swimming, hiking, rowing, and muscle strength training to basics like running and cycling are covered. Health features include pretty much everything you’d expect — steps, calories, distance, heart rate, blood oxygen, stress, and sleep. While most of these are quite accurate in terms of the data captured, the blood oxygen levels displayed seem a tad iffy to me, though I won’t really count that as a deal breaker.
- As far as smart features are concerned, the watch displays notifications from a paired smartphone, with the analog hands moving automatically to the 9.15-time position for you to be able to read the digital display without hindrance. There’s no way to respond to those notifications though, at least not when the watch is paired with an iPhone. Other features include standard ones like weather, calendar, etc.
- The watch syncs to a smartphone using the Garmin Connect app, and you’d also need the ConnectIQ to download more watch faces, apps etc. While I think the Connect app is quite loaded and a bit overwhelming at first glance (more on that later), it displays a lot of data and trends on your physical activity… something that could be useful for fitness enthusiasts, those training for marathons or others generally interested in more insights.
- The battery life is quite good I think. On paper, the Instinct Crossover is rated to deliver up to 28 days, and they even have a Solar version (priced about Rs 6k higher) which can last even longer. In real-life usage though, with usage comprising daily 30-minute GPS-based workouts, paired constantly with a phone and tons of apps throwing notifications, the Crossover latest me over a week. Switching to intermittent syncing, it can stretch 10-14 days or so, which is pretty good. One point to note is that if you have lots of apps pushing notifications to the watch, the battery life gets impacted negatively since the watch hands move to the 9.15-time position for each notification. So restricting notifications could be one way to extend battery life.
- Also worth mentioning is that since this is a hybrid smartwatch, personalisation options in terms of watch faces etc are quite limited, at least when compared to regular lifestyle smartwatches. Just something to keep in mind.
What’s not so good
- The Garmin Instinct Crossover doesn’t allow you to store and play music off local storage, which seems like a miss considering it’s a premium smartwatch. It does come with music controls though, allowing you to control playback on a paired phone.
- The Garmin Instinct Crossover doesn’t feature a touchscreen, and the 0.9 x 0.9-inch monochrome transflective display, while being easy to read in bright light, feels a bit cramped for all the info it displays. Your interaction with the watch happens via the five buttons on the side — three on the left, and two on the right. The good part is that the button-based interaction allows you to use the watch with gloves on, but it isn’t as intuitive as using a touchscreen and involves a bit of a learning curve before you get used to the operation.
- The Garmin Connect app, as mentioned previously, feels a bit dense and could be overwhelming for first-time users. It packs in a lot of data, which is both a good and a bad thing depending on how you feel about this. It does, however, takes a while to get used to where each function, option and setting is located.. both in the app as well as on the watch.
The Garmin Instinct Crossover comes with a sticker price of Rs 55,990, and if you pay another Rs 6,000, you can get the Solar version which promises even longer battery life. Just to put things in perspective, Rs 6,000 can get you a decent budget fitness watch these days. Of course, that’s not too relevant here. However, what is clear is that the Garmin Instinct Crossover isn’t for everyone. If you’re into outdoor sports and consider yourself a serious fitness buff, it could be an investment worth making. There’s no real competition for it either, barring the much more expensive Apple Watch Ultra. I haven’t tried that, so I can’t say how good or bad it is in comparison, but it does look like Apple has a long way to go before it can catch up with Garmin in terms of adventure watches. The other day, while window shopping, I stopped outside a watch store window and noticed a tagline which read “looks good, tells the time”. I couldn’t help but think how even basic fitness bands can do so much more than this. Applying the same to the Garmin Instinct Crossover, I think the watch does much more than your typical premium smartwatch, and its capabilities could even help you stretch your own boundaries if you’re up for it.
Editor’s rating: 4 / 5
- Good looks, rugged build
- Comfortable and lightweight
- Tons of health, fitness & safety features
- Solid battery life
- Could be too bulky for some
- No touchscreen
- Might not appeal to everyone