Connect IQ SDK

Designing for Connect IQ

The Connect IQ system allows you to bring your design and experience to our products. Your ideas and content are what will power the wearable revolution! Here are some user experience guidelines for designing apps.

Thinking Wearable

The KISS principal¹ is one of the best rules of thumb when making a wearable app. One of the synonyms of the word “watch” is “observe.” When designing smart watch apps, it is best to keep in mind that watches are best when used to observe. Great wearable apps stay out of the user’s way, and keep the interactions to a minimum. Give the user fast access to the information and key interactions they care about. Our devices have access to a number of different sensors, including GPS, compass, accelerometer, barometer, as well as the ANT+ network. Let the user see information about themselves in interesting ways.

Design for App Types

Connect IQ app types are based on the use case of the app. Watch apps have full control of the device. Widgets provide information at-a-glance to the user. Data fields allow customization of Garmin activities. Watch faces provide custom displays for the home screen of the watch.

In this section we will delve into the specific guidelines for each use case.

Watch Apps

Watch apps are by far the most robust type of app available. These allow the most flexibility and customization to you and also provide the most access to the capabilities of the wearable device, such as accessing ANT+ sensors, the accelerometer and reading/recording FIT files.

Our suite of wearable devices are each designed to fulfill different needs and behaviors of active individuals, from endurance runners, to triathletes to outdoor enthusiasts and adventurers. The core focus of these wearables centers around the recording and tracking of activities, from running to hiking to skiing. Users want to track specific types of data, and you should take great care in designing your watch app to understand the user’sneeds when doing a particular activity or task and provide appropriate feedback, metrics and configurability for the best experience.

The initial view of the app should be a call to action. If your app represents some form of activity, such as hiking or weight lifting, the initial view of the app should ask to be started. Present users with information from the sensors that make them want to hit the start button.

We commonly use page loops to present multiple pages of information. Page loops are a carousel of pages, each one a unique view on the activity. This is a common metaphor in our products and easy to implement in Connect IQ.

When your app is presenting large amounts of text to the user, try to keep information in the center of the screen. On round screens the top and bottom of the screen provide a limited viewing area. Use the top for contextual headers, scroll arrows, and other small hints of information.

Finally, take advantage of the Connect IQ settings system. This lets the user customize your app through Garmin Connect™ Mobile.


Widgets provide glanceable and relevant information accessible from the watch face. The most important element of the widget is the main page. This is what the user will see upon navigating to your widget. For the best experience, this main page should provide relevant, timely and easily digestible information to the user.

The base view of a widget should be a presentation of critical information. Put information the user will care about on the main page. The main page should only handle the launch widget behavior and the menu behavior. If the user performs the launch widget behavior, you can push a page that presents deeper information.

Your widget should load and unload quickly. Widgets are presented to users as a carousel, so they may be starting your widget only to get to the next one.

Because widgets are intended to be glanceable and because the widgets live in a page loop, behaviors available from the main page are limited. Widgets can open a menu, and on touch screen products, they can provide controls from the main page, such as play and pause controls in a music player widget. To provide interaction on non-touch products or to provide more views or content in your widget, it must be launched or entered to interact with it. If interaction is desired, widgets should either provide controls from the widget page or should be enterable, but these two widget interactions should not be combined. If more actions or configurability need to be supported, the widget can open a menu at any time when it is in view. Once entered, interactive widgets can be structured in a page-based manner, similar to watch apps, or hierarchically. Once a widget is opened, a back behavior must be provided to return the user to the main widget face.

Data Fields

Data fields can run inside an already supported activity on the device, and are a great way to provide new metrics to users, by performing calculations on data already being recorded. Because data fields are integrated in with existing activities, it is best if they appear in the same font and format as that used for the native data fields. For that reason, the simple layout is best as it will ensure your data field will have the same native look and will scale appropriately to all data screen layouts. If you would like to customize your data field, for example, by inserting a bitmap in place of a numerical value, you will need to ensure that your custom field will scale appropriately from a one field, two field, three field, etc. layout.

Use the Simple Data Fields when possible to guarantee your data field will have the native look and feel of our data fields. Connect IQ will try to ensure your data displays with the best font and layout possible.

Watch Faces

Watch faces run continuously on the device and can have the most effect on power consumption. A poorly designed watch face — one that takes too long to draw — can greatly degrade the battery life of the wearable.

Because of power concerns, watch faces have the least access to APIs in the system. They have access to graphics, bitmaps, fonts, current activity tracker status, current battery status, and the user’s activity profile. They cannot access the compass, GPS or other sensors.

Watch faces should extend the WatchFace class in WatchUi. Watch faces update at once a minute in low power mode, or once a second when in full power mode. The watch will transition out of low power mode when the user gestures to look at it. When entering full power mode, watch faces call onExitSleep(), which can be used to trigger animations and timers. The onEnterSleep() method is called when entering low power mode and is used to terminate any active timers. Both of these methods are inherited from Toybox.WatchUi.WatchFace.

If you use custom fonts for numeric display, use the filter option to only load the critical glyphs. This will save memory that you can use for additional graphics.

Page Layout

We make purpose-driven products, and the technologies of the product are chosen around the use case the product is for. Making purpose-driven products also influences the decisions of the screen technologies and fonts we choose for our products.

Text Fonts Versus Number Fonts

Our devices have two kinds of fonts available — text fonts and number fonts. Text fonts are for displaying text and number, and number fonts are large fonts. The text font will come in three sizes.

  1. Small — Chosen to be the smallest readable font on the display.
  2. Medium — Larger than small. Chosen to efficiently display text.
  3. Large — Larger than medium. Chosen to be headers.

The number font is a larger size font that can only display number data. It has four sizes:

  1. Mild — Quarter screen display of numeric data.
  2. Medium — One third screen display of numeric data.
  3. Hot — One half screen display of numeric data.
  4. Thai Hot — Number covers most of the screen.


With the exception of the Forerunner 920XT², the text font for Connect IQ devices will be the Roboto Regular typeface. The number font will be chosen for the product based on the use case of the product.

User Fonts

We try to provide the best-looking fonts for the device. Using the BMFont tool, you can import your own typeface into the product. Using the BMFont tool, you can import truetype font into a font usable by Connect IQ. There are some guidelines to follow:

  1. Try to use the system fonts when possible, but use custom fonts for accent.
  2. Typefaces can take up quite a bit of limited resources. If you only need a typeface for a logo, it might be preferable to use a bitmap instead.
  3. If your font is limited to a set of characters (numerical characters, for example), you might use a filter when importing the font. This will save memory by not importing glyphs your application doesn’t use.


The wearable products use a transflective screen that creates color using light reflected off the display. These displays look best in the sun as opposed to LED displays that require lots of backlight when outdoors. This provides a huge power savings over LED screens at the cost of color depth. The displays have two bits of red, green and blue — 64 colors total — and will look muted compared to a cell phone display.

Our products can have different color depths. The least number of colors a product will have is 16 (including transparent). The RGB values of the available colors on the 16 color products are as follows:

//! White
//! Light Gray
//! Dark Gray
COLOR_DK_GRAY = 0x555555
//! Black
COLOR_BLACK = 0x000000
//! Red
COLOR_RED = 0xFF0000
//! Dark Red
//! Orange
//! Dark Orange
//! Yellow
//! Green
//! Dark Green
//! Blue
//! Dark Blue
//! Purple
//! Pink

Using these colors for your bitmaps will make your app the most portable. Try to use low bit-depth images when possible. More colors will use more memory, while one bit silhouettes can make for colorful user interfaces and saves memory for your application.

Page Layouts

Our products have many screen shapes.

When designing your app, take full advantage of the layout system in the resource compiler and the simulator to test your layout. The resource compiler allows you to specify your page layout in XML and have it target a particular device. See the programmer’s guide for more details.

Some, but not all, of ourwearable products will have a touch screen. When designing a layout for a touchable screen, it is best to apply a rule of thirds: break the display up into a 3 x 3 grid and put your touchable elements clearly inside one of those grid areas³. Using this rule ensures the user has enough finger space to select the touchable element.

When making a layout for a product without a touch screen, keep the user interaction to a one dimensional interface — up, down, enter and back.

User Interaction

Remember what we said earlier about limiting the amount of user input because a wearable app is a beautiful flower that should be seen not heard, yadda yadda yadda? Clearly at some point the user has to interact with the app. Here are some rules for designing user interaction.


Though the products have different styles of input, there are a number of common user behaviors between them. By working these behaviors into your design, you can make it much easier to port your product between different devices.

Built-in Dialogs

Connect IQ provides some basic Garmin dialogs for item selection, numeric entry, and confirmation. Using these widgets for basic operations will make it much easier to port your application across our devices.


If your application is monitoring sensor data, you may need to present the user with information about what you are monitoring.

If the notification to be presented is pertinent to the activity, present the information full screen. For example, if the user earns a badge in your game, this should be presented as a full screen page that times out back into your page flow.

If the notification is less pertinent to the activity (weak GPS signal), you can present a one line toast to the user. This toast will tie up a small portion of the screen for a limited period of time, and then time out.

¹Keep It Simple Stupid.
²Don’t ask; it’s a long story involving release dates and, surprisingly, a Yeti.
³Certain products use a 3x3 touch screen that only has nine touchable areas, so consider it less a guideline and more “do this or else.”