Could the Garmin Instinct be the next watch to get an AMOLED update?

Garmin Instinct Crossover GPS watch
Until now, all Garmin Instinct watches have used monochrome memory-in-pixel displays (Image credit: Future)

The Garmin Forerunner 965 and 265 are finally here, with gorgeous new AMOLED displays to make sure maps, stats, and graphs look as bright and clear as possible. So what could be the next watch to get a display upgrade? Personally I think the Instinct series would be ripe for the AMOLED treatment, and an opportunity to really get creative.

Garmin has certainly never been shy about experimenting when it comes to the Instinct, and it doesn't seem too worried about sticking to a set launch schedule. The original Instinct made its debut in 2018, but in October 2020 the company launched a special edition designed specifically for e-sports. This unusual sports watch didn't just track your runs and rides, but could display your heart rate on-screen during livestreams.

In February 2022 Garmin released the Instinct 2 series, which included special editions for surfing and tactical use, plus a surprising new model built specifically for truckers. The Garmin Instinct 2 Dezl can connect to your truck's sat-nav, remind you to take regular breaks, and guide you through gentle workouts during a rest stop.

Man driving truck wearing Garmin Instinct 2 Dezl watch

The Garmin Instinct 3 Dezl is designed specifically for truckers (Image credit: Garmin)

Earlier this year, the company released the Instinct Crossover, which is a fun device that's partway between a GPS watch and a field watch, designed for the marathon-running woodsman in your life.

They are all excellent watches, but there's one thing that might put off potential buyers, and that's their screens. Whichever Instinct you opt for, you'll find it has a relatively small monochrome memory-in-pixel (MiP) display, which means maps are pretty much out of the question, and you can't see see much health or workout data without digging out your phone and delving into the app.

Course on plotted on Garmin Instinct 2 watch

You can import GPX courses to the Instinct 2, but following them isn't easy. (Image credit: Future)

With AMOLED tech, the same modestly sized screen could do so much more. The tough build of the Instinct series makes them particularly appealing for trail running, but without good quality maps, they've been tough to recommend on that front. An AMOLED display would let you see exactly where you're going, and if you were to keep the circular cutout design, you could use the circular sub-display to show the next turn, or a compass.

For the long run

However, there's another factor to consider. In addition to their tough build, one of the main attractions of watches in the Instinct series has always been their long battery life. A full color AMOLED display would use far more juice and monochrome MiP, so how would Garmin compensate?

The answer might be in patents registered by the company over the last few years, which explain a technique for building an AMOLED watch with solar charging.

Until now, all of Garmin's solar watches use a semitransparent photovoltaic cell that sits on top of the display (which the company calls Power Glass). This is fine for an MiP display, but causes an AMOLED panel to look dim and unappealing.

Garmin's idea involved using tiny photovoltaic cells in between the red, green, and blue subpixels that make up the AMOLED display, allowing it to harvest energy without changing its appearance.

Of course, a patent is no guarantee of a consumer product, but solar charging could give an AMOLED Instinct enough of a battery boost to keep it competitive. We'll just have to wait and see what else 2023 brings.

Cat Ellis

Cat is the editor of Advnture, She’s been a journalist for 15 years, and was fitness and wellbeing editor on TechRadar before joining the Advnture team in 2022. She’s a UK Athletics qualified run leader, and in her spare time enjoys nothing more than lacing up her shoes and hitting the roads and trails (the muddier, the better), usually wearing at least two sports watches.