Garmin Lily smartwatch

Hands-on gadget review: Garmin Lily

Image credit: Garmin

‘Small but mighty’ is our verdict on a smartwatch designed for women, by women.

Gadgets designed for women rarely impress. For decades we’ve faced ‘paint it pink’ designs, mediocre features and poor value for money. We’re discerning and we’re diverse: we don’t all want the same things.

The Garmin Lily impressed right from the start though. Many smartwatches are as chunky as divers’ watches and have batteries that last a day. The Lily flies in the face of all that, with a petite form factor (35mm diameter) and a battery life of five days. Most importantly of all, you can customise it – not just the watch face but its features too.

At the time of writing, the Lily was available in six designs. Three are the £179.99 Sport model with a silicone band and three are the £229.99 Classic model with Italian leather band. Each of the six boasts a slightly different pattern on the watch face.

I tested the Sport model with a rose gold bezel. Or should I say, my teenage daughter did and I watched. She’s used smartwatches before but this one’s looks and size wowed her. It really looks like a designer watch; there’s nothing bulky or nerdy about it.

Set-up was simple: the Garmin Connect app was easy to find, download and set up. Then it found the Lily straight away. You can use the watch immediately but it pays to put in your personal information, so it can tailor your activity data.

The only thing we didn’t like about the watch is that the display isn’t always on. Tap it twice to see the time (and much more) or you can also set it so that the act of lifting your wrist turns it on. Obviously the latter uses a little more battery but the Lily still offers impressive battery life. Many smartwatches need charging every night; this one needs charging once or twice a week.

The display is monochrome but bright and crisp: it lights up white on the watch’s stylish background. There are no buttons on the side; instead you tap and swipe on the touch display. Via the app, you select which widgets appear. As well as fitness and activity widgets, it can display phone notifications.

The app is superb: easy to use and you can meddle as much or as little as you like. If you’re a bit of a Luddite, simply use it as a watch and then delve into the app later to check on your sleep or activities. But if you’re a gadget lover or sports nut then it pays to customise it.

A bit of set-up paid: by syncing the app with my daughter’s Google accounts, she suddenly had her school timetable on her wrist, which proved handy for homeschooling. She also got texts and emails straight to her wrist. The crisp display shows plenty of text, small but clear. Further customisation let her pick out just the activities that she enjoys, whittling the watch menu down to just the items she would use.

Garmin Lily smartwatch

Image credit: Garmin

The watch is waterproof and tough but it can’t compete with big sports watches on features because it doesn’t have built-in GPS location tracking. Instead it relies on your phone’s own GPS, with the assumption that you won’t go running without your phone. It also lacks NFC for contactless payments. And the TFT LCD display is monochrome... but the watch faces look so good, you don’t miss colour.

The watch’s Bluetooth connection to your phone is used well. As well as smart alerts, you can use the watch and phone to find each other if they’re in range. What’s more, you can send an Assistance Alert for free – tap the watch face repeatedly and it gives you a five-second countdown warning (so you can cancel if it’s a mistake) and then it texts your chosen emergency contacts, saying that you need help and giving a link to your location.

But what actually makes this watch brilliant for women is that it’s small but mighty. Its 35mm case feels good on any wrist and is just big enough to be functional. It looks great but it isn’t ostentatious and won’t go out of fashion. Meanwhile it’s well featured and the long battery life is practical.

Apps and tracking options are diverse. Your watch can do anything from reminding you to drink more water to tracking menstrual symptoms. But if you don’t want it to do those things, it doesn’t have to. And that’s the most important aspect of the fact that the Lily was designed “by women for women”. We are a diverse bunch and we don’t all want our watch to do the same things.

From £179.99


Apple Watch Series 6

The natural choice for iPhone users with deep pockets. The latest model adds pulse oximetry and ECGs on top of fitness and activity tracking and phone notifications. There’s a huge range of straps and apps. The smaller case size is 40mm.

From £379

Samsung Galaxy Watch Active2

Sporty and lightweight – in rose gold, pink gold or aqua black – the Samsung looks like a regular watch and boasts a bright screen that’s always on. The app list isn’t huge but the rotary interface is superb. Again the smaller case size is 40mm.

From £199

Fossil Gen 5

Fossil’s latest smartwatch has superb features, including NFC for contactless payments and built-in GPS for location tracking. It uses Google Wear OS but works with both Apple and Android phones. Stylish cases and straps plus customise with thousands of colour watch faces. It’s 44mm diameter.


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