A rant on Garmin

I thought I am too old to write rants, but I need to get this one of my chest: we own a Garmin Drive 51 LMT-S, which currently (July 2022) is still being sold by Garmin. It is right now advertized as “Provides real-time services² such as live traffic and live parking³” with the caveat “²To access live information, you must download the free Smartphone Link app.” OK, so far so good.

Now, the problem is that Smartphone Link app! I could go on about the trackers included in the app (Facebook Analytics, Facebook Login, Facebook Places, Facebook Share, Google Analytics) or the fact that it does not work unless you are logged into your mobile with a Google Play account. Or the excessive permissions  (WRITE_EXTERNAL_STORAGE, READ_PHONE_STATE, READ_EXTERNAL_STORAGE, READ_CONTACTS, GET_ACCOUNTS, ACCESS_FINE_LOCATION) that is requests.

But let us keep all that aside for now. The important thing: IT DOES NOT WORK!

The Link app was last updated three years ago on Oct 31, 2019 which might indicate the priority Garmin assigns to the app. It works exactly once after pairing, and fails to reconnect on ALL subsequent connection attemps (mind, that the Android mobile phone automatically and successfully connects to the Garmin device, but the Smartlink app would not be able to see or establish a connection. It does not matter how often on clicks the reconnect button, it will only work for me if I remove the bluetooth pairing and restart the thing from scratch. And even than it will only work in about 40% of all cases!

Furthermore the Smartlink app likes to pop up erratically and “ding” even when there is not Garmin close by. Reviews on Google Play say that the Smartlink app easily cuts their battery life in half. So, to sum it up: THERE IS NO WAY I CAN ENJOY THE FEATURES THAT GARMIN ADVERTIZES AND PROMISES. IT NEGLECTS THE ONLY TOOL THAT ALLOWS TO GET REAL-TIME TRAFFIC INFORMATION ON A POPULAR ENTRY-LEVEL GPS NAVIGATION DEVICE. I FEEL CHEATED AND DISAPPOINTED BY GARMIN! AND I WILL NEVER BUY A GARMIN NAVIGATION DEVICE AGAIN BECAUSE OF THIS!

Without real-time information I can just use a local offline navigation app, thank you, Garmin!

There are 16.3k reviews on Google play and it receives an average rating of 2.7 (it is only that high as the ones from many years ago were mostly positive, but basically every rating from the last years is 1-2 stars). Does Garmin have a marketing department and is somebody reading these Google store reviews? They are enlightening:

“need to constantly “forget” and “pair” my Drive 5 to make it accept Smartphone Link.” (June 15, 2019)

Most of the time trying to establish a Bluetooth connection is a chore. I’ve tried three different devices this year and none can establish a link to the Garmin Navigator via this app without fumbling and retrying for at least 15 Minutes each time.” (May 1, 2022)

It won’t shut off, comes on even when you aren’t using the device or anywhere near it. Even if you force stop the app, it comes on again trying to connect to the device. (January 8, 2020)