Garmin Lily – Review 2021
The Lily is Garmin’s smallest smartwatch/fitness tracker to date, and its first model designed specifically for women. Starting at $199.99, it features an attractive, patterned face and a 14mm band that’s much slimmer than most smartwatch straps, so you can wear it alongside other jewelry. More than just beautiful, the Lily can track health stats such as your blood oxygen saturation, calories burned, energy level, heart rate, respiration, sleep, steps, stress, and workouts. It also offers more typical smartwatch features such as phone notifications, music playback controls, and various widgets. It lacks a color, always-on display and several other features you get with Garmin’s Vivoactive 4/4S, but it also costs significantly less. And while it isn’t quite as value-rich as the similarly priced Fitbit Versa 3, the Lily is an excellent choice if you’re looking for a fitness-focused smartwatch that prioritizes style and won’t break the bank.
Bigger Isn’t Always Better
Garmin sells two different Lily models, including a $199.99 Sport version with an aluminum bezel and a silicone band, and a $249.99 Classic version with a stainless steel bezel and an Italian leather band. The company says it designed the Classic version to pair well with business casual looks, and the Sport model to work with athleisure wear.
The Classic model comes in dark bronze with a matching band, gold with a black band, or gold with a white band. The Sport model comes in gold with a white band, rose gold with a tan band, or midnight orchid (a plum color) with a matching band. T-bar lugs connect the Lily’s slim 14mm band to its button-free 34mm case, and a matching metal clasp finishes off the look.
Since I’m vegan and try not to wear leather, I tested the Sport model of the watch. And since I already have the rose gold and white Vivoactive 4, I decided to go with the rose gold and tan Lily for something different.
Each model features a unique metallic-patterned face that complements the band and metal hardware. The Lily doesn’t have a color, always-on display like the Vivoactive 4, but its 240-by-201-pixel grayscale touch screen looks classy against the patterned face lens. The display is bright and easy to read indoors, but you might have to squint when looking at it outside in the sunshine.
When not in use, the Lily’s display disappears so you only see its patterned lens. As long as the watch is powered on, it will continue recording data even when the screen is off. To wake the display, rotate and lift your wrist toward your face or firmly double tap the screen. These methods work most of the time, but I occasionally have to tap the screen multiple times to get it to light up.
When it comes to wearables, I value aesthetics almost as much as I do features. When I’m not testing something for work, the ones I reach for on a regular basis aren’t necessarily the most feature-rich, but the best-looking. I’m a big fan of the Vivoactive 4, which features a classic round 40mm watch design, and always attracts compliments.
Overall, the Lily is right up there with the Vivoactive 4 as one of the most stylish wearables I’ve tested. I still prefer the Vivoactive 4 for its always-on color display, but the Lily is more delicate. It measures 1.35 by 1.35 by 0.39 inches (LWH), fits wrists with a circumference of 4.33 to 6.88 inches, and weighs just 0.84 ounces. It feels light and comfortable on my wrist, even when I wear it to bed. Like the Vivoactive 4, it has a 5ATM water-resistance rating, meaning it can withstand pressure equivalent to a depth of 164 feet.
Garmin says the Lily can last up to five days on a charge, or two days shy of the Vivoactive 4. In testing, however, the Lily’s full battery drained to zero in about four days.
Simple to Set Up and Navigate
To set up the Garmin Lily, just plug it into a power source and wait for “Hello!” to appear on the screen. Then download the Garmin Connect app (available for Android and iOS), tap More > Garmin Devices > Add Device, and follow the on-screen instructions. In testing, the app immediately found the watch and asked if I wanted to connect it. When a six-digit code appears on the Lily’s screen, enter it in the app to pair the watch with your phone via Bluetooth. The app then asks for permission to display phone notifications.
Next, it asks what time you go to bed, wake up, and whether you want to receive notifications between those times. It then suggests daily step count and water intake goals, and a weekly target for intensity minutes, though you can always edit these in the app by visiting Garmin Devices > User Settings.
Since the Lily has no physical buttons, you navigate it with swipes and taps on the display. During the setup process, the app walks you through the navigational controls, which are pretty straightforward. On the bottom of the screen is a small, barely noticeable circle, which doubles as a main menu/back button. In the main menu, swipe left and right to access Activities, Settings, Watch Faces, and Clocks (alarm, stopwatch, and timer).
From the main clock face, swipe down to access the controls menu, including Do Not Disturb and Find My Phone.
Swipe left or right from the main watch face to view widgets, such as weather, notifications, calendar, music, and various health and fitness metrics. To customize the widgets on the watch, open Garmin Connect, select your device, and tap Appearance > Widgets. You can then add or remove widgets as you please, and reorder the list. Aside from the Lily’s design, the widgets are my favorite feature. I enabled all of them, so I can quickly view my metrics and other information.
In addition to the ones I mentioned above, other available widgets include calories, distance, heart rate, hydration (which lets you log your water intake), Pulse Ox (your blood oxygen saturation level), respiration (how many breaths per minute you take throughout the day), steps, and women’s health tracking (which lets you log your cycle details and receive period and fertility predictions).
You can also enable widgets for Garmin’s Body Battery, intensity minutes, and stress metrics. The Body Battery metric ranges from zero to 100, indicating how much energy you have left, based on your activity, heart rate variability, stress, and sleep quality. A score of 100 to 76 means your energy reserves are very high, an ideal time for a strenuous workout. A score of zero to 25, meanwhile, means your energy reserves are low, and you should relax or go to sleep.
The intensity minutes metric lets you keep an eye on how active you’ve been over the past week. The default goal is 150 intensity minutes per week, based on recommendations from the World Health Organization. You earn one in
tensity minute for each minute of moderate activity (like brisk walking), and two for each minute of vigorous activity (like running).
Aside from showing your latest measurement, the Lily’s health and fitness widgets also show trend graphs over the past week or day. You can, for instance, swipe to the respiration widget to see a graph of your breath rate over the past seven days. The Garmin Connect app offers additional details about these metrics, including explanations to help you understand your data and color graphs showing your trends over time.
For a quick snapshot of your metrics, be sure to enable the My Day and Health Stats widgets. My Day shows your steps, intensity minutes, and calories burned, while Health Stats shows your heart rate, stress level, and Body Battery.
Pulse Ox Readings
Like some more expensive wearables such as the $399 Apple Watch Series 6, the Lily can read your blood oxygen saturation level on demand. Garmin calls this metric your Pulse Ox, but it’s more commonly referred to as SpO2. Some other wearables, such as the $329.95 Fitbit Sense, only measure your SpO2 level during sleep, so it’s nice that the Lily offers both nightly and on-demand readings.
To take an on-demand SpO2 reading, just navigate to the Pulse Ox widget and it will automatically start. In testing, I found the Lily’s SpO2 readings a tad erratic and low. For the most accurate reading, make sure the watch is snug but still comfortable, keep it at heart level with your arm resting on a table, and stay as still as possible. In these conditions, the Lily will read your SpO2 level in around 20 seconds (the Apple Watch Series 6 takes 15 seconds).
I took readings with both devices several times, and the Lily always gave me a lower SpO2 percentage. At best, it measured my SpO2 level within 2% of the Series 6. Two other times, the Lily’s reading was 4% lower.
The Lily also reads your SpO2 level while you sleep, and its companion app lets you view graphs of your measurements over the past day, week, and month. These trend graphs can help you quickly gauge whether your level is lower than normal. Garmin warns that the Lily isn’t intended for medical purposes, but its ability to measure your blood oxygen saturation is still useful, especially in light of COVID-19.
As I discuss in my Series 6 and Sense reviews, this metric indicates how well your circulatory and respiratory systems are delivering oxygenated blood to your body, and can help you gauge whether a hospital visit is necessary. Ideally, your SpO2 level should be 95 to 100%. Your SpO2 reading alone can’t diagnose COVID-19, but as the Yale School of Medicine advises, a reading below 90% may warrant a trip to the emergency room.
Stress, Workout, and Sleep Tracking
One of the things I like about the Lily is that it can detect when you’re stressed and suggest a relaxing breathing exercise. Like the Vivoactive 4, the Lily analyzes your heart rate variability, or the natural variation of time that occurs between each heartbeat, to determine when you’re under stress and at rest.
The Lily then quantifies your stress level on a scale of zero to 100. A score of zero to 25 indicates you’re at rest, 26 to 50 means your stress level is low, 51 to 75 means your stress level is medium, and 76 to 100 means you’re highly stressed. In the stress widget, you can see your current stress score and start a guided breathing exercise. During the guided breathing exercise, the watch instructs you when to inhale, hold your breath, and exhale.
When you’re done, the watch shows how the session impacted your stress score. The Garmin Connect app shows additional information, including a graph of your stress level throughout the day and how much time you spent in each range.
The $299 Oura health-tracking ring and Fitbit Sense smartwatch can also measure your stress level, but not many other devices in the Lily’s price range have this capability. The Oura and Sense go a step further, offering app-based audio meditations, a feature not available in Garmin Connect.
For workout tracking, the Lily supports up to seven activities on the watch itself, and if the default options aren’t your favorites, you can customize the list in the Garmin Connect app (though you cannot disable the walk and run options). My list includes treadmill, cardio, strength training, yoga, and bike, but you can also add stair stepper, pilates, other, breathwork, elliptical, and pool swim.
The Vivoactive 4 offers more activity tracking options such as bike indoor, cross-country ski, golf, indoor track, row, row indoor, ski, snowboard, SUP, stair stepper, and walk indoor. It also features preinstalled cardio, Pilates, strength, and yoga workouts with form animations you can view right on the watch.
See How We Test Fitness TrackersSee How We Test Fitness Trackers
To start a timed activity, press the on-screen button, select Activities, swipe left or right to scroll through the list of options, select the one you want to do, then double tap the screen to start tracking. To stop tracking, double tap the screen again. To record an activity with GPS, start tracking on the watch, then open Garmin Connect on your phone. The app needs permission to access your location for it to work.
The Fitbit Versa 3 offers superior workout tracking features, including a built-in GPS so you can see your real-time pace and distance during outdoor runs, rides, walks, and hikes without having to bring your smartphone. The Versa 3 also offers a wider selection of activity tracking options including bootcamp, circuit training, golf, hike, interval workout, kickboxing, martial arts, spinning, stair climber, and tennis.
At night, the Lily measures your shut eye, including your total sleep time, how long you spent awake, and the duration of your deep, light, and REM sleep. My one gripe here is that the Lily doesn’t offer a sleep widget, so you can’t view this information on the watch itself. In the Connect app, you can view daily and weekly graphs of your sleep stages, overnight Pulse Ox, and respiration rate.
In testing, the Lily reliably displayed notifications from phone apps like Furbo and Slack, and alerted me to incoming calls. Android users have the added benefit of being able to reply to texts from the watch itself, though you can only select from a list of quick messages.
The calendar and weather widgets are helpful. The former shows any upcoming events on your schedule that day, and the latter sh
ows the current conditions as well as a three-day forecast.
While the Lily doesn’t feature onboard music storage like the Vivoactive 4, its music widget lets you control the playback and volume of tunes. I had no problem pausing and skipping Spotify tracks with it.
Finally, but perhaps most importantly, the Lily offers a nice safety feature that lets you quickly send a notification with your whereabouts to your emergency contacts if you get into trouble. To do so, tap firmly and rapidly on the screen until the device vibrates three times. You can also request assistance from the controls menu using the star icon. The watch will then vibrate and display a five-second countdown timer before notifying your emergency contacts. I once accidentally triggered this feature, but was able to cancel it in time.
If you’re looking for more in the way of lifestyle features, I suggest checking out the Versa 3, which supports Amazon Alexa so you can set reminders, start tracking a run, and more with your voice. It also works with Fitbit Pay for mobile payments, supports wireless headphones, offers more robust music controls, and has downloadable apps. Of coure, no competitor offers more in the way of apps and features than the Apple Watch, though even the lower-priced Apple Watch SE is significantly more pricey than the Lily, starting at $279.
Less Is More
The Garmin Lily’s attractive, female-focused design is its biggest selling point, but it also offers an impressive set of health-related features for its small size and $199.99 starting price. It can measure your blood oxygen saturation level on demand and as you sleep, monitor your breathing and stress, keep tabs on your heart rate 24/7, and send you alerts for unusually high and/or low heart rate readings. It also has lots of useful widgets that let you quickly view your health stats and fitness metrics, including your steps, calories burned, and weekly intensity minutes.
The Lily is a strong alternative to the $349.99 Vivoactive 4, an Editors’ Choice award winner that offers a similarly stylish design but with more robust fitness and smartwatch capabilities, including a color touch screen, built-in GPS, additional activity tracking options, preinstalled workouts with form animations, onboard music storage, and mobile payments support. In the sub-$250 price range, it’s also worth considering the Fitbit Versa 3, which boasts a large color touch screen, built-in GPS, more activity tracking options, Fitbit Pay, and Amazon Alexa support, making it a good alternative depending on your feature priorities and aesthetic preferences.