The Garmin Lily 2 was the tracker I needed on vacation

On my last day of vacation, I sat on a pristine beach, sipping on a piña colada while staring at a turquoise Caribbean Sea. In four days, I’d charged my Apple Watch Ultra 2 three times, and I was down to about 30 percent. On the other wrist, I had the more modest $249.99 Garmin Lily 2 Sport. It was at about 15 percent, but I hadn’t charged it once. Actually, I’d left the cable hundreds of miles away at home. While pondering this, the Ultra 2 started buzzing. My phone may have been buried under towels and sunscreen bottles at the bottom of a beach bag, but Peloton was having a bad earnings day. The way that watch is set up, there was no way it would let me forget. The Lily 2 also buzzed every now and then. The difference was reading notifications on it was too bothersome and, therefore, easily ignored.

That tiny slice in time sums up everything that makes the Lily 2 great — and perhaps not so great.

The hidden screen is a bit dim in direct sunlight and doesn’t fit a ton of information on it.

My 10 days with the Lily 2 were split into two dramatically different weeks. The first was a chaotic hell spent zipping here and there to get 10,000 things done before vacation. The second, I did my very best to be an untroubled beach potato. That first week, I found the Lily 2 to be cute and comfortable but lacking for my particular needs. On vacation, its limitations meant it was exactly the kind of wearable I needed.

I wasn’t surprised by that. The Lily 2 is not meant to be a mini wrist computer that can occasionally sub in for your phone. It’s meant to look chic, tell you the time, and hey, here’s some basic notifications and fitness tracking. That’s ideal for casual users — the kind of folks who loved fitness bands and Fitbits before Google started mucking around with the formula.

The main thing with the Lily 2 is you have to accept that it’s going to look nice on your wrist but be a little finicky to actually use. The original Lily’s display didn’t register swipes or taps that well. It’s improved a smidge with the Lily 2, but just a smidge. Reading notifications, navigating through menus, and just doing most things on the watch itself I found to be nowhere near as convenient as a more full-fledged touchscreen smartwatch. This extra friction is a big reason why the Lily 2 just didn’t fit my needs in daily life.

As a fitness tracker, the Lily 2 is middling. The main additions this time around are better sleep tracking and a few more activity types, like HIIT, indoor rowing and walking, and meditation. There are also new dance fitness profiles with various subgenres, like Zumba, afrobeat, jazz, line dancing, etc. That said, the Lily 2 isn’t great for monitoring your data mid-workout. Again, fiddly swipes and a small screen add too much friction for that.

I also wouldn’t recommend trying to train for a marathon with the Lily 2. Since it uses your phone’s GPS, my results with outdoor runs were a mixed bag. One four-mile run was recorded as 4.01 miles. Great! Another two-mile run was logged as 2.4 miles. Less great. It’s a tracker best suited to an active life, but not one where the details really matter. Case in point, it was great for tracking my general activity splashing around and floating in the ocean — but it’s not really the tracker I’d reach for if I were trying to track laps in the pool.

The Garmin Lily 2 is a simple yet chic hybrid analog smartwatch that delivers basic fitness tracking and notifications.

At 35mm, it’s a skosh bigger than the original Lily but much smaller than just about every other smartwatch on the market. It’s lighter than most at 24.4g, too. That makes this a supremely comfortable lil watch. Most days, I forgot I was wearing it.

While I’m no fashionista, I didn’t feel like my lilac review unit was hard to slot into my daily wardrobe. But if playful colors aren’t your thing, the Classic version is $30-50 more and has a more elegant feel, a more muted color palette, and nylon / leather straps. (It also adds contactless payments.)

As a woman with a small wrist, the 35mm size is a plus. But while I personally don’t think the Lily 2 has to be a women’s watch, it is undeniably dainty. If you want something with a more neutral vibe or a slightly bigger size, Garmin has the Vivomove Trend or Vivomove Sport. Withings’ ScanWatch 2 or ScanWatch Light are also compelling options.

The sensor array uses the last-gen Garmin optical heart rate sensor, but that’s fine on a casual tracker.

Ultimately, the Lily 2 is great for folks who want to be more active while trying to cut down on notifications. It’s also a great alternative if you miss the old Misfits, Jawbones, or Fitbit Alta HR. Deep down, I wish that were me, but the reality is I have too much gadget FOMO and care way too much about my running data. That said, the next time I go on vacation — or feel the urge to disconnect — I think I’ll reach for the Lily 2 and try to leave the rest of my life at home.

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