Using the Garmin D2 Air smartwatch with your iPhone

Garmin D2 smartwatch
Garmin D2 smartwatch

The D2 Air features a vibrant AMOLED screen and a host of built-in sensors.

Garmin’s latest smartwatch, the D2 Air, has been getting a lot of attention since it was announced in late September. It boasts a bright touchscreen display with a built-in pulse oximeter, yet still weighs 50% less than previous generation D2 watches. It can navigate to the nearest airport, show your pressure altitude, and even monitor your heart rate. After a few weeks of testing, we are very impressed—it’s easily Garmin’s best aviation watch yet.

While the D2 Air can function quite well as a standalone navigator (using the internal GPS and aviation database), it is even more powerful when paired with a smartphone. This allows you to get updated weather and even share flight plans; it’s really an extension of your flight deck. Here’s what it can do.

First, download the free Garmin Connect app on your phone. This is not an aviation-specific app, but it’s the main connection between your watch and the internet. This app will allow you to sync calendar appointments and contacts, track your workout data, and push email/phone/text alerts to your watch.

To make the connection, press the bottom button on the right side of the watch, tap on settings symbol, and choose the Phone option. This will put the watch in pairing mode. On your phone, open the Garmin Connect app and add a device—D2 Air should be one of the options. Note that you won’t go to the main Settings app as you would with most wireless devices. All pairing is done directly in the Garmin Connect app.

Once you’re paired, you can adjust options and set up personal information, from downloading music (the watch supports Spotify and Amazon Music) to enabling Garmin Pay (the company’s contactless payment system). One thing that’s worth spending some time on is the order of widgets. These are the dedicated screens that are accessible by swiping up or down from the main watch face. The Garmin Connect app makes it easy to add, remove, and reorder these widgets to suit your preference (see middle screen below). You can also track your health metrics here in the app, from heart rate to steps (see far right screen below).

The D2 Air can display live METARs and TAFs anytime you’re connected to the Garmin Connect app on your phone and you have an active internet connection. This is an easy way to check whether without needing to look at your phone or tablet.

To unlock all the aviation features, download the Garmin Pilot app and sign in. If you’ve already paired your watch to your phone with the Garmin Connect app, you should see the D2 Air available under the the Connext menu. This is the place to find all external devices, from GDL 50 ADS-B receivers to Flight Stream panel-mount devices. Tapping on the D2 Air will show details about the watch, including battery life, GPS status, and your recent heart rate and oxygen levels. This is also the place to sync flight plans. In the right screenshot below, you can see that we’ve loaded a flight plan from I69 to IXD on our phone, including a STAR at our destination. To send that complete route to the D2 Air, tap the Send To arrow.

Unlike the higher priced D2 Delta series, which is still available, the D2 Air cannot display a moving map or animated radar. However, we like the screen and smaller size of the D2 Air more than the D2 Delta. Also note that flight plan sync is not available with ForeFlight or other apps.

The D2 Air Smartwatch is available for $499, a great value considering all the features it has. The Garmin Connect app is free to download for iOS and Android. Garmin Pilot is free to download (also for iOS and Android) but requires an annual subscription to unlock most features.

13 replies
  1. Ricardo Burgos
    Ricardo Burgos says:

    Does Connext require a paid subscription to fully link the watch to an iPad with Garmin Pilot app?

    • John Zimmerman
      John Zimmerman says:

      Yes, you’ll need an active Garmin Pilot subscription to sync flight plans. However, you can do almost everything else (including updated METARs/TAFs and pulse oximeter tracking) using only the free Connect app.

  2. Bob Knutson
    Bob Knutson says:

    Useless paperweight until they make it compatible with other PFD apps, and they are in no hurry to support competition. Garmin’s days are numbered.

    • FredB
      FredB says:

      This is the nearsighted issue with manufactures trying to build everything then a wall around this. It is the wrong approach to appealing to the masses!

  3. Michael Dziubinski
    Michael Dziubinski says:

    Dear Bob,
    Received my “useless paperweight” 3 days ago and my only disappointment is that it’s to light to hold down my papers. As an aviation tool so far it has met expectations and my reasons for purchasing: active SPO2 monitoring, quick reference utc/local time, stop watch, fuel tank timer with vibration alert, and another back up to flying with an IPAD and planes with GN650 and G1000 navigation systems . I avoided the earlier D2 watches as they were overly configured and priced accordingly: I have no need or desire to transfer a flight plan to my watch, and what can I really do with a watch size moving map? I wouldn’t be flying IFR with it and if its VFR I always have my paper sectional and a compass as backup #4.

    So far its been a good value, with a good price point, and enough aviation functionality to be a good compliment to my other electronics.

    Finally, my view on Garmin is that until the FAA certifies the portable IPAD and Foreflight (both awesome and my preferred tools) for IFR navigation and control, Garmin will remain relevant.

    Best to you

    • Carolina
      Carolina says:

      Hi Michael, i Just want aks you because a i´m looking this watch for my husband, it´s a gift, he is pilot and he is going to fly many places around the world so he wants a watch that he can see the local time and the times of the places that he has to be. Do you recommend this watch? Thanks!!!

  4. Tim
    Tim says:

    My D2 Air will not stay connected via BT. I have to force it. It also seems cheap. Good thing I kept the box.

  5. Anil
    Anil says:

    My D2 keeps loosing the METAR and other widget data until restart the watch. It does not update even after manual sync using Connect app.
    I am also worried that the METAR stays the same and does not update.
    Anyone else noticed that?

    • Pj Bamford
      Pj Bamford says:

      Mine is exactly the same, it’s driving me insane, I’ve contacted Garmin I’m just waiting for a reply

  6. Rick
    Rick says:

    This watch is junk! $500 for a plastic watch! Garmin needs to get out of the watch business.
    Consistently says I have no internet connection, yet the iPhone has five bars of cell service – 5G. The touch screen has a lot to be desired, late and slow in response (Apple has nothing to worry about)..sending it back as soon as I can find the box.

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