Apple watch versus Garmin watch comparison

I’ve never had an Apple Watch before. I’ve had several Garmin sports watches before and I actually still have the Garmin 645 Music. But I’ve been an Apple user for about five years now and I do a lot of running, walking and a little bit of cycling. I track all my activities. Not just for time but also to be able to look back where I’ve been or just for overall stats.

Left: Garmin 645
Right: Apple Watch 5

So when I had the opportunity to get the Apple Watch 5 with a discount, I decided to give it a go. I’m happy there’s a 40 mm and a 44 mm option. I have small wrists, so went with the 40 mm. And I use the standard sports band that comes with the watch. I’ve noticed the band irritates my wrist less than the Garmin wristband does.

I mostly just use the standard workout app on the watch. I’ve also tried the Nike Running Club app as well. I prefer the Workout app though, since for some reason the NRC app uses the audio of the watch rather than putting the audio over my headphones if you start the app on the watch itself, so all of a sudden the watch starts shouting times at you and everyone around you can hear it. It doesn’t do this when I start it on my phone, but then it doesn’t always transfer it to the watch.

Nike Running Club app

One of the main reasons I wanted to try another watch was because I had issues with the heart rate monitor on the Garmin. I had a Garmin FR 225 before and the heart rate sensor on that one was pretty okay, but they seem to have changed it in the newer versions and it no longer works for me. I have a very high heart rate, but it doesn’t seem to detect it. However, that is something the Apple Watch does really well. It doesn’t seem to have any issues detecting the right heart rate. 

When I got the watch about 10 months ago there was no sleep tracking on it. Apple has since fixed that with WatchOS 7. Something that was long overdue in my opinion, other sports watches have been doing it for years. I also had to set the watch to theatre mode so the display would go dark, rather than being on all the time, which really drains the battery.

Workout app

Speaking of battery, not something I particularly like about the Apple Watch. If you’re lucky the battery lasts a day, while I can easily get several days with my Garmin. If you use it with GPS it drains even faster. I’ve read several stories of people saying they could not get through a marathon with their Apple Watch, so I didn’t plan on doing this since I also still have my Garmin watch. However, Corona happened and so did virtual races. I ran my first virtual marathon and to be safe I decided to track my run with two watches, both the Garmin and the Apple Watch. I had put the Apple watch in Theater mode so the display isn’t always on and it easily made it through and I’m a slow runner.

Another thing they’ve changed is that it’s now easier to pause the watch during a workout. You just press the two buttons on the side at the same time to pause. However to end the workout you still need to swipe and end it and there also isn’t an easy way to discard the workout after you’ve stopped it. All these things I find a bit more intuitive with a Garmin watch. 

Garmin 645 Music

So, the first race that I ran with the Apple Watch was a 5K. But at the end of the run it wasn’t a 5K according to the watch. I knew that route had been used before by the same organisation and if it was short I’m sure they would have figured that out by then. And I noticed that everyone wearing Garmin watched did not consider it to be too short. Meaning that it is more likely to be an issue with my watch rather than the course.

I also ran two virtual marathons with both watches and in general the Apple Watch is always a bit off, mostly behind. And if I look at the route it has tracked on the map, it seems to skip the corners and turns more often than the Garmin does. It should support the same types of satellites as Garmin does. But with Garmin I can choose which satellites it uses (I have it on GPS + Glonass), but I can’t find the setting on the Apple Watch and I can’t see what it’s using exactly. Maybe it’s possible, but I still haven’t found that option yet. 

Running a virtual marathon with two watches

Obviously you can do a whole lot more with an Apple Watch. You can customise the watch face, but the same goes for Garmin. But the Apple Watch is a much more all round smartwatch than a Garmin. You can call with the watch and it can even alert emergency services or loved ones when you fall down or something else is wrong. I like the heart rate sensor on the Apple and there are lots of other convenient things it can do that have nothing to do with sports. But I like the battery life of the Garmin and I find it more user friendly and intuitive when it comes to tracking activities. So now I just need a watch that combines the two so I no longer have to choose which of the two watches I’m going to wear.

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