Apple Watch Ultra 2 vs. Garmin Forerunner 965 Comparison

Unlike its first generation which was a major breakthrough, Apple Watch Ultra 2 has been released with only iterative changes. There is a new processor this time; the storage has doubled. The screen is slightly brighter and the battery has got a slight boost.

The price tag remained the same, $800 USD.

Garmin Forerunner 965 doesn’t compete directly with the Apple Watch Ultra Series. However, its name often comes up as an alternative when runners consider a GPS watch to pair with their iPhones. 

Let’s take a look at their strengths and weaknesses. In this Apple Watch Ultra 2 vs. Garmin Forerunner 965 comparison, we are going to compete with them in different departments.

Pricing & Availability:

There is only one model available for Garmin Forerunner 965 with a retail price of $600 USD. The same goes for Apple Watch Ultra 2, but the price for this one is $800.

$200 price difference. 

Pretty huge when you are on a budget. Also, you might get a better deal on Garmin FR 965 from third-party retailers.

Winner: Garmin Forerunner 965.

Design & Display:

Apple Watch Ultra 2 vs Garmin Forerunner 965 Design and Display

Both watches are almost identical to their predecessor. Apple Watch Ultra 2 more than Forerunner 965.  It has a  flat 49mm squarish display, a programmable action button on one side, and digital crown+Side button on the other. 

Forerunner 965 has a 47.2mm circular display and a titanium bezel around the screen. It has a 5-button navigation system apart from the touchscreen. This makes it easier to control the watch when your hands are sweaty or when you are wearing gloves.

Ultra 2 looks premium with its titanium casing and Retina display. One thing is sure, you are going to get more real estate on this watch so can view 7 items at a glance.

You can comfortably wear both watches all day long and can subject them to mild abuse. As for water resistance, the Apple Watch offers double the protection against water ingress. 

Next, the display department. Again, the Apple watch is slightly better. The watch has a 1.92-inch screen with a peak brightness of 3,000 nits and a high resolution of 410 by 502. You won’t have any problem reading anything on this watch even in direct sunlight. 

In contrast, Garmin FR 965 offers 1000 nits brightness, though the screen resolutions are almost the same. Being a runner, this distinction becomes very important if you are planning your next race with any of these watches. More brightness is always better for an AMOLED display.

Winner: Apple Watch Ultra 2

Smartwatch Capabilities:

Apple Watch Ultra 2 is a way better smartwatch than FR 965. 

Let’s start with the Garmin Watch first.

  1. FR 965 can store music (and also stream playlists from Spotify)
  2. It is compatible with both Android and IOS
  3. Can mimic phone notifications and text messages (and can respond to them when it is paired to Android)
  4. FR 965 can make contactless payments at NFC terminals via Garmin Pay
  5. It can set the timer,  check the weather, and show the calendar (pretty much basic for a $600 smartwatch)
  6. Can install apps and watch faces available on Garmin ConnectIQ stores (Apps are pretty basic and mostly sports-targeted)

The list of capabilities ends here.

Now, let’s consider Apple Watch Ultra 2.

  1. Like all Apple Watches, it is only compatible with IOS
  2. It can make and receive phone calls (Standalone with LTE support)
  3. Respond to text messages
  4. Gesture Control (Double Tap feature)
  5. There are thousands plus third-party apps (the largest collection of wearable apps)
  6. Can both store and stream music 
  7. Offers an intuitive UI, the best user experience on a smartwatch
  8. It has Voice Assistant Support (excellent speaker and microphone quality)

The list goes on, but the point is pretty clear. 

Winner: As a smartwatch, the Apple Watch Ultra 2 is a far better option than any Garmin on the market.

Health and Sports Tracking:

Apple Watch Ultra 2 vs Garmin Forerunner 965 Health and Sports tracking

Both Apple and Garmin can track a ton load of health data that includes heart rate, sleep, body temperature, SpO2, and so on. However, the Apple watch has the distinction of tracking ECG too, which is FDA-approved, and so pretty reliable.

All these health metrics are of little value when you don’t know what to do with them. Here, Garmin takes the lead as it feeds these raw metrics into more advanced and comprehensive features. Your Forerunner watch is going to tell you recovery time, training readiness, and body battery so you can better optimize your next move. 

Next, the GPS tracking on both these watches is spot-on, however, the Garmin watch is quick in locking signals and is slightly more accurate.

From a workout perspective, the Apple Watch Ultra 2 is more of a rounded tracker. Forerunner can also track multiple workouts, but it’s laser-shopped and focused on running. 

There are multiple running profiles on Garmin Watch, you can program races or run against a virtual partner, and have a ton of advanced running and recovery metrics. Apple Watch covers some of the advanced running metrics (stride Length, Ground Contact Time, and Vertical Oscillation) but still needs major breakthroughs to close the gap. For elite runners looking for a no-frills smartwatch, FR 965 is still a better option.

Apart from running, Garmin tracks enough swimming and cycling metrics to make it a full triathlon watch. The same goes for Apple Watch Ultra 2. 

Winner: Tied (Pick Garmin Forerunner 965 if you are a runner; Apple Watch Ultra 2 if you are looking for a multisport watch and own an iPhone.

Battery Performance:

There has been a slight improvement in Apple Watch battery performance. The normal functioning battery performance remains the same at 36 hours, but the watch can now last 72 hours on a single charge. 

Compared to these figures, the Garmin Forerunner 965 has a far superior battery life. In basic smartwatch modes, you get performance in weeks not days. Even if you are hell-bent on depleting the power by using all battery-hungry features (GPS, Music) extensively, this watch can last for a week at least.

Winner: Garmin Forerunner 965 ( If you don’t want to charge your watch every 2-3 days, buy Garmin)

Apple Watch Ultra 2 vs Garmin Forerunner 965: Final Verdict

There is one and only one scenario when I recommend buying a Garmin watch instead of Apple to pair with your iPhone: running. Garmin Forerunner 965 can help you train smarter. The watch is lightweight, can track a range of running profiles, covers advanced metrics, and most importantly, gives you actionable insights to align your training with your goals. Also, it is compatible with most running apps and equipment.

Apple Watch Ultra 2 is a better option if you need a multisport watch, and are interested in outdoor adventures.