Garmin Forerunner 955 vs Apple Watch Ultra Comparison

2022 saw the release of two highly anticipated smartwatches, the Garmin Forerunner 955 and the Apple Watch Ultra. While the former is Apple’s first outdoor watch, Garmin FR 955 is the newest in the Forerunner line of smartwatches.

A comparison between these two top-of-the-line smartwatches is bound to be interesting,  as it will tell us how far their parent companies have come in terms of technology and design.

Before we start comparing the differences between the Garmin Forerunner 955 and the Apple Watch Ultra, it is very important to understand their target audience. Apple Watch Ultra aims for a general outdoor-loving audience while the Forerunner 955 is designed specifically for advanced runners, and in general for athletes.

While this comparison will briefly cover all departments (from pricing to battery performance), our main goal is to find out how capable is the new Apple Watch against the industry leader in tracking runs.

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General Comparison

Garmin Forerunner 955Apple Watch Ultra
Release DateJune 2022September 2022
PredecessorGarmin Forerunner 945Apple Watch 7
CompanyGarminApple Inc
Operating SystemGarmin OSWear OS
Compatible SmartphonesAndroid, iOSiOS
Competition Polar Grit X Pro, Sunnto 9, Galaxy Watch 5 ProFitbit Sense 2, Ticwatch Pro 4G, Galaxy Watch 5/5 Pro, Garmin Fenix 7
SensorsMulti-Frequency Positioning, SATIQ Technology, Garmin Elevate Optical Heart Rate, Barometric Altimeter, Gyroscope, Compass, Accelerometer, Thermometer, Blood oxygen sensorAmbient light sensor, High dynamic range Gyroscope, Accelerometer, Emergency SOS, Third-generation optical heart sensor, Electrical heart sensor, Blood oxygen sensor, altimeter, Compass, Water temperature sensor    

Pricing:

Apple Watch Ultra is available in one size and there are no separate cellular or GPS models of the watch. You would have to pay around $800 for the watch, and that’s it.

Garmin Forerunner 955 is also available in one size, but it is categorized into a Solar and Non-Solar variants. If you want the solar model, you’ll have to pay $100 more. The base model is priced at around $500.

As expected, Apple Watch Ultra costs more. However, the pricing difference isn’t enough to make a decision yet.

Winner: Garmin Forerunner 955

Design & Display:

Garmin Forerunner 955Apple Watch Ultra
Dimensions46.5 x 46.5 x 14.4 mm49 x  44 x 14.4 mm
Buttons5 Buttons1 button+ Digital Crown
Weight 52 grams61.3 grams
ColorsBlack, WhitestoneNatural titanium
Band Size22 mmNot specified
Casing Materialfiber-reinforced polymerTitanium
Strap MaterialsiliconeSilicone 
Screen Size1.3 inches1.8 inches
Screen Typesunlight-visible, transflective memory-in-pixel (MIP)Retina LTPO OLED display
Screen Resolution260 x 260 pixels410 x 502 pixels
Screen ProtectionCorning Gorilla Glass DXSapphire Crystal Glass
Always-on DisplayYesYes
Waterproofing5 ATM (up to 50m) | Suitable for Shower, Swimming10 ATM (up to 100m) | Suitable for Shower, Swimming

As mentioned earlier, Apple Watch Ultra comes in only one size 49mm, the largest iWatch to date. The watch casing is made from Titanium whereas the back is of ceramic. There is only one color option available for the case, however, three new bands accompany this model. One significant addition is the ‘Action button’ that can be customized to your liking.

The display is always-on and is protected by sapphire crystal. It uses an LTPO OLED panel which is brighter than the previous models (2000 nits vs 1000 nits). The sapphire crystal screen on the watch ensures that it is scratch-resistant. The watch is also water-resistant up to 100 meters. The company has managed to get military-grade certification (MIL-STD 810G) for the watch as well. In short, Apple Watch Ultra means business when it comes to durability.

On the other hand, Garmin Forerunner 955 is also available in one size and follows a traditional circular design. The casing is made of plastic, and the screen is protected by Gorilla Glass. It has almost the same thickness as the iWatch Ultra (14.4mm) but is 10g lighter. FR 955 is available in multiple colors and its straps can be easily swapped.

The differences between the two watches are prominent in the display, where Garmin Forerunner 955 uses a transflective MIP color LCD. The resolution is also not as high as that of the iWatch, but the screen remains visible in direct sunlight. Unlike the touchscreen display of the iWatch, you would have to use the 5 physical buttons on the side for navigation.

No matter how you look at it, Apple Watch Ultra is the clear winner with its superior watch resistance (100m against 50m), rugged exterior, and lush display.

Winner: Apple Watch Ultra

Smart Features:

Garmin Forerunner 955Apple Watch Ultra
Operating SystemGarmin OSWatch OS
Connectivity OptionsBluetooth, ANT+, Wi-FiLTE and UMTS, Wi-Fi, Bluetooth 5.3 
ProcessorNot SpecifiedS8 with 64-bit dual-core processor
RAMNot Specified1GB RAM
Storage32GB32GB
Companion AppConnect IQWatch
Contactless Payment (NFC)Garmin PayApple Pay
Standalone Calling and TextingNoYes
Voice Assistant NoSiri

When it comes to smart features, Garmin watches are not as feature-rich as Apple. FR 955 can make contactless payments via Garmin Pay and can stream music via Deezer and Spotify. However, these are the only two notable features that it has to offer.

The list of features on the Apple Watch Ultra is much longer. In addition to contactless payments and music streaming, you also get standalone cellular connectivity for calling & texting a dependable voice assistant in Siri, and tons of third-party apps via the App Store.

This is a clear victory for the Apple Watch Ultra, but as far as practical features for runners are concerned, both are equally capable.

Winner: Apple Watch Ultra

Fitness Tracking:

We have further divided the fitness tracking features into two parts – Running Features and Overall Health Tracking.

Health Monitoring:

Garmin Forerunner 955Apple Watch Ultra
Heart Rate TrackingYes Yes 
Sleep MonitoringYesYes (Advanced)
Stress TrackingYesYes
ECG MonitoringNoYes
Blood Oxygen Saturation (SpO2) monitoringYesYes

Apple Watch Ultra comes equipped with a range of biosensors to track your health. It has an ECG sensor to track your heart rate and rhythm. There is a blood oxygen sensor as well to monitor the oxygen saturation in your blood. Regular features such as sleep tracking, heart rate monitoring, and calorie counting are also present.

Take aside the ECG and the FR 955  has all the health monitoring features that  Apple offers. Its new Elevate V4 sensor and first beat analytics have a proven track record in delivering accurate fitness and health data.

Running Features:

Garmin Forerunner 955Apple Watch Ultra
Workouts50+30+
Automatic Workout TrackingYesYes
Advanced Running MetricsVertical Oscillations, Ground Contact time, Stride Length, Running PowerRunning Dynamics & Running Power with Foodpod
Compatible Running AppsNike Run Club, Strava, Runkeeper, MapMyRun, Watchto5KStrava Routes, RunSafe+, Trail Run/Running
GPS TrackingDual Band GPS, GLONASS, GalileoL1+L5 GPS Band, GLONASS, Galileo, QZSS, and BeiDou

Multi-band GPS is one of the headline features on the FR 955. This ensures that you get accurate tracking even in challenging environments. Interestingly, Apple Watch Ultra has also moved to a multi-band GPS system this year. We are expecting to get a similar level of accuracy in terms of position tracking.

Garmin FR 255 has almost 7 different running profiles with a ton of metrics in each workout mode. Basics like duration, time, distance, pace, and calories are all there. In addition, you also get advanced features such as VO2 Max, Training Status, Lactate Threshold, Race predictor, and more. When linked with a foot pod, the watch can track jump height, contact time, and vertical oscillation.

Before WatchOS9, Apple Watch didn’t have as many running features as the FR 955. However, with the latest OS, it has become a lot more capable. The watch can now track metrics Heart Rate Zone, Stride Length, Ground Contact Time, Vertical Oscillation, Average Power, and more without having to rely on any external sensor. Plus there is a triathlon mode for tracking your progress in multi-sport events.

It looks like Apple just copied all the features from FR 955 to offset its inferiority, but we would still give a slight edge to Garmin as it has more comprehensive data analysis and its history of being a go-to device for runners. Apple Watch Ultra has yet to prove its mettle in the world of running.

Winner: Garmin FR 955

Battery Performance:

Garmin Forerunner 955Apple Watch Ultra
Battery Typelithium-ionlithium-ion
Expected Battery Performance 8.5 hours + Up to 15 days in smartwatch ModeUp to 36 hours, Up to 18 hours LTE
Fast Charging SupportNoYes

Apple Watch Ultra has doubled down on its battery performance as the company claims that the new watch will offer 36 hours of juice on a single charge.

This is a significant improvement over the 18 hours of battery life offered by the Apple Watch 8. The bigger size and bulky design of the iWatch Ultra allow it to add a 76% larger battery than the regular watch.

The company has also added a new low-power setting which will allow users to get an additional 24 hours of battery life by disabling all power-hungry features. Apple Watch Ultra delivers 60 hours in the battery-saver mode.

Despite these improvements, Apple’s battery performance pales in comparison to Garmin which recently mocked the Cupertino company by claiming “We measure battery life in months. Not hours“.

The solar edition of Garmin Forerunner 955 can certainly back this claim as it offers up to 20 days of battery life on a single charge with the help of its solar panel. The base model will last you 10-12 days at least in the smartwatch mode.

Winner: Garmin Forerunner 955

Garmin Forerunner 955 vs Apple Watch Ultra Comparison: Final Verdict

Apple Watch Ultra comes at the top in every department except for the battery life and the running features. We will update this comparison, as soon as the watch hits the markets later this month.

If you are looking for a smartwatch primarily for running, then go for Garmin Forerunner 955. Even if the Apple Watch Ultra is capable of what it claims, Garmin has had these features for years now. Plus the extra battery life provided by the solar panel is simply unmatched.