Garmin vs Apple Watch For Running? Which is better?

When it comes to running, there are a few different things to take into account when deciding on a watch. The GPS accuracy, battery performance, light-weight design, running metrics all come into play when choosing which watch is right for you.

The Garmin and Apple watches are two of the most popular options on the market, but which one is better for runners?

Though Apple Watch is the dominant wearable all over the world, Garmin refuses to budge in the sports wearable niche. To show its commitment to runners and triathlon athletes, the company has dedicated a series of GPS watches to runners under the ‘Forerunner’ Banner.

Related Post: Garmin Vs Apple Watch For Triathlon?

In a head-to-head comparison, Garmin Watches have an incredibly accurate GPS, ensuring that you have the most correct location at all times. The battery life is also superior, holding up to weeks of battery when in smartwatch mode. But the cream of the crop is the advanced running metrics like training effect, training load, running dynamics, and so on.

Apple Watch Series on the other hand is the right blend of sports, health, and lifestyle features. Surely, advanced runners may get frustrated due to the limitation of data, it covers almost all things that beginners might need.

So, if you’re an avid runner and want the best running watch out there, Garmin is the clear winner. However, if you’re just starting out or aren’t as serious about running (and an iPhone user), the Apple Watch is a great option.

This Apple vs Garmin watches showdown is purposely focused on their running capabilities. We hope that this post will help you make a well-informed decision.

Garmin vs Apple Watch For Running: The Ultimate Comparison

Price and Value:

With the Apple Watch, you can basically pick from the latest Apple Watch Series 7, the most affordable Series 3, or the mid-range Apple Watch SE. All these watches are priced between $180 and $400 for the base models.

Garmin on the other hand has a slew of smartwatches that can track run from entry-level to advanced. The least expensive Garmin Venu SQ, Forerunner 245, and Vivoactive 4/4S can all perform basic running tracking, whereas the most expensive Forerunner 945 and Fenix 6 Pro can track advanced metrics such as training load, running dynamics, and so on. However, you would have to pay more than $600 for these watches.

Options you have in the Apple Watch:

  • Apple Watch Series 7
  • Apple Watch Series 3 (most affordable)
  • Apple Watch SE

Options you have in the Garmin Watch:

For Entry-level Runners

Venu SQ, Venu, Vivoactive 3 Music, Vivoactive 4/4S, Forerunner 55, Forerunner 245 Music, Forerunner 45, Forerunner 35, Vivomove 3, Lily

For Advanced Runners

Garmin Forerunner 945 (best for triathlon), Fenix 6 Series, Forerunner 645, Forerunner 935, Forerunner 735 XT

Design & Display:

The design of the Apple Watch is essentially a square with rounded corners. With the latest models, the only noticeable difference is that the subtle curve at the edges and a thinner bezel around the screen. Compared to the Garmin watch, Apple has a bigger screen for real estate.

The circular design is what you would get on all the Garmin Watches except for the Venu SQ. Most of its watches lack touchscreen, and only a few have AMOLED displays. For runners, these fancy features can never be a deal-breaker. However, one can’t help but notice that the small screen in addition to smaller resolutions limits the viewable items in a single glance. So essentially you will have to navigate more on the Garmin watches to see all the data you need.

In terms of durability and comfort, Garmin Watches has a slight edge. Like Apple, most Garmin watches are 5 ATM rated for water resistance, but the plastic build and raised bezel on its watches make them less likely to break when dropped.

Music and Contactless Payment:

The Apple Watch is a great option if you want to leave your phone at home and still be able to track your runs. With the latest models, the watch can store up to 2,000 songs and with LTE versions, you can stream music without your iPhone.

Garmin doesn’t have an LTE feature to stream music but most of its Forerunner Watches come with a Music variant. You can store music on the watch from your PC or smartphone and can even download playlists from Spotify, Amazon Music, iHeartradio, and Pandora given you are a premium subscriber.

Like Apple Pay, the Garmin Watches also come with an NFC payment feature dubbed as Garmin Pay. This allows runners to leave their wallets behind and still be able to make payments at stores with contactless terminals.

If you compare Apple Pay with Garmin Pay, the former surely has the advantage. Firstly, it’s available in more countries than Garmin Pay. Secondly, Apple allows you to add up to 12 cards on your watch, while Garmin allows you to add a maximum of 10 cards.

GPS and Heart Rate Data:

The data accuracy of heart rate from an optical sensor is still disputable. Many believe that Garmin sensors are more accurate than those of the Apple Watch. However, we have found both their wearable to match in performance, however, the heart rate accuracy during running can still be questionable at times.

One option to improve the accuracy is to attach an external heart rate chest strap to the watch. While Apple watches have only the Bluetooth connectivity option, Garmin goes a step further to include ANT+ in the list.

Both their watches are equipped with multiple satellites navigation systems: They have support for Galileo and GLONASS in addition to the GPS. This dual-band multi-GNSS tech allows the advantage of better accuracy, fast signal locking, and better overall tracking.

In theory, both should be equal, but we have found Garmin GPS tracking to be more accurate and reliable. After all, the company has been found primarily on its prowess in GPS navigation.

Running Metrics:

The Apple Watch with a built-in altimeter, accelerometer, and gyroscope. This combination helps track running metrics such as cadence, stride length, pace, and all other essentials.

Garmin has always been a step ahead when it comes to running metrics. Its Premium Watches come with a ton of metrics and profiles for runners. To name a few:

  1. Running dynamics
  2. VO2 max estimation
  3. Performance and training status
  4. Training Effect and Training load calculations
  5. Heart Rate Tracking, HR Zone

For those who don’t know, Garmin’s Running Dynamics measures vertical oscillation, ground contact time balance, cadence, and stride length. These metrics provide runners with an in-depth analysis of their form, helping them to correct any mistakes they may have and improve their performance.

The popular running profiles include outdoor running, treadmill, trail running, triathlon, ultramarathon, and so on.

For the essential, both watch vendors satisfy the need and deliver top-notch performance. However, when it comes to metrics that separate serious runners from the lot, Garmin is definitely the brand to invest in.

Supported Apps:

Both Apple and Garmin have their own app stores where you can download third-party apps. However, when it comes to the sheer number of apps for runners Apple beats Garmin by a huge margin.

All your favorites like Nike Run Club, WorkOutDoors, Strava, Watch to 5K, Runkeeper, and RunGo can be found on the Apple Store. Whereas, Garmin Connect IQ store is kind of lacking in this regard. But there is a catch. You can still connect your Garmin Watch to popular ones like Runkeeper, Strava, and NRC to sync the running data.

Battery Performance:

The Apple Watch Series 3 came with an average battery life of around 18 hours. The LTE version had a slightly lower battery life of around 15 hours. Things have improved a little down the road. Even the latest Apple Watch Series 7 offers at most 36 hours of performance. This is an improvement over the earlier models, but it is still not enough for most runners who are out for a serious workout.

However, Garmin has always shinned in terms of battery life for its smartwatch. Garmin Fenix 6 series can last as long as 2 weeks on a single charge, and the latest Forerunner 945 doesn’t lag far behind. Some of its watches have even solar variants that can further prolong the battery life. It is a no-brainer to conclude that Garmin is the best option for long-distance runners.

Note: Keep in mind, These figures don’t account for the continuous GPS and Music streaming.

Final Verdict:

Both the smartwatches have their set of pros and cons. Each brand has its own fans. Apple is a well-established watch brand that offers a lot of bells and whistles, but when it comes to running, it can’t simply run over Garmin. The latter has been a specialist in sports watches for a long time and knows exactly what runners need.

If you are looking for an all-around running watch with excellent battery life and comprehensive metrics, Garmin is the way to go. However, if you are looking for something trendy and feature-rich watch that can do the essential run tracking, Apple is the better option.

Note: Many of the Garmin running watches are large and bulky, so you will have a hard time if you have a small wrist. Apple has been more considerate in this regard, as it always releases a small variant with its latest watch to cater to all types of audiences.