Apple watch vs Garmin: The better watch for runners in 2024

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Running watches are notoriously difficult to decide on. There are many different models, price categories and brands. Also, when weighing your options you might - despite best intentions - go for a flashy watch that doesn’t suit your specific needs as a runner.

And that bulky watch with a thousand features that you have been eyeballing might actually be the least comfortable device you have ever strapped on your wrist.

Can the new Apple watch compete with Garmin?

There are many things to factor into your decision that go beyond price and look. For the purpose of this guide, I will showcase a few of the best watches from Apple and its competitor Garmin.

And in the process, we will explore whether it makes more sense for you to go with one over the other. When comparing Apple vs. Garmin you want the perspective and honest opinion of a runner and I tried both watches for running. So, when you compare a Garmin watch vs Apple watch for running, which one should you buy?

Running Watch Comparison: Apple Watch vs Garmin Fenix 6

Is an Apple watch better than a Garmin running watch? Stepping into the ring are two heavyweights in the industry. Let’s see which running watch makes the most sense for you to buy.

Let's compare the Apple watch vs. the Garmin Fenix which is the most advanced GPS watch Garmin has to offer. Spoiler alert, this will be a really close match between Apple vs Garmin.

This is the heavy-hitter in the lineup for Apple right now. With it, runners will get a sleek-looking watch with all of the functionality of the series 8, and more!

Depending on whether you want phone connectivity or just the GPS and health analytics, the price for the new Apple Watch Series 9 will fluctuate. If you do decide to get your watch connected through a carrier like Verizon or AT&T, you will be paying more money for connectivity (receiving and making calls) than just sticking with the GPS model.

Although the Apple 9 Series is the top-of-the-line smartwatch these days, for running, you can get the same sort of features, but more in-depth analytics that is relevant to running with the Garmin Fenix 6.

Again though, it’s a pretty close call in our battle Apple watch vs Garmin watch. The Apple Watch is the better general-purpose smartwatch for the money, and the Garmin Fenix 6 works better as a tool for endurance athletes because it’s more specialized for sports. Check the best deals for the Apple watch.

Pros of the Apple Watch Series 9:

  • A lot of storage and a new core processor for increased application efficiency.
  • An always-on screen for convenience.
  • Similar battery life as the 8 Series (if the always-on display is turned off).
  • A wide range of watch faces to pick from and customize.
  • Apple Watch Series 9 cases are swim proof and dust proof with a crack-resistant front crystal.
  • Standard running apps and health tracking with the option of downloading a lot of helpful applications for endurance runners.
  • A built-in compass that is actually pretty accurate.
What are the disadvantages of Apple Watch?
  • Not that many applications are geared strictly towards serious endurance athletes - only generalized health apps and tracking.
  • The new features don’t necessarily justify the price tag.
  • Sweaty arms and hands will make it hard to control the touch screen in the summer.
  • The price is hefty.

Apple Watch vs Garmin: The Garmin Fenix 6

When it comes to watches that are solely made for running and outdoor navigation, Garmin pulled no punches with their latest Fenix 6.

The battery life can last hundreds of days while in its maximum battery mode. Garmin has clearly optimized the watch to cater less to flashiness and more to functionality.

This functionality and increased emphasis on making a powerful “sport watch” is just one of the many reasons that this watch is a great choice for athletes - especially runners. Check prices for the Garmin Fenix 6.

Pros of the Fenix 6:

  • Solars power capability for the Fenix 6 Pro Solar.
  • Different sizes and capabilities (all based on the money you want to spend).
  • Targeted workouts with accompanying stats, metrics, respiration rate, PacePro feature, and newer applications designed specifically for athletes.
  • Music and maps capability in the more expensive (Pro) versions of the watch.
  • You can customize the watch face for the look you want.
  • Stress reaction metrics to balance rest and stressful moments in your life. On top of this, the Fenix 6 provides sleep monitoring.
  • The trademark Garmin GPS and navigation functionality.
Cons of the Fenix Series 6:
  • The watch itself is expensive! The newest model means that the price tag can be pretty steep when compared to lower-end models. If this is not your first rodeo though, consider investing in the newest that Garmin has to offer.
  • Maybe a little bit overkill with all of the features. Depending on how hardcore of a watch enthusiast you are, another of the cheaper Garmin options - like the Forerunner 35 - might be worth a look.
  • It doesn’t look all that pretty or stylish when compared to the smaller, less cumbersome watches out there.

Verdict for Garmin watch vs apple watch

This is a close battle between Apple vs Garmin because each watch is so different in look and provided features. The Apple Series 9 looks better and offers more streamlined, standard features for the everyday fitness enthusiast.

The Fenix Series 6, on the other hand, is designed more for the running professional. So, if you are a runner and you want a top-of-the-line watch for performance metrics and navigation, then this is the clear winner.

Because this is about watches for runners, in particular, the Fenix Series 6 is the winner. But Apple has been slowly adding its navigational capacity and accurate readings to the mix of its technology, so before long, both will be even.

Apple vs Garmin FAQs

Is the Garmin watch better than the Apple Watch?

Simply put, Apple cares more about providing a “smart” watch for all of its users than delivering fitness results. It has many convenient, user-friendly applications for tracking health metrics, but it is not geared specifically toward running.

Take the Forerunner 945 and you have “runner” in the title alone. This is because Garmin has been in the business of providing athletes with tools for tracking and navigation. The answer to the question then takes the form of another question: as a runner, what are you looking to gain from your watch?

If you care more about connectivity, music, and smart capabilities, then go for the Apple watch. And if you want more heavy-duty features for health tracking and running performance, then go for the Garmin!

Is Garmin or Apple Watch more accurate?

The Garmin watches are known for their GPS and navigation ability, so when it comes to tracking those instances, the Garmin usually wins out over Apple Watches.

However, there are unique cases and complaints that frequent the web, showing that Garmin’s software can sometimes bug up. It happens to the best of us!

With fitness monitoring and health tracking, both Apple and Garmin fare about the same. Apple does well with general fitness metrics and Garmin does better with advanced performance measurements.

To say that either is any more accurate than the other is largely based upon model and use case, but for connectivity and general-purpose functionality, the Apple watch is much smarter; the Garmin is better with GPS and more advanced metrics.

Do Garmin Smartwatches work with iPhones?

Unfortunately, Garmin does not synch with IOS. If that's a deal-breaker for you while deciding between Garmin and Apple, you should go with the Apple watch.

Which Garmin should I buy?

I’d suggest checking out my 5 best Garmin running watches for a similar breakdown of other great running watches. Additionally, if you are a first-time buyer of running watches, you obviously should work your way up the ladder of features.

The Garmin Forerunner 35, Vivoactive Music 3, or any of the other cheaper Forerunner models can serve you well on your mission to track your health.

Do you need a GPS watch?

You don't need a GPS watch to run, but, if you want to track your runs when it comes to your metrics, it is super helpful to run with a GPS watch.

Which Garmin is the best to buy?

If you're debating which Garmin watches you should buy, consider looking into these models. These are my favorites when it comes to the absolute best Garmin watch, the best value, the best running watch for beginners, and the best basic running watch. Also, please head over to my article comparing the best Garmin running watches overall.

Best Overall:
Garmin Vivoactive 4

Best Value:
Garmin Vivoactive 3

Best for Basics:
Garmin Vivomove HR

Best for Beginners:
Garmin Forerunner 45

Why you can trust Sabrina Wieser
Runningbrina is committed to bringing you unbiased ratings and information. Her editorial content is not influenced by advertisers. Sabrina uses data-driven methodologies to evaluate all products, so all brands are measured equally.
  • Most featured running blog, past 6 years
  • USATF certified running coach
  • Experienced endurance athlete
  • 7 marathons

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