Garmin Watch vs Apple Watch: A Detailed Comparison

Smartwatches have become incredibly popular in recent years, with Apple and Garmin being two of the most prominent brands. Both offer stellar fitness tracking, health monitoring, notifications, music control, and more right from your wrist.

But when it comes to choosing between the Garmin and Apple Watch lines, which is the better option? In this in-depth comparison guide, we‘ll analyze the key differences between these wearables to help you decide.

Overview of Garmin and Apple Watches

Garmin entered the watch market in 2003 with running-focused models like the Forerunner series. Since then, they‘ve expanded into full-featured smartwatches with rugged designs perfect for sports and outdoor activities.

Key Garmin watch lines include:

  • Forerunner: Built for runners with advanced metrics like VO2 max estimating, race predictors, training plans, and more
  • Fenix: Rugged multisport watches with features tailored for hiking, climbing, skiing, and other adventures
  • Vivoactive: Affordable Garmin watches with activity profiles for over 20 sports
  • Venu: Garmin‘s full touchscreen smartwatch line with AMOLED displays and health tracking

Apple unveiled their first Apple Watch in 2015, aiming to create a stylish smartwatch that seamlessly pairs with the iPhone. Now on their 8th generation, Apple continues improving their health sensors and durability to appeal to athletes.

Current Apple Watch models include:

  • Series 8: The newest Apple Watch with crash detection, temperature sensing, and excellent fitness tracking
  • SE: A more affordable Apple Watch with key smartwatch features but fewer advanced health sensors
  • Ultra: Apple‘s most rugged watch yet made for intense sports, adventures, and expeditions

So both companies offer compelling smartwatches, but they take different approaches. Now let‘s compare them in depth across several key factors.

Design and Customization

Apple sticks to their recognizable squircle watch shape in aluminum, stainless steel, or titanium cases. You get bright, responsive touchscreens ranging from 40-49mm sizes. Interchangeable Apple Watch bands let you customize the look.

Garmin watches come in round and square shapes with physical buttons for navigation. Rugged materials like polymer and stainless steel help withstand intense activities. While Apple offers more size and band options for personalization, Garmin has more watch design varieties overall.

The Apple Watch looks more like jewelry and seamlessly pairs with both casual outfits and business attire. Garmin‘s durable designs fit better for serious workouts and outdoor adventures. So style preferences may guide your choice here.

Smartwatch Features

Both product lines offer full-fledged smartwatches that can display notifications, track activity throughout the day, control music playback, and more while connected to your phone.

Apple Watches exclusively work with iPhones while Garmin connects to both iOS and Android. But Apple’s deep integration with their devices enables added Apple Watch perks like walkie talkie communication, home control through Siri, Find My support to help locate misplaced devices, and unlocking your Mac.

Core smartwatch features like notifications and music controls work reliably on both platforms. But Apple pulls ahead for iPhone users wanting deep integration.

Fitness and Health Tracking

As leaders in the fitness wearables space, both Garmin and Apple invest heavily in activity tracking and health monitoring capabilities. Let‘s compare what both product lines offer.

Activity Monitoring

No matter which device you choose, you get continuous heart rate monitoring, daily step counting, calories burned tracking, and sleep analysis.

Apple Watches can automatically detect workouts like runs, swims, and walks for basic logging. But Garmin watches have many more built-in sport modes you can manually start – over 30 on some devices. These include hiking, skiing, paddleboarding, climbing, and more.

So Garmin gives you more robust metrics tailored for various sports. But Apple provides greater smartwatch-style convenience for casual users not training seriously.

Health Sensors

Apple and Garmin both provide extensive health monitoring, but Apple pulls ahead here:

  • Heart health: All models analyze heart rate variability and can take on-demand ECG readings to detect arrhythmia like atrial fibrillation. Apple also detects low/high heart rates and irregular rhythms.
  • Blood oxygen: Both measure SpO2 levels on demand. Apple Watches also periodically check overnight.
  • Temperature sensing: Exclusive to newer Apple Watches for detecting ovulation and illness onset.
  • Women‘s health: Apple has cycle tracking with retrospective ovulation estimates. Garmin lacks cycle tracking but some models log pregnancy symptoms.

For hardcore athletes, Garmin has training readiness metrics like stress scores, body battery energy reserves, Training Status judging if you’re maintaining/peaking/overreaching, and Training Load focusing on aerobic/anaerobic demands.

Overall Apple provides more robust 24/7 health monitoring while Garmin excels at metrics to maximize sports performance.

GPS Tracking

Both product lines contain built-in GPS for tracking pace, distance, and routes without carrying your phone. This allows leaving phones behind for runs and rides.

However, only certain Garmin models contain GPS. Their most affordable Vivo smartwatches lack this connectivity, instead tapping your phone‘s GPS when exercised with it. All Apple Watches have onboard GPS capability.

In independent GPS accuracy testing, Garmin slightly beats Apple, particularly over longer distances. But Apple watches provide reliable tracking for most users‘ needs. Just know that GPS isn’t available throughout Garmin’s entire lineup.

For serious runners, triathletes, and ultra-endurance athletes, Garmin’s top-tier sports watches have more advanced capabilities. These include optimizing difficulty on running/biking courses, creating courses to follow, providing grade-adjusted ascension/elevation tracking, and even preloaded TOPO maps.

Battery Life

One of Garmin‘s big advantages is vastly superior battery life compared to Apple – especially for models with basic memory LCD displays.

Apple watches must be charged nightly, lasting around 18 hours on a charge (and up to 36 hours with low power mode). The new Ultra model lasts 36 hours in normal usage.

Garmin battery life ranges from about one week up to a month depending on usage and model:

  • 5-7 days of regular smartwatch usage with some activity tracking
  • 7-15 hours training with continuous GPS
  • Weeks or months for basic models in watch mode with limited smart features

So while Apple devices must be charged daily, Garmin batteries can handle everything from an intense event like a 100-mile ultramarathon to a multi-day backpacking trip far from electricity. Big advantage Garmin.

Price Ranges

With both companies offering multiple watch lines, you can find budget-friendly options or high-end flagship models. Pricing breaks down like:


  • Apple Watch SE: $249+ (aluminum case, smartwatch capabilities, good fitness tracking)
  • Apple Watch Series 8: $399+ (top-tier health sensors, excellent software, durable design)
  • Apple Watch Ultra: $799+ (rugged titanium case and screen, geared for adventurers and extreme athletes)


  • Vivo line: $150-$500 (affordable smartwatches focused on health tracking over advanced training features)
  • Forerunner line: $200-$900 (specialized watches for runners packing advanced metrics and coaching)
  • Fenix line: $600-$1,500 (rugged yet feature-packed multisport watches with solar charging available)

There’s a lot of crossover at the $300-500 range where you’ll find both entry level and sophisticated models. Garmin ultimately has greater range from budget fitness trackers to expensive flagship adventure watches with every bell and whistle.

But Apple frequently offers good trade-in deals towards a new Apple Watch with a cellular plan. This can reduce effective costs for upgrade-happy users.

Which Is Better for You?

So is Garmin or Apple Watch the right choice? We can break down pros of each:

Key Apple Watch Pros

  • Greater smartwatch function integration with iPhones
  • More advanced health monitoring sensors
  • Excellent fitness companion for casual users
  • More style customization options
  • Good budget model available (SE)
  • Frequent upgrade incentives

Key Garmin Watch Pros

  • Far superior battery life, especially on higher-end models
  • Rugged, sports-focused designs
  • More outdoor recreation profile support
  • Advanced training metrics and analysis
  • Built to handle extreme events and environments
  • Better GPS precision for very long distances
  • Wider price range from $100 to $1,500+

If you‘re an iPhone user wanting a smartwatch that can also handle running and workouts, Apple Watch is likely the best choice. The seamless integration and health sensors make it great for 24/7 wear.

For serious athletes, hardcore adventurers, and Android owners, Garmin provides specialized watches that last longer and offer in-depth training insights. If you care more about tracking performance than stylish looks, Garmin wins out.

Within both brands, assess your budget and needs. Know that niche features like solar charging, multiband GPS support, and adventure-centric designs found on high-end Garmin watches cost a premium. And advanced Apple Watch health sensors only exist on the Series 8 or Ultra.

Hopefully this detailed Garmin vs Apple Watch comparison helps you decide on the right smartwatch purchase for your needs! Let us know if you have any other questions.

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