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5 reasons why I use a Garmin tracker over an Apple Watch

Key Takeaways

  • Garmin is more compatible with a range of mobile devices than Apple, which requires an Apple phone.
  • Apple watches lag behind in battery life and training features.
  • Garmin offers a wider selection of watches tailored to different activities compared to Apple’s limited options.



There are plenty of fitness trackers out there, but Garmin and Apple frequently come head-to-head. Both companies make high-quality, capable fitness trackers that are worthy of your money. Nevertheless, I stick to Garmin trackers for some key reasons. Here’s why.

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Compatibility

Apple is an exclusive club

The Apple Watch on a wrist in front of a blurred green background.

First and foremost, let it be known that I use an Android phone (insert gasp here). So, even if I wanted to use the Apple Watch, I wouldn’t be able to pair it to my phone. Without that pairing ability, it’s essentially useless. To use an Apple Watch, you need an Apple phone.

One of the key advantages of Garmin is its compatibility with a wide range of devices.


Garmin, on the other hand, is much more versatile, working with any Apple iOS or Android device. That includes the iPhone, iPod Touch, as long as they’re running iOS 15.0 or higher, and any Android phone or tablet that natively supports the Google Play Store and has 7.0 Android Operating System or higher. The only phones that could experience issues are Huawei phones, the Lenovo Vibe X S960, the Meizu MX4, and the Samsung J3 Model J320FN, though they may just require some Bluetooth troubleshooting.

One of the key advantages of Garmin is its compatibility with a wide range of devices. This broad compatibility means that even if I decide to switch from my Samsung phone to something else, I can still use my Garmin watches without any issues. That flexibility alone is reason enough for me to stick with Garmin over Apple for my fitness watch needs.

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Selection

If you want options, Garmin has them

Seven Garmin watches lined up on a windowsill.

Apple makes three configurations of its Apple Watch, though functionally, there’s not much difference between them. Meanwhile, Garmin offers 17 distinct product lines (minus the two made for kids) with multiple versions within each category. These watches are purpose-built for different types of activities, such as running, swimming, hiking, flying, golf, and more.

While each of Garmin’s watches offers superb versatility, allowing tracking of all sorts of activities beyond the main purpose, they also offer specific features just for that primary activity. There’s lots of overlap, to be sure, but there are also unique features on each that you won’t get on others. For example, the Forerunner series, which Garmin designed for runners, offers running metrics that you won’t have access to on the Instinct, the company’s rugged, long-lasting series of watches.


Even if you are more of a generalist or casual athlete, Garmin’s extensive lineup offers a diverse range of looks, so you can choose a watch that fits your style.

If you are hyper-focused on a specific sport, having a watch that is designed just for that is highly beneficial. It provides unique insights and valuable tools that you could be missing out on otherwise. Even if you are more of a generalist or casual athlete, Garmin’s extensive lineup offers a diverse range of looks, so you can choose a watch that fits your style. Some of Garmin’s watches are even customizable, allowing you to choose your case material and color with a wide range of watch band materials and colors.


Such a wide selection can be intimidating, so I suppose this could be a negative for people as well. Luckily, Garmin makes it relatively easy to sort through which watch might be best for you based on features and activities that you take part in. I see the large selection as a win, as I can pick something that very specifically fits my needs instead of opting for a device that is more generally built.

Battery life

Garmin devices last for weeks

The Garmin Lily 2 next to the Apple Watch on a windowsill with a plant.

While Apple likes to boast about the groundbreaking battery life of each new Apple Watch, it still doesn’t hold a candle to most of Garmin’s devices. One of Garmin’s watches, the Instinct 2x Solar, for example, in theory, has infinite battery life depending on GPS use and sun exposure. Even Garmin’s more budget-friendly, smartwatch-style offerings offer up to five days of juice, which is the lowest across all of Garmin’s offerings. Broadly speaking, most provide roughly one to two weeks of life.


Apple, on the other hand, tops out at 72 hours in Low Power Mode on the Ultra 2, its rugged adventure watch. The Apple Watch SE and Apple Watch Series 9 only promise 18 hours. Some people report getting more than that, but still not more than a few days.

For anyone who participates in long activities, from long-distance running or cycling to multi-day backpacking trips, lengthy battery life is absolutely essential. I’ve had plenty of watches die mid-run or hike. While it’s mostly just frustrating to lose out on that data (and credit for the activity), there are certain times it could be a safety issue if I’m relying on navigation or the safety features from the watch.

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Training features

Get fit with Garmin

A phone with Garmin Connect displayed resting against running shoes with a Garmin Forerunner 965 watch.


One of my favorite things about Garmin watches is the robust training features. On Apple Watches, the most you can do is track workouts and close your rings each day. But getting (and staying) fit is a lot more nuanced than that. For example, there are days that you shouldn’t close all of your activity rings because of poor sleep, illness, or overtraining. Plus, Apple doesn’t provide any real suggestions on what your training should include, so those who could use some guidance are missing out.

Garmin offers a useful suite of training tools to help you understand your fitness and work to improve. That includes providing scores for different aspects of your fitness, such as broadly used metrics like VO2 Max and Training Load, but also proprietary tools like Hill Score, Cycling Ability, and more, depending on your particular watch. These give you a bigger picture of your fitness and areas you could improve.


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Beyond the vast training scores and metrics that Garmin watches provide access to, most will also provide daily training suggestions. These daily suggestions generate a workout based on your current training load, load focus, recovery time, sleep data, and data from any recently performed workouts. That means it’s tailored to you and that particular day. Beyond that, you can also find a selection of training plans in the Garmin Connect app and can add any races or events so that the watch can take those into account as well.

Not all of Garmin’s watches are created equally when it comes to training features, but most offer a very useful set of tools to help you improve your fitness over time. For anyone who is somewhat serious about staying active, I would definitely recommend a Garmin over an Apple Watch.


Customization

Garmin puts more control in your hands

A Garmin watch with Spotify on it on a wrist.

Finally, Garmin devices are typically much more customizable than Apple Watches. Some are more customizable than others, but generally speaking, it’s much easier to tailor your Garmin watch to your likes and preferences than it is with an Apple Watch. The buttons on the sides of Garmin devices add to the customizability since they allow you to program shortcuts to your liking. Those buttons also keep you out of menus, so you can instantly access what you ended most.

Not all of Garmin’s watches are created equally when it comes to training features, but most offer a very useful set of tools to help you improve your fitness over time.


Garmin’s interface is also very customizable, allowing you to truly get the most out of your watch based on how you use it. You can fine-tune all sorts of settings to either get more battery life or more features and precise information. There are presets to choose from, or you can make your own or even just adjust things individually. For example, there are four different GPS settings alone(not including Auto and Off) to choose from. If you want to really adjust your watch to your needs, a Garmin is the way to go.

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