Apple Watch vs Garmin

Last Updated on March 1, 2021 by James Matthews

It used to be that Apple was a smart watch that was good for nothing more than pairing to your phone. That said, it was the first smart watch that paired to your phone in a way that made it actually cool to wear.

Then Garmin upped their game. Garmin began pairing their fitness watches with phones and offered many of the same features that Apple Watch had. Apple Watch answered back by adding more fitness features to their smart watch.

Now, both watches can pair with your phone or operate (at least partially) on their own. They can both play huge song lists of music, too. They both include setting to encourage you to keep moving and celebrate achieving your daily activity goals.

Garmin started as a fitness watch and Apple started as a smart watch. They have both been moving toward each other long enough to have more overlap than differences in their features. This leaves us wondering, “Which one is the best choice?”

How does each watch perform as a smartwatch?

Garmin uses Bluetooth to pair with your phone. This means that it only works when they’re within Bluetooth range of your smartphone. This makes sense and is generally not an issue since most people carry their phone around in a place that is pretty handy.

Apple took convenience a step further by offering a model that include cellular connectivity directly in the watch. This means that your phone won’t need to be nearby for your Apple watch to work.


Both watches do a great job notifying you when you have incoming calls or messages. They can both alert you to emails and other notifications. They also both offer a few options for how to set those notifications. You can ask your watch to vibrate or buzz whenever a notification comes in.

One of the defining differences between the two watches is their responsiveness. While Garmin will notify you of any messages from any kind of phone, including Android and Windows phones, it will not allow you to respond to those messages.

On the other hand, the Apple watch includes a feature that will let you respond to messages by voice or using text. For many people, this ability to respond via watch is a feature that moves the Apple watch far into the lead.

Apple also offers a touch screen that Garmin lacks. While this touch screen can be tough to see in direct sunlight many people view it as a huge plus in the Apple column. Other people prefer the side buttons found on a Garmin. It lights up bright enough to make it easy to see even when outdoors.


Since smartwatches are generally worn throughout the entire day, it is important to note that Apple offers some more stylish options. Comparatively, Garmin is a little bit clunky and does not allow you to change out the band to match your outfit or your personal style. Fashion conscious people around the country cite this as a huge reason to vote for the Apple watch when choosing the best smartwatch.

Ultimately Apple proves to be the better daily smartwatch option. Though if you are using an Android based phone, this point is moot, and Garmin might be the right choice for you.

How long does each battery last?

At first it will sound like Garmin is the clear winner here. It has a battery life of more than a full week, and potentially as much as two weeks, depending on how much you use the GPS to track your exercise. On the other hand, the Apple watch will get you through the day, but that’s about it.

When you remember that the Apple watch cannot track your sleep, this answer becomes a bit more complicated. If you are not planning to wear your watch throughout the night, plugging it in to charge every evening can easily become a part of your nightly routine.

Then again, with Garmin you won’t have to set this routine and can just charge your watch periodically. This also means a single overnight away from home won’t require that you bring something to charge your watch. This also makes outdoor lovers happy since they can easily take their Garmin hiking for a few days without worrying about its battery life. 

Which is the better fitness tracker?

In today’s world fitness tracker can mean different things to different people. Some people use their fitness tracker to ensure they get in their daily steps and take pride in the number of flights of stairs that they climb. Other people use their fitness tracker to log their runs or cycling rides or swims as they train for major competitions.

With that in mind, we are breaking down this category into a couple of smaller ones:

Daily activity

When it comes to tracking daily activity like steps and flights of stairs, Apple offers a really cool interface that allows you to fill up a rainbow of circles. Once all your circles are full your goals are accomplished, and you know you can relax on the couch guilt free for the evening. The more stylish looks of the Apple watch may also make you more likely to wear it consistently throughout every day.

Garmin doesn’t offer these clear-cut goals, but it does track the same information. You have to scroll through a few menus to get there and the celebration when you achieve a goal is much smaller and sometimes harder to find. The Garmin online interface and phone app will show your progress with these goals from day-to-day and week-to-week, it just might not be as satisfying as filling a rainbow of circles each day.


For those who want a fitness tracker that can track their exercise, Garmin offers a few features that Apple is lacking. Garmin has the ability to log your running miles, your cycling distance, and even your swim strokes. It can tell your pace while you run tends to be user friendly while you’re bouncing up and down and has many years of experience showing you the data you need to track your physical fitness goals.

Since Garmin started out as this kind of specific exercise tracker, they offer some advantages that Apple just can’t match. Garmin now has Garmin Coach available that will preprogram runs for you to get you from couch to 5K or help you meet your next marathon time goal.

Probably the single most distinguishing feature between the two, when it comes to exercise, is the swimming option. Garmin is waterproof and can log your miles while you swim. The Apple watch is toast the minute it gets wet. If swimming is your jam, Garmin may be your definitive winner.

While Garmin will need to pair with your phone to upload your fitness data, it can track workouts without needing cellular connection or service. This make it easy to enjoy a winding run through the woods or a refreshing set of laps in the pool without worrying about a pocket or waterproof container for your phone.

While Apple has its own cellular connection and is often the clear winner in the smartwatch category, it just can’t match the power of Garmin’s exercise tracking options. If all you want is a daily fitness tracker, Apple may still be your winner, but if you have a fitness goal and are building your athletic abilities, Garmin may be the bitter fit for your wrist.

Will they monitor my heartrate?

Both Garmin and the Apple watch are now able to accurately track your heartrate on your wrist. This feature is really pretty equal between the two. The format of the display and the data looks a bit different for each, but they both align with the style of their other features.

This means that if you love the Apple watch for other reasons, you will likely also prefer their heartrate data over the display used by Garmin. Garmin fans will likely have the opposite experience. Those who are really happy with Garmin’s other displays and features will also like their information about their heartrate.

Can they track my sleep?

Of these two options, Garmin is the only watch that is able to track your sleep. That said, there are third party apps that are designed to work with the Apple watch to track your sleep, if it is something you want.

It is important to note that some people report suffering from skin irritation and even potential burns from wearing their Garmin watch 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Garmin themselves recommend taking off the watch to clean both it and your skin frequently. Many people have found that the best balance for wearing a watch like this is to take it off at night while they sleep.

There is also a great deal of debate about the accuracy and reliability of sleep trackers like the one used by Garmin. Garmin Connect does allow you to confirm or alter your sleep patterns, which suggests that their faith in the sleep tracker may not be 100%.

For those of you who prefer not to sleep with a watch on, this may not be a feature that is high on your priorities. On the other hand, those of you who struggle with insomnia an want a watch primarily for this benefit will find it important to note that Garmin is the only one with this feature, unless your willing to sort through and find a third-party app for the Apple watch. 

Which is the best watch for me?

The cell phone that you carry may be the biggest predictor of which watch you will prefer, but it doesn’t have to be. While anyone who prefers and Android or Windows phone will likely want the flexibility of a Garmin watch, those who love their iPhone may still decide that a Garmin watch is appropriate for their lifestyle and goals. When it comes to an Apple Watch vs. a Garmin, it’s really up to you.

Garmin Forerunner 945 Premium

Athletes, data nerds, and outdoor adventurers tend to agree that Gamin makes the better fitness watch. Being able to track data on the web-based platform and having a battery that outlasts ultramarathons are big advantages. Even better, they combine with a very practical waterproof feature that lets Garmin keep up any crazy adventure imaginable.

If you prefer being outside over sitting in an office or have ever registered for some kind of athletic competition, Garmin is the way to go. The same is true if you enjoy being able to easily connect the watch that tracks the calories you burn to myfitnesspal to compare that with the calories that you eat.

In short, Garmin far out-performs Apple when it comes to a physically active lifestyle. Those who love to see all of their data throughout history spread out appreciate that Garmin can help them analyze it as much or as little as they please. For many, the data tracking, swimming option, and long battery life make Garmin the clear winner.

Apple Series 5 (GPS + Cellular 44mm)

The Apple watch is often preferred by those who want to ensure that their watch is both fully function and looks good with their outfit. Not only does it come with the status of Apple, but its ability to reply to messages is a feature many successful individuals cannot live without.

Those who lead a very social active lifestyle often prefer the Apple watch because it allows you to leave your phone behind without losing your connections to the world. If you have no interest in being an athlete, this watch will likely do everything that you want, and more, while looking great!

The Apple watch is the more stylish choice, and it will better allow you to connect with others. It links all of your Apple accounts and makes using Apple Pay easy and convenient. It’s the perfect choice for the social and tech adept leaders who want to be at the forefront of their industry.