If you’re searching for a top-quality all-in-one smartwatch and fitness tracker, there’s no looking past Apple and Garmin. But, as both manufacturers offer excellent devices filled with great features, the question is, how do you choose between the two? Both brands present a long list of compelling arguments why you should choose them.
We’ve done extensive research and compared the two across all key characteristics. So, if you need help deciding which premium brand is best for you, read this Garmin vs Apple Watch comparison article to learn everything you should know.
Apple watches are arguably the most popular smartwatches in the world. Despite their fairly high price point, these watches are prevalent among customers who want a luxury smartwatch with strong fitness tracking features. Keeping this in mind, we’ll take a look at one entry-level and one premium Apple Watch model:
Apple Watch SE GPS-Only
The GPS-only Apple Watch SE model provides a unique price point for Apple Watch enthusiasts who can’t or don’t want to purchase an expensive Apple Watch model. It’s missing some features like ECG and Blood Oxygen measurement tools but provides excellent all-around value overall for first-time Apple Watch buyers.
- An affordable Apple smartwatch
- Great fitness tracking properties
- Fall detection and automatic emergency contact
- Very good battery life
- Missing some advanced features of more expensive Apple Watch models
- No always-on display
Apple Watch Series 7 GPS + Cellular
If you’re looking for a smartwatch with Cellular capabilities, the Series 7 GPS + Cellular model is a top option. Apart from its Cellular feature, this model also packs a great variety of fitness and smartwatch features. Of course, it’s also on the pricier end of the scale and could benefit from a slightly longer battery life.
- Cellular feature
- 32GB of storage space
- Large always-on display
- Relatively expensive
- Only compatible with iOS devices
Garmin watches are the top pick for fitness enthusiasts, as they are undoubtedly among the best sports watches currently available on the market. That said, many Garmin watches also offer excellent smartwatch features. Here are a couple of Garmin watches worth your attention:
Garmin Venu 2
Garmin Venu 2 is all about fitness and health. It can track most routine activities and many other specific types of workouts. In addition, it’s very customizable and has a long-lasting battery. If you’re looking for a smartwatch that compromises some smartwatch features but has strong fitness properties, this is the right pick for you.
- Compatible with both iOS and Android
- Body Battery feature
- Great battery life
- Stylish design
- Relatively small display
- No Cellular capabilities
Garmin Fenix 7
The Fenix 7 is one of Garmin’s most advanced multi-sports smartwatches. It includes a ton of handy training tools. It also features stats like stamina and training load in a simple and easy-to-digest layout. It’s a bit heavier than most smartwatches but is also very durable and boasts a long-lasting battery.
- Robust design
- Excellent multi-sport support
- Plenty of supported fitness and navigation apps
- Intuitive touchscreen
- Fairly Expensive
- Low-contrast display
Watch feature comparison
Although Apple keeps improving the battery life of its watches with each new generation, these improvements aren’t very significant. If we focus on the long haul, it seems that Apple is losing this battle to Garmin. While the battery life on Garmin watches varies between models, Garmin watches generally offer better performance in this regard.
To be more specific, most Apple watches can last less than one day, around eighteen hours. In comparison, many Garmin watches can get you through an entire week without requiring a charge. Some Garmin watches can last up to several weeks. Taking this into account, Garmin is the clear winner in this category.
Heart Rate Monitor
Both Garmin and Apple watches are advanced enough to track your resting heart rate throughout the day and night. Additionally, these watches also track your active heart rate during workouts.
What’s more, Garmin and Apple watches also track heart rate zones during exercise, and record average and maximum heart rate. Overall, we’d say that newer Apple watches offer a bit more accurate heart rate sensors.
Touch Screen Technology
Both Garmin and Apple watches deliver top-of-the-line touch screen technology. However, different Garmin watches use different touch screen technology. For example, the Fenix 7 uses a transflective memory-in-pixel screen, while Venu 2 and Epix watches use AMOLED screens.
In contrast, newer Apple watches employ standard OLED displays with integrated touch sensors. That said, as Apple watches generally feature more fluid animations and a more responsive touch screen, we give Apple a slight edge when it comes to touch screen technology.
Watch Display Shape
Both older and newer generations of Apple watches have a fairly similar display shape design. This is the recognizable rounded square look Apple has used for its watches for years. In comparison, most Garmin watches feature a round display. That said, you can also find some Garmin watches with a rounded square display design.
Many Garmin watches allow you to interact with notifications once you pair your watch with your smartphone. If you have an Android smartphone, you can see and reply to the messages directly from your Garmin watch. Currently, you can only see notifications and not respond to them if you have an iOS device.
Looking at the texting features of Apple watches, it’s clear that Apple has an advantage in this category as well. Moreover, if you get a Cellular Apple Watch model, you can receive messages and reply to them directly from your Apple Watch without having your phone near you.
Garmin watches allow you to view notifications and reply to them if necessary. However, this is all fairly basic and nothing compared to what newer Apple smartwatches offer. Apple smartwatches allow you to intuitively view and respond to notifications. You can easily scroll through notifications using the Digital Crown and respond to them simply with a tap. Such functionality makes Apple a much better performer in this category.
Garmin watches support the Garmin Pay contactless payment solution. It’s quick and easy to use and works almost everywhere where contactless payments are available. Still, although Garmin Pay is an excellent payment app, it simply can’t match the payment support of the significantly more popular Apple Pay tool. Apple Pay is accepted by over 85% of retailers in the US and has a clear edge in this category.
Generally speaking, Garmin watches offer better app compatibility. Looking into the specifics, the Garmin Connect app is compatible with any iPhone, iPad, or iPod Touch device running iOS 13 or higher. The Garmin Connect app also works on any Android device that natively supports Google Play Store and uses a 7.0 Android Operating System or higher.
Apple’s official stance is that Apple watches aren’t compatible with Android devices. In other words, you can only use an Apple Watch with a device running on iOS. More specifically, you need an iPhone 6 or later model running on iOS 15 or higher. Considering this, Garmin offers better flexibility as you can connect a wider variety of compatible devices.
Both Garmin and Apple offer great incident detection features that monitor your activity and keep you safe. Apple watches have a fall detection feature that automatically triggers if the watch senses you’ve suddenly stopped moving. It then asks you whether or not you want to contact emergency services. If you don’t answer or remain immobile for more than a minute, the watch will automatically contact emergency services.
Garmin watches have a similar incident detection mechanism. When a Garmin watch senses that you’ve fallen, it automatically sends your name and location to the emergency contact you’ve previously set. However, Garmin watches do not notify emergency services on their own as Apple watches do. Because of this, we give Apple Watch models a slight advantage.
Besides their high-end design and advanced smartwatch features, Garmin and Apple watches are also known for their extensive fitness tracking capabilities. Here’s how the two brands fare in this Garmin vs Apple Watch fitness tracking comparison:
The two brands approach sleep tracking from two very different perspectives. Apple watches have a relatively basic and straightforward sleep tracking feature. They only track essential functions like your total time asleep, heart rate, calorie burn, and any disturbances you experience while sleeping.
In contrast, Garmin watches track all of this and several more aspects. They even track the light, deep, and REM stages of your sleep. Using all of this information, they provide you with an overall score based on the quality of your sleep. With all of this in mind, Garmin watches perform much better for sleep tracking when comparing Apple Watch vs Garmin.
If you’re looking for a powerful tool for tracking your swimming activities, you won’t go wrong no matter which of these two brands you decide to go with. Both Garmin and Apple are very precise at tracking your exercises in pools and open water.
That said, Garmin supports more swimming modes and performance monitoring features. Moreover, there’s even a special Garmin Swim™ 2 watch for hardcore swimmers. Considering this, we give Garmin watches a slight advantage.
Garmin and Apple watches are equally adept for tracking cycling activities. With GPS capabilities, excellent heart rate monitoring features, and customizable map features, both brands perform very well in this category. Moreover, with some standout features like Garmin’s Body Battery and Apple’s ECG monitor, tracking cycling activities is precise and convenient.
Blood oxygen level
Both Apple and Garmin watches offer relatively consistent and precise measurements of blood oxygen levels. They measure your blood oxygen saturation, providing helpful insight into your body’s oxygen levels during sleep or specific workout activities.
As two premium-priced smartwatch brands, both manufacturers have put in extra effort to introduce standout features that separate them from the competition. With that in mind, let’s take a close look at some standout features you’ll find in Garmin and Apple smartwatches:
Both Garmin and Apple support GPS navigation across nearly all newer models. Moreover, most Garmin and Apple watches are also equipped with GLONASS and Galileo. Additionally, some Apple Watch models also come with QZSS and BeiDou, setting them apart from Garmin watches. Regarding GPS accuracy, both Garmin and Apple watches are pretty similar in this regard.
Customizable Maps and Routes
You can create custom routes for running or riding your bicycle using the Garmin Connect app. The routes are easy to create in the Garmin Connect app on your Android or iOS device. And once you create a custom map, you can send it to your Garmin watch so you can navigate your customized route from your wrist. Apple watches also allow you to create customizable maps and routes. You can use Apple or Google Maps, or one of many apps available in the Apple Store.
Many Garmin watches support a native hydration tracking app that lets you log in your daily water intake and set reminders to ensure you’re getting enough water to stay hydrated. Apple watches also support hydration tracking features.
However, these are only available via third-party apps in the Apple Store, as there is currently no native Apple hydration tracking app available. Considering this, Garmin watches are a better pick if you want native support and detailed hydration tracking.
Garmin watches have a unique Body Battery feature. Body Battery uses a combination of different factors such as stress, heart rate variability, and overall activity to estimate how much energy you have “left in the tank” for the rest of the day.
The Body Battery uses a 1-100 measuring system. The higher the number, the more perceived energy you have left to complete activities. This gamified approach to measuring overall energy levels provides a unique and interesting take that sets newer Garmin watches apart from all other fitness trackers out there.
Respond to Text Messages
Garmin watches include a convenient “respond to text messages” feature that allows you to quickly respond to a message after receiving a notification. Garmin wearers can customize the messages in the Garmin Connect app and send quick replies with just a few taps.
Apple Watch wearers can also utilize a similar feature to instantly reply to text messages. Additionally, the Apple Tapback tool allows wearers to quickly respond to messages using symbols like a heart, thumbs-up, or thumbs-down.
Recent Apple models also come with an ECG (electrocardiogram) feature. Garmin watches are yet to introduce such a monitoring feature. Newer Apple Watch versions with the ECG features can provide much more accurate heart rate readings than standard optical sensors available in most other smartwatches.
The ECG monitor provides five measurement outcomes. Most importantly, it can tell when the watch wearer has atrial fibrillation (irregular and possibly very high heartbeat).
If you or your significant other is currently going through pregnancy, the pregnancy tracking feature that comes with Garmin devices can be very useful. Garmin’s Pregnancy Tracking app lets users track essential data like morning sickness, baby kicks, and all changes that occur during their nine months of pregnancy.
By comparison, if you opt for an Apple smartwatch, you can also download a pregnancy and baby tracker on your Apple Watch to track your baby’s growth. It also offers many useful pregnancy tracking tools and tips. However, we’ve found that Apple’s pregnancy tracking tool is not as feature-rich or intuitive as Garmin’s Pregnancy Tracking app.
The Garmin Connect app offers very solid respiration tracking capabilities. It shows daytime and nighttime averages and displays the lowest and highest number of breaths per minute for a specific timeframe. This makes it very useful for exercising, during which respiration rates usually double or triple compared to rest times.
The Apple Health app also works pretty much identically, only in a differently designed package. Unfortunately, navigating the Health app can get complicated sometimes. You often have to do a lot of digging and open several subtabs to see precise and detailed information. With this in mind, although both brands offer excellent respiration tracking, Garmin gets a slight edge for its user-friendliness.
Menstrual Cycle Tracking
Going down the list of standout features, both Garmin and Apple watches come with a menstrual tracking feature. The Apple Cycle Tracking feature lets users log and track menstrual cycle symptoms, flow levels, and more. Cycle Tracking also predicts fertile windows and future monthly periods for users who enable notifications.
In comparison, the Garmin Connect tool also allows users to log and get reports on their cycles to help them better understand their bodies. The Garmin Connect feature is very inclusive and works for regular, irregular, and menopause transitions.
Looking at the prices of the available Apple and Garmin models, it’s safe to say that Garmin has the advantage in this regard. This is because Garmin models cover almost every price point, so it’s easy to find a suitable Garmin smartwatch that fits your budget. You can choose from watches that start at just over $100 up to models that cost well over $1,000.
This isn’t as convenient with Apple smartwatches. If you want a newer Apple Watch, you can pick between SE and Series 7 models. SE models start at $279 for 40mm case sizes and $309 for 44mm sizes. Series 7 watches go from $399 (GPS-only 41mm case size) to $529 (GPS + Cellular 45mm case size).
If you’re looking for a clear winner of this Garmin vs Apple Watch comparison, we’re sorry to say that it’s not as straightforward as that. That said, it’s clear that Apple watches are undoubtedly stronger performers on the smartwatch front. They are highly versatile and support a ton of smartwatch features, making them ideal for both the office and the gym.
On the other hand, Garmin watches also have their advantages. Most notably, they generally have significantly longer-lasting batteries. They are also more suitable for various training activities and offer slightly better sleep monitoring capabilities. Plus, Garmin offers many more models to choose from, making it easy to find a watch best-suited for your budget and preferences.
Hopefully, these differences, along with the detailed information we’ve shared above, are enough to help you decide between these two top-quality brands. You can count on high-end and feature-rich hardware regardless of which brand you decide to go with.