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Apple Watch vs. Garmin: which one should you get?

Apple Watch vs. Garmin: which one should you get?


Are you active, or are you seriously active?

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When you're surrounded by smartwatch early-adopters and you opt to wear a Garmin multi-sport watch as your daily driver, you inevitably hear "What is that?" at least a couple times.

At least, that's been my experience with the Garmin Forerunner 735XT, which I've been wearing for the past few weeks. It's an expensive but useful multi-sport watch that tracks your hiking, running, and cycling adventures, as well as your daily steps and sleep levels. It has built-in GPS and Glonass, and it's fully waterproof, so you can wear it to track swimming and it won't get ruined in a downpour (like the one I found myself in recently during a hike). The thing is, like a lot of multi-sport watches, it still looks like a plastic toy on your wrist.

The next thing people usually ask me is "How does it compare to an Apple Watch or Fitbit?" Which is interesting, really, because these things are fundamentally different, but in the expanding venn diagram of activity trackers they do have overlapping features. Apple Watch is a smartwatch, but has more health-tracking features than almost every other smartwatch; Fitbit makes lightweight step-counting wristbands, but also offers the GPS-equipped Surge sport watch; and Garmin is for your ruddy-cheeked friends who climb mountains and ride their bikes 50 miles on weekends — for fun — but now even Garmin does "smart" notifications on its watches. So for this week's Versus video I compared two of the above: a Garmin, and the Apple Watch.

In short, Apple Watch is a very capable fitness tracker, to the extent that its health and fitness features are a big reason why people even buy the Watch. But in a lot of ways it's still smartwatch first, fitness tracker second — even the Sport model, which lacks some basic sport-related features (like GPS). Garmin, on the other hand, has been in the outdoor fitness market for years, and manages to pack an absurd amount of fitness-tracking features into its long-lasting watches. You might not want to wear your Garmin out to a nice dinner, but if you're seriously active it's going to serve you in ways that Apple Watch just doesn't.