Last week I was moving furniture and a while later I looked down at my Garmin and realized I had somehow smashed the screen. Unlike an iPhone, the broken screen rendered it unusable.
So, I decided it might be a good time to try switching to the Apple watch, which I have wanted since Series 2 came out with GPS. My Garmin was great, so I had no reason to switch, but when it broke, I had an opening. I’m an Apple guy, with a MacBook, an iPhone, and an iPad mini from which I preach. The Watch completes my tech lineup.
[I found out later that Garmin would replace the watch, for a $40 fee, which is awesome. I decided to do that, but give it to Wes since he has been asking for a GPS watch recently]
While GPS watches are not cheap, for a runner it is a necessary expense. It’s a pretty cheap hobby, outside of the occasion watch, and the running shoes every couple of months.
I got the watch in the mail on Monday, August 7th. Here are my thoughts as they unfold:
I have the Apple Watch Series 2 (3 is coming out soon). It is 42mm. It is the Nike Sport edition, all grey.
Running and Steps
Monday, 8/7: Initially, it didn’t track my steps, or the test run I did. I spent some time on the phone with Apple and it turned out I just needed a software update. It’s an easy thing with an Apple phone, but with the Watch it wasn’t obvious at first how to check.
After my update, I did a test run and it seemed to track fine. I will use it in runs and see how it does.
Tuesday, 8/8: I took it out today for my first real run. Here are some thoughts:
Accuracy: it was exactly right. I took a route I knew and tested it against known distances and it was accurate to the hundredth of a mile. Along part of my running trail there are mile markers and it was exact compared to those as well.
Ending Workout: I sweat a lot, and one of the factors that made me hesitate to buy an Apple Watch was the lack of physical buttons to end a workout. Today I could not get it to stop; however, it appears you are supposed to swipe right, then hit pause. If so, then it works fine. I’ll try it again tomorrow.
Wednesday, 8/9: I did an 8.07 mile run this morning.
Starting Workout: I am using the Nike Run app, and it counts down from 3 once you hit start. Not a big deal, but you have to factor that in if you’re running a race.
Accuracy: I took a different route, but, once again, the distance was accurate. I checked it against what I knew, as well as using the Map My Run website.
Ending Workout and Pausing: today I swiped right and hit pause and it worked fine. I have noticed there is a little lag, but if you know it in advance it doesn’t make a difference.
Thursday, 8/10: I did a 7 mile run on the treadmill. Like the Garmin, the Apple Watch is a little off when tracking a run indoors. Although the treadmill said 7.0 miles, the Apple watch said 6.57 miles, so it was off by 6%. This is par for the course. My runs upload to Smashrun and I simply edited it to reflect the actual distance.
Saturday, 8/12: I did a 10 mile run this morning. Again, the GPS tracking was perfect. I had my phone in my flipbelt and was able to control my music from my watch.
After running all week with this watch, I am used to the start and stop. To pause a workout, you swipe right and hit pause twice. I thought it was simply lagging, but it looks like you hit it twice. Either way, it works fine and it not an issue. I prefer the Garmin’s buttons, but this is totally workable.
After putting on about 40 miles since Monday, I think the Apple Watch works great for running.
Monday, 8/7: I can receive text messages and FB messages on my watch. I knew it did this, but I didn’t realize I can actually respond. It has a microphone so I speak and it types. The first few tests were good so far.
Saturday, 8/12: After using the watch all week, this has become one of my favorite (and unexpected) features. The voice dictation is almost perfect. I can respond to texts quickly, and accurately.
Monday, 8/7: This has been the big negative from what “people” say. I’m going to see how it does. The Garmin will go for a few days, even with running, and I know going into this the Apple Watch will be much worse.
Tuesday, 8/8: I let it charge overnight. After a 45 minute run, the charge went from 100% to 93%. As of 6pm, it is at 60%. I’ve used voice text, check emails, FB messages, and more. This is a good start.
Wednesday, 8/9: I charged overnight again, and after a 8.07 mile run the charge went to 88%.
Saturday, 8/12: After a 10 mile run, the battery charge went from 100% to 89%. I had my phone with me, and the charge must not have drawn as much from the watch, since the phone was supplementing navigation.
Battery life is not an issue for my purposes.
The Watch has the Apple Pay app on it. I’ve used it from time to time on my phone, but it doesn’t feel terribly practical. However, the Watch is even easier, so I might seek out a chance to use it.
Garmin vs. Apple Watch
I have been using a Garmin Vivoactive HR. Retail: $230. The Apple is a Series 2 (Nike Edition), currently $329 at Target.
Running Accuracy: push; they were exactly the same.
Running Functionality: push; both of them start and stop and accurately track runs. However, there may be some advanced features on the Garmin (and, for that matter, the Apple Watch) that I don’t use (like uploading workouts). For my purposes, both of them do what I need.
Battery Life: Garmin. However, unless you want to wear the watch overnight, this is a non-factor.
Screen Brightness: Apple Watch, by a long shot. The Garmin Vivoactive can be hard to read in light. This is a huge benefit to know you can read your watch in any light.
Appearance: Apple Watch. This is a preference, but the Apple Watch not only looks better in normal set up, it also has a wide variety of bands and accessories.
Smart Phone Extras: Apple Watch, by a long shot. I can get my messages, alerts, weather and heart rate on the Garmin. On the Apple, I can actually respond to messages via microphone, and it’s incredibly accurate. I can also check email, read FB messages and respond to them (again, via Microphone).
Other things the Apple Watch does:
-Remotely control camera
-Unlock my MacBook by just sitting in front of it
-Allow me to use my calendar app
-Utilize Apple Pay
-Use maps for directions
-And a whole bunch of apps I haven’t even touched
Bottom Line Recommendation
I prefer the Apple Watch.
Having a decent GPS watch is one of the few expenses of running. Aside from shoes and an accurate watch, running is a cheap sport. You will have to pay to enter a race, of course, but your average 5k is cheaper than 9 holes of golf.
If you’re looking for pure run functionality, the Garmin is still the standard bearer. Depending on which Garmin you buy, it’s either going to be as expensive, a little more, or, in the case of the Garmin Vivoactive, slightly cheaper. A Garmin is a great purchase, but the Apple Watch accurately tracks run just as well.
And the Apple does so much more. I bought the Series 2. Since the Series 3 is comes out the 2 will be even cheaper. If you’re looking for a watch that you can use for tracking workouts and do a lot more, the Apple is the way to go.