Apple Watch Series 6 v Garmin Forerunner 735XT

Just recently Apple announced the Apple Watch Series 6. It has a whole batch of sensors in it and connectivity on mass. You can create your very own version of it, by matching the watch part itself, with different bands from Apple or third party sources.

For me, the main question was: Is it worth the money? Spending a lot on an Apple Watch (here in Germany it starts at 420€) is a purchase that should be well thought through.

Most reviews I saw or could find were focusing on the upgrade path. Questions were answered that came from „Should I buy the 6 if I have the 5“ or „Is buying the 6 better or the SE“. As I said, the main thing for me is, that I came from a different eco system. I had a Garmin Forerunner 735XT for around three and a half years. And the switch to an Apple Watch is just something different. But lets get started and have a look onto my findings,

What did my transition look like

Let me start by saying, that I am in a very lucky position and I have both an Android Phone as well as an iPhone at hand. This means, I can transition back and forth between the two of them.

The Garmin watch was always connected to my Android phone. It syncs all its data to Garmin Connect, a nice App that is flooded with information. I really like using it.

As a central service to share my activities I use the free tier of Strava. Garmin Connect is a collection of everything and Strava is basically the activities minus some specific data that I don‘t want to share.

When moving to the new Apple Watch I just installed Strava and Garmin Connect on my iPhone and connected both apps to the Health App on the iPhone. That was pretty straight forward.

The advantage is, that thanks to Strava, I can still share my runs and activities, but now even more granular as I can only import specific activities. What I don‘t like is, that Garmin Connect can not import activities from the Apple Fitness or Health app. This is a little bit of a bummer.

On the hardware side the switch is rather easy. Just exchange the charging cable and that is pretty much it.

The outer shell differences

One thing when getting the Apple Watch out of the box that jumped into my eye is of course, that the Apple Watch has a sleeker design. Where the Garmin watch tells you to „just use it“ and take care later, the Apple Watch makes a more delicate impression.

It certainly should hold up to a lot of tasks, but the the blue aluminium feels not as robust as the blue plastic that has the Garmin. The same is valid from my first impressions for the buttons: The Digital Crown and the single button on the Apple Watch are way more delicate and prettier than the four buttons on the Garmin 735XT.

I think in certain use cases, the Garmin design has some advantages, as it is completely usable without having to deal with a touchscreen, just by using buttons.

On the other side is the touchscreen of the Apple Watch. It is just nicer than the E-Ink kind of display that is on the Garmin. The OLED screen looks bright, has perfect black levels and all colors look good on it. The contrast is the Garmin watch. Its „E-Ink“ screen is okay to look at and serves its purpose, but it will not win a beauty pageant.

The inner differences

Let me start by saying: I don‘t really care what kind of CPUs, Memory or what not are in either of the watches. For me it is important that they work.

For me both heart rate monitors worked pretty much the same. The differences were within margin of error, so nothing to complain about from my side.

One larger difference is the GPS. For some reason, the Garmin GPS gives me less distance than the one from Apple. See the below screenshot for details:

Essential stats from Garmin Connect
Data from Apple Fitness

Here you can see, that the Apple Watch did grant me the half marathon distance, where the Garmin Watch was off by 500 meters. Some of them I can explain due to the different start times, but nevertheless it is a bit of a bummer. I have yet to check with another GPS device which one of them is correct.

Software makes the difference

What is of course a major difference is the software. And here the Apple Watch can shine, as it is just a different kind of watch. Listening to Podcasts or music during the run, without having a phone is really cool. I know that in the newer Garmin Watches you can also download music, but the thing is, that the Apple Watch with LTE can stream it. And that is the bigger selling point to me. I don‘t want to remember what I need to download. I just hit play and in a good case, things start playing.

In addition to these minor features, has the Apple Watch a more accessible User Interface. Everything can be found way easier than on the Garmin watch. I still think, that Garmin can to a much better job here, even without a touchscreen.

But back to the Apple Watch: you can see most of the information that would show up in the companion app on the phone also on the watch itself. Thus making it more easy to check messages, see the latest vital statistics or other valuable or interesting information.

Can there be a clear winner?

No. It so heavily depends on all your needs.

From my initial round of testing, I would advice getting the Garmin if you care about a long battery life or if you want to have a watch that is a bit tougher. The Garmin watch also has the advantage, that you can use it both with iOS and Android. Oh it is round and has a 7-10 day battery life, if that is important to you.

In case you have an iPhone and want to have a companion device to your iPhone, then of course the Apple Watch is the clear choice. In addition also have in mind, that with the Apple Watch there might be some follow up costs in case you take the LTE model. One large downside here is the battery life: be prepared to charge it every day.

I will write more entries as I test out the Apple Watch more and more and see what kind of nice tricks it has up my sleeve. (Sorry for that… you know, the bad pun).

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