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The new Apple Series 2 watch is out and on my wrist!   But is it enough to make me leave my trusted Garmin after all these years? 

I started running in November 2011.  My first fitness/run tracker was a Nike Nano. I know, not really the IDEAL technology to track my runs but hey!  I was barely running 2 miles a day and it worked.  That was until I discovered it was incredibly inaccurate which led me to purchase my very first (and very much beloved) Garmin Forerunner 610!   Everyday since then I have had a Garmin on my wrist with my most recent purchase being the Garmin Forerunner 630.    There was so much technology added to the 630, including basic fitness tracking elements like total steps and smartphone “like” elements, including smart notifications, that I thought it was worth the upgrade.

I absolutely love my Garmin Forerunner 630.  It has everything I could possibly need in a RUNNING watch with the exception of ONE thing… a built-in HRM. I still don’t understand why they haven’t included this very important fitness tracking variable but I’m sure they have their revenue generating reasons (like purchasing an annoying chest strap add-on).

Anyway, I’ve never had any interest in another watch until Apple released their Series 2 watch which finally integrated more fitness tracking technology elements.   The original Apple watch wasn’t even worth the energy reviewing, nor the money.  Quite frankly, for me, it was terrible as a fitness tracker, and certainly couldn’t hold its own against my Garmin when running.  One major downfall to the original watch was the required use of your iPhone GPS for tracking.  I don’t wear my iPhone on my arm so it never even crossed my mind to purchase it.  Not only that, but it was more “smart” than fitness based so that was a major turnoff for me.

That said, Apple finally realized that the majority of their customers were using the watch for FITNESS TRACKING and rolled out a brand new and updated Apple Series 2 watch that included some elements that got my attention so my husband snagged me one to take for a spin (or two)!

Please note, this is the very first time I have run with both of them for the sole purpose of comparing the overall feel, the GPS tracking, the alerting, and the app reporting.

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Let’s talk about the overall look and feel.  Obviously, in typical Apple fashion, the look of this watch is pretty badass.  It’s sleek, it’s smooth, the strap tucks away on the interior portion of the watch against your wrist, so there is no fussing with a strap band (which has surprisingly torn off my Garmin in the past).  The watch face is brighter than my Garmin but just as easy to read so other than its fancy look and customizable face options, I see no major difference while I’m out on the road on a sunny day.  I will say,  the Apple still has some glitches turning on with the slight up turn or rotation of the wrist which was quite annoying.   I also felt like the Apple was heavier on my wrist.  We aren’t talking pounds, but my Garmin weighed in at 1.5oz while my Apple weighed in at 2.25oz.  I FELT the difference.

Garmin vs Apple Review: GPS TRACKING

Now let’s take a look at the overall GPS capabilities because that’s what really matters at the end of the day.  Today’s run was on country road with no noticeable obstructions likes skyscrapers or tall trees.  I went out and back for a total of 5 miles.  Both the Garmin and the Apple tracked and alerted me on each mile marker at the EXACT same time for all 5 miles.

Remember, this was the VERY first time that I used the Apple watch so bare with me.  It took me a couple minutes to realize that there was NO GPS indicator.  See, when I run with my Garmin, there is a little bar icon indicating whether or not GPS has been established.   Then it vibrates, bings, and notifies me on the watch display that the GPS is indeed connected.  That makes me feel good.  I don’t know about you but starting a run only to realize your GPS wasn’t tracking correctly sort of, kind of, really, irritates me!  That simple indicator let’s me know that I can push the start button.  The Apple Series 2 did NOT have that so, I was left having to TRUST that the Apple’s GPS system was connected.  I suspect putting a “GPS connected” notification on their watch got cut from their simple UI design. When I came back and looked up if this was a setting that I missed I saw that Apple stated it will start searching for a signal as soon as you open the Workout app on the Watch — even if you haven’t specified that you’re doing an outdoor run — and will use data from other sensors built in the watch to fill in the gaps until it has located GPS.

Well ok then.  I’ll just learn to trust that it is tracking as soon as I hit that start button!

You’ll be happy to hear that both watches tracked exactly the same regardless of the “GPS connection” notification!

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That said, I like instant gratification and I can easily save my run, go to the history option, and review my data RIGHT from my Garmin’s watch interface. I couldn’t for the life of me figure out how to view history or data from my Apple Series 2!   I could see my run distance in the activity tracking section of the Apple watch but that was it and that was irritating.  On my Garmin, I can see Distance, Time, Pace, Calories, Av. Pace, Cadence, and Stride Length.  That’s impressive to me.  While it isn’t as “pretty” as the Apple, it sure the hell delivers DATA better!

Now, once I got home and looked at the data on both the Garmin Connect app and the Apple NRC+ & Activity app, I started to see some distinct pros and cons to these watches as it pertains to tracking your runs.

GARMIN CONNECT RUN DATA

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APPLE NRC+ and ACTIVITY DATA

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Interestingly enough, when I compared the app data, the pace per mile on each mile marker was different though they chimed at the exact same time.  On my next run, I’m going to pay more attention to the exact TIME because you can see that although the overall average pace was the same (8:53/mi) and the overall time was also the same (44:27), each split was recording differently.  I have no idea why so this will require more investigation.

LEFT PICTURE:    Apple Series 2 – Activity Tracker App

RIGHT PICTURE: Garmin Forerunner 630 – Garmin Connect App

Apple Series 2 - Activity Tracker App
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Garmin Forerunner 630 - Garmin Connect App
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NOTE:  It took me a few seconds to figure out how to actually STOP the tracking on my Apple watch.  The side buttons do not control the start/stop function.  I had to swipe to pause and then end the run.  It took me 5 seconds to do that! 

PROS & CONS: THE VERDICT

While Apple did make some decent changes to design and fitness tracking elements of the watch, I still feel it is much more of a smartwatch than a robust fitness tracker for runners.  I will NOT replace my Garmin with an Apple Series 2 when it comes to tracking my runs, but I do see me using it as an everyday watch and for regular fitness tracking and workout monitoring.

Here are my general observations and pros and cons for the Apple Series 2:

PROS

  1. I love that the HRM is built right into the Apple watch.  HRM training is really beneficial and seeing that data overlayed on my run data was a nice bonus!  I despise HR chest straps and refuse to wear them due to past blisters/burning, so I’ve never collected this data before with my Garmin. It was nice seeing on the Apple interface, plus, I believe it made the total calories burned a bit more accurate.  There was a pretty large gap in calories burned between the two devices.
  2. Even though the Apple Series 2 watch is slightly heavier, the strap is smoother and more comfortable.
  3. The audio chimes and notifications are clear.  Hearing key data elements through the watch was nice and kept me from pulling my wrist up to my face to see it on the screen.  My Garmin does not have audio capabilities built into the watch.
  4. Though I don’t run with music, it does have a pretty sweet built in music element that allows you to load up some tunes and use it with your bluetooth headphones WITHOUT bringing your phone along with you.
  5. Though the app is lacking with data, you do have the ability to add specific running notes to each logged run.  Things like how you felt and what shoes you wore.  You cannot add notes to the Garmin app.

CONS

  1. There is NOT enough data being collected and displayed on the watch or the pre-installed NRC+ or activity tracking apps.  There is likely other 3rd party apps that you can install to display more data but the ones installed right out of the box are nothing compared to the Garmin.
  2. You cannot see comprehensive history immediately (again, this may appear in other 3rd party apps).
  3. There is no elevation data being collected or displayed.
  4. The display still doesn’t wake every time I raise or twist my wrist, which is annoying.
  5. Even though the screen is now brighter and more visible in normal daylight settings, it’s still tough to see in direct sunlight. It still has a retina OLED display, and not a reflective display like the Garmin.
  6. BATTERY LIFE!  It’s terrible.  Though I haven’t run long distance with it YET, from what I’ve read, it only keeps a 5 hour charge when the GPS is running.  This ultra running chic needs WAY MORE than 5 hours!!

All in all, it absolutely has a lot of “smart” technology built into it and they have done a great job integrating more fitness tracking capabilities but I still think they have a long way to go to really stand a fighting chance in the running space.

I’ll keep it for everyday life.  The smart features and other app integrations are classic Apple which I really like and appreciate but this running data loving nerd won’t be replacing her beloved Garmin any time soon!