Comparing Smartwatches for Running: Apple Watch vs Samsung and Garmin Options

by | Feb 23, 2019 | Gear

Smartwatches for runners: Sounds sort of obvious, but I feel like I’m forever asking a runner what she’s using and the answer is NEVER the same. Let’s start with why I want a smartwatch vs a straight-up running watch: I am NOT a tracking/logging person. This is why I am the bane of most coach’s existence, because even when I try, my attempts at recording data are spotty at best. For me, that means the best option is a smartwatch that I can wear all the time that will also track my workouts. I’ve had a couple that I’ve worn and reviewed in recent years, so I thought I’d quickly round them up!

Apple Watch Series 2

I got this watch two years ago thinking I would wear it ALL THE TIME. For a while, I did. But as someone who doesn’t like wearing watches, I stuck with it for a while and fell out of the habit. Reason #1 for that: When I got it, I was managing a cycling team and during race weekends, I needed that watch to avoid needing to constantly pull out my phone to check and send messages and emails while running around race venues. But after leaving that position, I found that I didn’t really need the immediate text notifications anymore, and I found it more stressful than helpful most of the time. Added to that, the battery life just wasn’t that great, and since it needs to be charged every night and I am bad at remembering stuff like that, it was dead more often than not. I still use this one as my main watch for run-tracking, because I haven’t committed to getting another watch specifically for that purpose, and Strava works pretty well on it, and the HR isn’t bad, but I would prefer a watch that worked with a HR strap. Pros: This is the best of the smartwatches if you’re in the market for something more smartwatch and less running-feature-rich. But it does the job. And now, you can get a Series 2 for well under $200, so it’s definitely more affordable than it was. Moral of my story: I probably need something simpler that can do notifications, but is more run-focused.

Read the original review here, and a follow-up here.

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Samsung Galaxy

OK, this watch is baller-looking. I did a review of it for MapMyRun (link below) and wore it for a month in the process. Got a million compliments because this is a watch that doesn’t look like a running watch or a smartwatch, it legit looks like a fancy analog one. Also, the rose gold—so good! Anyway, I really liked this watch’s functionality as a health app and run tracker, and I was surprised how much I liked wearing a burlier watch during the day. I would maybe switch up the band, but it’s hard to find one that works for training and everyday, honestly. Smartwatch-wise, this thing was great on an Android (I had to use an old one to test this watch for a few days, then I switched to the Apple app that works with it) You lose a bit if you’re an iPhone user, but if you’re an Samsung user, I gotta say, this might trump the Apple Watch. Read my full review of the Samsung Galaxy here: The Smartwatch That Will Level Up Your Runs — And Your Street Style

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What I’m thinking about next…

Garmin Forerunner 35

This smaller Apple-Watch-looking guy seems like it might be the best bet for me. (And right now on Amazon it’s on sale for $129 vs $170!) The battery seems like it’ll last longer than my Apple Watch, but my issue, of course, with buying a new one is that I already have the Apple 2 Watch… But without the pairing to my heart rate strap or power meter on the bike, it’s not the perfect option. Honestly, it’s actually too smart and feature-rich for my needs these days! (2020 update: CANNOT RECOMMEND THIS ONE ENOUGH)

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