The Apple Watch Series 2 – Enough to Leave Garmin?

apple watch from Best Buy
Written by Charlie

The new Apple Watch Series 2 is out with GPS and running-centric apps. Is it enough to make me and others leave brands like Garmin?

2017 Update: The new Apple Watch Series 3 is out – find out more details about this new version vs Garmin.

I really liked the idea of the original Apple Watch, especially because of how plugged in it is with the Apple system. I had used one for a while and loved the concept, but I took it off and dumped it for one big reason – the Garmin Fenix 3. Is the new Apple Watch Series 2 enough for me (and others) to leave Garmin?

Update: Check Out My Comparison of What I Like About the Apple Watch Series 2 vs Garmin!

The Apple Watch Series 2 – Is It Enough to Leave Garmin?

Why the Garmin Fenix 3?

Apple Watch Series 2

The Garmin Fenix 3 – my current favorite watch

The Garmin Fenix 3 has been the one Garmin running watch I have used longer than any other. My normal method of operation is to get the newly released Garmin watch at a discount (with codes, pre-purchased gift cards, etc) that is roughly equivalent to the price I can sell the previous amount (this is pretty much what I do with every electronic item I own). So, it is rare for me to hold on to wear a Garmin watch for more than a year.

But, the Garmin Fenix 3 is special. First of all, it looks like a watch (albeit, a very big watch). It also has tremendous battery life so that I can wear it for days without having to charge it. Not only that, but it actually has smart notifications so that I can receive notifications from my iPhone like I would with another smart watch. The big difference between this and the Apple Watch in this regard is that those notifications are one way – I cannot respond to items with the Garmin Fenix 3.

A Great, All-Day Watch

I wear the Garmin Fenix 3 all day, every day. It is great to be able to change for a run and just push the button on my watch to start recording my workout. Thanks to the fast GPS fix and the metrics, I can get a fast start and a detailed look after at the workout.

The Original Apple Watch – Not So Great For My Running

The Apple Watch, quite frankly, stunk for me with running. It would use an accelerometer and/or the GPS in the iPhone. But, I don’t wear my 5.5″ iPhone on my arm so it would often not get a good enough GPS fix for activity tracking. This caused some very wrong measurements when using the Apple Watch for runs. At the time of its release, I had remarked that it was a good thing for Garmin, Polar, Suunto, and others that Apple did not put a GPS radio in it.

Apple Watch Series 2 Is Here

Apple Watch Series 2

The Apple Watch Nike+ | From Apple

Link: Apple Watch Series 2

Pricing and Availability

The new Apple Watch Series 2 models start at $369 and $399 for the base models in size 38mm and 42mm. They do go up from there but the internals are the same. They all go on pre-order tomorrow, September 9, and will be available September 16. The lone exception is the Apple Watch Nike+ which will be out in October.

A little note – there were actually two different brands of Apple Watches unveiled yesterday. One is the upgraded Apple Watch called Apple Watch Series 2 and the other is the Apple Watch Nike+ that is identical to the Apple Watch Series 2 but comes with a Nike band and running-centric Nike apps.

Now we are here with the Apple Watch Series 2 and it does have a GPS radio in it. That means it can do independent tracking of your running workout with the need for sensors or an iPhone. Good news… right?

I am going to preorder the Apple Watch Nike+ edition tomorrow and give it a shot. I really, really want to like how it performs because I enjoy using the Apple Watch. It helps keep me more informed while I am out and about and it even lets me keep my phone in my bag when traveling on planes and in airports. I had started using my Apple Watch as my digital boarding pass (which does not require as uncomfortable hand/arm movements as you might expect) and it helps keep my hands free for my bags, my drink – whatever.

Where the Apple Watch Series 2 Needs to Excel for Me

But, there is one major area and one minor area where the Apple Watch Series 2 will need to be great in order to successfully push me to selling my Garmin Fenix 3. The major area is battery life. According to Apple, the battery life will be the same as with the first edition.

That is a worry because even though that includes time for using the GPS radio, the first Apple Watch died when many people tried to use it for their marathons and were running for over 4 hours. Big letdown if this remains the case! Apple can certainly do some things with software updates to help make the onboard system and apps more battery efficient but the GPS is going to draw on that battery either way.

Hopefully, Apple has gotten it together with the battery life. I hear things like it will let you use it for notifications throughout the day, some time actually scrolling through things and a “30 minute workout” with the battery. It is rare that I have a run that lasts 30 minutes or less so it may not end being for me – yet.

A Minor Area For the Apple Watch Series 2

The minor area is metrics. Thanks to Garmin’s HRM-Run strap and module, my Garmin Fenix 3 is able to feed me all kinds of interesting (and sort-of useful) metrics for my runs. It will tell me things like stride length, vertical oscillation (how long I spend in the air between strides), ground contact time, and some other things of note.

While not hugely useful (and thus why it is a minor area for me), it can be helpful to identify some of these things during speed and form workouts. I am trying to rebuild my stamina right now so these things are less important to me but it would be nice if Nike and Apple are able to harness some of the onboard sensors to deliver some similar metrics.

Is the Apple Watch Series 2 Enough?

Again, I really want to like it and I will be eagerly seeing what I can do with the battery life. I will do a review of the new Apple Watch Nike Plus after I get it (it is due to come out in late October) and see if my Garmin Fenix 3 will remain on my wrist or if it is off to eBay. It will be sad to see it go. After all, it was my trustworthy tracking companion for the runs of my life last year and never died on me once!

Are you planning on buying an Apple Watch Series 2? Which model?

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About the author


Charlie has been an avid traveler and runner for many years. He has run in marathons around the world for less than it would cost to travel to the next town - all as a result of collecting and using miles and points. Over the years, he has flown hundreds of thousands of miles and collected millions of miles and points.
Now he uses this experience and knowledge to help others through Running with Miles.


  • I had a Garmin, moved to apple watch and moved back to The Garmin Fenix 3hr- hated the Apple watch for running- Was slow, didn’t respond when you had sweaty hands which was pretty much always- Have 4 friends that all dumped it and we will not be going back anytime soon… Oh and with the GPS I doubt it will last for a full marathon

  • I’m curious about the Series 2 as well and I will probably order it. (Regular one, not the Nike one. I should be able to get the Nike running apps on it, and I’d rather not wear the Nike band all day!) But I think I will probably keep my Garmin. I can’t imagine wanting to regularly sweat all over my day-to-day watch.

  • No way I’m going to leave my Garmin 235! I’m a huge fan of Apple but the metrics that the Garmin gives you are far, but very far away from the data that you will find in the new Apple Watch! If you are just a casual runner then buy anything you want!

    • I still have a new 910xt I got for free so I may keep that for serous runs if I do get rid of the Fenix. The 235 is a very nice watch!

    • Back in the day when runners didn’t have smart watches and could still figure out a way to get a great workout in and break records…. Just saying the data deluge doesn’t necessarily mean you are a more legit runner.

  • According to the Series 2 (probably the 42mm version) allows for 5 hours of GPS usage. If you’re running a decent marathon pace, and started with 100% battery life, it could work.

    It seems that the Series 2 is ALMOST there. At the rate Apple is going, serious runners wont likely be satisfied until Series 3. As a casual runner – and even though I’ve lusted for a Fenix 3 – the Apple Watch Series 2 will do all I need while swimming and biking for no longer than an hour at a time.

    • I really want the Apple Watch to connect to my Garmin footpod and the cadence/speed sensor on my bike. Until it does, I’m sticking with my Garmin. Now, if Apple has their own sensors I can use on my bike and shoes, I’d be willing to make the switch.

      • Good points there also. I doubt that Apple will make their own sensors since the market for that is likely too small for them to be interested in. I would really love it if Garmin made an app but that would cannibalize their own devices so we will likely not see that either.

  • I’m curious about the Series 2 as well. Garmin Fenix 3HR user. I’m intrigued by Apple’s device because of their ecosystem. Garmin hasn’t done much in my estimation with Gatmin IQ apps, and the whole IR feels extremely antiquated, like something from the eighties. But I’m concerned about Apple’s GPS and HR tracking accuracy. My sense is they’re not as accurate as Garmin’s device, and even as a casual athlete, “bad” data sucks. May wait to see reviews before considering switching.

  • I had a Garmin forerunner, bought the original Apple Watch and tried it for running. It was pants to say the least. I then purchased the new Garmin Vivoactive HR for running and was wearing all day to be honest. I have since gone back to my Apple Watch purely for daytime non running use. It is a beautiful time piece. I have ordered a Nike+ Apple Watch series 2 and think the battery should be fine for my average runs. As and when I’m out all day I will switch to my Garmin. For me this is a great combo and no dramas with swapping. Being able to use Apple Pay etc is of huge benefit to me.

    • Great points. I ordered both, primarily so I can give the new watch a shot and review it but I will likely just stay with the Nike version. What I will likely do is sell the Fenix 3 and use the Apple Watch Nike version for most things but pick up a Garmin 230 to track my special workouts. I really do not like how the audio control for my phone works on the Garmin so it would be nice to have proper control on my Apple Watch.
      The Apple Pay is huge for me too. On a recent run in the US, I did not have any money or cards with me and it was nice to just use that to grab some stuff on my way home.

  • Something to consider, with any phone or watch:
    you can either cut up a duplicate debit or cerditcard, or ask your bank for a “contactless” chip. You can then just put that inside your existing phone/watch. You even get stickered versions from some banks!

    Voila – your old Nokia brick from the 1990’s can still do contactless. Using apple-pay isn’t ideal. Without a signal or phone battery it can be problematic if vendor authorisation is needed. With a chip you are always guaranteed to be able to pay contactless for value of $50 or less.

  • Been testing the Appel Watch S2 for about 60 days now. I really like it. I only run 3 to 5 miles a day, so I am not worried about marathon battery life. That said, the battery lasts for 2 days for me, running or cycling with the watch on alternate days. I usually charge my AW S2 when I am in the shower and that keeps it going all week long.

    I also have a Garmin Edge 800 for cycling and considered getting a Garmin running watch, but I wanted to wait and see what Apple did with the Apple Watch 2. So far, I love the AW S2. It is perfect for a regular runner like me, the “Average Joe” runner and cyclist (@blogcycle on Garmin Connect and Strava) and it does so much more than just track fitness for the cost.

    I can answer calls (when my phone is within range), pay for stuff with the watch, send messages, get notifications, and a ton more. I especially like that I can put my phone in my bike back or back pocket, and answer calls from my Apple Watch if I need to. Oh, and the SOS feature of the AW S2 is brilliant… you know, incase you ever get run over by some TXTing teenager.

    For what it does, the Apple Watch S2 is a great value compared to some of the similarly-priced Garmin hardware.

  • For runners it is very important to have: cadence, max hr, hr graphs. These are missing from Apple watch series 2 at this moment (no one doesnt know will it come at all and when). So do not buy it if you are a runner! Go for Garmin!