Yesterday was the big reveal for Apple for new devices. In fairness, the reveal on the Apple Watch Series 3 was not as big or great as other products on the Apple lineup but it did roll out as well with new features and increased performance. Last year, I looked at the Apple Watch Series 2 vs Garmin to see if it was really a big enough step to take people away from Garmin as a running watch. This year, this decision may not be has hard as before – and we will see why before.
Apple Watch Series 3 or Garmin
TL:DR While the Apple Watch Series 3 is a nice upgrade (especially with cellular options) Garmin has also upped their game with new watches like the Garmin Vivoactive 3. These new devices from Garmin build on their workout performance with the addition of new features and good all-day use looks. Unless someone is a die-hard Apple Watch fan or want to play music from your watch, many runners will likely stick with Garmin.
The big difference between the newly announced Apple Watch Series 3 and the prior Apple Watch Series 2 was the inclusion of LTE with some Series 3 models. This allows people to go without their iPhone for runs or any other activity while retaining data connectivity and the ability to make and receive calls. For some, this will be enough to ditch Garmin (or whatever watch they use now) and hit the road without their iPhone. But, is this major step enough for most people?
Apple Watch Series 3 Details
Pricing and Availability
With the introduction of the Apple Watch Series 3, the Apple Watch Series 2 will be retired while the Series 1 (the model without GPS) will see a price drop to $249. Here are the pricing details for the new Apple Watch:
- Apple Watch Series 3 (with GPS only) 38mm – $329
- Apple Watch Series 3 (with GPS only) 42mm – $359
- Apple Watch Series 3 (with GPS + Cellular) 38mm – $399
- Apple Watch Series 3 (with GPS + Cellular) 42mm – $429
To get the cellular function, you will have to kick in an extra $70. Plus, you will need a data plan for the Apple Watch as well. So far, it is look like like $10 per month though Verizon is giving an activation credit and the first 3 months free.
A Word on Cellular Models
One of the disappointing things I learned during the keynote was that there are only 8 countries where the Apple Watch Series 3 with cellular will be sold and only certain carriers in those countries. That means that everyone else will be out of luck with cellular options. This is due to Apple’s use of the eSIM which will basically copy your phone’s SIM when you are using the cellular model.
This is disappointing to me for a couple of reasons – one is that I am currently in a country not supported (Greece) and the other is that I was hoping it would be possible to slip a Google Fi data card into it, if it had actually had a real SIM card. This would have been perfect for international trips so I really wouldn’t need my phone for just getting around places, whether on runs or even touring the streets. In some places, it can be nice to not be carrying an expensive phone in your pocket! 🙂
One more thing – the Apple Watch Series 3 with cellular actually has twice the memory capacity over the regular Series 3 with 16GB of onboard storage.
New Performance Upgrades
The addition of cellular capability is not all that changed with Apple Watch Series 3. They also put a new dual-core processor in it that Apple says bumps up the speed by 70% over the Apple Watch Series 2. They have also put in a new chip, called W2, which increases WiFi performance and efficiency alongside of Bluetooth. Also, it has a barometric sensor built-in now as well.
In real world, this will mean better connectivity as well as a speedier experience when using apps. All good things!
Apple Watch Series 3 Battery Life
And here we get to the Achilles of Apple Watch for a running watch – battery life. Apple had pegged battery life before at under a day but real life use saw many people getting even more than that out of it. But, when you slap a cellular radio in something, you are definitely going to see battery life take a hit. And the new Apple Watch Series 3 is no exception.
Here is what Apple has to say about the Apple Watch Series 3 battery life:
- All-day battery life is based on 18 hours with the following use:
- 90 time checks
- 90 notifications
- 45 minutes of app use
- 30-minute workout with music playback from Apple Watch via Bluetooth, over the course of 18 hours.
- Apple Watch Series 3 (GPS) usage includes connection to iPhone via Bluetooth during the entire 18-hour test.
- Apple Watch Series 3 (GPS + Cellular) usage includes a total of 4 hours of LTE connection and 14 hours of connection to iPhone via Bluetooth over the course of 18 hours.
- Talk time
- Up to 3 hours connected to iPhone
- Over 1 hour connected to LTE
- Workout time
- Up to 10 hours of indoor workout
- Up to 5 hours of outdoor workout with GPS
- Up to 4 hours of outdoor workout with GPS and LTE
Apple Watch Series 3 Against Garmin
Ok, with all the specs out of the way, let’s get down to how good the Apple Watch Series 3 may be as a Garmin replacement.
Garmin Has Gained A Lot of Ground!
Things have changed a lot in the last year. Garmin has built on their already impressive GPS watches with even more styling and integration with smartphones. This makes Garmin a bona fide competitor in the smartwatch category – with some pretty great battery life.
Of course, you are not going to be sending text messages from your Garmin but you will be able to do some limited two-way interaction with your phone (like to control music and answer calls) with full notifications from your phone.
New Garmin Watch vs Apple Watch Series 3 – the Garmin Vivoactive 3
Not only that, but Garmin has also just released (and soon to be shipping) a really great looking watch that should be a direct competitor for many runners against the Apple Watch Series 3 – it is called the Garmin Vivoactive 3. Not only is this an impressive looking watch with Garmin’s legendary GPS capabilities, but it also includes Garmin Pay – a contactless payment solution. This is a huge boost for Garmin as it enables runners to not have to worry about carrying any cash at all on runs (if you are blessed with stores along your routes with such payment terminals).
The Garmin Vivoactive 3 (to read all you need to know about this, check out DC Rainmaker)also carries some typical-Garmin battery life as well with 13 hours of GPS usage or up to 7 days in smartwatch mode!
So, which to choose? Neither the Apple Watch Series 3 or the Garmin Vivoactive are in the hands of consumers yet but will be in the next month. Which one should you buy, if looking for a new running watch?
- Want great battery life? Garmin Vivoactive 3
- Want music from your watch? Apple Watch Series 3
- Want connectivity without your watch? Apple Watch Series 3
- Want solid GPS performance? Garmin Vivoactive 3
- Want running metrics? Garmin running watches
- Want a good-looking everyday watch? Completely subjective but I think I would give the edge to the Garmin Vivoactive 3.
I will be getting and comparing both of these watches in the next month so hopefully that new post may help you with some real-life use and comparisons.
Garmin Vivoactive 3 Not Your Style?
There are a lot of Garmin watches that could suit various categories of runners – they offer the Fenix 5, the Forerunner 935, the 735, the Fenix 3HR, and the Forerunner 230/235 (hr in the 235). Any of these will give you solid running performance with some of them giving increased access to running metrics.
In the meantime, I think I will be completely happy sticking with my Garmin Fenix 5. The pricing of this watch places it outside both the Apple Watch Series 3 and the Garmin Vivoactive 3 but it is a solid watch for my uses and it is one that I already have!
Does the Apple Watch Series 3 give you enough to switch from Garmin?