Garmin Forerunner 45 vs Apple Watch Series 3: The Battle of the $199 Running Smartwatches

Written by Charlie

The Garmin Forerunner 45 and the Apple Watch Series 3 are both capable watches and both can be had for $199. Which is the best running smartwatch?

This is it – we actually have very good smartwatches for runners in the sub-$200 price range. While there are others that are definitely worth considering as well, it would seem that many people want to compare the Garmin vs Apple Watch. For this post, we will take a look at what both the brand new Garmin Forerunner 45 and the Apple Watch Series 3 have to offer runners.

Interested in the bigger brothers of both watches? Check out this comparison post of the Garmin Forerunner 245 vs the Apple Watch Series 4!

Garmin Forerunner 45 vs Apple Watch Series 3

Pricing for the Garmin Forerunner 45 vs Apple Watch Series 3

Let’s start with the pricing. While the $199 price tag is the official, retail price of the new Garmin 45, the Apple Watch Series 3 sees that $199 price as a sale price. I definitely would not pay more than that for the Apple Watch Series 3 38mm (the 42mm costs $229).

One more thing on price – the Apple Watch Series 3 price of $199 is only for the smaller faced 38mm model. If you want more visible space (and you should!), the 42mm will run you $229. On the Garmin side, they also offer two different sizes – the 45 (with a 42mm face) and the 45S (with a 39mm face) – but they share the $199 price.

Head-to-Head Spec Comparison of the Garmin Forerunner 45 vs Apple Watch Series 3

Numbers don’t tell the whole story but they are a good place to start. Here is a list of how the specifications of both watches line up.

SpecificationApple Watch Series 3Garmin Forerunner 45
Battery LifeGeneral Use: 18 Hours
GPS Use: 5 Hours
GPS w/Music: 4 Hours
General Use: Up to 7 Days
GPS Use: Up to 13 Hours
Music Storage8GB of storageN/A
Water ResistantUp to 50 MetersUp to 50 Meters
Native Sleep TrackingNoYes
Built-in Heart Rate MonitorYesYes
Always-On DisplayNoYes
Multi-Sport CapabilityYesYes
Glass materialIon-X Strengthened GlassChemically strengthened glass
Weight38mm - 26.7 Grams
42mm - 32.3 Grams
45S - 32 Grams
45 - 36 Grams
Dimensions38mm - 38.6 x 33.3 x 11.4 mm
42mm - 42.5 x 36.4 x 11.4 mm
45S - 39.5 x 39.5 x 11.4mm
45 - 42 x 42 x 11.4 mm
SensorsOptical heart sensor, electronic heart sensor, gyroscope, barometric altimeter, accelerometerGarmin Elevate heart rate monitor, accelerometer
GPS TechnologyGPS, GLONASS, Galileo, and QZSSGPS, GLONASS, Galileo
Compatible with iOS and AndroidNoYes
Switchable watch bandsYesNo
Fall/Incident DetectionYesYes
Price38mm - $199
42mm - $229
45S - $199
45 - $199
Music Onboard – Garmin Forerunner 45 vs Apple Watch Series 3
Garmin Forerunner 45 vs Apple Watch Series 3

When it comes to music playback, the Apple Watch Series 3 beats the audio less Garmin Forerunner 45

This is an easy one – only the Apple Watch Series 3 will let you play your tunes without your phone. The Garmin Forerunner 45 will let you control your smartphone’s music controls but it does not have onboard music capability of its own.

For some people, that is not a huge dealbreaker. The Apple Watch Series 3 has a battery that will not give you a ton of time if you choose to play music and use GPS so that is a tradeoff. I always listen to things when I run, often audiobooks. But, since I always run with a phone, I am normally playing that off my phone. Only rarely have I used the music playback of the Apple Watch Series 4.

If you are a runner that normally carries a phone on the run, the missing music option on the Garmin Forerunner 45 shouldn’t be a big deal. On the other hand, if you want to fly along as lightweight as possible, you will want the Apple Watch Series 3 for the music capability.

Battery Life – Garmin Forerunner 45 vs Apple Watch Series 3
Garmin Forerunner 45 vs Apple Watch Series 3

In battery life, the Garmin Forerunner 45 beats the Apple Watch Series 3

Here is another easy one. With the Apple Watch Series 3, you will be charging that little guy every day. If you aren’t running, you could go from morning on day 1 until the night on day 2 but that is not typical if you are running on one of those days.

With the Garmin Forerunner 45, you will be getting up to 13 hours of GPS usage! That means that the average runner will have no problem getting all their runs done in a week without having to charge the Forerunner 45. That is good!

Actual Smartwatch Functions – Garmin Forerunner 45 vs Apple Watch Series 3
Garmin Forerunner 45 vs Apple Watch Series 3

The Apple Watch Series 3 is first and foremost an excellent smartwatch but has great fitness apps built in as well

There are no two ways about it – the Apple Watch Series 3 is an awesome, actual smartwatch. It has onboard apps and a beautiful screen to give you a lot of things right on your wrist. Plus, you get two-way interaction so you can retweet a tweet you find interesting, answer a text message, like a friend’s photo, make a call, check your bank account balance, and more with just taps on the mini-screen. If you want to do more on your wrist and less on your iPhone, the Apple Watch is for you.

Garmin Forerunner 45 vs Apple Watch Series 3

The Garmin Forerunner 45 builds on the excellent workout history of Garmin watches and has some smart functions

Garmin puts its best foot forward – it is an awesome watch for GPS activity and workout data. Over the last few years, they have added smartwatch functions including their own little app store. While you can actually have Uber onboard, you are not going to be doing a ton of smartwatch type stuff on your Garmin. Instead, you will get your notifications, control your music, answer your phone, and some other things.

Garmin Forerunner 45 vs Apple Watch Series 3 – Which Watch?

People’s decision over the Garmin Forerunner 45 or the Apple Watch Series 3 will likely come down to the actual smartwatch part.

If you want to have a watch that will let you leave your phone in the pocket/bag/purse/drawer, you want the Apple Watch.

If you want a watch that does a great job on delivering GPS function and metrics and will let you know about notifications so you don’t have to pick up your phone every time it makes a sound, the Garmin Forerunner is your watch.

Some of the links on Running with Miles are affiliate links that pay a commission if a purchase is made. Running with Miles is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to

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.