The Apple Watch Series 4 was first delivered to the earliest of buyers 2 weeks ago today. I have been using the Apple Watch Series 4 for most of that time now and have gathered quite a few first-ish impressions of the latest Apple Watch – and this is all coming from a huge Garmin fan. I will have a review of the Apple Watch Series 4 vs Garmin out this month as well, but I wanted to share my solid first 2 week impressions of the newest Apple Watch.
Impressions of the Apple Watch Series 4 From a Garmin Fan
Since the Garmin Forerunner 305, it has been a Garmin on my left wrist every single day. There were a few days that I swapped out a Garmin for something different to try but most of the review units I have used to compare against the Garmin watches have resided on my right arm, my “non-watch arm.”
For the first time in years, I took off my Garmin and put an Apple Watch in its place. Even though the new Apple Watch Series 4 did not really tick the boxes of things I said would make it a great Garmin replacement for me, there were still enough things about it that I wanted to give it a shot at being my daily driver. Here are my impressions after almost 2 weeks with it.
The Apple Watch Series 4 specs did not stretch the battery life from the Series 3 – they still stated that users could get 18 hours out of it. However, Apple was being quite generous with that as the Series 3 was able to go around 2 full days for many people.
I was pleased to find that I could go almost 2 full days with doing 2 one-hour runs on each of those days. The battery life is fantastic for a watch that has a display like this. It is nothing like my Garmin Fenix 5 Plus was with its all-week battery, but it also does way more than my Garmin did so I would not expect it to have that kind of battery life.
Simply put, if you are a runner, the Apple Watch Series 4 battery life will not disappoint. I was able to do a 2 hour run with music from the watch and still get more than a 24 hour period of time with the watch unplugged. Next weekend, I will be running my first race with it so will look forward to how it handles that.
The great part is that it takes less than 2 hours for it to charge back up again when you finally do need to plug it in. This is great because I actually do wear my watches to bed since I like to track my sleep (Apple does not have a native sleep tracker but I have been really enjoying SleepWatch).
I give the Apple Watch Series 4 battery life a solid mark for lasting as long as it does and charging up quickly.
One of the strong selling points of the new Apple Watch Series 4 was how Apple stretched out the display with reduced bezels and rounded edges for the actual display part. Apple said they increased the display area by 30% with this change. I have been sporting the new 44mm Apple Watch Series 4 and the larger screen has definitely been something I have been enjoying.
The display brightness and color is exactly what you would expect from an OLED display where the blacks are true black and the colors pop. It is easy to see outdoors as well, even when I am running on the sunniest of days.
I have the new Infographic watch face on with the multi-complications and love being able to take advantage of this large display to see things like the temperature at that moment (and for all day), the UVI gauge, my upcoming meeting, the battery life, sunrise/sunset, sleep meters, activity tracking and time with a single glance. I am a huge fan of data so this is something that is much better than what previous Apple Watches provided for a watch face (and this face is only available on the latest Series 4 watches).
GPS Tracking and Using the Apple Watch Series 4 for Running
I have been using the Apple Watch Series 4 on one arm and the Garmin Forerunner 645 on the other to compare them for the last 10 runs. I have found their GPS readings and activities to be pretty close. One thing I did notice in my early runs is that the Apple Watch Series 4 seems to start tracking a little late as far as pace and distance. It seems to do some GPS smoothing to make it more accurate as the run goes on. This is really only apparent for the first .5 mile or so. After that, I found it to be good.
I had not been thrilled that it did not come with more data field customization, which the Garmin watches do very well. However, I have gradually gotten used to the new data field in the Workout app for Rolling Mile. This is the last mile pace, at any given point. Rather than having Lap Pace Average like I use on my Garmin (to give me the average lap pace for the mile I am running), the Rolling Mile split is helpful to give that across the last mile without being part of an actual 1 mile lap.
Weight and Feel
The weight of the aluminum Apple Watch Series 4 is quite a bit less than the Garmin Fenix 5 Plus and wears very nicely on runs. I have not had problems with sweat causing issues with the touchscreen (and I do sweat quite a bit when running!). If you do have a problem with that, you can always lock the screen against that.
The Apple Watch has no end of fitness apps and I have been cycling through the Workout app from Apple and the Strava app, with a little Nike Run Club and MapMyRun. I used to use the Strava app on older Apple Watches but with the new Rolling Mile field, I am pretty happy with the Workout app.
A nice touch is that if you start to run and forget to start the workout, after a while, the Workout app will let you know that it seems that you are doing an outdoor run and it will ask if you want to make it an activity. If you say yes, it actually picks up where you are in the run, meaning it has been tracking since you started.
Remember I said I am a data nerd? Well, it turns out that Apple provides a fair amount of data on runs in the Health app on the phone, including a VO2Max number as well. I am pleasantly surprised at some of the data available there, including such things like weather at the time of run (always nice to have when I am going back to check on that for a race review!).
Using the Apple Watch Series 4 Everyday Instead of a Garmin
I have to say, being able to have the level of interaction with the Apple Watch Series 4 that is not possible with Garmin devices has been nice. I have reached for my phone far less than I used too. I take phone calls on the watch sometimes as well as listening to more music, Audible audiobooks, and podcasts with the watch. I have also been using it more for travel-based apps as well.
The Garmin watches do a stellar job of giving you your notifications, but there is very limited two-way interaction. I used to like that but the Apple Watch Series 4 is the first Apple Watch to really draw me more in to using it everyday (thanks to the larger screen).
This is not my review or overall comparison of the Apple Watch Series 4 vs Garmin yet. This is just a brief look at my take on my first 10 days with the Apple Watch Series 4 compared to using my Garmin. So far, I am quite pleased with the new Apple Watch Series 4. Will it permanently replace the Garmin watches for me? Well, you (and I!) will just need to wait for the final review! 🙂
Have you had a chance to try the new Apple Watch Series 4? What do you think of it compared to Garmin watches?