Last year, I wrote and wondered if the Apple Watch Series 2 watch would be good enough to make me switch from Garmin. Ultimately, I decided it was not good enough. Part of that reason had to do with the pricing for what it provided for me, as a runner. But, I did wonder – is the Apple Watch Series 1 a good running watch?
Since that time, I have switched to the Garmin Forerunner 235 from the Garmin Fenix 3 and also picked up an Apple Watch Series 1 at a great price. So, I thought it would be time to see if the Apple Watch Series 1 could make a good running watch, especially since it is of comparable price to the Garmin Forerunner 235 and both have built-in heart rate monitoring.
Is the Apple Watch Series 1 a Good Running Watch?
Comparing the Apple Watch Series 1 with the Apple Watch Series 2
First, let’s look at how the Apple Watch Series 1 compares to the Apple Watch Series 2. Contrary to what others may tell you or you may think from the naming, the Apple Watch Series 1 is just as new of a release as the Apple Watch Series 2. They were released side-by-side but the Apple Watch Series 2 is the better, more upgraded model.
That being said, the Apple Watch Series 2 has a different chip (mainly to provide GPS, performance-wise, they are similar), is water resistant, is much brighter, and, of course, has built-in GPS. The Apple Watch Series 1 is certainly an upgrade to the original Apple Watch but does lack some of the upgraded features of Apple Watch Series 2. Here is the breakdown of their features.
So, at first glance, it would not seem to be a good running watch since it does not have a built-in GPS unit. But, in truth, there are many runners like myself who run almost all of the time with their iPhone. If that is you, there can be a good argument made that the Apple Watch Series 1 can make a good running watch. But, let’s look at some things about it.
After having owned the original Apple Watch, the Apple Watch Series 2, and now the Apple Watch Series 1, I can say that I have been best served by the battery life of the Apple Watch Series 1. I have had the Apple Watch Series 1 last over 2 days and close to 2 full days when using it for running each day. That is fantastic!
The Apple Watch Series 2 will take a bigger hit (and did, for me) on battery life because of the GPS chip (only when you use it) and the brighter screen. When I was using the Apple Watch Series 2 for stand-alone runs, the battery life was noticeably affected.
The battery life of the Apple Watch Series 1 is pretty good, even when using it for runs with the iPhone.
GPS Performance with the Apple iPhone
I had used the original Apple Watch with the iPhone and was very disappointed in the performance of the GPS tracking via the iPhone. When compared to known distances and my Garmin watches, the original Apple Watch was reporting inaccurate pacing and distance monitoring. I wear my iPhone in a SpiBelt on my waist.
However, with the new Apple Watch Series 1, the GPS performance from the iPhone and revealed by the Apple Watch Series 1 has been extremely accurate. How I wear my iPhone has not changed but the performance is much snappier and better tracking.
Again, I tested it numerous times against my Garmin watches and known distances and found it to be completely in-sync with my Garmin tracking.
The GPS performance from the Apple iPhone works very well with the Apple Watch Series 1 – very accurate.
Not Just GPS!
Of course, you can use the accelerometer for runs as well, both indoors and outside. This would let you run without the iPhone as it will work like a pedometer and it does this quite well.
For fitness on the whole, the Apple Watch can provide good information for the wearer and good tracking for the workouts.
Performance and Speed
The Apple Watch Series 1 is very snappy in all of the apps I use with it. The new processor onboard serves the Apple Watch Series 1 very well. The watch is very easy to use for all-day use. I found my time with it to be enjoyable enough and to do everything I needed from it very well.
Here is the part that should make everyone give the Apple Watch Series 1 a look – price. The Apple Watch Series 1 starts at $269 for the 38mm and costs $299 for the 42mm. The Apple Watch Series 2 starts at $369 for the 38mm and $399 for the 42mm. So, you will pay an extra $100 for GPS onboard the Apple Watch.
But, it is actually not that simple. There have been more sales on the Apple Watch Series 1 than the Apple Watch Series 2 has seen (in fact, I have not seen the Apple Watch Series 2 on sale at any national vendor). When these go on sale, it can be more like a $170 price difference! For that difference, you could actually get a very good one-model-old Garmin watch or even a new one!
Is the Apple Watch Series 1 a Good Running Watch?
So, back to our original question – is the Apple Watch Series 1 a good running watch? I found over several weeks of use that, if you take your iPhone on runs, the Apple Watch Series 1 is a good running watch.
Yes, you will need to have the phone with you but I know that many people rarely leave the house without their phone anyway. Between the price difference and the speed of the watch, I think it makes a great watch.
Plus, one more tidbit – Apple will likely release the Apple Watch Series 3 (or whatever they call it) with a cellular radio onboard. That will eliminate the need to carry an iPhone for your runs and I would be much more prone to go that route then. In the meantime, you could get the latest Apple Watch without having to lay out $400 if you plan on upgrading next year.