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The fenix 5 Plus and Apple Watch 4 are two of the top dogs when it comes to smart fitness watches. Of course, there is the vivoactive 3 Music, Fitbit Ionic, Fitbit Versa, Forerunner 645, and others, but if you’re looking for maximum features and aren’t too concerned with price, the fenix 5 Plus and Apple Watch are most likely on your short list.
In this post we are going to cover the major differences and relative advantages/disadvantages of the watches. But before we do that, let’s run through a few areas where the two watches are more or less the same:
Sport Features: Both watches have GPS & GLONASS, are completely water resistant, and support workouts such as running, cycling, and swimming (indoor and outdoor). Both also have wrist heart rate monitors and pair with external heart rate sensors.
Wrist HRM on fenix 5 Plus.
Smart Features: Both watches relay incoming smartphone notifications, have native apps and widgets, and support mobile payments (Apple Pay and Garmin Pay). Additionally, the fenix 5 Plus and Apple Watch 4 both have music storage for phone-free listening via Bluetooth headphones. Garmin uses Spotify, iHeartRadio, and Deezer, while Apple solely uses Apple Music.
Activity Tracking: Both track your daily activity levels and send out Move Reminders, in addition to supporting challenges and competition amongst friends and family. On top of that, you have daily alarms, a stopwatch, and a timer.
Where the Garmin fenix 5 Plus beats out the Apple Watch Series 4
There are a number of major reasons that you’d get the fenix 5 Plus over the Apple Watch Series 4, including durability, performance features, and more. We will cover all the big stuff in this section.
fenix 5 Plus and fenix 5.
Just for clarification though, when I mention the fenix 5 Plus, I’m technically referring to all three devices in the fenix 5 Plus lineup (fenix 5 Plus, 5S, and 5X). As I am sure you’re aware, there are differences even between the three fenix 5 Plus watches, but those differences won’t really impact this particular comparison much.
This should be a relatively unchallenged point. The fenix 5 is built to be extra-durable and sporty, whereas the Apple Watch is overtly a smartwatch—no one is bragging about the toughness of their Apple Watch.
A look at the fenix 5S Plus.
Now, clearly, if you’re pretty gentle with your watch, this is a moot point, but if you’re active and want a hardy sport watch, the fenix 5 Plus is the clear winner. Even if you get the fenix 5S Plus (which is the smallest of the three f5 Plus watches), it still feels more substantial than the AWS4.
Close up of fenix 5 Plus.
Battery life on fenix 5 Plus
Pretty plain and simple, the fenix 5 Plus watches have better battery life than the Apple Watch Series 4. Obviously, how heavily you utilize the features of the watch will impact battery performance, but in almost every case the fenix 5 Plus watches should outlast the AWS4.
Apple Watch 4
Nearly 2 Full Days
1 Day Max
Garmin fenix 5 Plus
Garmin fenix 5S Plus
Garmin fenix 5X Plus
Since testing battery life is becoming increasingly difficult to do with all the new features on these watches, above are our best estimates. As a reminder, we’ve spent quite a bit of time with these watches, so this isn’t just a finger-in-the-wind tactic. Having said that, results (obviously) may vary.
Garmin is a performance company and the fenix 5 Plus watches are the cream of the crop when it comes to hardcore sport features. Here are a just a few features that you will not find on the Apple Watch 4.
As a heads up, for most people these will be complete overkill, but if you’re serious about training, you’ll probably appreciate at least a few of these features.
Running Dynamics. If you pair the fenix 5 Plus with the HRM-Tri, HRM-Run, or Run Dynamics Pod[see on Amazon], you can get advanced running stats such as stride length, vertical oscillation, ground contact time, and others. Here’s a video that explains these run dynamics stats in further detail.
Physiological Measurements. Most of the physiological measurements are provided by First Beat Technologies and you will see them on select other devices, not including the Apple Watch (at least as of now).
Performance Condition (video above), which estimates how ‘fresh’ you are during a workout. It basically tells you whether your workout will be good or bad and it’s usually spot on in terms of accuracy.
And then there’s Training Effect (video above), which lets you know how a particular workout impacted your overall fitness. It sort of sounds useless, but actually, it’s quite helpful and interesting to look at.
Race Predictor, VO2 Max, and Recovery Advisor.
There are plenty of other physiological measurements, including VO2 Max, Lactate Threshold, Recovery Advisor, and Training Load that you have access to as well. You can learn more here on Garmin’s website.
External Sensors. You can also pair the fenix 5 Plus watches with more sensors, including speed/cadence sensors and power meters for cycling. That’s, of course, on top of Garmin’s smart lights, action camera, and dog tracking system.
While Apple has a maps app and there are other 3rd party apps you can download, Garmin has a native mapping system, which is the better option for outdoorsmen and athletes. Also, as a point of clarification, the maps with the fenix 5 Plus work completely independent of your phone (i.e. you don’t even need your phone nearby for them to work).
Maps on fenix 5S Plus
There are a few really helpful things that you can do with the maps. First, and most obviously, you can get an idea of your surroundings—Garmin even equips the watches with topographical maps.
Screenshot of topographical maps on fenix 5 Plus.
You can also create courses via Garmin Connect (iOS, Android, web) and transfer those to the watch. You can then follow along for a particular run, hike, bike ride, etc.. Below is a screenshot of a course that I created for a trail run. The watch actually points you in the right direction as you run and even lets you know if you navigate off your preselected route.
Using the maps on the fenix 5 Plus.
Garmin even shows you other notable trails, landmarks, and obstacles right on your wrist. This definitely comes in handy, especially if you aren’t familiar with your current environment.
Screenshot of creating a course on Garmin’s web app.
That’s just a quick overview of what you can do with the maps from Garmin. There are other things, but in the interest of brevity, we will move on.
Native golf app with Garmin
While there are 3rd party apps available for the Apple Watch (which aren’t great), Garmin provides you one from the get-go on the fenix 5 Plus watches—and it works very well.
Golf app on fenix 5 Plus.
There are something like 40,000 courses for you to choose from on Garmin’s mobile app. The app shows you, among other things, distance to front, middle, and back of the green, yardage, and a score card.
Fairly simple. Garmin supports in-depth sleep tracking and Apple technically does not. If you care to track your sleep, go Garmin.
The Apple Watch Series 4 starts at $400 and $500 for the GPS and Cellular version, respectively [check Apple Watch price at Walmart]. Still not exactly cheap, but certainly more affordable than fenix 5 Plus. If you do opt for the Cellular version though, in order to get access to data on the go, you need a separate wireless plan with your current mobile carrier.
As previously mentioned, there is a Cellular version of the Apple Watch 4 that allows you to take and make calls, receive and answer messages, and use certain apps, completely phone-free. No such option exists for the fenix 5 Plus.
AWS4 is available in a GPS version and GPS + Cellular version
The cellular capabilities of the AWS4 can be very helpful, particularly when your phone isn’t nearby. You will still have access to calls, emails, messages, and more.
Also related to the Cellular version, you can actually stream Apple Music directly on the Apple Watch 4, completely phone-free.
Store music, stream music, or control music from the Apple Watch 4
Now, this is only available when you have the Cellular version and you pay for the monthly plan. If you do this, however, in addition to being able to store music directly on the watch, you can actually stream music just as if you were doing so on your phone. Really neat stuff.
The Apple Watch is the better smartwatch
Unsurprisingly, the Apple Watch is a better overall smartwatch than the fenix 5 Plus. And by that I mean, it’s better in terms of notifications, widgets, and applications.
A peek inside the WatchOS App Store
The notifications are not only more interactive, but you can also reply to them. For example, you can respond to messages with preset phrases, emojis, a small keyboard, or voice (via Siri). You can also take and make calls and interact with Apple Maps.
Look how quick Siri is on the Apple Watch 4!
RELATED: Apple Watch 4 – Check Current Price at Walmart
Apple even has a larger app store than Garmin. There are dozens upon dozens of apps that you can download onto your Apple Watch. Some of the big names include GoPro, Facebook, Instagram, Evernote, IFTTT, BMW iRemote, Nest, Philips Hue, Runtastic, UA Record, MapMyRun, Shazam, STRAVA, and TripAdvisor.
More 3rd party accessories
The Apple Watch is vastly more popular than the fenix 5 Plus and therefore attracts more 3rd parties who create different accessories for the device. For example, you will struggle to find quality watch bands for the fenix 5 on Amazon, but if you search for Apple Watch bands on Amazon, there are 20+ pages of results, plenty of which are decent options. The same goes for charging stations, cases, screen protectors, and more.