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HOME / Wearable Tech / Garmin fenix 5 vs Apple Watch 3 – Smartwatch Comparison Review
Garmin fenix 5 vs Apple Watch 3 – Smartwatch Comparison Review
Direct comparison of the Apple Watch 3 vs Garmin fenix 5 smartwatches
The fenix 5 is Garmin’s high-end GPS sport watch and actually when I refer to the fenix 5, I’m also speaking of the fenix 5S (smaller) and fenix 5X (larger with built-in navigation features) since internally they’re all basically the same watch. So while this is the premium watch lineup from Garmin, the Apple Watch 3 actually will do a lot of what the fenix 5 watches will do. Here’s a list of the larger commonalities:
– Activity tracking features
– Displays incoming notifications from your smartphone
– Interchangeable bands
– Color displays
– Waterproof and supports pool and open-water swimming
– Supports various activities, including running, cycling, hiking, HIIT, and more
– GPS & GLONASS + barometric altimeter
– Built-in wrist heart rate monitor with option to pair external HRMs via Bluetooth
There are obviously other areas where they overlap, but that’s the big stuff.
Why get the Garmin fenix 5 vs Apple Watch Series 3?
The fenix 5 is very likely the more durable of the two watches and it also does not incorporate a touchscreen, which is something that we prefer given the size of watches. Of course, the AWS3 has two buttons and the Digital Crown, but we still prefer a button-only system. On top of this, we think the fenix 5 series are far more attractive. They can look sporty and yet, after switching out the bands and watch face, they can look elegant, while the AWS3 seems to always look like a smartwatch.
Even though the AWS3 has a dedicated activity tracking app and Apple has spent a lot of time improving this feature, we still feel Garmin is better at activity and sleep tracking. Garmin has a better dedicated fitness app as well, not to mention the fact that the AWS3 does not natively track sleeping.
Advanced Training Features
The other two points are subjective. This one is not. The fenix 5 watches feature far more advanced training features. They make physiological measurements to give you more insight into your training. You also can pair them with the HRM-Tri and HRM-Swim for heart rate data while you’re swimming and the HRM-Tri and HRM-Run for advanced running dynamics such as ground contact time and vertical oscillation. To be fair, the average runner will not care about this stuff, but if you’re seriously training for something, these advanced running stats may be important.
On top of this, with just the watch itself, the fenix 5 estimates your real-time cadence while you’re running, which is a very helpful stat for all runners. You also get LiveTracking so friends and family can see how you’re doing in a race or training event.
And this is just a brief overview of the training features. You can also download custom training plans from Garmin as well as discover and create courses for your workouts. You can pair the fenix 5 with plenty of Garmin cycling accessories as well. And if you cycle all the time it just makes sense to keep all your data in one app rather than bouncing back and forth between the Apple Health app and Garmin Connect.
Pretty simple point. If you get the Apple Watch, you’ll be using iOS. If you opt for the fenix 5, you also get Android and Windows Phone support, in addition to iOS support.
The AWS3 will get about 2 days of battery life on a single charge. The fenix 5 will get 7+ days. This will all depend on usage, but nonetheless, you’ll be charging the AWS3 way more than you will the fenix 5. Unfortunately, both require a proprietary charger.
Depending on which Apple Watch you get, you will have access to your data plan, phone-free. That means you can leave your phone behind and still take and make calls as well as access various apps, including WeChat, Maps, and others. Of course, this requires a separate data plan and will no doubt drain battery life faster, but still really neat to have.
With the fenix 5, you don’t have any connectivity while you’re out running or cycling, unless your bring your phone. The AWS3 LTE has a big advantage here.
The fenix 5 has an MSRP of $600 [check price on Amazon]while the AWS3 starts at $329 [see at B&H Photo]. Definitely a big price difference there…but perhaps not so big if you consider that you need a data plan for the AWS3 Cellular. Just looking at MSRP, however, the AWS3 is the clear winner.
Yes, the fenix 5 relays incoming notifications and has various widgets for the weather, etc., but the AWS3 is just better with the smart features since it’s mostly a smartwatch where as the fenix 5 is primarily a sport watch. The notifications are better and more immediate with the AWS3…not to mention you have Siri. You can ask Siri to reply to notifications and execute tasks for you. Nothing like this exists on the fenix 5.
The fenix 5 can control the music that is playing on your phone…if you’re phone is nearby. The AWS3 Cellular, however, can not only do this, but also can stream music phone-free via Apple Music. Additionally, you can store music on the Apple Watch for phone-free listening. So you have three options for music playback with Apple, as opposed to just one with the fenix 5. In my opinion, this is one of the bigger disappointments of the fenix 5 series: no music storage. I also think that if you workout or run with any regularity, this is a legitimate reason to get the AWS3.
More Apps + Apple Pay
Garmin has its Connect IQ store for third-party apps, widgets, and watches, but the Apple Watch App Store is far more robust. You have access to hundreds of apps from major companies such as Instagram, WSJ, ESPN, GoPro, and others. If you’re looking to install apps, the AWS3 is the winner.
Plus, you get Apple Pay with the ASW3. Garmin has introduced Garmin Pay, but so far (as of this post) it’s only available for vivoactive 3 users. No word on if the fenix 5 will ever support Garmin Pay.
If you get a smartwatch, you probably want to customize it somewhat. With Apple, you have thousands of third-party accessories to choose from…way way more than are available to fenix 5 users.