Traditionally, the matchup of Apple Watch vs Garmin wasn’t a tough decision if you considered your core needs in a wearable, but their latest flagship watches have blurred that line. Even though the Apple Watch Series 7 and Garmin Fenix 7 Series are still on opposite sides of the wearable spectrum, they now sport enough crossover features to make the decision a lot more complicated.
Here’s how they stack up when comparing some of the most important features for active wearable users:
Table of Contents
Apple Watch Series 7
- Best-in-class screen-to-bezel ratio (HUGE screen!)
- Best wrist-worn heart rate monitor
- LTE models keep you fully connected without your phone
- ECG sensor and app for medical-grade heart rate readings
- Impressive Always-On display
- Premium workout videos and programs through Apple Fitness+ ($9.99/month or $79.99/year)
- Fast charging (0%-80% in 45 minutes)
- Lots of additional apps for increasing the functionality, especially for multisport athletes
- Battery life is still horrible
- Only for iPhone users
- Most apps cost extra
- AMOLED display isn’t as visible in sunny conditions as Garmin’s
- Transflective (MIP) display
- Not as durable as competitors
- Not an ideal watch for marathoners or triathletes
Garmin Fenix 7 Series
- Ridiculous battery life! (11-28 days in smartwatch mode and more with solar models!)
- Solar charging models provide extended battery life
- Super-efficient and accurate heart rate sensor (Garmin Elevate V4)
- Transflective (MIP) display looks even better outdoors than indoors
- 5 physical buttons for better menu navigation and selecting during workouts/wet conditions
- Responsive touch display (NEW to Fenix Series)
- Best-in-class GPS tracking and navigation with topographic, road, trail, and ski maps of the world
- Adaptive 5k, 10k, and marathon coach-lead training programs
- Built-in LED flashlight (Fenix 7X models only)
- 10 ATM or 100M water resistance
- FREE Garmin Connect app includes everything you need, from advanced biometric tracking to tons of fitness programs.
- On-wrist workout programs for Yoga, HIIT, cardio, strength training, and more
- Compatible with iPhone and Android
- Holds up to 2,000 songs
- No ECG Sensor
- No mic for hands-free usage
- No LTE model
- No smartwatch apps
While the transflective display on the Garmin Fenix 7 is “basic” compared to the beautiful and vibrant AMOLED display on Apple Watches, it pays off if you’re an outdoor enthusiast.
The transflective display looks better in sunlight and is far more battery efficient. Also, the Fenix 7 Series has models with a solar charging panel integrated right into the display.
Another huge addition to the Fenix family is the touch functionality. I’ve always loved Garmin’s physical, 5-button navigation on models like the Fenix and Forerunner, but the added touch screen capability is a nice luxury.
If you’re looking for the traditional smartphone experience on your wrist, then the Apple Watch 7 is the easy choice. The rotating-crown navigation and extremely responsive AMOLED touch display are best-in-class.
When it comes down to it, there’s no true winner in this category because they serve two completely different usage styles.
If battery life is a high priority for you, then the Garmin Fenix 7 is the obvious winner. When compared to all of its other premium specs, the battery life is one of its finest features.
Besides the extended battery life of the solar models, we’ve consistently got at least 7 days of battery life with moderate usage. That includes 24/7 heart rate monitoring, nighttime Pulse-Ox, 1-hour GPS workout tracking (per day), smart notifications, and more.
If you’re a long-distance runner, biker, or hiker, the Garmin Fenix family continues to be your best choice.
With the Apple Watch Series 7 struggling just to make it through the day with normal usage, battery life continues to be THE MOST frustrating issue with the whole Apple Watch family.
Multisport and Fitness Features
This category is one of the areas where the Apple Watch family has started to catch up. They both can track almost any sport or activity, but there is one huge difference. The Garmin Connect app features almost everything you need in one app, and it’s ALL free!
Garmin’s 5K, 10K, marathon, and other coaching programs are adaptive, so they change based on your individual fitness level. Plus, besides all of the pre-made strength, cardio, and other training programs, you can create your own custom workouts.
For runners and bikers, the Garmin Fenix 7 Series is essentially a luxury version of the Forerunner series. Everything you need from Advanced running/biking metrics to on-wrist maps comes included.
Just like most traditional smartwatches, the Apple Watch 7 requires you to download 3rd-party apps to take advantage of the Apple Watch 7’s multisport tracking capabilities. Plus, most of the 3rd-party workout and sport tracking apps that are worth using come with a price tag.
For most users, this category is a toss-up. However, if you have chest strap heart rate monitors, bike sensors, and other workout-tracking sensors, Garmin is still a far more compatible device for connecting with those devices.
This is another area where Apple continues to catch up. First of all, the Garmin Fenix 7 Series features 10ATM water resistance, which can reach depths of 100 meters.
Even though the Apple Watch Series 7 has only half the water resistance, 50 meters is more than enough for the average user. Both track pool and open-water swimming really well, on top of many other water sports.
The main advantage of the Garmin Fenix 7 in wet conditions is the physical navigation buttons. Even though the Apple Watch 7’s touch screen and button-crown navigation work pretty well with wet hands or gloves, nothing beats the Garmin Fenix 7’s physical 5-button navigation in the same conditions.
Obviously, the Apple Watch Series 7 wins this category in dramatic fashion, but Garmin gives you just enough smart features to satisfy most users’ basic needs.
With the Apple Watch Series 7, you literally have a cell phone on your wrist, so if you want (or need) that style of wearable, then the Apple Watch is your only choice. Not to mention the LTE models that get their own unique phone number, so you can leave your phone at home and still get calls, notifications, stream music, and more.
On the other hand, the Garmin Fenix 7 Series performs more like a fitness tracker. You’re able to answer calls, read texts, and view most notifications, as long as you’re phone is within Bluetooth range. Also, all the Fenix 7 models have enough storage to hold 2,000 songs from Spotify, Amazon Music, and more. That’s about it when it comes to smart features, though.
One of my favorite smart features on both smartwatch options is “Find My Phone.” It’s a simple yet priceless feature, especially if you tend to misplace things or have kids who can get their hands on your device.
Biometric & Activity Tracking
As we already went over, both are great at tracking almost any sport, but how good are the other tracking metrics when compared to each other?
Both wearables use multiple global positioning systems to achieve excellent GPS accuracy for tracking activities and navigation. Also, unless you live under a bridge, they both connect fast when initiating a workout.
The Fenix 7 Series features Gamin’s new Elevate V4 HR tracking system. With a combination of the new sensor array and improved tracking algorithm, the Fenix 7 is one of the best wrist-worn HR trackers.
Even with those improvements, the improved heart rate tracking on the Apple Watch Series 7 puts it securely in the #1 spot for wrist-worn HR trackers.
On top of the premium HR sensor and best-in-class tracking algorithm, the Apple Watch’s ECG sensor offers medical-grade HR tracking for extremely accurate on-the-spot readings. The main downside is that the 24/7 HR readings are one of the main causes for the short battery life.
The Garmin Fenix 7 Series does a great job of tracking the 3 main sleep stages. On top of Deep, Light, and REM sleep tracking, it’ll track your blood oxygen level, respiration, restlessness, and more! Plus, the Garmin Connect app offers some great sleep analysis and tips on improving your sleep quality.
With that said, the Apple Watch Series 7 is also a leader in this category due to its overall simplicity. Apple finally broke into the sleep tracking scene in 2021, so they’re years behind the competition, and we may see more complexity in the future.
For now, Apple concentrates on the simple side of getting good quality sleep. Instead of measuring sleep stages like Deep, Light, and REM, they concentrate on tracking the sleep habits the user can actively control. Their logic is that bedtime consistency and avoiding distractions before bedtime are more important than sleep stages and providing an overall sleep score.
At the same time, Garmin’s sleep scores have always been a good indicator of how you’ll feel throughout the day, especially when combined with Garmin’s unique Body Battery metric.
The biggest drawback to using the Apple Watch to track sleep is that with the 18-hour battery life, you’ll have to charge your watch at least 2 times a day in order to get enough juice to make it through the night. Luckily, the Apple Watch Series 7 has fast charging, but it’s still pretty annoying.
Looking at the Apple Watch vs Garmin side by side, they couldn’t be more different. Besides the display shapes, the overall styles are quite different.
Depending on which Fenix 7 model you choose, you’re getting some mix of a sporty and rugged look. Even the smallest Fenix model (Fenix 7s, 42mm) can be a little bulky on smaller wrists, but if you prefer larger watches, the 51mm Fenix 7X has almost triple the battery life!
The Fenix 7 Series falls short due to the lack of downloadable watch faces and replacement watchband options. Even though its thicker watchband pins are more secure, it’s the main reason of the limited 3rd-party replacement band options.
On the other hand, the Apple Watch Series 7 shines in this category. Besides the 1,000’s of premium pre-made and custom watch faces to choose from, the replacement watchband options are even more endless.
While Apple has a great selection of replacement options of their own, the third-party selection of replacement watchbands is better than almost any other wearable.
For active users, some of the coolest options are the full-surround Apple Watch cases with built-in straps. They offer an added layer of protection and can give your Apple Watch a more rugged and sporty look.
Apple Watch vs Garmin Fenix
As we mentioned earlier, the Apple Watch Series 7 and Garmin Fenix 7 Series have enough crossover features to make it a tough choice. Unless you’re looking for a specific feature that only one of these has, here are some of the main strengths of each smartwatch to consider before buying:
Apple Watch Series 7
- Accurate HR and sleep tracking
- Best phone-free workouts
- Easier user interface and operation
- Most customizable style
- Best smartwatch features
Garmin Fenix 7 Series
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- Best battery life
- Advance running, biking, and other metrics
- Best durability and water resistance
- Great for outdoor sports and activities