Apple Watch vs Garmin Fenix: Which Is Best For Cyclists?

From amateur to pro, measuring exercise data can be interesting and insightful.

With an abundance of devices on the market, it’s hard to know which piece of kit you should invest your hard-earned cash into.

In this article, we’ll be comparing two popular choices: Apple Watch vs Garmin Fenix.

We’ll be concentrating on these key points:

  • Battery Performance
  • Health Metrics
  • GPS Tracking
  • Smartwatch Features
  • Compatibility with third-party apps and external sensors
  • Design and Display
  • Safety Features
  • Cycling-Specific Features

Let’s find what’s best for you – Garmin watch vs Apple Watch!

Apple Watch Vs Garmin Fenix: Title Image

Apple Watch vs Garmin Fenix: Battery Performance

It is no secret that the Apple Watch’s battery life leaves much to be desired.

Apple’s website claims the watch can track up to 10 hours of outdoor activity tracked with GPS and 4G LTE. However, claims from users tend to reveal that actual useable time is closer to 4-6 hours, with a full battery life lasting just over two days without tracking.

Fine for casual rides, but not well suited to full-day adventures or multi-day bikepacking trips.

On the other hand, Garmin has a well-established reputation for superior battery life. The Garmin Fenix will comfortably last over seven days before needing a bit of juice.

Rest assured, your long rides will be fully tracked, with no chance of the watch dying before the 16-hour mark.

Want to ride for even longer than that? Garmin also offers models such as the Garmin Fenix 6 Solar; you’ll be hard-pressed to outlast this one.

When it comes to battery performance, the Garmin Fenix far outlasts the Apple Watch.

Apple Watch vs Garmin Fenix: Health Metrics

Smartwatches have come a long way in the last ten years when it comes to recording health metrics.

Data can provide athletes with helpful information to better inform their training decisions.

Apple and Garmin can track heart rate, stress, sleep, and blood oxygen. Both watches can also measure VO2 max, or ‘Cardio Fitness,’ which is an excellent indicator of aerobic performance.

Apple’s built-in heart rate sensor performs slightly better than Garmin’s “Elevate” system. Although, both watches provide less reliable data than a heart rate strap.

So, Apple Watch or Garmin?

Although both watches are a close matchup with regard to measuring capability, Garmin offers more comprehensive metrics and data screens to relay that information.

Recovery time and body battery are two extremely useful features unique to Garmin, giving it the edge.

Apple Watch vs Garmin Fenix: GPS Tracking

A GPS-enabled smartwatch is a must for any serious athlete by providing accurate speed and distance data. You will also be able to track where you have been and plan where you want to go!

Both watches come with built-in GPS.

Garmin uses a multi-satellite network combining GPS + GLONASS + GALILEO giving it superior navigational capabilities.

This is significant if you are in the mountains, with GLONASS specializing in rugged conditions like dense woodlands or large mountain valleys.

A cyclist in a blue shirt wearing an Apple Watch.

Apple Watch vs Garmin Fenix: Smartwatch Features

So you want to pay for cake and coffee at the cafe, but you’ve forgotten to bring cash or your card.

Rest assured, both watches offer contactless payments.

You can also cycle along to soothing songs via integrated music storage and receive notification alerts from your phone. In this regard, both Apple and Garmin serve you well.

Apple Pay includes a more extensive selection of banks than Garmin Pay.

Apple also has a more significant number of apps on the Apple Store than Garmin has on the Garmin Connect IQ Store, with Apple offering more storage space too.

Although Garmin watches sync data with third-party apps like Strava and myfitnesspal via Garmin ConnectIQ, it’s not always a seamless process.

Apple watches allow you to use these apps on the watch itself. Although the data fields may be limited, they avoid the hassle of importing and exporting.

That being said, Garmin gives you access to a vast base of 3rd party cycling-specific apps.

In terms of Apple Watch vs Garmin, Apple edges out Garmin in this category.

Apple Watch vs Garmin Fenix: Compatibility with external sensors

If cycling, the use of external sensors such as a head unit, power meter, or HRM (heart rate monitor) strap is something to take into consideration.

Both watches support external sensors via Bluetooth connection. However, Garmin goes one step further by offering dual compatibility options (Bluetooth and ANT+), allowing greater connectivity, particularly if you are using an indoor trainer.

Apple Watch only supports Bluetooth sensors, so if you are trying to connect an ANT+ device, you are going to run into trouble.

A black Apple Watch sits on a white surface.

Apple Watch vs Garmin Fenix: Design and Display

When it comes to aesthetics and design, that is a subjective choice; you get to decide which watch will look better on your wrist!

Garmin watches often represent a typical style for a watch but can be oversized and chunky for some. Whether design should be stylish or functional is open for debate.

But when it comes to cycling watches, functionality generally trumps aesthetics.

Functional capabilities that are demanded of a smartwatch should be that they are waterproof (at least 5 ATM water-resistant), scratch-resistant, and should be lightweight. Garmin pulls ahead here.

Apple Watches boast an OLED display which offers a much better resolution than the TFT display found on the Garmin Fenix.

Not only that, but Apple Watches offer touchscreen capabilities that can improve practicality or make it harder, depending on how sweaty your hands are. Although Garmin doesn’t have a touch screen, its design is practical to use.

As per the unique demands of cyclists, the Garmin Fenix will fare better in rougher conditions but may not be as sleek as the Apple Watch.

A jogger in purple leggings checks her heart rate on an Apple Watch after falling.

Apple Watch vs Garmin Fenix: Safety Features

Both watches offer fall detection in the unfortunate eventuality of a crash. This will alert your emergency contacts unless you tell them not to. You do not need a phone connected to do this, as long as you have LTE available models.

Garmin also offers a LiveTrack feature where you can share your real-time location. But, this feature is dependent on a smartphone, and this a great feature if you are heading out alone, particularly if the route is remote or technical.

The safety features are more or less the same.

Apple Watch vs Garmin Fenix: Cycling-Specific Features

The Garmin Fenix offers modes for four different cycling activities: Biking, Indoor Biking, Mountain Biking, and Triathlon.

On the other hand, Apple offers two: Indoor Cycle and Outdoor Cycle.

When you get to the end of your ride, you can trawl through a host of data. Garmin Fenix will lay out advanced performance data, such as training load, VO2 max, and FTP (functional threshold power). The cycling features and training metrics on the Apple Watch are limited.

The Garmin Fenix can also be mounted to the bike, mimicking a dedicated bike computer. Garmin also offers other features such as ‘Race an Activity,’ allowing you to race a previous activity of yours.

With Garmin Fenix, you get altitude acclimation, on-screen mapping, real-time weather forecasts, turn-by-turn navigation, and gradient climbing data.

When comparing the Apple Watch to Garmin Fenix in terms of cycling-specific features, Garmin offers far more.

A woman in a white top uses a black Apple Watch.

Apple Watch vs Garmin Fenix: Which Should You Buy?

So, Apple Watch or Garmin?

Both smartwatches are great options. However, when it comes to answering the question Apple Watch vs. Garmin Fenix: which is best for cyclists?

The Garmin Fenix far outweighs the Apple Watch as a cycling-specific watch.

However, the Apple Watch is an excellent option as a day-to-day smartwatch.

It may be a great choice for you if you want a watch that will make it easy to message friends, add events to your calendar, and measure your daily commute or short weekend rides.

There is no inbuilt map function and less accurate GPS than its competitor. It does the job, but it’s not built for cycling.

Apple Watch falls wildly short when it comes to battery life. Even when fully charged, it doesn’t compare to the Garmin Fenix.

Garmin Fenix is not built for day-to-day correspondence; it is built to be a multisport GPS watch. It can handle all kinds of cycling; road biking, mountain biking, indoor cycling, and so on.

They have a far superior battery life, a well-thought-out sports-friendly design, comprehensive support for external sensors, and a complete group of exciting features for cycling.

The Garmin Connect app’s interface is well-designed and can be customized according to your sporting interests.

The Garmin Fenix watch beats the Apple Watch Series in all aspects other than 3rd party apps.

Found this Apple Watch Vs Garmin guide helpful? Check out more from the BikeTips experts below!

Photo of author
Ben is an avid cyclist and runner, evenly splitting his time between road and mountain bike. He is a particular fan of XC ultra-endurance, but nothing beats bikepacking with mates. He has toured extensively through the UK and is currently spending a summer in the Alps and Pyrenees trying to cycle up as many mountains as possible. Ben has worked for the last eight years as a Personal Trainer and Sports Massage Therapist.

Leave a Comment

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.