We are reader supported. When you buy through our links, we may earn an affiliate commission. Learn more.

Garmin vs Apple Watch (2021): Serious Athlete Or Fitness Enthusiast?

Garmin and Apple are two of the top brands when it comes to premium smartwatches. When shopping for a high-end GPS-enabled fitness tracker, how do you decide between the two? We decided to compare two of the latest models from each brand, the Garmin fēnix 5 Plus vs the Apple Watch Series 4, to give you a better idea of which to get for yourself or as a gift.

Garmin vs Apple Watch Comparison Chart

ModelGarmin fēnix 5 PlusApple Watch Series 4
Garmin fenix 5 PlusApple Watch Series 4 - Stainless Steel
PriceCheck Price

at Garmin.com

Check Price

at Amazon.com

DesignRugged, round displaySleek, rectangular display
Case Sizes42mm, 47mm, 51mm40mm, 44mm
Screen Size1.2 inches1.78 inches
Resolutions240 x 240324 x 394, 368 x 448
AMOLED DisplayNoYes
Water ResistanceUp to 10 ATMUp to 5 ATM
Heart Rate MonitorYesYes
Calorie Burn TrackerYesYes
Stroke CounterYesYes
Multisport ModeYesNo
Built-in GPSYesYes
CompatibilityiOS, AndroidiOS
Battery LifeUp to 7 daysUp to 18 hours


The Garmin fēnix 5 Plus has a rugged look; the Apple Watch Series 4 has a sleek design.

Garmin vs Apple Watch Design
Garmin and Apple clearly designed their smartwatches for different audiences.

The overall design of each of these smartwatches should quickly pull you closer to either camp, hopefully making this buying decision much easier.

The rugged and robust build of the fēnix 5 Plus makes it clear that it’s designed for the great outdoors. Long-distance cyclists, mountain climbers, and other athletes who spend as much time training outside as staying indoors will give Garmin’s tough-as-nails smartwatch a solid nod. It’s available in larger sizes than Apple’s, although it has a smaller 1.2 inch screen and a lower resolution of 240 x 240 pixels. Its bright display is easy to see even under intense outdoor light, and it has an always-on option so you can glance at it on the move and check your readouts instantly.

On the other hand, Apple kept the smooth and sleek curves of previous generations of the Apple Watch. It arguably looks more sophisticated, even classy. Despite a smaller case size, its screen only has a thin bezel, maximizing the available space to display each app in vibrant color. Speaking of which, the Apple Watch can be controlled via touchscreen, digital crown, or voice command, while you’ll have to rely on the fēnix 5 Plus’s buttons.

Both devices sport scratch-resistant sapphire crystal lenses and can withstand continuous use underwater, although the Garmin fēnix 5 Plus can go twice as deep as the Series 4.

Activity Tracking

The Garmin fēnix 5 Plus is jam-packed with more fitness-related features.

Garmin vs Apple Watch Activity Tracking
The fēnix 5 Plus Series watches offer advanced performance metrics and navigation.

The Garmin fēnix 5 Plus is an outdoor activity tracker first, and a smartwatch second. This becomes very clear once you compare the depth of the fitness features it offers and the metrics it can measure. It can accurately monitor your heart-rate, using this data to count steps, record sleep quality, calculate calories burned, and determine workout intensity. Moreover, it can compute your workout progress and what level of activity your body can handle at any given moment using your recent exercise history, helping you tune your form as well as keep you within safe limits.

Both devices have multinetwork satellite reception (GPS, GLONASS, and Galileo) and ABC sensors (altimeter, barometer, and compass) to provide excellent navigation even on higher elevations. However, Garmin preloaded the fēnix 5 Plus with map data to optimize its ability to track your location as well as provide optimal routing for off-road trails, a feature any cyclist will love.

Furthermore, fēnix 5 Plus has a multisport mode that automatically detects your activity and loads the appropriate profile. You’ll be able to keep different records for running, cycling, hiking, swimming, rowing, and more. It’s also designed specially for golfers — it comes with thousands of courses detailed with exact yardages, along with a shot distance calculator, scorecard, and more third-party apps to help improve your game.

The Apple Watch Series 4’s activity tracking is nothing to sneeze at, but compared to the fēnix 5 Plus, it’s better suited for keeping an active lifestyle and less for intense training and outdoor challenges.

Deal Finder
Apple Watch Series 4 (GPS + Cellular, 40mm)

This Apple Watch Series 4 comes in a Gold Stainless Steel Case with Gold Milanese Loop. Featuring electrical and optical heart sensors, ECG app, and a 30% larger Retina display.

Check Price at Amazon
We are reader supported. When you buy through our links we may earn an affiliate commission.

Smart Features

The Apple Watch’s design and features make it the better smartwatch.

Garmin vs Apple Watch Smart Features
Apple’s ecosystem provides a deeper selection of apps.

In terms of connectivity, the Apple Watch Series 4 has the clear edge. While both have Bluetooth and Wi-Fi, the Apple Watch syncs automatically and lets you answer calls or send quick replies to texts. With the GPS + Cellular model, you’ll even be able to completely leave your iPhone behind and still stay connected to the internet as well as be available on the same phone number. Apple basically designed a tiny iPhone you can wear.

The larger display and better controls on the Apple Watch also enhance its smartwatch experience. You can access a much bigger library of compatible apps, including Facebook, Strava, Nest, Evernote, Shazam, GoPro, TripAdvisor, etc., and enjoy them on an actual interactive touchscreen. The cellular model will also let you stream music directly from Apple Music, although this requires a monthly plan. The earlier fēnix 5 previously did not have any music capabilities at all, but the new Plus can now store up to 1,000 songs.

Both also offer mobile payment features in the form of Apple Pay and Garmin Pay, so you can enjoy that perk of being able to pay with your wrist, or a fallback in case you forgot your wallet when you went out for a run.

Compatibility and Battery Life

The Garmin fēnix 5 Plus works with Android and it can last up to a week without recharging.

Garmin vs Apple Watch Compatibility Battery Life
Garmin definitely has the upper hand on battery life.

The fēnix 5 Plus packs some serious battery life indeed. Without GPS and music, you can stretch out a single charge to last a full week. That means you can continue wearing the Garmin for several days and track multiple training sessions, while you’ll have to take off and charge the Apple Watch every night as its battery life is only up to 18 hours. With GPS turned on, the Garmin fēnix 5 Plus still lasts almost twice as long as the Apple Watch, 11 hours compared to 6 hours.

Finally, the Apple Watch will only work with iOS devices, while the Garmin can be used with Android in addition.


Serious athletes will want the Garmin fēnix 5 Plus, but the Apple Watch Series 4 is the better buy otherwise.

Deal Finder
Apple Watch Series 4 (GPS + Cellular, 40mm)

This Apple Watch Series 4 comes in a Gold Stainless Steel Case with Gold Milanese Loop. Featuring electrical and optical heart sensors, ECG app, and a 30% larger Retina display.

Check Price at Amazon
We are reader supported. When you buy through our links we may earn an affiliate commission.

The plethora of fitness tracking and navigation features on the Garmin fēnix 5 Plus makes it the clear choice for intense training and outdoor adventures. Triathletes, marathon runners, and those who love the outdoors will especially appreciate how it can help maximize and fine-tune workouts, and how reliable its map guidance is — not to mention how long its battery can last.

On the other hand, if you just want to be able to stay active or are still figuring out what training regimen works for you, the Apple Watch is not only more casual-friendly, it’s also less expensive. That might be a surprise since this is Apple we’re talking about here, but it’s a rare instance of an Apple product being the “budget” choice.

The Garmin fēnix 5 Plus is truly a high-durability gadget with a focused mission, and its premium price tag reflects that. While there are similarly priced Apple Watch Series 4 models, such as the Hermes edition, you can actually get two non-cellular Apple Watches for the price of the fēnix 5 Plus. If you’re more of a fitness enthusiast who wants to enjoy a smartwatch for more than just training, the Apple Watch is the way to go.


📌 Which is more accurate, Garmin or Apple Watch?

The accuracy of Garmin and Apple Watch smartwatches is comparable. Both yield accurate and reliable results.

📌 Do Garmin watches work with Apple products?

Yes, you can easily connect a Garmin smartwatch or activity tracker to an Apple device via Bluetooth.

📌 Does Garmin pair with iPhone?

Yes, pairing a Garmin with an iPhone through Bluetooth is a breeze.

📌 Which is better, Garmin or Apple Watch?

With the plethora of Garmin watches available today, it’s hard to answer this question with a straight yes or no. Overall, fitness enthusiasts will appreciate the wealth of fitness metrics that top-tier Garmin watches offer.

RELATED  Fitbit Versa 3 vs Apple Watch 4 (2021): Which Fitness Smartwatch Should You Get?
Derick Bondoc

Managing Editor at Compare Before Buying. Writer and researcher passionate about gadgets, gaming and snacks.