Apple watch

Apple Watch Ultra or Garmin: Which sports smartwatch to buy

Apple just launched its latest generation iPhone last week, but it may be its wearable companion that’s generating more internet chatter these days. The Apple Watch Ultra, in particular, is stirring up a storm in a somewhat niche smartwatch market focused on extreme sports and highly active lifestyles. It may just look like an overgrown Apple Watch on the outside, but that’s part of the appeal of Apple’s most rugged smartwatch yet. After all, why would you settle for a rugged-looking sports smartwatch like Garmin when you can have a rugged yet stylish smartwatch from Apple instead? That’s exactly the question we’ll try to answer, pitting the Apple Watch Ultra against Garmin’s best to weigh the pros and cons before saying goodbye to your hard-earned cash.

Designate: Apple, Garmin


Neither of the two smartwatch makers’ designs are new. The Apple Watch Ultra definitely looks like a larger Apple Watch, one with a size of 49mm that’s nothing to scoff at. It comes with that rectangular face that the Apple Watch has worn for generations, but with a flatter display that makes it easier to protect with sapphire crystal. The Ultra model deviates a bit from the standard design with an extruded housing for the side button and an additional programmable Action button on the opposite side.

Garmin’s sports smartwatches like the Epix 2 and Enduro 2 contrast sharply with this design. Where Apple’s watches have always leaned more towards the classy end of the spectrum, Garmin doesn’t care about the rugged and sporty nature of its smartwatches. They have typical circular faces, but don’t expect luxurious looks like those from Samsung, Montblanc or Fossil. And where Apple is aiming for minimalism as it usually does, Garmin tends to throw everything into its devices, giving these two sports watches no less than five buttons to play with. These are especially useful when you can’t use the touchscreen because you’re wearing very thick gloves.

In terms of appearances, the choice is a bit clearer. Do you want a sports smartwatch, or do you want one that can hide in plain sight for any occasion? Sure, there are even more differences under the hood, especially when it comes to details like battery life and health features, but if you can’t get past the looks of the smartwatch , these differences might not make sense anyway.

Specifications and Features

What differentiates a sports smartwatch from a typical sports watch is, of course, the hardware that powers it. This is also where the lines between Apple and Garmin blur and intertwine, making it a bit more difficult to choose between the two. As for the display, for example, the Apple Watch Ultra has Garmin Epix 2 beats with a more pixel-dense screen that really makes icons and text pop. That said, neither are your typical smartwatches, and they both try to compete in telling you where you are or where you’ve been.

Smartwatches designed for athletes require more attention to location than conventional wearables. Garmin, whose core business is exactly in this area, has a long lead over Apple. While the Apple Watch Ultra features dual-band GPS for the first time, Garmin has been using multi-band satellite systems for much longer. The latter also has the advantage of having access to more types of maps and topographic data than Apple, many of which come pre-installed on its smartwatches.

Garmin’s sports wearables also support external Bluetooth devices, especially those used by athletes and adventurers to monitor stats and data that the smartwatch itself cannot collect. It’s too early to count Apple out of the game since the Watch Ultra is its first stab in this space. But extremely active people who need solutions now might not be too keen on waiting for Apple to upgrade.

Battery life

The biggest headline for the Apple Watch Ultra, however, is its battery life. Thanks to its larger size and other hardware improvements, it is able to accommodate a larger battery and announce up to 36 hours of autonomy in normal use. This can even be extended to 60 hours with a new low power mode, which is practically two and a half days. That’s a big improvement over the typical 18 hours of a regular Apple Watch, but that’s only when compared to Apple’s smartwatches.

Garmin, on the other hand, counts days, not hours, when it comes to battery life. The Garmin Epix 2, for example, has 16 hours, although the figure could be reduced to just 42 hours if GPS mode is activated. And that’s nothing compared to the new Garmin Enduro 2, which is advertised to last 34 days, not hours, in normal smartwatch mode. It even has a built-in solar panel, so you can extend it for another 12 days without having to grab the charger.

Garmin’s incredible battery life claims don’t come without a cost, as we’ll see later, but it still shows just how far from ideal conventional smartwatches are. The Apple Watch Ultra is at least assured that you won’t charge it as much, but having a compatible MagSafe charger handy is always going to be a good idea, especially if you plan to use it off the grid. That said, if you do this sort of activity more often than not, any of Garmin’s rugged smartwatches might inspire more confidence and peace of mind.


While Garmin may have the upper hand when it comes to navigation and battery life, Apple takes the cake when it comes to health-related features that go beyond the usual activity tracking. In many cases, the Apple Watch Ultra and Garmin’s Epix 2 or Enduro 2 go head-to-head. They cover all the basics like heart rate monitoring, including less common things like measuring blood oxygen levels. Even the Apple Watch Ultra’s new body temperature detection is something Garmin has been using for quite some time. Apple’s advantage, however, is that it can also detect outside temperatures, including water temperature.

Apple, however, has had more time than Garmin to refine its features to be more aware of potential health issues. You could almost consider this the flagship feature of Apple Watches. In particular, the ECG measurement feature that’s been present since the Apple Watch Series 4 is something few smartwatches have to date. Apple will continue to push the Apple Watch in this direction, which would also benefit future Ultra models.

That’s not to say Garmin won’t have these features eventually, especially when this hardware becomes more accessible to manufacturers. It may just be a matter of time, but it may also be a matter of business goals. This could very well be one of the main differentiators between Apple and Garmin smartwatches in the future, with one focusing on navigation and sports while another specializes in health and fitness. .


Ultimately, however, the real distinction between the Apple Watch and any of Garmin’s smartwatches is that the Apple Watch Ultra is primarily a smartwatch, while an Epix 2 or Enduro 2 are sports watches with smart features. Garmin supports a variety of apps on its smartwatches, but the majority of them focus on sports activities. Wearable devices also connect to smartphones, but they have limited control over the communication that occurs between the two devices. There are your typical notification and music controls, but forget the more advanced apps that don’t fit the sports theme.

Almost the opposite, the Apple Watch Ultra is pretty much a larger Apple Watch designed to be sturdier and with more sports-related features. That means it has everything a regular Apple Watch has to offer and more, including access to dozens of apps and experiences that make it a true companion to an iPhone. You can do almost anything on an Apple Watch Ultra, especially considering you have access to Siri through it.

It’s also why the Apple Watch Ultra and its potential successors will always struggle to match the battery life of equivalent Garmin smartwatches. You’ll need more muscle to power those user experiences, which also means consuming more of that battery every hour. That’s the price you need to pay for a general-purpose computer on your wrist that also functions as a sleek but rugged smartwatch.

Final Thoughts

So should you buy a new Apple Watch Ultra or stick with the tried and true Garmin? As always, there is no one answer that will satisfy everyone. Even price is no longer a determining factor at this point, with the Apple Watch Ultra starting at $799 and the Garmin Enduro 2 at $1,099. It really all comes down to how sporty you want your smartwatch to be and whether you need a multi-functional smartwatch in the first place.

Despite the appeal of a sportier Apple Watch, Garmin easily wins where sports watches shine more than other watches. The five easy-to-reach buttons make it usable in extreme conditions where you can’t easily swipe or tap the screen, and its navigation and mapping chops are still unmatched even by Google and especially Apple. Its month-long battery life is no small feat, especially when you take frequent trips outdoors. You’ll be limited by what your smartwatch can do outside of those occasions though, but it might fit your extreme lifestyle better than any other smartwatch.

The Apple Watch Ultra, on the other hand, is a more complete device, more like a jack-of-all-trades. It’s tougher and sportier than any other Apple Watch to date, but it doesn’t stray from its roots. You can do almost anything on the smartwatch, within reason, of course. Its health-related functions are top-notch and ECG measurement is still something few smartwatches can boast of. Its design makes it better suited to almost any situation or occasion, so you don’t have to switch watches just because you want to go to a social party rather than going out for a run. Future models might be able to catch up with some of Garmin’s key advantages, but the Apple Watch Ultra will still be a smartwatch first and a sports partner only second.