Garmin vs Apple – Watch Ultra 2, a new threat?

apple watch ultra 2Garmin vs. Apple – Watch Ultra 2, a new threat?

More: Apple Watch Ultra 2 Review

Apple watch Ultra 2 has just been announced and Garmin will likely be relieved that there is absolutely nothing of any threat in it. At least nothing new. The threat to Garmin remains, Apple just failed to tighten the screw this year.

Garmin ridicules Apple Watch Ultra

Yes. The news today is that Apple lost its screwdriver. Nevertheless, they will find it and they still have a rather substantial toolbox full of other stuff.

Buy: Apple Watch Ultra 2 from $799, Eu899, GBP799

Buy: Apple Watch Series 9 from $499, Eu449, GBP399

How does Apple threaten Garmin?

The very real and existential threat that Apple poses to Garmin is that it offers a sufficiently sporty watch to meet the needs of many people. 98% of tech-serious athletes (perhaps like me) will always use a dedicated sports watch for highly specialised sports features and connectivity options

Apple simply

  • Chips away at Garmin’s market of selling sports watches to weekend warrior adventurers, 5k parkrunners and casual triathletes. Garmin loses sales of Forerunner and Fenix.
  • Provides an unbeatable smart ecosystem tightly integrated to the iPhone. Garmin loses sales of Venu

That’s it. Once Google/Samsung get their act together (in about 2035 !) the threat is multiplied.




  • Garmin “We measure battery life in months. Not hours”
  • Apple “We measure watch sales in millions. Not hundreds of thousands”

Buy: Apple Watch Ultra 2 from $799, Eu899, GBP799

Buy: Apple Watch Series 9 from $499, Eu449, GBP399


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29 thoughts on “Garmin vs Apple – Watch Ultra 2, a new threat?

  1. In the event, Ultra 2 was showing 6 lines of data, my ultra 1 running watch os10 only got 5 lines ????????‍♂️

  2. Garmin has about one more calendar year to provide some (even minimal) LTE capability. Failing that, they become irrelevant in wearables as Apple/Google/Samsung dispatch Garmin into Blackberry territory.

    1. Doubt that. You have to pay an extra $15/month to enable calls on the Apple Watch without the iphone around. Having your apple watch connected to cellular also severely impacts battery life. Which on an apple watch is not that good anyway. I’ve spoken to apple watch owners and not many have their watch connected to cellular. I think it’s a nice feature to have if you have but costly in price and battery. Garmin is fine without a cellular, but i’m sure theyll put something out there.

  3. No one can compete with Garmin’s battery life, durability and stability. Garmin have set the standards quite high which others are unable to reach.

    1. Coros battery
      durability – Apple…anybody really
      stability – Garmin??? hmmm, quite a few people will disagree there. Garmin’s fundamental softwre architecture is ‘tricky’ to take forward

      1. Coros and Suunto have models with roughly the same battery envelope as top Garmin models.

        Only Garmin has roughly that kind of battery range and amoled, for now.

        Garmin, Suunto, Polar, and Coros all have a similar old school bespoke embedded system software strategy.

        Apple Watch is based on iOS which is based on macOS which is based on unix. It has a kernel, security, memory protection and a bunch of sophisticated features that make it easier to maintain and debug. The problem is all of those compsci technologies cost energy. That’s why even though Apple has much better processor technology they don’t get the competitive battery life.

        Android Wear / WearOS is similar but worse and the manufactures of those devices don’t have TSMC chips.

  4. “Once Google/Samsung get their act together (in about 2035 !) the threat is multiplied.”
    Yes, but by then Garmin will have a watch that never needs charging.

  5. Hi from France,
    I have an EPIX Gen 2 and when I use it with all the data/health features, I must charge every 2 days. I cant answer to a phone call, I must have my iPhone to run, hike or bike, ….. so I bought the Ultra 2 yesterday. Autonomy is for me a fake problem, everybody charge his iPhone every day or two, so I put my applewatch onto the charger when I take my shower and let’s go. My longest run/bike was 24h but now I will not any more (65 y old 🙂 ). My first Garmin was a Forerunner 305 ????

    1. yes i agree that the problem is overblown.

      however to avoid running out of charge does require more thought with Apple Watch than Garmin and perhaps, as you say with your shower, a routine is needed too.
      you would find, however, that with a WATCH LTE (Sapphire) then battery life IS very sonsiderably shortened (I have one).

      that said, battery life is truly an issue in some sports. again though, it only affects a relatively small proportion of all athletes.

    2. That’s interesting, I have the same watch (47mm) and my experience is different, I am actually very nicely surprised by the battery life as I was quite sceptical about it. Maybe contact Garmin support for an advise? Imho, fenix/Epix firmware contains many options how to fine tune features to increase the battery life, even up to really small details like displaying battery percentage. It may help, too.

      Anyway, I would be very happy to hear about your experience with Ultra and the battery life (assuming you will install additional apps to get the comparable detailed sport features Epix offers by default)

      LTE in fenix/Epix is something I’m eager to see but I doubt it will happen until eSIM has been fully standardised and carriers get motivated to use it. Even mighty Apple needed several years to get a reasonable support for its own implementation in Europe

  6. Finally someone said it out loud:
    – we all charge our smartphone EVERY DAY, it doesn’t matter at all when we charge the watch
    – 99.9% of people will never do 24 hours of sports activity
    – Garmin should give Google a high five while it still can (imagine a Garmin like TicWatch Pro 5 with DualOS)
    – Apple could have ended the market war yesterday with one simple trick: introduce an emergency second system based on RTOS, as Huawei did in Watch 4 Pro (“Ultrabattery” mode), then the operating times when recording a track were the same as in Garmin!
    – Apple is like a bulldozer, after some time there will be nothing left (Polar and Suunto are gone :/)
    – Garmin! Wake up! This is the last moment!

    1. I reconsidered Apple Watch recently again, but for me the battery life is still limiting – I don’t charge my Garmin every day even when I do sports (recreational level) almost every day.

      But the main problem for me personally is a lack of trust – for some reason Apple decided to take the Android route when it comes to Apple Watch and rely heavily on 3rd party apps to provide sport features Garmin offers by default… I don’t want to install 3 apps just to get detailed metrics about my runs which AW doesn’t have, it’s not good user experience. Even more importantly, I would trust Apple more to implement these features correctly than an unknown small company (speaking in general). As well, in the long term, these 3rd party apps maybe gone. Just my opinion but I wished Apple did more here, a way more.

      With Garmin watches I get all I need for the sports I do regularly, all works without installing anything else, battery life is good, physical endurance is good (I’ve hit my watch a few times when hiking in Alps), just the LTE is mot there 🙂

      1. apple broadly focuses on getting the core technology and metrics scientifically correct. it then goes deep into apps that a) it has to or b) can provide a revenue stream (like Fitness+)
        so apple will never provide a rich sports ecosystem like Garmin. but it does SUPPORT a rich sports ecosystem. two different things, as you point out.
        garmin has too many ‘apps’ you dont need bundled confusingly into your product; Apple requires you to make the effort to get the right app(s) for you and those apps aren’t really integrated but can share the same workout/fitness repository.

    2. Charging the phone and charging the watch are wildly different experiences because the phone can be plugged in without that complicated cycle of detaching/reataching from/to the arm. On my Garmin I can choose between roughly daily and roughly weekly charging, by opting in/out of pulse Ox. So I know that difference quite well: it’s huge in terms of subjective perception of charging hassle.

    3. You’re not going to convince the vast majority of Apple buyers to go for anything other than an Apple Watch, Apple Airpods, an Apple iPad etc. They just wont and they never were a market that Garmin could ever touch. It wouldnt matter if Garmin actually matched the Apple Watch like for like in LTE and smartwatch feature’s because buying only from Apple almost an ideology with most Apple users. They’ve decided one company does it best, and thats the decision made.

      Garmin will lose the last of the iPhone owning Fenix holdouts the moment that the Apple Watch is able to do a week or more on a single charge and theres really not much they can do to combat that.

      There are a lot of moderately wealthy Android owners outside of the US however (many in Europe and Australia) who wont be as quick to cut over however. Garmin can keep going after those, but it’s not looking promising unless they’re able to get LTE onto a watch sooner than later.

  7. Ask RIM/Blackberry how nice and easy it was for them to compete with Apple.

    Or even in personal computers and workstations. How easy is it to compete with Apple? Sure windows PC dominates but Apple makes all the profit. The companies that compete with Apple for laptop and desktop hardware make almost no profit and famously junk up PCs with ads to break even. Microsoft even has an Apple inferiority complex that has led them to make many terrible business decisions.

    The real question is whether the endurance sport market is enough to sustain Garmin, Coros, Suunto, and Polar as Apple improves their sport and fitness features. The low end fitness and casual fitness market is largely consumed by Apple Watch.

    If Apple Watch were decoupled from iPhone, the way that iPhone was decoupled from a PC or mac, that alone would more than double the addressable market.

    1. re the last two paragraphs

      real question: yes it’s big enough as it is today. (but…..). market share and size are existential considerations
      decoupling: yes, but it almost certainly won’t happen

      1. > decoupling: yes, but it almost certainly won’t happen

        I think it will within 5 years because Apple will be interested in chasing growth by increasing the addressable market. It is just like how they made iTunes for Windows to sell iPods to people without macs.

        Apple is very good at keeping and extending the sales relationship with existing customers. Extending the watch sales to android owners makes sense. I don’t think they will want to build and maintain an Apple Watch android manager app though.

      2. I’d offer some odds if you like 😉

        With declining iPhone opportunities, Apple will focus more on integrating with future tech…ie the Vision stuff which so far is really just a platform definition statement with associated standards. Rather than tackling Android.

        If I was in charge I’d probably do what you suggest but then Mr Cook might also point out the risks of a widened monopoly further annoying global market regulators who seem to get quite angry over mere charging cables. That said, if China progressively kicks out Apple from its institutions (like its government departments earlier this week not being allowed iphones), then Apple might have to scamble for cash wherever it can. a bit unseemly tho for apple !

        like many others i remain sceptical where the vision stuff is going

      3. The growth for all of these companies is going to be in actionable metrics. Blood glucose tracking, blood pressure tracking, inflammatory marker tracking etc, with advice such as “You may have just eaten a thing that has wrecked you. Maybe dont do that again”, or, “Your blood pressure is sky high because you’ve seen sitting around stressed all day. Want to go for a walk whilst i play some soothing music?”

      4. yeah i’d agree with that.
        there is data, information, insights and knowledge. tie exceptions to those to alerts features and voila…coaching/actionability/ whatever you want to call those kinds of features.

    2. Remember that Garmin are also a big player in aerospace and boat and motor vehicle entertainment systems.

      Maybe the watch business wont work out for them in the long run, but they’re a diverse enough company to keep going.

  8. Once Apple are able to do truly offline maps (i.e. the globe’s map on the device) with routing, proper HRV and recovery metrics, a virtual coach that help me train for my ultras, and battery life to last a 36 hour race with the screen on the whole time, then I’ll be very tempted to swap.

    For now all Garmin need to do is put LTE voice calling on a watch and I’ll be loyal for another 10 years. They may want to do that soon though…

    1. two good points
      1. the more stuff that is added natively in to apple watch the more its rather simplistic interface will struggle to access it. eg even now the power meter pairing is a visual mess.
      2. Garmin LTE…very hard to do for them. let’s see what the company’s next lte product is (if any) that could shed more light on where they plan to go

  9. Apple’s market for the apple watch is more limited than that of Garmin. The Apple Watch only works with iPhones. They’re watches are super nice smart watches, but not cohesive when it comes to health metrics. I don’t see the Apple Watch on any triathletes wrist or anyone serious about competing in endurance events. Because of its ubiquity, wearing an apple watch also feels very generic. But that’s just maybe me.

    1. by definition the market is smaller but its market share of targetted markets and total market is WAY higher. market share is the key factor for longterm survival
      yes the healh metrics are more limited but apple’s raw data is validated publically MUCH more. plus you can then get a 3rd party app that fill sthe gap of features to garmin (a faff…but you can do it)
      there absoutely are ever more Apple Watches on triathletes writst. stared about 3 years ago at my tri club and similarly with my cycling-only friends.
      ubiquity – yep. bu the quality straps and watchfaces make up for that slightly. i like the garmin watch hardware but the watchfaces are generally childish and/or awful

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