You use Strava. Maybe you’re a runner, or maybe you’re a cyclist who wants to ride with a GPS watch instead of using a dedicated GPS bike computer. So which is better, an Apple Watch or a Garmin GPS watch, if you like to record your rides or runs on Strava? Here’s our opinion.
The Apple Watch is terrific, but you have to also own an iPhone to use one. So if you use an Android phone, then your decision has already been made for you. Use a Garmin watch.
If you do own an iPhone, and you either already have an Apple Watch or you’re thinking of purchasing one, then it does have some advantages over Garmin when it comes to using Strava.
The biggest advantage is that Strava makes an app for the Apple Watch that runs directly on the watch. You can start the app, choose your activity type and see your progress as you are riding or running just by looking at your Apple Watch. It works very similarly to the Strava app on your phone, so it will be instantly familiar to you.
But what about really long runs or rides? Here’s where the Apple Watch is at a disadvantage to the Garmin watch. If your Apple Watch is using the built in green light heart rate monitor, it will run down the battery after a few hours when you’re running the Strava app.
If you are going out for a very long ride or run that’s over four hours, you can turn off the heart rate tracking to significantly extend your Apple Watch battery life while using the app, but then you won’t provide heart rate data to Strava, which is not ideal.
Another option to extend Apple Watch battery life is to use one of the newer Bluetooth capable external heart rate monitors from Polar, Wahoo or Garmin rather than the Apple Watch built in heart rate monitor, which extends watch battery life.
There are any number of different Garmin GPS watch models from over the years, so we’re just going to cover this in general about Garmin watches and use one model as an example. The information applies to almost all of the Garmin watches made in recent years though.
For under $100, you can buy something like the Garmin Forerunner 25. It will give you 8 to 10 hours of battery life, and is very simple to start and stop and view your run or ride when you are using it.
The downside is that you won’t be running the Strava app directly on a Garmin watch. What you do instead is use your Garmin watch with the Garmin service called Garmin Connect.
You can easily set up your free Garmin Connect account to upload your completed ride or run over to Strava. Strava has an entire support section about setting it up to sync, although it’s quite easy to do. Strava syncs with a very large number of devices and services, which you can see here.
The Garmin Connect service is designed for Garmin devices, so your Apple Watch can’t upload to Garmin Connect without some complicated workarounds where you manually upload the data into your account.
If you are a big fan of Garmin Connect, then stick with a Garmin watch or bike computer.
If you want to record your rides or runs to Strava for the least amount of money, stick to Garmin.
If you want a watch that’s more than just a GPS watch and that directly runs the Strava app, then the Apple Watch is your best choice.