Both industry leaders when it comes to fitness wearables, Apple and Garmin offer high-quality devices with advanced tracking and smartwatch features.
But whilst they share some similarities, it’s the differences between them that make each brand suitable for a slightly different audience.
Apple watches have a growing focus on fitness, improving health and workout-related features with each new model and software update. But they are primarily smartwatches – and way ahead of Garmin in that respect.
Garmin watches, however, are designed for sports enthusiasts. They may offer some of the features of a good smartwatch, but their main focus is on delivering detailed and in-depth data to enhance training and improve your performance.
In this review, we are going to compare the Apple watch vs Garmin Fenix 6, an advanced model packed with sports-specific features.
We’ll be looking at the similarities and differences between them, helping you decide which model would be the best for you.
Apple watch Vs Garmin Fenix 6: The Overview
Offer health and fitness tracking with extensive smartphone features
- Stylish design for all-day wear
- Fluid animations
- Some models provide ECG readings
- Responsive touchscreen
- Will only work with iPhones
- Limited to first-party watch faces
- Limited battery life
Garmin Fenix 6
Provides recovery tools and in-depth training features for multiple sports
- Great battery life
- Rugged, durable build
- Superior outdoor tracking
- Advanced sleep tracking
- Needs a paired smartphone for cellular network connectivity
- Utilitarian design – definitely not a lifestyle piece
- Limited smartphone features
The Similarities: Apple Watch Vs Garmin Fenix 6
Here’s a look at the main features you can expect to find with both Apple’s line of watches and the Garmin Fenix 6.
Newer Apple watches and the Garmin Fenix 6 all offer extensive health and fitness features.
They will keep track of metrics like steps, calories burned, distance traveled, active minutes/intensity, VO2 max, stress, sleep quality, and blood oxygen saturation (SpO2).
Until recently, Garmin has been way ahead when it comes to sleep analysis.
However, Apple’s recent release of watchOS 9 offers better tracking than ever before and now includes sleep stages.
Both platforms will monitor your heart rate during workouts and track your resting heart rate throughout the day and night. Should your readings be unusually low or high when at rest, both will notify you.
Apple and Garmin both allow for menstrual cycle tracking, with the ability to keep a log of symptoms. They then use that data to provide a personalized prediction for periods and fertility windows.
The Fenix 6 has the edge, however, when it comes to female health features and provides pregnancy tracking too (more on this below!).
Apple watches and the Garmin Fenix 6 all offer accurate outdoor tracking.
Apple watches are equipped with GPS, Galileo, GLONASS, BeiDou, and QZSS, whilst Garmin supports GPS, GLONASS, and Galileo.
Apple is the clear winner when it comes to its smartphone capabilities. This can be the deciding factor for many in the Garmin watch vs Apple watch debate.
That being said, the Fenix 6 has some smart features. You can use it to pay for a coffee whilst out on a run thanks to its support for Garmin Pay.
This works in the same way as Apple Pay, although it’s worth noting that far fewer banks and third-party services are available with Garmin Pay.
You can receive notifications from any apps on your Fenix 6 and you can reply to texts, but the messages are sent using your phone and ONLY if it’s an Android. iPhone users can only read the notifications, but won’t be able to act on them.
Finally, the Fenix 6 – like Apple watches – allows you to control and play music, but only the Pro, Sapphire, and Solar models allow you to store it.
Choice of Colors and Bands
All models of Apple watches are available in a range of metal and color finishes.
You have a choice of colors with the Fenix, too, although somewhat more limited.
The metal finish depends on the exact model you buy, with a choice of stainless steel or DLC (Diamond-Like Carbon) coated titanium bezels
You can customize the look of both Apple watches and the Garmin Fenix 6 with interchangeable bands.
Apple Watch bands and Garmin’s QuickFit® 22 Watch Bands are available either from the manufacturer or third parties like Amazon.
Both Apple and Garmin have features to notify contacts if it appears that you may have been injured whilst tracking an activity.
Apple’s ‘fall detection’ is particularly sophisticated. If it thinks you have fallen during a workout it will sound an alarm and display an alert, giving you the option to contact emergency services.
If it detects that you’ve been immobile for more than a minute, it will contact emergency services automatically.
Once the call has been made, your emergency contacts will be notified and given your location.
Garmin’s ‘incident detection’ is more basic and can only be used with a paired phone.
If it detects a fall, it will wait for 15 seconds for you to respond to a message on your device.
If you don’t cancel the alert, it will send an automated text message and email with your name and GPS location to your emergency contacts (these must be set up beforehand). It will not, however, contact emergency services on your behalf.
The Apple Series 8 and Ultra Watches – along with the Garmin Fenix 6 – have an always-on display mode.
This is useful for checking the time when you are running, for example, and avoids having to interact with the watch.
You can turn this feature off with any model to save on battery power.
The Differences: Apple Watch Vs Garmin Fenix 6
Here’s a summary of the main differences between these models to help you decide if an Apple watch vs Garmin Fenix 6 is right for you.
Apple watches are designed to be aesthetically pleasing. They have a modern appearance and are slim enough to wear comfortably all day.
Garmin’s Fenix 6, on the other hand, is built for functionality rather than style.
This is a watch designed for rugged outdoor adventures, with a somewhat robust and bulky look.
The advantage here, of course, is durability. Indeed, the Fenix 6 will hold up well anywhere, whether out on the trail or in a heavy gym session.
One of the cool things about smartwatches is being able to customize the watch face – and here, Garmin is a clear winner.
With an Apple watch, you can only use faces made by Apple, whereas Garmin has a ton of third-party faces – in addition to their own – available from the Connect IQ store. Most are paid, but there are a few nice free ones too.
Another big difference is that all Apple watches have a touchscreen display whereas the Garmin Fenix 6 has control buttons only.
At first, this might seem like a disadvantage – which, of course, it is if touchscreen controls are what you prefer.
But remember that the Fenix 6 is primarily designed for outdoor use in harsh environments. Here, a touchscreen would be completely impractical, and traditional buttons are far easier to operate.
Finally, the Fenix is a bit easier to read in bright and sunny conditions.
This is because – rather than the AMOLED screens found in newer Apple watches – it employs transflective memory-in-pixel (MIP) technology.
This uses external lighting to illuminate it when in a well-lit area, providing a very vivid display when the sun shines. It also has an LED backlight for use in the dark.
Some Apple watches have electrical heart rate sensors that you can use with the ECG app to take an electrocardiogram reading.
This is useful for helping detect signs of atrial fibrillation – a feature you won’t get with the Garmin Fenix 6.
Garmin, on the other hand, has some great features for helping you monitor your stress and we particularly like the Body Battery tracking.
Taking into account your heart rate variability, activity level, stress, and sleep patterns, it then calculates the amount of energy you have available.
This is useful in determining if the time is right – or not – for a punishing workout!
Note: Upgrade to the Fenix 7, and you’ll also be able to take advantage of the Health Snapshot feature! This captures metrics like heart rate, heart rate variability, pulse ox, respiration, and stress over a 2-minute session, then provides a useful report to view, save, or share.
If in-depth, all-around sports tracking is what you need, you’ll get it with the Fenix 6.
It is ideal for multi-sports, recording runs, bikes, swims, etc., and transitioning them into one activity. This means you won’t have to manually save and then restart them.
Unlike Apple watches, the Fenix 6 is capable of tracking just about any sport you can think of and is equipped with the tools to do so.
As mentioned earlier, female health tracking goes just that little bit further with Garmin compared to Apple.
The Fenix 6 offers a useful pregnancy tracking feature that allows you to track the movements of your baby, log blood glucose levels, and keep a record of your symptoms.
Feedback is provided on a weekly basis, with advice about weight, nutrition, and more.
In general, Apple watches will last anywhere from one day (for the Series 8) up to 36 hours (for the Ultra) on a single charge and with regular use.
This relatively short battery life is mainly down to the watches’ touchscreen features and the very fluid, animated displays.
Garmin watches are known for their excellent battery life.
The Fenix 6 promises 14 days of use in smartwatch mode or 36 hours in continuous GPS mode. The difference here is that Garmin provides a ton of ways in order to extend the life of your battery.
The best is ‘battery saver mode‘, which turns off most of the power-guzzling features. There is also a handy ‘jacket mode‘ for use when skiing.
This allows you to turn off features like heart rate tracking and notifications whilst still using GPS navigation.
The Fenix 6 also comes in a Solar edition. It may be more expensive, but is worth it if you are regularly outdoors and want to extend the life of your battery as much as possible.
Apple watches are excellent smartwatches.
If the ability to receive and answer notifications, have access to a wide range of apps, chat with friends, and stream music is important to you, then an Apple watch will be the better choice.
Garmin’s features are basic in comparison and its app store is far more limited.
An Apple watch is also likely to be the natural choice if you already have an iPhone, as many of the apps on your phone will have counterparts on watchOS.
Finally, Apple watches are equipped with Apple’s voice assistant, Siri.
The Fenix 6 doesn’t have a voice assistant at all – for that you’d need the Garmin Venu 2 Plus or D2 Air X10. These both have a Voice Assistant feature that communicates with the voice assistant on your paired smartphone.
Compatibility and Connectivity
Garmin’s Fenix 6 can be connected via Bluetooth to both iPhones and Android.
Apple watches are not compatible with Android and will only work with iPhones.
Apple watches have cellular connectivity, meaning you won’t need to bring your phone along on your workouts.
The Fenix 6, however, has Wi-Fi, but no cellular connectivity. This means you’ll need to connect it to your smartphone to take advantage of many of its features.
The Verdict: Which is right for you?
If you have an Android phone, the choice between an Apple watch vs Garmin Fenix 6 is easy.
The Fenix 6 will be the best option, as the Apple ecosystem is not compatible with Android devices.
You should go for an Apple watch if smartwatch features are top of your list of requirements.
You’ll get the benefits of these along with great day-to-day health and fitness tracking, accurate GPS, and plenty of apps. Meanwhile, cellular connectivity means you can leave your phone at home.
If you’re a keen sports enthusiast, however, and want access to crucial data to improve your training, opt for the Garmin Fenix 6.
You may need to bring your smartphone along for the ride, but the Fenix 6 combines detailed tracking with extensive battery life, capturing reliable data in all sorts of terrain.
Looking for a Sports Watch Designed Just for Women?
Then check out our guide to the 7 Best Sports Watches for Women, which explains the features to look for and lists some of our favorite examples on the market right now!