Blog of Geof

Wednesday, Sept. 7th

My Thoughts on the Apple Watch and Garmin Fenix 3

From the perspective of a regular runner

I intended to do a full review and long written post about my thoughts on using both devices for regularly running and training for the half and full marathon distance. However, considering that Apple is likely going to be announcing a new Apple Watch 2 tomorrow, I decided that it would be better to post these notes now.

Recently, I switched from using the Apple Watch daily for activity, exercise and "smart watch stuff" to the more accurate and training friendly Garmin Fenix 3. I used the Apple Watch from the day it was released for well over a year. Here's some of my notes and thoughts on the two.

Also, it looks like my list styles are totally messed up right now, so thanks for bearing with the technical difficulties.

Apple Watch


  1. External design is nice… if a bit thick
  2. Screen turns off, feels private
  3. Being a backlit screen, hard to see in the day, easy to see at night
  4. Love having my heart rate tracked whenever I am wearing it
    • Great to see resting and max for day
    • But… HealthKit app is awful and clunky, no real great apps out there for regularly tracking metrics like this
  5. The daily activity tracking is simple, straightforward and the difference between calories burned, exercise minutes and standing breaks is clear
  6. Type during activity is very clear and legible
    • Glancing at it during technical trail runs is easy and quick


  1. Notifications are too slow
    • Animation feels like it takes an eternity
  2. Apps are so slow to the point of being worthless
    • I know, I made my own for Air Lookout and as simple as it is it is crazy slow
  3. Screen turns off, takes awhile for it to turn on
  4. There's not a great reason for all watch faces, especially circular, not to support 5 complications
  5. Inaccurate, sometimes off by as much as +/- 30% with GPS. Seems to get more inaccurate the longer the activity, especially over 10 mile runs
    • Seems to have improved slightly in later updates
  6. Apple Watch battery barely lasts a full marathon finished in 4:30. Battery life was in single digits at the end! Fully charged at start.
  7. Running workouts are impossible on it. No way to do manual laps for any kind of track workout.
  8. Not clear in the UI if GPS reception is currently good or bad…
    • Should I wait to start for it to get a better fix?
    • Sometimes weird distance jumps during activity, I assume because of GPS fix issues but it's not apparent in the UI that this is happening
  9. Missing some important metrics for running: cadence, vertical oscillation
    • more customizable data fields would be great
    • Seeing more data at once without requiring to swipe would be fantastic
  10. Heart rate sensor digs into my wrist, sometimes hurting quite a bit on days where I have to type a lot
  11. Worthy Mention: Strava Apple Watch app is pretty worthless
    • Measures in 1/10ths of a mile! This is crazy. Seems that maybe a runner wasn't involved in the design... Runners, at least I do, need (prefer?) 1/100ths of a mile displayed!

Garmin Fenix 3


  1. Notifications, no animation and instant
    • Sadly probably not a design decision, but a hardware limitation
    • Buggy… sometimes unreliable
  2. Screen is always on
  3. Being a transflective screen, great in the day, hard to see at night, sometimes weird angle is required with headlamp to see when running at night
  4. Manual laps are possible. Great for running workouts.
  5. Long battery life
    • I love using it all day and seeing the battery life only drop to 99%


  1. Color barely shows up
  2. Condensed typeface has legibility and rendering issues
    • Often hard to read during technical night trail runs
    • 8 vs 9 glyph bowls…
  3. Daily activity tracking isn't clear… I'm still not sure how often or when I need to clear my "move bars"
  4. Takes forever to set up the watch and activity data fields "just right"
    • Can't do this on the iPhone app, have to do it through the watch UI
  5. Very limited watch complications
  6. Pretty huge external design… I, and many others than run a bit, seem to have pretty small wrists

10 things I'd like to see in a smart watch

For me, in the mindset of someone who regularly runs (ranked by highest to lowest priority)

  1. Accurate
  2. Reliable
  3. Battery life that can easily last a marathon
    • Probably more: 50k? 100k? 100mi? 24hr?
    • Smart to lower GPS polling for long activities? Or ways to save battery?
  4. Multi sport
    • Running (indoor/outdoor), biking (indoor/outdoor), hiking, swimming (indoor/outdoor) at the very least
  5. Easy to customize and adjust settings and data fields
    • Data metrics should be incredible legible
  6. Turns out having a display on all the time is really nice
    • Not having to do weird hand waving to get the display to turn on is great
  7. Simple and straightforward notifications that are fast and reliable
    • Please don't try to surprise and delight me when I'm trying to quickly read a notification
  8. Variety of watch face complications, especially sunrise/sunset and upcoming calendar events
  9. Waterproof for regular swimming, showering, etc
  10. GPX export and wireless syncing to Strava and other services
    • I gotta get those Strava kudos and PRs!
    • But seriously… Apple Activity app is not enough for anyone serious about tracking their training
    • Need a way to upload for trainers and coaches to a variety of services
  11. BONUS: Fast. Everything should launch fast. Exercise tracking should start fast. Watch should turn on fast. Updates should install fast. Watch should charge fast. But to me, that's more an expectation than a feature priority…

Please note that 3rd party apps do not show up, for me, as a priority.

Other random thoughts

Hydration reminder or tracking? Caffeine tracking?