Image: Jason Hiner/ZDNET, Garmin
It’s a testament to Garmin’s efforts over the decades that Apple finally launched the Apple Watch Ultra, designed to compete and meet the needs of endurance athletes. I’ve reviewed and tested watches from both companies before and it’s definitely interesting to finally see the two moving into each other’s expertise, with Apple bringing more advanced sports tracking capability while Garmin provides advancements in smartphone-connected experiences.
While this article is pitting Apple’s latest with Garmin’s best GPS sports watch, the Enduro 2, I’ve reviewed enough of Garmin’s less expensive but very capable watches to recommend them for your consideration, too. For now, and from specs and features alone, here are the clear and distinct reasons to purchase one wearable over the other.
More: Apple Watch Ultra: Everything you need to know about Apple’s rugged watchSpecifications
Garmin Enduro 2Apple Watch UltraDisplay 1.4-inch 280×280-pixel resolution, sunlight-visible, transflective memory-in-pixel with Power Sapphire lens49mm 410×502 LTPO OLED sapphire glass touchscreenMaterials Fiber-reinforced polymer case material with titanium bezel and rear coverTitanium casing and three band optionsStorage 32GB internal storage32GB internal storageWater resistance 10 ATM (100 meters)100 metersConnectivity WiFi, Bluetooth, ANT+, multi-band and dual frequency GNSSLTE, WiFi, Bluetooth, ANT+, multi-band and dual frequency GNSSSensors Optical HR, barometer, compass, altimeter, Pulse OxOptical HR, barometer, compass, altimeter, Pulse Ox, skin temperature, water temperature, depth gaugeBattery Up to 46 days with solar charging, up to 150 hours GPS with solarUp to 36 hoursDimensions 51 x 51 x 15.6mm and 70 grams49 x 44 x 14.4mm and 61.3 gramsPrice $1,099$799 You should buy the Garmin Enduro 2 if…
- Extremely long battery life is vital
The Garmin Enduro 2 has the longest battery life of any Garmin watch, with extended battery life provided through a Power Sapphire glass display that converts solar energy into battery charging. The Enduro 2 can last you up to 34 days in smartwatch mode, up to 110 hours with GPS, up to 78 hours with all satellite systems, and up to 20 hours in GPS mode with music playing are possible with the Enduro 2. Those numbers are excluding the added hours and days’ worth of battery you’d recover from passive solar charging.
Although the Apple Watch Ultra has greatly-increased battery life over existing Watch models, 36 hours is still quite low compared to the Enduro 2. We’ll have to see what the battery life is in various, practical scenarios to have a better understanding of Apple’s claims.
- Extensive customizable data fields are needed
Apple’s latest version of WatchOS includes several new options for data fields, including running power, but Garmin is known for its exhaustive support of customizable data fields in all of its included sports. There are even third-party data fields in the Garmin Connect store to further expand options for athletes beyond what the sports and modes that the company provides.
If you have particular areas of fitness that you are working to improve, you can include these metrics in your Garmin watch. On top of that, users can have multiple fields appear on the main watch face so the workout experience is tailored to your needs.
- Mapping on the watch is desired
One of the most compelling features of the Garmin Enduro 2 is the extensive topographic map support that includes the new NextFork feature. helping guide you to the correct trail during outdoor adventures. The touchscreen and buttons facilitate mapping while the large display of the Enduro 2 makes navigating directly on the watch practical.
You should buy the Apple Watch Ultra if… Jason Hiner/ZDNET 1. Connectivity and safety are your priority
First and foremost, the Apple Watch Ultra only connects to the iPhone, so Android phone users should look elsewhere. However, if you’re an iPhone user, Apple took connectivity to the next level with cellular support provided by default. This mean of connectivity supports the new crash detection, fall detection, and emergency SOS features. You can call and text, stream music, get directions, and gather information via Siri.
For awareness, the Apple Watch Ultra provides an 86-decibel siren that is designed to attract attention if you find yourself in trouble on the trail.
- Smartwatch functions are vital
At its core, the Apple Watch Ultra is an Apple Watch so all of the smartwatch functionality that makes the Apple Watch the best smartwatch available is present on the Ultra. Vast third-party app support, seamless connectivity to an Apple iPhone, and more are provided.
All of the health and wellness features that are a part of the Apple Health ecosystem are present on the Ultra so the watch provides everything you love about the Apple Watch in a larger package.
- You scuba dive
Garmin offers only a few watches focused on diving experiences so it was interesting to see how far Apple went with support for the Apple Watch Ultra in this niche market. The Ultra serves as a full-featured dive computer in combination with the Oceanic Plus app. Air status, ascent/descent tracking, and more are provided in a simple and easily understood format. It helps that the new Apple Watch Ultra design has a rugged design with tactile buttons and a new Ocean Band for aquatic environments.
Alternatives to consider
There are other GPS sports watches and smartwatches to consider if neither of these meets your needs. Consider these ZDNET-recommended devices: