Why I went from the Apple Watch to a Garmin fēnix 3 HR

Hello everyone,

in July last year I wrote an article about the Apple Watch, detailing my opinion on the user experience and mostly what I thought the use of such a device could be.

Turned out, I sold it in February this year and got a Garmin fēnix 3 HR instead.

fenix3_familyshot

 

Reselling the Apple Watch

This is actually the first Apple product that I resell.

The reasons for the decision are twofold: it has to do with functionalities, but mostly with the expectations I have for a wearable device.

In the end of my Apple Watch article I finished by stating what was at the time a big limitation: with WatchOS 1 only the interface of an App ran on the watch itself, the rest was on the iPhone, which led to limitations for the App both in terms of functionality and speed. WatchOS 2 did bring native Apps on the watch. However my experience as a user did not really improve. The apps remained slow and very dependent on the iPhone. At some point I gave up on third-party apps altogether.
It has something to do with the user interaction as well. I still think that if the interaction with an app should last longer than about 30 seconds, it is faster to do whatever the task may be on the phone. As an example I can mention the newspaper apps. I don’t think it makes a lot of sense to actually read an article on the watch – that means my use of such an app was limited to headlines. Which brings me to notifications.

Notifications

I believe the value proposition of the Apple Watch relies on two key features: notifications and fitness. I went from finding notifications on the Watch useful to turning them off in a few months. In the beginning I had all the notifications of my phone on my wrist. It was a lot. It took me a few weeks to shut down all notifications from third party apps (with the exception of WhatsApp). I used to find it very useful be instantly notified of incoming messages on my wrist and being able to see what just came in in just a glance. To this, I have three observations:

  • Focusing on something became a lot harder. Because I turned off almost all notifications but for incoming messages, I knew if the Watch vibrated it was « important ». Let me illustrate that with a short anecdote. I was sitting in a meeting and making an important point to the management of my client. As I was speaking, the watch vibrated once – and it took me just a moment to process this event and moving forward with what I was saying. It was a bit of a weird moment, and because the taptic feedback is quite discreet, no one knew why I just kind of paused in my speech.
  • At some point I began to feel social pressure… When someone wrote me and I was doing something – let’s say having a coffee with a friend – I saw something came in, but ignored it to answer it later on. I used to do that, but now I knew if the sender of the message knew I had the Apple Watch, they knew I was ignoring them, because I just got a tap on the wrist. There are times I am just not available to answer a message right away (when discussing with someone for instance) and I didn’t like feeling this expectation. But for that point maybe it’s just all happening in my head.
  • The last remark is in the same situation as I just described: the message did take my attention away for a moment, which ends up being rude for the person sitting in front of me.

Fitness

The second main feature is the « fitness watch ». It does quite a good job at doing that, but a lot of the fitness watches out there (Garmin or fitbit) do a far better job for a lot less money. Because of my recurring issues with third party app, I only used the native Apple App for sport. It is good, but does not offer a lot of feature to analyse your data – point where fitbit and Garmin excel. Plus I did have some issues: using the touch display when you’re sweating a lot is really not easy. The heartfrequence tracker was sometimes just not doing its thing (no idea why), mostly during the warm-up, which is when I kind of really want this information. And there is no sleep tracking, because the battery just won’t allow it, you have to recharge at night!

Having reached this point, I decided the Apple Watch may be a great product, but just does not live up to my expectations. Which is why I went on selling it and getting a Garmin fēnix 3 HR.

Garmin fēnix 3 HR

Multi-angle-fenix-3

Now I’m not going to review it. If you’re interested this is the review made by Jeff Rizzo – which is in my eyes the best one on youtube.

I’ll just mention the distinctive features which make this watch a better match for me.

  • It has a life without the phone. You can go for a run/a ride without the phone, and still track everything (built in GPS) without restrictions in the functionalities.
  • The battery lasts more than a week (about 9-10 days for me) on one charge, with 3 workouts a week and bluetooth during the day.
  • The display is always on. You can have a discreet look at the time without doing the wrist gesture to activate the display. Now the Apple Watch does have a far better resolution and colors. But it comes at a very high cost.
  • It is waterproof – and tracks your swim.
  • The Garmin Connect App on the phone, on the Mac and the Website sync all seamlessly and offer a LOT more data than Apple. (Just google Advanced Running Dynamics, it is really cool). Data in itself is good, but the added value is in the insights that are built on it. There are plenty of visualisations. During the workout you get help (fitness index, VO2 Max, Lactate Threshold, heartrate areas). I think a very advanced runner may know all of this out of their experience. I don’t and I appreciate the help.
  • Last but not least: it looks a lot cooler!

Of course it is not perfect and does have some drawbacks – the display is not as high def as the one of the Apple Watch (there is pixelisation on the hands of watch if you use an analog watch face). Not having a touch display is both a pro and a con: a pro because you can use the watch without looking at it, with sweat on the fingers, or with water on it; a con because navigating through the menus is not always straightforward.

In the end it is a better match for me and I’ve been a lot happier with it than I ever was with the Apple Watch.

Now why am I writing all of this? I am actually trying to share one insight, because it took me several months to really understand this.
Much more than for a phone, if you are condisering buying a wearable, you need to think about what your expectations are. As you’re going to wear this thing all day, it can only a great experience if it matches what you expect from it.
You like real watches and only want activity tracking? Maybe have look at jabra product or fitbit charge (hr).
You want to replace your watch, see a lot of value for fitness, a bit less for smartwatch functionalities? A Fitbit Blaze or Garmin Vivoactive HR could be what you’re looking for.
Or the other way around, fully fledged smartwatch appeals to you, fitness is only secondary: I guess that’s where Apple and AndroidGear have the best added value.
And last but not least: you want to be serious with sport and fitness data more than everything else: that’s the space for the fēnix 3.

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