Smartwatch Wars Part Three: It’s like moving from an iPhone to an iPod

I had some time with the Garmin Fenix 5, not the 5 Pro or the newer 6 models, and I came to a somewhat negative conclusion within hours.

The positives first; I love the design, the weight and the size. It feels like a substantial watch, it looks rugged and there is a sense that this is a ‘real’ watch and not a small computer, even though it is obviously a small computer.

The battery life is very impressive, approximately one week, and it feels as if is designed to work in the real world and to not overdo the computery stuff.

And that dear readers is where the positives end.

We are talking about a watch that was released in January 2017 so it is hardly new technology. At that point in time the newest Apple Watch was the series 2, basically a slightly faster series 1, so you could call this relatively archaic.

The thing is that the Fenix 5 is very similar to the Fenix 6 in many ways besides a better screen (still not a good screen at all), improved sensors and performance etc. In all of that time since 2017 we have had one new series of Fenix watch released.

Remarkably, however, a Fenix 5 in decent condition will still command approximately £250 whereas the series 2 Apple Watch will get you £75. The Fenix never cost 3 times more than the Apple Watch.

It is slow at times to respond to button presses and the sheer lack of functionality outside of time telling and fitness tracking is telling. The battery life would still destroy any new Apple Watch no matter how much it has been used and the fitness metrics will remain steady, but it is very much a fitness watch and little else.

To be fair to Garmin it does not claim to be anything else and you can grab a 5 Pro (£350-400) or a 6 Pro which can download tracks from some streaming services, but that is about your lot aside from a few simple apps and a variety of watch faces (some of which are questionable in terms of legality; Omega and Rolex logos etc).

In terms of calling this series of articles ‘Wars’ the Fenix loses out to the Apple Watch, as all other smartwatches seem to, purely on the basis of flexibility and how it works practically. I much prefer the Fenix as a watch and the size is preferable to the Apple Watch, as is the battery performance, but for almost everything else it has lost the battle this time. It really does feel like moving from an iPhone (Apple Watch) to an iPod (Fenix).

The Fenix 7 is expected to be released imminently and 4G would be by far the most useful addition, but alas I suspect that we may see more of the same for at least the next release. Feels like the smartwatch wars are already over.

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