Smartwatch Wars: The fenix 6 Pro finally beat the Apple Watch

I wrote three articles (part one, two and three) about the Apple Watch and its competitors and at the time I found myself sticking with the Apple Watch for a variety of reasons. It became clear to me that the Apple Watch was functionally easier to use and much more flexible in terms of apps and what could actually be done with it. 4G connectivity helped a lot and so did the seamless integration with Apple Music which meant that I could leave my iPhone at home when going for long walks or runs.

It is a hugely beneficial setup and one which can lead the owner of an Apple Watch to look at the competition and ask themselves ‘Is that all you can do?’

To sum up, the Apple Watch did everything I needed and more, and it has kept me moving during the past 18 months of pandemic misery. Without it I am sure that I would have put on much more weight and even though I am not currently at the weight I want to be it gave me something to aim for and I am at least grateful for that.

Something, however, was nagging at me with regards to the Apple Watch. As a watch person I could not shake the sense that the Apple Watch does not feel like a watch on occasion. It is square, it does not sit particularly comfortably on the wrist and that damn battery p*sses me off! It also requires attention and demands interaction through a myriad of notifications, reminders to exercise and of course to charge it at least once a day. I can of course turn off many of the notifications, but the need to work with an Apple Watch just to keep it running is always present and this is definitely not what a watch is supposed to do.

Some mechanical watches are hand wound and need winding each day, but this takes a few seconds and it actually a calming experience. Most others are either quartz which means a battery change every few years or automatic which means that simply wearing them will keep them running. An Apple Watch needs much more attention than any of the alternatives and substantial time off the wrist to use every day.

I found myself charging every day because of the workout tracking I do and eventually reached the point of leaving it on the charger overnight. This is fine and usually gives enough power for the day ahead, but now and then after some particularly long walks it would get close to 10% in the early evening, and this is on a series 6 44mm. That is not good enough in my opinion and watching the battery percentage on a watch feels much more intrusive than on a smartphone.

The fenix 6 kept nagging at me for some reason and I wrote some early impressions recently, but after 3 weeks I have not taken it off and have been using it for all of my fitness tracking, as a watch of course and for some simple tasks such as for alarms and timers. It does not do much in terms of daily tools, but what it does do is accomplished without ever having to nurture it in any way.

It is a big watch, but comfortable enough to wear at night for the excellent sleep tracking. I have just charged it for the second time in three weeks, and even that did not take long, and I have been playing around with a few of the available faces and apps which offer much more choice than you get in watchOS.

I have even added a protective bezel to change the look of the case (£2 from eBay!) and so here I am wearing it all day every day and the Apple Watch is sitting on a shelf not doing much at all.

The thing is, I made no concerted effort to do this. It just kind of happened as I found myself wanting to wear it every day and not viewing it as a device that does stuff I need. It’s the same kind of ‘want’ I find with mechanical watches and for a smartwatch to feel like a real watch is to me a real achievement.

Things may change of course. I like watches so things always change, but for now the Garmin fenix 6 Pro is on my wrist doing its thing and I am not having to do any babysitting. The only downside is having to carry my iPhone everywhere with me, but that is very much a first world problem of little consequence.



Categories: Apple, Articles, Fitness, Fitness Trackers, Product Reviews, Smartwatches

4 replies

  1. I’ve gone totally the other way. Despite some bad experiences with their “support” department and numerous watches going wrong I used to use Garmin all the time and got the AW to see what it was like. I tend to average about 20 hours a week exercising and never planned to replace the Garmin with the AW.

    However I immediately found that Apple did a far better job tracking swimming than Garmin ever did. For cycling I’ve always used a separate bike computer. For running the AW is improving and now, I find, it’s only really let down by the battery. I can do a marathon with the Apple Watch but do have to think about battery use beforehand. Usually I have the Garmin on too but that’s only because I’ve never set my Stryd foot pod up with the Apple Watch (dunno why though as Stryd and Apple are supposed to work well together).

    Having the phone connectivity on the watch is
    a huge bonus – and something it seems Garmin aren’t even trying to do. From what I’ve seen their watch 4G implementation is strange.

    Not fussed about the built in HR tracking when exercising as I use a HR strap for that.

    Everyone is different so I hope you keep enjoying the Garmin – and I’ll hope for a longer lasting battery sometime. When and if you find that all your runs are at an altitude of 30,000 then good luck! (Although if you don’t wear your watch swimming you’ll probably be ok – I think pool chemicals clog the altimeter holes).

    • Interesting perspective Keith and it seems we agree on many of the areas. I have used your comments for an article tomorrow with some further thoughts. I guess at least we will be seeing improvements in fitness watches over the next few years no matter which ones we use.

  2. Cheers Shaun. I’ll look forward to reading tomorrow.

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