Garmin Instinct vs Apple Watch: Comparing Top Smartwatches

Garmin Instinct vs Apple Watch

In today’s fast-paced world, smartwatches have become an essential tool for managing daily routines and staying connected on the go.

Two popular options – Apple Watch 7 and Garmin Instinct 2 – dominate the market, offering unique features that cater to different user preferences.

This article delves into the pros and cons of these stylish wearable devices to help readers determine which smartwatch best fits their needs.

  • Apple Watch 7 is known for its sleek design, versatile functionality, and seamless integration with the Apple ecosystem. A top choice for many smartphone users, this device goes beyond timekeeping, providing comprehensive health tracking, notifications, and convenient access to numerous apps.
  • On the other hand, Garmin Instinct 2 appeals to those with a passion for outdoor sports and adventure. Equipped with rugged durability, advanced fitness metrics, and extensive battery life, this smartwatch stands out as a reliable companion for fitness enthusiasts and nature lovers alike.

The following sections will further compare these two smartwatches in terms of design, performance, and functionality to provide a better understanding of their suitability for various user preferences.

Apple Watch Series 7 (GPS, 41mm) Midnight Aluminum Case with Midnight Sport Band, Regular (Renewed)
Garmin 010-02626-10 Instinct 2, Rugged Outdoor Watch with GPS, Built for All Elements, Multi-GNSS Support, Tracback Routing and More, graphite

Key Differences

Design and Display

Apple Watch:

  • Rectangular design
  • Always-on Retina display

Garmin Instinct:

  • Rugged, round design
  • Sunlight-readable, monochrome display

Apple Watch has a sleek, rectangular design with an always-on Retina display providing high-resolution visuals. The Garmin Instinct, on the other hand, features a more rugged, round design with a sunlight-readable, monochrome display.

User Interface

Both Apple Watch and Garmin Instinct have intuitive user interfaces. Apple Watch’s UI is known for its ease of use and smooth navigation. Garmin Instinct’s interface is more focused on functionality and outdoor usability.

Operating System Compatibility

Apple Watch: Compatible exclusively with iOS devices.

Garmin Instinct: Compatible with both iOS and Android devices.

Apple Watch is only compatible with iOS devices, while Garmin Instinct can be paired with both iOS and Android devices.

Apple Watch Series 7 GPS + Cellular, 45mm Silver Stainless Steel Case with Starlight Sport Band, Regular

Smartwatch Features

Apple Watch:

  • Advanced navigation and safety tracking
  • Media playback, streaming, and storage
  • Customization options

Garmin Instinct:

  • Basic smartwatch features
  • Limited customization options

The Apple Watch offers advanced navigation, safety tracking, media playback, streaming, storage, and various customization options. Garmin Instinct provides basic smartwatch features, but with limited customization options.

GARMIN Instinct 2 Solar, Rugged GPS Smartwatch, Built-in Sports Apps and Health Monitoring, Solar Charging and Ultratough Design Features, Tidal Blue

Fitness and Health Tracking

Apple Watch:

  • Multiple workout modes
  • Heart rate monitoring
  • Sleep tracking

Garmin Instinct:

  • Sports-specific tracking
  • Heart rate monitoring
  • Sleep tracking

Both smartwatches offer fitness and health tracking features including heart rate monitoring and sleep tracking. Apple Watch includes multiple workout modes, while Garmin Instinct focuses on sports-specific tracking capabilities.

Battery Life

Apple Watch: Up to 18 hours of battery life.

Garmin Instinct: Up to 14 days of battery life in smartwatch mode.

Battery life is a significant factor in choosing a smartwatch. Apple Watch provides up to 18 hours of battery life, whereas Garmin Instinct can last up to 14 days in smartwatch mode.


Apple Watch is generally more expensive compared to Garmin Instinct. However, Apple Watch SE offers a lower price point with some trade-offs in features. Garmin Instinct is available at a comparatively lower price, primarily focusing on sports tracking and outdoor usage.

Design and Display

Materials and Durability

The Apple Watch and Garmin Instinct differ in their materials and durability. The Apple Watch Series 7 features a stainless steel or aluminum case, depending on the model, with a durable Ion-X glass or sapphire crystal display. It is water-resistant up to 50 meters and has increased crack resistance compared to previous models.

On the other hand, the Garmin Instinct 2 is designed for rugged outdoor use with its fiber-reinforced polymer case and chemically strengthened glass display. It also boasts a water resistance of up to 100 meters, making it suitable for swimming and diving.

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Screen Size and Resolution

In terms of screen size and resolution, the Apple Watch 7 has a significant advantage. Its display is nearly 20% larger than the Series 6 and more than 50% larger than the Series 3.

The display borders are 40% thinner, allowing for more screen real estate. The sharp, colorful LTBPOLED (Low-Temperature Polycrystalline Oxide) display contributes to a premium user experience.

The Garmin Instinct 2, on the other hand, opts for a monochrome, high-contrast display that prioritizes visibility in bright sunlight. This makes it suitable for outdoor adventures.

However, the resolution of the Instinct 2’s display is inferior to the Apple Watch 7, which translates to a less visually appealing experience.

  • Apple Watch 7

    • Display size: up to 45mm

    • Resolution: 396 x 484 pixels
  • Garmin Instinct 2

    • Display size: 1.2 inches
    • Resolution: 240 x 240 pixels

Touchscreen vs Buttons

The Apple Watch 7 utilizes a touchscreen interface, allowing for intuitive navigation and interaction with various apps and features. With its digital crown, users can easily scroll, zoom, or adjust settings with precision.

Garmin Instinct 2, however, relies on a button-driven interface. Its design includes five buttons for navigating menus and accessing various features, which might appeal to users who prefer tactile feedback and control during outdoor activities or sports.

In summary, the Design and Display section has covered and compared the materials and durability, screen size and resolution, and interaction methods of the Apple Watch and Garmin Instinct.

Both smartwatches cater to different user preferences and use cases, with the Apple Watch geared more towards style, luxury, and everyday use, while the Garmin Instinct focuses on ruggedness and outdoor functionality.

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Smartwatch Features

Apps and Integrations

The Apple Watch has a wide range of apps available through the iOS App Store, offering seamless integration with various popular iOS apps and features.

Users can access a multitude of services like fitness tracking, messaging, social media, and productivity apps on their wearable. In addition, the Apple Watch works exclusively with iOS devices.

Garmin Instinct smartwatches focus mainly on fitness and outdoor applications. Users can access different training programs, activity profiles, and GPS features through the Garmin Connect app. Check out Garmin Instinct manual here.

Garmin’s Connect IQ platform also provides a smaller selection of downloadable apps and watch faces for customization. Garmin Instinct devices are compatible with both Android and iOS devices.

Music and Media

The Apple Watch allows users to access music and media streaming directly from the device using Wi-Fi or Bluetooth. Users can stream music, control media playback, and even store music on the device for offline playback.

Garmin Instinct devices do not support music or media streaming. However, they do offer basic music controls, like play, pause, and skip, which users can use to control music playback on their paired smartphones.

Notifications and Communication

Both the Apple Watch and Garmin Instinct devices receive smartphone notifications, including text messages, calls, and app alerts.

However, the Apple Watch offers deeper integration with notifications, allowing users to respond to texts and even answer calls directly from the wearable.

The Garmin Instinct allows users to read notifications but has limited options for responding to them. Users can choose from a set of predefined replies or dismiss notifications on an Android smartphone, while iOS users can only read and dismiss notifications.

Payment Options

The Apple Watch supports Apple Pay, which allows users to make secure and contactless payments using the NFC technology in their device. Apple Pay is only available on iOS devices.

Garmin Instinct devices currently do not support any payment features.

Fitness and Health Tracking

Workout and Sports Modes

Both the Apple Watch and Garmin Instinct offer a wide range of workout and sports modes to cater to different fitness levels and activities.

Apple Watch users can engage in over 80 workout modes, while the Garmin Instinct provides numerous sport profiles including running, swimming, cycling, and more.

Some key features of workout modes include:

  • Apple Watch: Auto workout detection, customizable workout metrics.
  • Garmin Instinct: Intuitive sport-specific settings, compatibility with popular sports tracking apps.
Apple Watch Series 7 (GPS, 45MM) (Product) RED Aluminum Case with (PRODUCT) RED Sport Band (Renewed)
  • This pre-owned product is not Apple certified, but has been professionally inspected, tested and cleaned by Amazon-qualified suppliers.
  • There will be no visible cosmetic imperfections when held at an arm’s length. There will be no visible cosmetic imperfections when held at an arm’s length.
  • This product will have a battery which exceeds 80% capacity relative to new.
  • Accessories will not be original, but will be compatible and fully functional. Product may come in generic Box.
  • This product is eligible for a replacement or refund within 90 days of receipt if you are not satisfied.

Heart Rate Monitoring and Sensors

Heart rate monitoring is a key aspect of fitness tracking on both devices. They use optical heart rate sensors to provide continuous and accurate data during workouts and daily activities.

Additionally, both watches offer advanced metrics such as heart rate zones and estimated VO2 max. The Apple Watch also supports ECG monitoring for an in-depth assessment of cardiac health.

GPS and Distance Accuracy

GPS tracking is essential for outdoor activities such as running, hiking, and cycling.

Both the Apple Watch and Garmin Instinct have built-in GPS and GLONASS technologies that offer accurate distance and route tracking. They allow users to set customizable targets, review activity history, and analyze important metrics like pace and elevation.

Advanced Metrics

The Apple Watch and Garmin Instinct provide a range of advanced metrics to help users understand their fitness progress.

These metrics include:

  • Apple Watch: VO2 max estimation, fitness age, and recovery time.
  • Garmin Instinct: Training effect, training load, altitude and temperature data.

Both devices support integration with third-party apps to further expand the analysis of advanced metrics.

Sleep and Body Battery Tracking

Sleep and recovery are vital aspects of overall health and fitness. The Apple Watch offers robust sleep tracking features, including sleep duration and quality analysis, which can be accessed through the built-in Sleep app or third-party apps.

Garmin Instinct comes with advanced sleep tracking features as well, along with body battery monitoring. Body battery is a proprietary Garmin technology that estimates energy levels based on factors like heart rate variability, stress, and sleep quality.

GARMIN Instinct 2 Solar, Rugged GPS Smartwatch, Built-in Sports Apps and Health Monitoring, Solar Charging and Ultratough Design Features, Tidal Blue
  • Durable GPS Sport Watch for all kinds of activities and adventures
  • Measures the sleep, intense minutes, fluid intake and more for everyone to get the optimal track of the health
  • Smart features such as texting and notifications from the smartphone as well as Garmin Pay
  • English (Publication Language)

Battery Life and Charging

Battery Life Expectancy

The battery life of a smartwatch is an essential factor to consider when comparing the Garmin Instinct and the Apple Watch.

The Garmin Instinct boasts a remarkable battery life, lasting up to 14 days in smartwatch mode and up to 40 hours in GPS mode. On the other hand, the Apple Watch has a battery life of 18 hours, which is significantly lower than the Garmin Instinct.

The Garmin Instinct’s impressive battery life is particularly useful for outdoor enthusiasts, travelers, and those who do not want to worry about charging their smartwatches frequently. In contrast, the Apple Watch may require daily charging, depending on usage.

Charging Methods

Both the Garmin Instinct and the Apple Watch have their respective charging methods. The Garmin Instinct uses a proprietary charging cable that attaches to the charging port on the back of the watch. Users can connect the cable to a USB power source, such as a wall charger or a computer.

The Apple Watch utilizes a magnetic charging cable that is bundled with the smartwatch. The charger snaps into place on the back of the watch, making it easy to connect and disconnect. It can be charged through a USB power source or an Apple-branded charging dock.

To sum up, both the Garmin Instinct and Apple Watch have different battery life expectations and charging methods. The Garmin Instinct offers a much longer battery life, which may be an essential factor for some users, while the Apple Watch has a convenient magnetic charging cable that simplifies the charging process.

Apple Watch Series 7 (GPS, 41mm) Midnight Aluminum Case with Midnight Sport Band, Regular (Renewed)
  • Always-on Retina display has nearly 20% more screen area than Series 6, making everything easier to see and use
  • The most crack-resistant front crystal yet on an Apple Watch, IP6X dust resistance, and swimproof design
  • Measure your blood oxygen with a powerful sensor and app
  • Take an ECG anytime, anywhere
  • Get high and low heart rate, and irregular heart rhythm notifications

Comparing Models

Garmin Instinct vs Instinct 2

The Garmin Instinct is a rugged, outdoor-oriented smartwatch designed for durability and adventure tracking.

The Garmin Instinct 2 is an upgraded version with enhanced features, including:

  • Improved battery life: Instinct 2 can last up to 28 days in smartwatch mode, while the original Instinct lasts up to 14 days
  • Solar charging: Instinct 2 has a solar charging option for extended battery life
  • More sports profiles: Instinct 2 supports additional sports profiles, such as indoor climbing and bouldering

Apple Watch Series 6 vs SE vs 7

The Apple Watch Series 6, SE, and 7 are all excellent smartwatches that cater to different preferences and budgets:

Apple Watch Series 6:

  • Offers advanced health monitoring features (e.g., blood oxygen level and ECG app)
  • Always-on display
  • Faster processor compared to SE

Apple Watch SE:

  • Budget-friendly version with fewer health features
  • No always-on display
  • Shares processor with Apple Watch Series 5

Apple Watch Series 7:

  • Largest display of the three models
  • Faster charging capabilities
  • More durable with improved crack resistance

Alternatives: Garmin Venu 2 Plus and Fitbit

If you’re considering alternatives to the Garmin Instinct and Apple Watch models, the Garmin Venu 2 Plus and Fitbit have their own unique features worth considering.

Garmin Venu 2 Plus:

  • Focus on health and fitness tracking
  • Music streaming and storage
  • Onboard GPS
  • Up to 11 days of battery life in smartwatch mode


  • Offers a variety of models (e.g., Fitbit Versa 3, Fitbit Sense, Fitbit Luxe)
  • Strong focus on health and fitness tracking
  • Compatibility with both Android and iOS devices
  • Versatile and affordable options available

Future Outlook

Apple Watch Series 8 and Ultra Rumors

The Apple Watch Series 8 is expected to bring further upgrades and improvements to the already feature-rich Apple Watch lineup. Although not much information is officially available, rumors suggest enhancements in areas like battery life, health and fitness monitoring, and overall performance.

Additionally, there might be a new Apple Watch Ultra model, aiming to provide more advanced features for fitness and outdoor enthusiasts. However, it’s crucial to stay tuned for any announcements from Apple to get a clearer picture of what to expect in the coming iterations.

Garmin 010-02626-10 Instinct 2, Rugged Outdoor Watch with GPS, Built for All Elements, Multi-GNSS Support, Tracback Routing and More, graphite
  • Rugged GPS smartwatch is water-rated to 100 meters and thermal- and shock resistant with fiber-reinforced polymer case and scratch-resistant Corning Gorilla glass
  • Battery life: up to 28 days in smartwatch mode; up to 30 hours in GPS mode
  • Live the ultimate connected life with smart notifications and Connect IQ compatibility when paired with your compatible smartphone.
  • Track your adventures with the built-in 3-axis compass and barometric altimeter, plus multiple global navigation satellite systems (GPS, GLONASS and Galileo)
  • Understand your body better with all-day health monitoring features that track your heart rate, sleep, Pulse Ox, respiration and more (Pulse Ox not available in all countries. This device is intended to give an estimation of your activity and metrics; it is not a medical device)

Garmin Fēnix 7 and Instinct 2 Developments

Garmin’s Fēnix 7 and Instinct 2 smartwatches sit on different ends of the company’s product range, with the Fēnix 7 being a higher-end, more feature-rich device and the Instinct 2 focusing on durability and essential features. Both these smartwatches are expected to have advancements in future iterations.

The Garmin Fēnix 7 series may improve upon its battery life, navigational capabilities, and its wearable technology for various sports. The Instinct 2 is likely to continue focusing on ruggedness and reliable features tailored to outdoor enthusiasts.

Additionally, Garmin could introduce new models such as the Vivomove Sport and the Lily to cater to specific needs or target markets. These would emphasize Garmin’s dedication to innovating and expanding their offerings in the smartwatch segment.

As the smartwatch market continues to grow and evolve, both Apple and Garmin are likely to bring more refined and diverse options for consumers. Future devices from these two companies should include better integration, functionally, and versatility, thus keeping their products competitive and appealing to various segments of the market.

Frequently Asked Questions

Battery life comparison

The Apple Watch series generally offers a battery life of around 18 hours per charge, depending on usage.

On the other hand, the Garmin Instinct boasts an impressive battery life of up to 14 days in smartwatch mode and up to 16 hours in GPS mode. The longer battery life makes the Garmin Instinct a better choice for those who require extensive battery life for their outdoor activities.

Text message notifications

Both the Apple Watch and Garmin Instinct provide text message notifications. The Apple Watch offers seamless compatibility with iPhones and allows users to respond to text messages using voice dictation or pre-written responses.

While the Garmin Instinct also provides text message notifications, it does not offer as many options for responding as the Apple Watch.

Fitness tracking accuracy

Apple Watches and Garmin Instinct devices are equipped with multiple sensors and features to support fitness tracking.

Both devices are known for providing accurate statistics, such as distance, heart rate, and calories burned. However, Garmin’s watches are more focused on outdoor activities, such as hiking and trail running, offering specialized features, such as GPS and navigation support.

Compatibility with iPhone

The Apple Watch is designed to have seamless integration with iPhones, offering a wide range of features and superior app compatibility.

Garmin Instinct, on the other hand, is compatible with both iOS and Android devices. While it works well with iPhones, the level of integration might not be as deep as what’s achievable with an Apple Watch.

Apple Watch Series 7 GPS + Cellular, 45mm Silver Stainless Steel Case with Starlight Sport Band, Regular
Wearable4U Garmin Instinct 2 GPS Rugged Outdoor Smartwatch, Electric Lime with Corning Gorilla Glass, Multi-GNSS Support Power Bundle

Price differences

The Apple Watch is generally pricier than the Garmin Instinct. Apple Watches offer more features and a sleeker design, which can contribute to the price difference.

The Garmin Instinct is a more budget-friendly option, ideal for those who prioritize durability and a rugged design for outdoor activities.

Outdoor features

With its focus on outdoor enthusiasts, the Garmin Instinct offers several features dedicated to outdoor activities. These include GPS, GLONASS, and Galileo navigation support, built-in compass and altimeter, and a rugged design with military-standard durability.

In comparison, the Apple Watch also features GPS and a range of activity tracking features, but it lacks the military-standard durability and specialized outdoor features found in the Garmin Instinct.

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