I just finished listening to the latest episode of John Gruber’s podcast, which is entitled Now Banned in China, and toward the end he wonders why anyone would choose a Garmin over an Apple Watch. There are many reasons:
1) Garmin is an open platform (you can share data with other apps)
Athletes often use more than one tool. They track workouts with several sensors and devices, and then share that data with several platforms. They may look at one aspect of their workout data on one platform, then switch to another to analyze something else.
Some athletes track with Garmin watches because they like the features (such as the ability to easy customize the data screens), and then they analyze their data after they workout on a different software platform (instead of using Garmin’s).
The Apple Watch does not share workout data with other apps. You cannot export it. This is a non-starter for the majority of serious athletes out there. Open is winning in fitness tracking. The platforms that have not adopted it, such as Polar, are stagnating.
2) Garmin has a lengthy lead in this space
Garmin has been making GPS sports watches longer than anyone else, and they are innovating and releasing new products more aggressively than ever. This isn’t always a recipe for success, and businesses like this get disrupted all the time, but a lot of people love working out with Garmin, and it doesn’t seem like this will change any time soon.
3) The Apple Watch lacks physical controls
Touchscreens are great for lots of things, but when you’re covered in sweat and moving fast, they are inadequate. Garmin GPS watches have five or more large, strategically placed buttons that are easy to find and press when you’re sweaty and physical.
As nice as the Digital Crown and the single button on the Apple Watch are for daily smartwatch use, they fall short for exercising. Athletes need to scroll through data screens, hit Lap markers, start and stop the workout, and maybe use the backlight. They’re too sweaty to swipe.
4) Not enough battery life for an Ironman
The most serious endurance athletes need GPS watches with hefty battery life. Obviously, this is a smaller niche of the market, but there’s a reason why people who train for and compete in 70.3 Ironman races need a fat watch like the Garmin 920XT. Watches like that are the only ones that will survive the whole race without dying.
5) Some people are Apple adverse
I personally love Apple products, and would love to own an Apple Watch someday. But, as popular as the iPhone is, there are still lots of people who are unwilling to buy anything from Apple. Here’s a quote from my very own dad:
There are people (like me) who would rather die than buy from Apple.