There are many smartwatch brands out there, but two stand out. Apple and Garmin are the two most commonly worn, argued about, and fought over brands on the market. Each has their die-hard fans and their haters!
But it’s easy to tell purely by their popularity that both are good quality pieces of tech. Today we’ll be comparing two of their watches – the Apple Watch SE and the Garmin Venu Sq Music.
We’ll lay out the facts side-by-side for you to see. We’re not advocating for one or the other here – in the end, what matters most is if the watch meets your needs. From there, it’s totally up to you which one you prefer!
Both of these watches show up with a lot of nice features. The Apple Watch is slightly ahead when it comes to things like daily smart features, while Garmin wins first place for exercise-related features.
Interestingly, they’re both shaped the same. If you prefer a square watch to a round one, you’ll find that the Apple Watch SE and the Garmin Venu Sq look very similar.
Garmin Venu Sq Music
One of the nice things about the Garmin Venu Sq Music is the mix-and-match design features you can choose from. Pick from 6 different casings and bezels, and pair it up with a strap that looks good.
The Garmin is only available in one size: 40.6mm. It weighs a slight 37.6 grams (1.32 ounces) and has a color touchscreen. It’s slightly more affordable than the Apple Watch at the time of writing, by about $20.
Apple Watch SE
The Apple Watch SE is also available with various finishes and bands, including a nylon band for those who may be sensitive to silicone. There’s not quite as much choice in the watch design and finish as Garmin, although you have more strap options.
This watch is available in two sizes – 40mm and 44mm. For the sake of this review, we’ll stick to the 40mm size so it’s easier to compare the two watches properly. The 40mm Apple Watch weighs in at just over 30 grams (1.1 ounces). It also has a color touchscreen.
One of the biggest differences is that the Apple Watch features a microphone and speaker, so you can make and take calls right on your wrist. It’s a little more expensive than the Garmin, but only by $20 or so.
Size and Display
The Apple Watch’s screen measures 1.3 inches diagonally (33mm). Garmin’s is the same. They both have a liquid crystal display with the option to set it to “always-on” mode.
The Garmin’s screen has a resolution of 240 x 240 pixels. This is perfectly decent, and you’ll be able to see everything you need to.
The Apple Watch does come out on top in the display resolution race, though, with a retina display of 324 x 394 pixels.
Garmin offers more information about their watch’s battery life. In Smartwatch mode, the Garmin Venu Sq Music can last up to 6 days before needing to be charged.
If you need to use the GPS, you can get up to 14 hours of use. For full GPS use and listening to music at the same time, you can expect up to 6 hours of continuous battery. It charges in 2 hours.
The Apple Watch is much less specific about its battery life. From what we’ve found (after much in-depth research), you should get around 18 hours of battery in standby mode, and 6 hours in GPS exercise mode. 1.5 hours of charging will push the battery up to 80%.
It’s easy to see that Garmin has the edge in the battery life department.
Heart Rate Monitor
Both watches have a wrist-based heart rate monitor that tracks in real time. They also both offer alerts for both abnormally high and unusually low heart rates.
The Apple Watch claims to have a second-generation optical heart sensor. There’s some discrepancy here, as the Apple Watch 6 claims to have the same, yet the two sensors are quite clearly different. Regardless, the sensor has a single center LED light, with 4 small LEDs within it. The Apple also has an irregular heart rhythm sensor.
The Venu has the standard Garmin Elevate optical heart rate sensor. It also works underwater to measure heart rate during swimming activities.
Both watches have a compass, an accelerometer, and an ambient light sensor.
They both offer GPS and GLONASS, with Garmin also connecting to GALILEO. What’s that mean? With Garmin, you have more options to improve the accuracy of location tracking when outside.
The Venu, with the help of a separate accessory, can also measure temperature. The Apple Watch has a few extra features, such as an always-on altimeter and a gyroscope.
However, the Apple Watch falls slightly short in one area: not offering a pulse oximeter function. The Venu SQ does. You can set the Garmin to do spot-checks, or monitor all-day and during sleep.
Maps and Navigation
Both watches are GPS-enabled and measure distance, time, and pace, based on GPS data.
You can use the maps on your Apple Watch to get directions and feel a slight tap on your wrist to indicate when you need to turn, although there’s some question of the accuracy of the GPS.
Both watches keep track of things like steps and calories.
If you want to get more specific, the Garmin Venu offers built-in profiles for strength training, running, indoor track running, treadmill, cardio, cycling, indoor cycling, elliptical training, indoor rowing, pool swimming, XC skiing, skiing, snowboarding, stand-up paddleboarding, stairs, Pilates, yoga, and breathwork.
The Apple Watch is a little less open about its particular programs. You can certainly track walking, running, cycling, swimming, yoga, dance, and HIIT.
The Apple website gives a broad explanation of what exercise features you can expect to find on an Apple Watch, and these include walking, running (outdoor or treadmill), cycling (indoor or outdoor), elliptical, stair stepper, rowing machine, hiking, yoga, functional fitness strength training, dance, core training, swimming (pool or open water), and cooldown (stretching).
One thing the Apple Watch offers that the Garmin doesn’t is wheelchair walking or running. It can also pair with compatible gym equipment to save your stats.
Garmin is heavier on the training aids than Apple is, offering features such as pool swim metrics (stroke length, stroke counts, swim efficiency, etc), golf statistics tracking, run workouts, and downloadable training plans.
It also has a great feature called Physio TrueUp, which stores data and syncs it across a range of devices. The data it covers include:
- VO2 Max
- Training Load
- Race Predictor
- Recovery Time
The Apple Watch doesn’t have any of these advanced training aid features readily available. You can view your own fitness trends in the iPhone’s Fitness app.
Apart from heart rate monitoring, both watches have sleep tracking that monitors your habits and helps you set healthy sleep goals.
They also both allow for menstrual cycle tracking and have mental health and wellness functions that help you to be more mindful throughout your day.
The Apple Watch has a unique hand-washing detector and will begin a countdown of 20 seconds when it detects that your hands are under running water.
The Garmin offers regular hydration reminders, as well as their incredibly useful Body Battery Energy Monitor, which helps you to see how well your body is recovering when you rest.
The Garmin Venu Sq Music is rated 5 ATM, which means it’s considered waterproof up to depths of 50m. You can shower, swim, snorkel, or go running in the rain and not worry about damage to your watch.
The Apple Watch SE has the same rating, and they specifically recommend you don’t go scuba diving or water skiing with it on.
Find Your Phone
The Ping iPhone function will cause your lost phone to emit a tone so you can find it, wherever it’s hiding.
Similarly, Garmin has the Find My Phone function. They also offer the opposite, a Find My Watch setting, that helps keep your watch close by.
Downloadable Watch Faces
Both watches have the ability to download custom watch faces from their app stores. That means you’ll never get bored looking at your watch!
This is a uniquely Apple feature. You can pair your iPhone to multiple watches at a time so that children or older adults who don’t have their own iPhone can still communicate with you and each other through their own Apple Watches.
Both the Garmin and the Apple watch offer the ability to make contactless, cardless, phoneless, cashless payments. Simply set it up when you receive the watch and you don’t have to carry money around with you anymore.
When buying an Apple Watch, you’ll gain access to Apple Music, which offers music, audiobooks, and podcasts for your listening pleasure. There’s 32GB of internal storage, enough for 8,000 songs if you don’t want to stream music.
The Garmin Venu only has space for up to 500 songs. That may sound like a lot, but it pales in comparison to the Apple Watch’s storage space.
Apple has Fall Detection and Emergency SOS features. Thanks to the built-in gyroscope and accelerometer, the watch can detect sudden changes in movement that may be a hard impact, and will send a message asking if you require help.
If so, the watch will automatically contact emergency services. In the event that you’re out and about and find yourself in trouble without your watch picking up on anything, you can send an Emergency SOS by pressing and holding the side button.
The Garmin Venu Sq Music features LiveTrack, which can keep a contact informed of your whereabouts. You’ll also get incident detection, very similar to the Apple function.
As you should be able to tell, both watches have high-end features, but they’re designed for slightly different functions.
That’s not to say one is better than the other. They’re quite similar in price and aesthetics.
That said, we’d recommend the Garmin Venu Sq Music if you’re planning on doing and tracking a lot of exercises. It offers more comprehensive activity profiles, as well as some advanced tracking and recovery features.
If you’re looking for a watch that can track the basics of your exercise but functions more like a smartphone on your wrist, the Apple Watch is the better choice.
Keep in mind that the phone you use does play a role. While the Garmin does work on both Apple and Android devices, it’s likely to be less effective and has more connectivity issues on an iPhone.
On the other hand, if you don’t own an iPhone, you won’t be able to pair your phone to your Apple Watch.