The Best Running Watches with Music in 2018
If you love to run, there’s a good chance you like listening to some good music while you exercise! GPS watches and smartwatches are loaded with all the different features and stats they provide. How do you choose which is best for you?
Many of the watches listed below share many of the features most people expect to see on a GPS running watch. This includes step tracking, time/speed/distance when running, and heart rate monitoring.
Here are some of the best running watches with music. These watches will help you listen to your favorite music while maintaining all the great functions you expect on a running watch.
We’ve broken the list into two parts. The first section are GPS running watches with music storage and playback. The second section are smartwatches that play music, but require you to carry a phone with you while you run.
Top 3 Best and Favorites
1. fenix 5S Plus, 5 Plus, 5X Plus
Starting at $699, the Fenix watches are not cheap. But you get a ton of features in an attractive package that looks great in the office as well as on the road.
And for listening to music, the fenix 5 Plus series is the best out there. You can store up to 500 songs on the watch. Listen on the go without a phone. Play and control music directly from the watch. And right now, the fenix 5 Plus series are the only watches that let you listen to Spotify playlists from the watch, phone-free.
On top of music, the fenix 5 Plus watches are some of the most robust GPS watches around. Track and monitor a ton of activities from running to cycling to swimming to hiking, skiing, and paddle sports. Wrist heart rate is standard on all three versions. Contactless payments are included to pay wirelessly at stores.
They also display topo and street maps or upload pre-routed courses. There are 16GB of storage to preload maps. The watch comes loaded with the popular maps (there’s an extra cost to download additional).
With the latest upgrade comes improved battery life. Up to 13 hours in GPS and music-playing mode. Up 20 days during non-GPS use.
The fenix 5 plus series of watches tracks elevation using a barometer and GPS. Garmin has integrated a lot of neat ways to track climbing. New is the ClimbPro app. This splits up various elevation climbs throughout your day. It also keeps time, total distance, elevation, vertical speed, and average elevation grade displayed on the watch during your workout.
For runners, the fenix 5 plus tracks advanced metrics if you wear Garmin’s running dynamics pod. Track overall running power as well as cadence, vertical oscillation (how much you bounce up and down) to improve your running form.
There are a couple downsides to the fenix 5 plus. First is price. The fenix watches are expensive. You do get a ton of features, but it comes at a cost. Second is weight. The fenix is a fairly heavy watch compared to other models. The smallest version, the fenix 5S plus, sits nicely on smaller wrists, but it’s fairly substantial.
But overall if you are interested in an awesome watch with music, the fenix 5 plus watches are the best available right now.
- Built-in GPS and altimeter
- Improved connectivity with Bluetooth headphones
- Music storage and streaming services
- Additional cost for map downloads
- Very pricey
2. Garmin vivoactive 3
Garmin’s vivoactive 3 is an all-purpose GPS watch for running and general fitness. At about half the price of the fenix, it’s a nice alternative – and itstill plays music and has many running features.
Like the fenix, the vivoactive 3 can store up to 500 songs for phone-free listening. Play and control the music directly from the watch to your wireless headphones. Right now you can download and stream songs from Deezer and iHeartradio. No Spotify support yet but that will likely come soon.
The vivoactive 3 has a five-day battery life, and a GPS battery of 13 hours. And about 5 hours with GPS and music. It is water resistant up to 50m, so you can run in the rain and go for a swim! It even tracks swim strokes, distance, and speed.
Like the fenix 5, the vivoactive 3 tracks wrist heart rate. You can also make contact-less payments with Garmin Pay.
This watch uses heart rate to track your level of cardio fitness. Then you can compare how fit you are with others in your age group and gender in the app. It also measures stress and recovery throughout the day. Enjoy over 15 preloaded GPS and indoor sport profiles from swimming, running, snowboarding and much more.
Like many of these watches, the vivoactive 3 monitors steps, creates daily step goals, and tracks sleep. It can be worn on either wrist – the button on the side of the watch can be switched to the inside or outside of the watch, depending on which wrist you wear it on.
If you decide to buy the vivoactive 3, keep in mind there are two versions: one with music and one without. The music version costs about $30 more than the non-music version.
- Great battery life
- Lots of built-in fitness profiles
- Not as many running features as other watches
3. Fitbit Ionic
The Ionic is Fitbit’s true GPS watch. It has a sleek design, a battery that can last at least four days, and a GPS battery life of about 10 hours.
This watch not only tracks runs and counts steps. But it comes with quite a few extra features including female health tracking, mobile payments, and downloadable apps.
With 2.5GB storage space, the Ionic can store up to 300 songs. Stream Pandora and Deezer off-line without your phone when you have a paid subscription.
The Ionic tracks wrist heart rate as well as time/pace/distance while running with GPS. As a true Fitbit, it excel as monitoring steps, sleep, plus resting heart rate.
If you stop while on your run, the watch detects this, pauses, and starts back up for you so you can stay focused on your activity. If you forget to set your activity, there is an automatic workout detection that will choose the right workout for you and begin collecting data.
Like the two Garmin’s we’ve reviewed, the Ionic can make contact-less payments and displays phone notifications.
The Ionic is a slim, light watch. It has a clear, high resolution display. The touch screen is tough and durable, made with Corning Gorilla Glass.
- Music storage and Pandora streaming
- Long battery life
- Must plug into the computer to load music onto the watch
- Not many apps available (yet)
4. Garmin Forerunner 645
The Forerunner 645 is Garmin’s high-end running watch. It was also their first watch with music storage capabilities.
Similar to the vivoactive 3, there is enough room for 500 songs on the watch. There’s also the option to store podcasts and audiobooks. If you have iHeartRadio, you can download playlists to the watch as well. Control and play music from the watch to wireless headphones.
Also like the vivoactive 3, the Forerunner 645 has wrist heart rate and can make contact-less payments. It tracks runs, counts steps, and has an easy to read display.
So what makes this watch different from the vivoactive 3?
The biggest differences are the advanced running features. The Forerunner 645 lets you program interval workouts on the watch. It also has more fitness tracking – it monitors your overall fitness and fitness load using heart rate data.
The 645 lets you run against a virtual partner. This feature is a fun way to try to stick to a set pace (or run faster if you are looking to do a tempo workout).
There is fairly decent mapping capabilities on the Forerunner 645. These aren’t real maps like what you’ll find on the fenix 5 Plus series. But it does display a basic breadcrumb map. Use this to track your run or upload routes to the watch. You’ll get some basic point-to-point navigation help as well.
Retailing at $450 (for the music version), this is a nice option thanks to its slim and lightweight design. Bands can be easily interchanged. This is a good watch if you want some extensive running features, but prefer a lighter, slightly less expensive watch than the fenix 5 Plus.
- Waterproof to 50m
- Great running features
- Lightweight design with clear display
- Running features may be too complicated for some runners
5. Polar M600
The Polar M6oo is a GPS watch for running, but features many smartwatch extras. Powered by Google’s Wear OS, these include custom watch faces, phone notifications, and apps from the Google Play store.
Music capabilities include 4GB of internal storage, and you can stream it right to your Bluetooth headphones. With Google Play Music, you can stream playlists on the go without a phone.
The Polar is large and might not work well for small wrists. It has replaceable wristbands to change up the color. It has a square shape that is more fitness-oriented than fashionable. But this could speak towards better accuracy of the heart rate monitor since it has a large sensor.
This watch is Bluetooth and Wi-Fi capable, with the ability to connect an external Bluetooth chest heart rate monitor. The watch comes with a huge list of activities that can be tracked including CrossFit and weightlifting. But running tends to be the focus for this one, providing accurate time, speed, and distance.
Because this is an Android-wear device, it’s best to choose this one if you have an Android rather than an iPhone. With the built-in microphone you can use Google Voice for some functions as well as to reply to text messages.
- Built-in GPS
- Waterproof to 10m
- Sleep tracking
- Built-in microphone
- Not the best battery life – two days on Android, one day on iOS
6. Amazfit Stratos
A new GPS watch on the market is the Amazfit Stratos. Brought to you by Huami, the smartwatch and phone maker, this GPS watch features GPS tracking, wrist heart rates, smartphone notifications, and music storage. All of this at a reasonable price.
Featuring 4GB of storage, you can play music from the watch while going phone-free. But no syncing with streaming apps like Pandora or iHeartmusic.
The Stratos also acts as a fitness tracker to count steps and monitor sleep. It comes in a sleek package with a nice battery life of 5 days in regular use.
Our only hestitation in recommending this watch is the lack of history with the brand. Some users have complained that the watch works great out of the box. But quickly loses it’s battery capacity – or ceases to work – after several months of use.
But with great music storage at a nice price, we’ll still keep this on the list.
- Good value
- Nice music storage
- Decent battery
- Stylish and sleek design
- No playlists syncing with 3rd party apps
- Questionable durability
7. Fitbit Versa
The Fitbit Versa is a great choice for those who want a smartwatch that works with both Androids and iPhones has a solid battery life of at least four days.
Like the Fitbit Ionic, there is space to store up to 300 songs for offline listening. You can also access Pandora and Deezer for offline playlists.
But because the Versa is a smartwatch, it doesn’t have standalone GPS tracking. So if you go for a run and want accurate data, you’ll need to bring your phone with you. For runners, this somewhat defeats the purpose of having a watch with music storage capabilities. On the other hand, the Versa is $100 less than the Ionic. So if you like Fitbits and want to stick with the brand, this is a more value-based option.
Similar to the Ionic but smaller, this one has the same options for wrist straps and colors, tracks female health, and allows mobile payments.
The Versa has Bluetooth capability so you can receive any phone notifications plus the ability to quick reply to texts.
Activities include over 15 exercise modes including running, biking, swimming and weights, so you can enjoy plenty of stats in the Fitbit app while comparing to your active friends. It also tracks your cardio fitness level.
But because the Versa is a smartwatch, it doesn’t have standalone GPS tracking. So if you go for a run and want accurate data, you’ll need to bring your phone with you.
For runners, this somewhat defeats the purpose of having a watch with music storage capabilities. On the other hand, the Versa is $100 less than the Ionic. So if you like Fitbits and want to stick with the brand, this is a good value-based option.
- Good battery life
- Music storage
- Waterproof to 50m
- No built-in GPS
8. Apple Watch Series 3
The Apple Watch is always a top pick for Apple users, so if you have an iPhone this may be a good fit for you.
There are two available models for Series 3 – one with the built-in GPS, and one with an additional LTE capability. Using LTE costs more per month, but allows for music streaming on the watch which is perfect for utilizing those extra fees.
Access Apple Music and Beats Radio right through Siri or tap through the watch’s menu. There aren’t pre-made playlists to browse, so make sure you get familiar with Apple Music if you haven’t used it before.
The Apple watch brings your phone notifications to you to stay updated with your life while you work out. And there is a very convenient find-my-phone feature. When swimming, there is a screen-lock mode that will ensure the screen stays off during your swim, and when you’re finished the watch will eject water out of the speaker with vibration.
Apple Pay is installed as well for easy payment on the go. Again, if you have LTE version, you can use Siri to find out anything you need to know from the weather to current news, to changing your music.
Battery life is going to vary by how you use the watch. Cellular use and GPS will drain the battery quicker. Overall the battery life is adequate but not as good as Garmin’s and other GPS watches.
- Built-in GPS and altimeter
- Waterproof up to 50m
- Music streaming with LTE
- Short battery life
9. Samsung Gear Sport
Similar to other smartwatches out currently, the Gear Sport is a bit on the heavy side but looks like a regular watch. It provides easy menu navigation and has a battery life of over three days. The design while large, is attractive with replaceable watch bands and lots of well-designed custom watch faces.
There is a music player, and Spotify is supported! Search with your voice to find your favorite jam while exercising. Music can be streamed or download entire playlists from Spotify for listening offline with 4GB of storage.
It’s a good value for the price. It provides many fitness tracking options, including over 60 workouts that are guided by the watch. This one also has a built-in heart rate monitor and will automatically detect the activity you’re doing and begin collecting data if you forget to start manually. The data goes to the Samsung S Health app, but other apps are available, and more may be on the way.
There is integrated GPS for accurate tracking while you run.
But some of theother sensors might not be accurate enough for some serious sport enthusiasts – steps and calories burned may not be 100% correct. This watch might be better for someone looking for causal exercise. You can also track sleep as many of the other watches.
One other complaint about the Gear Sport is its lack of 3rd party apps. Hopefully, this changes in the future. But it does have Spotify!
- Waterproof to 50m, including saltwater
- Calorie tracking without extra apps
- Built-in GPS
- Up to four days of battery life
- Spotify integration
- Poor voice recognition
- Heart rate monitor may experience some bugs
Like the Apple watch, you can opt for LTE cell service if you pay an additional monthly fee. This watch is on the bigger side and might not be suitable for small wrists.
There is 4GB of storage space for music. With the LTE connectivity, you can stream all you want. Or you can download music via Google Play for on-the-go music without your phone.
The Sport is somewhat water resistant but is not made for swimming. The wristbands can be taken off but are not replaceable as LG built antennas into them. It will also function more fully if you own an Android phone, so you can take advantage of Google Assistant and Android Pay.
With a variety of fitness apps to choose from, the Sport is best for running and biking. While the GPS is handy and allows for leaving your phone at home, it might be a little shaky in areas with tall buildings or trees (as expected for most GPS systems.)
This watch is very well rounded with great features for fitness tracking as well as other smartwatch “extras”, a fast processor and quality screen. There is a heart rate monitor built-in as well as a SIM card tray. Receive phone notifications and read them comfortably on the large screen.
- Built-in GPS
- 4GB storage space for music
- Short battery life (less than two days)
- Large and heavy
- Has both a speaker and microphone, but they are very basic
11. TomTom Spark 3
We’re hesitant to include this watch and the Adventurer on our list as TomTom has discontinued their GPS watch line. But there are still some floating around on the market. And it remains a good value, so we’re keeping on the list for now.
The Spark 3 comes with Bluetooth headphones and is truly made for cardio health and music. Pretty similar to the original TomTom watch, this one has the built-in GPS and tracks basic workouts you’d expect from a fitness watch – running, swimming, biking, and a few indoor sports.
The heart rate monitor is most accurate for running and biking, and it supports an external Bluetooth heart rate chest monitor when you need more accurate numbers. This is not the best watch for activities and sleep tracking, but does offer the most common metrics from calories, steps, distance traveled, etc.
One nicer thing about this watch is it allows for storage of up to 500 songs. There is also a built-in compass and the ability to download trail maps to the watch, so you can stay on course when exploring new areas.
- Waterproof down to 50m
- Map download
- Stores up to 500 songs
- No smartphone notifications
- Discontinued – no tech support and limited supply
12. TomTom Adventurer
The Adventurer has a rugged design and works for many activities with a GPS and heart rate monitor built in. It tracks steps and sleep cycles like the rest of the watches. It also features a music player. Some sports offered besides running include trail running, hiking, biking, skiing, snowboarding, and more.
This watch has a good battery life of over four days without using the GPS. If you have some favorite trails or new trails you’d like to try, you can download the maps to the watch.
With a full 3GB of music storage, connect your favorite Bluetooth headphones or speaker and listen without your phone while you exercise.
The display is only black and white, and you will not receive smartphone notifications.
- 3GB music storage
- Built-in GPS, barometer and compass
- Battery life of 4 days
- Waterproof to 40m
- No phone notifications
- Black and white display