Best running watches with music: MP3, offline Spotify from Garmin and more

Take control of your workout tunes and leave your smartphone at home
Best running watches with music
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The rise of running watches with built-in music is offering people the chance to stop hauling around giant smartphones when they're out for a jog.

Whether you're looking for a Garmin watch with music, or a sporty smartwatch, the Wareable team has tested every running wearable on the market.

Much of the Garmin sports watch range and newer smartwatches are now offering the ability to play music straight from the wrist – and even offline sync Spotify, Deezer or Apple Music playlists. The cellular version of the Apple Watch even lets you stream on the go.

Update: This article was originally written in 2014 - and is regularly updated. In March 2020, it was improved to include details of all the new Garmin watches with Spotify, and all data on battery life, data storage and the latest devices.

Check out our video

We partnered with The Running Channel for a video on the latest and greatest running watches. Check it out for a thorough run-down on the best running watches in 2019.

Best running watches with music

Our picks of our favourite running watches with music, based in our in-depth testing.

Garmin Forerunner 245 Music

Garmin Forerunner 245 Music

  • 500 songs
  • Spotify (Premium required)
  • Deezer
  • iHeartRadio
  • 6 hours GPS with music
  • Offline playback supported

Probably the best all out running watch with music – when you balance connectivity and price – the Forerunner 245 that offers top-end features without a crazy price tag.

The Forerunner 245 Music enables you to store up to 500 songs, either via drag and drop from your library of MP3s or offline synced Spotify, Deezer or iHeartRadio content. Then you simply pair your Bluetooth headphones and you’re away.

Pressing the Down button on the side of the watch gives you quick access to those music controls, letting you do the basics like skip through tracks and change playlists.

If you're a Premium subscriber for that service, you'll be able to transfer playlists to the device for that all-important offline support.

What about the Forerunner 245 Music as a running watch? We’re big fans – it offers loads of great extra data leveraged from the heart rate sensor, which focuses on Training Effect, Training Load and recovery time.

It’s also just been handed down the PacePro feature from the Fenix, which will help you stay on track for your PBs during races.

Price when reviewed: $349.99

Read more: Garmin Forerunner 245 Music review


Apple Watch Series 5 (and Series 3)

Apple Watch Series 5

  • 500 songs
  • Apple Music offline syncing and LTE streaming on compatible models
  • Streaming and syncing with Podcasts app
  • Roughly three hours of GPS and music playback

The Apple Watch Series 5 is very much a running watch in its own right – so don’t be fooled into thinking it’s all style and no substance.

The Workout app on the Apple Watch is pretty powerful now, with customisable data screens that can even show live cadence when running, if you wish.

You won't get pages of data like a Garmin, but it’s no slouch when it comes to tracking your activities. Also, there are third-party apps for pretty much every running service – the Strava app being notably good.

So, what about music? Well, you can make playlists in Apple Music and sync them to your Apple Watch quickly and easily – and it’s one of the most user friendly experiences in our list.

And Apple Music subscribers rocking a cellular edition of the Apple Watch can stream music and podcasts directly from their watch.

You can’t say the same for the Spotify app, which is essentially just an elaborate controller for your phone; there's no cellular streaming or offline playback, but we're hoping those features will be added eventually.

For those who want to save money, the Apple Watch Series 3 has also had a big price cut, down to $199, and has the same music powers – just make sure it's the LTE version (with the red dot on the Digital Crown) if you want to stream directly from your wrist.

Price when reviewed: From $399

Tested and rated: Apple Watch Series 5 review


Samsung Galaxy Watch Active 2

Samsung Galaxy Watch Active 2

  • 500 songs
  • Spotify offline syncing and MP3
  • 40mm and 44mm sizes
  • Offline playback supported

Like the rest of the Samsung smartwatch bunch, the Galaxy Watch Active 2 offers a dedicated Spotify app. This means you can stream music (over Wi-Fi or LTE) and download offline playlists from the streaming service onto the watch.

You can also transfer music through Samsung's own music player, and thankfully it's really easy to do from the Gear Companion app.

The new Galaxy Watch Active 2 comes in 40mm and 44mm sizes, with both offering 4GB of storage to pile on your music and Spotify playlists.

Our experiences of playing music on the Galaxy Watch Active 2 have been positive overall, although our in-depth review is still in progress.

Bringing back a software version of the much-loved rotating bezel makes it easier to navigate through your tunes and playlists, too. This is a smartwatch well worth considering to liberate the music from your smartphone.

And if you prefer the form of a fitness tracker – have a look at the Samsung Gear Fit2. We deemed it a little old to get an entry here, but it has Spotify support and 4GB of memory in a (bulky) wristband.

Price when reviewed: From $279.99

How it stacks up: Samsung Galaxy Watch Active 2 review


Garmin Fenix 6 Pro series

Garmin Fenix 6 Pro

  • 1000 songs
  • Spotify
  • Deezer
  • iHeartRadio
  • 10 hours of GPS with music
  • Offline playback supported

The Fenix 6 range has the full gamut of music features, including storage for 1,000 songs and full support for Spotify, Deezer and iHeartradio. However, you need to make sure you opt for Pro or Sapphire options when buying (these cost more money, naturally).

One of the biggest features of the Fenix 6 – and why it costs so much – is the big battery life. You get 10 hours of GPS tracking with music (and 36 hours without music), so serious runners should be covered.

When it comes to sports tracking, the Fenix 6 is pretty much the best you can buy. It tracks everything from trail running all the way to skydiving. But it's the level of data you get from running that really impresses, with VO2 Max recovery stats, training data and even insights into your running form.

Price when reviewed: From $599.99

In-depth: Garmin Fenix 6 review


Garmin Forerunner 645

Garmin Forerunner 645 Music

  • 500 songs
  • Spotify
Deezer
  • iHeartRadio
  • 5 hours of music with GPS
  • Offline playback supported

Another Forerunner with music – yep, it’s got room for 500 songs and supports offline playlists for Spotify, Deezer and iHeartRadio just like the rest.

The Forerunner 645 Music does come with a slightly larger price tag for all this extra dressing, and you get 5 hours of GPS tracking while listening to music from the wrist.

So, why opt for the Forerunner 645 for more money? It blends the power of a Forerunner with VO2 Max data, recovery, Training Status and advanced analytics with a sleeker, nicer look. It’s got a silver bezel.

There are also some other features: The Forerunner 645 Music has a barometric altimeter, can measure running power (if paired with a Running Pod or chest strap) and has Garmin Pay.

The cheaper Forerunner 245 Music has none of those things, but does feature the Body Battery, which can predict how well you’re set to train and a Pulse Oximeter sensor.

Price when reviewed: $449.99

Fully tested: Garmin Forerunner 645 Music


Suunto 7

Best running watches with music: MP3, offline Spotify from Garmin and more

  • 500 songs
  • Spotify
Deezer
  • iHeartRadio
  • 5 hours of music with GPS
  • Offline playback supported

The Suunto 7 is a smartwatch that manages to bring some interesting software features to the table, but is ultimately held back by familiar Wear OS shortcomings.

On the music front there's 8GB of storage on board (smartwatches normally have 4GB) leaving room for thousands of MP3s to be played from the wrist. However, WearOS doesn't allow for offline storage of Spotify music – but you can tap into the library of Google Play Music and download to the Suunto.

As a running watch, it's hampered by Wear OS. It's a shame Suunto didn't go it alone a bit like Garmin did on the Venu, because there's the foundations of a really nice smartwatch here.

In running terms the built in Suunto app does a good job, and offers decent mapping features – based on Suunto's heatmap software. Run tracking was accurate and you get decent analytics – but the experience isn't as polished or slick as the Apple Watch or dedicated Garmins.


Garmin Vivoactive 4

Garmin Vivoactive 4

  • 500 songs
  • Spotify

  • Deezer
  • iHeartRadio
  • 5 hours of music with GPS
  • Offline playback supported

Garmin has added the same music features to the watch you could say is its closest to being an Apple Watch rival (although the Garmin Venu does complicate that picture a tad).

The Vivoactive 4 is the company’s smartwatch – and it mixes music, notifications and Garmin Pay with wide-ranging sports tracking with lots of dedicated modes – but entry-level feedback.

It will track running (indoor, outdoor, treadmill), cycling (indoor and outdoor), swimming (pool only), golf, strength, cardio, elliptical, indoor rowing, yoga and more.

You can drag and drop audio files onto the watch when you hook it up to a computer, and it'll offer offline playlist support for select music streaming services, such as Deezer and Spotify.

On top of that, you get the same sports tracking features packed in the Vivoactive 3 Music, including Garmin Pay, GPS and a heart rate monitor.

Price when reviewed: $349.99

In detail: Garmin Vivoactive 4 review


Garmin Venu

Garmin Venu

  • 500 songs
  • Spotify
  • Deezer
  • iHeartRadio
  • 6 hours of music with GPS
  • Offline playback supported

You can see the Vivoactive 4 above for everything the Venu does – but, as Garmin’s first ever watch with a full AMOLED screen, it’s the best choice for those who don’t want those dull-looking transflective displays on their wrist.

In terms of music, you get 500 songs of storage and offline syncing for Spotify, Deezer and iHeartRadio.

A comprehensive list of tracked sports, all offering essentially basic information only – the Venu is still a formidable fitness tracker. And the bright screen makes the customizable data screens easy to view when running.

And the battery doesn’t take as much of a battering as you might expect. GPS tracking with music playback is six hours, which is more than enough for the average runner.

It’s not a running powerhouse, but the Venu does excel in terms of all-day wear.

Price when reviewed: $399.99

On trial: Garmin Venu review


Garmin Forerunner 945

Garmin Forerunner 945

  • 1,000 songs storage
  • MP3, Spotify, Deezer and iHeartRadio
  • GPS with music: 10 hours
  • Offline playback supported

I think by now you get the picture about Garmin's efforts - and the top Forerunner has space for 1,000 songs, as well as Spotify, Deezer and iHeartRadio offline playlists.

As a running watch, you're getting the most in-depth analytics of any Forerunner – and essentially a Fenix watch with the extra sports stripped out. The Forerunner 945 is a triathlon watch, so it's big on swimming, cycling and running.

It hooks up to the Running Pod for dynamics and extra data. It's a gold standard running watch – with a price tag to match.

Price when reviewed: $599.99

In-depth: Garmin Forerunner 945 review


Fitbit Ionic

Fitbit Ionic

  • 300 songs
  • MP3 drag-and-drop also Pandora (US) and Deezer (Europe)
  • 10 hours GPS no music (expect approx 4 hours with music)

Fitbit's first smartwatch was also its first device to pack in music streaming from the wrist, though just how effective this feature currently is depends on where you are in the world.

Unfortunately, unlike Samsung, Apple and Garmin, there's no real Spotify support just yet. Despite the app, this really acts as just a controller for your phone - similar to Apple's version.

However, those in the US will have access to Pandora in order access offline listening. If you're in Europe, that door is closed to you, but it does have Deezer support.

Thankfully, putting music on the watch itself is actually fairly straightforward, since this can be done through Fitbit's own music app. To do so, you need to go through the desktop Fitbit Connect app and select the files you want to sync.

Once on there, it's a case of pairing your Bluetooth headphones with the watch and you're away. This feature is also available on the slimmer Fitbit Versa 2, which lacks the built-in GPS powers of the Ionic, but still offers plenty of solid sports tracking features.

For a deeper take on how the device fares in music streaming and beyond, take a look at our Fitbit Ionic review and our Fitbit Ionic Adidas Edition review.

Price when reviewed: $299

Fully trialled: Fitbit Ionic review


Amazfit Stratos

Amazfit Stratos

  • 4GB memory (500 MP3s)
  • No streaming services
  • 5 day battery life (GPS + Music unknown)

Amazfit may not be a familiar name to most, but the Chinese company is definitely one to watch.

The Stratos is a budget watch that can suitably handle your music needs. And an impressive-looking new model is releasing very soon, the Amazfit Stratos 3.

The original Stratos doesn't just compare favourably to the top pick in this field with regard to price, either, with the Stratos matching Garmin with 4GB of storage data for your music. It's MP3 In our testing, we found the music controls to be limited, but generally the playback lives up to basic expectations.

Like other sports watches, the meat here is in its built-in tracking modes, which is also backed up by GPS/GLONASS support and a heart rate monitor. Thanks to a partnership with Firstbeat, more advanced metrics, such as VO2 Max and Training Load, are also on board.

For the full details on its music tracking capabilities and tracking chops, jump over to our Amazfit Stratos review.

Price when reviewed: $199.99

Put through its paces: Amazfit Stratos review