Running with music is a big deal for most runners. We know, because you can count most of the Wareable team as being firmly in the running with music camp.
Grab your phone, a pair of headphones (wired or Bluetooth), hit the Start button on your running watch or smartwatch, and you're ready to clock up some miles.
There are now more top smartwatches out there that let you remove the phone part of that setup, letting you pack music straight onto your wrist-worn device and pair Bluetooth phones to zone out to your fave running playlist, podcast or audiobook.
We've throughly tested a whole host of devices that can liberate you from your phone and bring the music down to your wrist. These are top picks for running watches and smartwatches with music playback.
Best running watch with music options
There's no Spotify support just yet, but those in the US have access to Pandora and Deezer support. If not, it's all about MP3s, which can be dragged and dropped easily through the Fitbit music app.
With Spotify, Deezer and iHeart Radio support, the Garmin is a winner when it comes to music streaming, and you can manage playlist syncing from within the Garmin Connect app.
If you're looking for a little more battery life on your music-powered runs, the Fenix 5 can also offline sync Spotify, as well as Deezer and iHeartRadio.
Best running watch with music playback
Garmin Forerunner 645 Music
After years of waiting, we now have a bunch of Garmins that offer a built-in music player. The Forerunner 645 was the first and is our pick of the new Garmin watches that offer that support.
You can drag and drop music files from your computer to your watch and pair Bluetooth headphones to give you another reason to leave that smartphone behind. There's one physical button on the side of the watch dedicated to giving you quick access to those music controls, letting you do the basics like skip through tracks and change playlists.
Essential reading: How to use Spotify on your Garmin watch
Along with enough room for 500 songs, Garmin is also offering offline listening support for select music streaming services. Deezer and iHeartRadio are two of those services on board. The most recent and noteworthy addition here is a dedicated Spotify app. If you're a Premium subscriber of the service, you'll be able to transfer playlists to the device for that all-important offline support.
You can have a read of our Garmin Forerunner 645 Music review to get the full verdict on its music and sports tracking features.
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 ticks that built-in music player box.
It 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 files. 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.
Garmin Fenix 5 Plus series
We wondered if Garmin would find room to pack its new music features into its most serious outdoor sports watch, and we didn't have to wait too long to find out.
The Fenix 5 Plus series includes the Fenix 5 Plus, Fenix 5S Plus and the Fenix 5X Plus. All three models now include the same features that rolled out first on the Forerunner 645 Music. So you can transfer music and podcasts to the watch and download offline playlists from music streaming services like Deezer. Like the Garmin Forerunner 645 Music, that support now also includes the Spotify app.
Even better news? All the new features provided in the new generation haven't come at the expense of the big battery life that makes the Fenix range some of the best in the business when you are planning to put in some serious sports tracking time.
Today's best sports watch deals
Smartwatches with fitness & music
While running watches have long been the only choice for serious athletes, the smartwatch is fast catching up. The benefit is that smartwatches have the full power of apps at their disposal, while dedicated running trackers are generally one-trick ponies, albeit with superior tracking chops.
Choosing a smartwatch currently means losing the in-depth stats, such as VO2 Max, vertical oscillation monitoring and other hardcore running metrics, but means you can get big beats straight to your headphones.
Apple Watch Series 4
With the Nike+ edition, Apple has given its smartwatch more of a focus on running, while tweaking the strap and software to make it easier for runners to strap it on and put the built-in GPS to the test. But behind the Nike-themed watch face, it's still a regular Apple Watch Series 4 at heart - and the company has greatly improved how you experience music since introducing an LTE version of its smartwatch.
Read this: How to play music on Apple Watch
Previously, you could only play music by transferring playlists from your phone and pairing a set of Bluetooth headphones. Now, though, Apple Music subscribers rocking the Series 4 with LTE are be able to stream music directly from the watch. A new Apple Watch Spotify app is also in its early stages, meaning subscribers can finally drop workarounds and access their full library. It's not perfect just yet, as there's no cellular streaming or offline playback, but we imagine those features will be added sooner rather than later.
For those who want to save money, you can still pick up the Apple Watch Series 3 and receive 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 the wrist.
Samsung Galaxy Watch
Like the rest of the Samsung smartwatch bunch, the Galaxy Watch 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.
Wareable verdict: Samsung Galaxy Watch review
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 now comes in 42mm and 46mm sizes, with both offering 4GB of storage to pile on your music and Spotify playlists. There's also a new Galaxy Watch Active that offers the same functionality in a smaller 40mm case design.
Our experiences of playing music on the Galaxy Watch have been positive overall, and with that rotating bezel making it easier to navigate through your tunes and playlists, it's a smartwatch well worth considering to liberate the music from your smartphone.
Garmin Vivoactive 3 Music
Like the Forerunner 645 Music and Fenix 5 Plus series, Garmin has added the same music features to the watch you can say is the closest to being an Apple Watch rival.
That means you can drag and drop audio files onto the watch when you hook it up to a computer and it'll offer offline playlists support for select music streaming services, such as Deezer and iHeartRadio. Spotify has yet to be added, but we imagine it won't be too long before it shows up.
On top of that, you get the same sports tracking features packed in the Vivoactive 3 sans music support, including Garmin Pay, GPS, heart rate monitor and big battery life.
Read ourfull Garmin Vivoactive 3 Music review to find out how Garmin's updated sporty smartwatch fares in the music department.
Fitbit's first smartwatch was also its first device to pack in music streaming from the wrist, though just where you are depends on how effective this feature currently works.
Unfortunately, unlike Samsung, Apple and Garmin, there's no Spotify support just yet, but 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 smartwatch, which lacks the built-in GPS powers of the Ionic, but still offers plenty of solid sports tracking features.
If you buy a smartwatch running on Google's Wear OS, you're getting the ability to put music on your watch, pair up some Bluetooth headphones and leave your smartphone behind.
One of our favourites to do that with (especially if you're going to work out with it) is the Fossil Sport. It's got the right blend of that sporty and stylish look and it's one of the most affordable Wear OS watches you can wrap around your wrist.
In terms of music features, you can transfer tracks to the watch via Google Play Music and there's also support for services such including iHeartRadio and Pandora. There is also a Spotify app that gives you better controls of your music and playlists, but it doesn't offer offline playlists (yet).
If you're looking for a Wear smartwatch that you'd want to work out with and you need that hit of music too, this is the one to go for.
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