The Garmin Venu 3 is the company’s all-new smartwatch, bringing some serious new health and wellness features to the mix. But picking between the Garmin Venu 3 or an Apple Watch Series 9 will be a big choice for iPhone owners.
Here we break down the key differences between the two devices and ponder which is the right choice for your needs.
The Garmin Venu 3 comes with a chunky price tag, of $449/£449 it’s really expensive. You do get a fair bit for your money as we'll outline below, but its price tag eclipses the Apple Watch SE, and guns straight for the Apple Watch Series 9 45mm.
It’s easier to break down the Apple Watch pricing as below:
Apple Watch Series 9 45mm: $429/429
Apple Watch Series 9 41mm: $399/£399
The Venu 3 features a 1.4-inch AMOLED display, packed into a stainless steel case. It's a matt finish on the stainless steel and doesn't have the bling of the Apple Watch models. It's very conservative and understated, and not particularly beautiful or desirable.
So in those terms, it is priced favorably against stainless steel Apple Watch models. It’s not especially visually compelling, and we do think the Apple Watch looks like the more attractive smartwatch. But this is personal taste.
It does come in two sizes, with the 45mm Venu 3 joined by the 41mm Venu 3S.
That’s the same size breakdown as the Apple Watch Series 9, so it’s a dead heat when it comes to sizing.
The Venu 3 will accept third-party straps using the common clasp mechanism, so you can change up the look cheaply and easily. Apple straps are proprietary, and the official ones are very expensive (and high quality) – but there are tonnes of third-party ones available on Amazon.
The Apple Watch Series 9 screen has doubled in brightness to 2,000nit and easily tops the Venu 3 here.
Both watches are swim-proof with 5ATM water resistance on board.
Apple has doubled the brightness of the display on the Apple Watch Series 9, so it's much punchier and arresting to look at.
You can choose an aluminum Apple Watch Series 9, or you can pick a stainless steel model, that undoubtedly looks superior, but comes at a far greater cost.
Anyone considering the Venu 3 will (or should) have a pretty sport-focused approach – or why else choose a Garmin?
With the Venu 3, you get 30+ sports modes, with running, cycling, and swimming being chief among them.
The Venu 3 is a jack-of-all-trades device, so no particular sports profile is especially rich. Runners get a more vanilla look at the basics of their run, compared to the plethora of sports science data you'd find on a Forerunner 265 or Fenix 7.
That means you miss out on the likes of VO2 Max, Training Load, Training Effect, and other metrics you’d find on Garmin Forerunner devices.
Swimming tracking is reliable and some of the best in the business, and it can tap into Garmin’s database of golf courses, which is something the Apple Watch has to rely on third-party apps for.
The Apple Watch has become a sports tracking powerhouse over the last 10 years and has a host of modes in the Workout app.
Running has been added to relentlessly and now tracks a plethora of form, technique, and performance metrics such as cadence, vertical oscillation and even running power. However, there’s little regarding post-run analysis.
Cycling was given a huge overhaul in watchOS 9 and there are some serious good swimming apps available.
So both of these are versatile sports devices, but neither is the most advanced money can buy. However, arguably the Apple Watch is the better sports watch.
Apple has been slow to embrace sleep tracking, which wasn’t included natively until Series 6, and it got a modest update the year after. It now features sleep stages data, for those who crave detail on their rest, but it’s more focused on bedtime and sleep duration consistency.
We liked Apple’s simple approach to sleep tracking, and wished it hadn’t flipped to include semi-meaningless sleep stage data, but rather doubled-down on healthy sleep habit building.
The Garmin Venu 3’s main addition was new sleep tracking, with a sleep coach, which will train you towards better sleep. What’s more, it will track naps, if you’re lucky enough to have time for those.
So it feels as if Garmin has the upper hand on sleep tracking now.
Apps and ecosystem
The Garmin Venu 3 is a feature-packed watch, and Garmin’s platform is excellent for those tracking and focusing on their training. But it’s still more limited as a smartwatch than the Apple Watch.
You can make and take calls on the Venu 3 – and it’s the only Garmin to offer this functionality. And while it’s iOS and Android compatible, Android users only can respond to text messages from the wrist.
Garmin Pay is on board but bank support is nowhere near as good as Apple Pay. And while app support is limited, Garmin does support Spotify offline listening straight from the wrist.
The biggest miss is an app store. Garmin has the Connect IQ store, which offers extra watch faces, data fields, and widgets for use on the Venu 3. But these are very simple, and offer a way for users to geek out with their Garmin.
When it comes to Apple Watch you have a plethora of smart features. Notifications and calling are of course handled brilliantly, but Apple Pay and Siri are also major additions. Siri has been improved on Series 9 to be faster and also handle health queries (this feature is landing later this year).
And in October, Series 9 will support a gesture, which can be used to control the watch hands-free. Smart stuff.
Then there's the App Store. Apple and watchOS 10 have a fully-fledged App Store full of big-name partners – so if you want to directly track workouts with Strava, Nike+ Running, or get emails via Outlook, or medications via Headspace, you have that on the wrist.
It makes the Apple Watch incredibly powerful, but there is a cost…
This is one of the key areas to fight the Apple Watch – and Garmin has the upper hand here.
For the Venu 3, it will last 14 days in the smartwatch mode, but there’s no estimate given for the use of the always-on display. We will put that to the test in our review.
All Systems GPS tracking yields 20 hours on the Venu 3 – so there’s a slight boost in battery life but certainly nothing dramatic.
The Apple Watch Series 9 and SE feature single-day battery life only. Apple claims 18 hours, but we usually find around 30 hours. We’ve never had a problem getting it through a night’s sleep tracking.
What comes after is the problem. It will need charging in the morning, and if you forget, it will die and some point on day 2. And if you start charging it at random times, it’s really hard to keep on top of things.
In terms of GPS battery life, the Apple Watch is good for around 6 hours – so just good enough for a marathon, and nowhere near the Venu 3.
So this is a huge win for the Venu 3.
The Garmin Venu 3 is less of a health watch than the Apple Watch Series 9 – but does have some solid features.
It has Garmin’s stock features of Body Battery, which estimates energy, stress tracking, and HRV Status, which looks at heart rate variability, and whether your body is telling you it needs to rest. This general setup has been embraced by Whoop, Garmin, Fitbit, Outa, and others – but not by Apple. It will show HRV in Apple Health if you go looking, but it’s not front-and-center.
There’s also blood oxygen tracking on board.
The Venu 3 lost the ability to check for Afib using an ECG from the Venu 2 Plus, but we do expect this feature to return once regulators have signed off on the new Elevate 5 heart rate sensor.
Apple packs ECG, low/high heart rate notifications, blood oxygen tracking both continuously and as spot readings, as well as fall/car crash detection – so it’s less wellness-orientated, but packed with critical health features.
Apple Health is a huge repository of health data, albeit very data-heavy, but the more robust platform when it comes to sharing data with your doctor. It should be noted that Garmin data will be added to Apple Health if allowed.
Apple and Garmin both have mindfulness components, which utilize guided breathing from the wrist. But only Garmin tracks stress as a metric, even if the usefulness of that is hugely questionable.
Which should you choose?
If you look at these two smartwatches on paper, absolutely the biggest differentiator is battery life. The Garmin Venu 3 offers so much of what the Apple Watch can, in an established platform, but with over a week of battery life.
Indeed, not only is sleep tracking more advanced, but it's less of a logistical headache to do this around charging.
So if battery life is on your mind, get the Venu 3.
But the Apple Watch excels in many other ways. It's the better smartwatch platform, more useful in most moments, and a more polished experience overall – and the App Store makes it far more versatile.
Remember, just because the Venu 3 is made by Garmin doesn't automatically make it the better sports tracker. The Apple Watch is one of the best you can get – so if you base this decision around battery life, design and smart features, you won't be disappointed.
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