Fenix 5+ vs AW 4, I'm impressed

DontGetTheCheese

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Original poster
Nov 22, 2015
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So, I still have a couple of days in which I can return the AW and as I own a Fenix 5+ I thought I'd put em both on and take them through a workout. Mostly I'm writing this for my own thoughts but maybe it'll help someone in the same boat as I am.

TLDR: Overall, I'm impressed with the AW, but still don't know if it's 100% a keeper.

I did 3 phases of the workout
  1. Warmup: tracked by the Apple Workout App
  2. 10 minute jog, 3 minute walk, 10 minute jog, tracked by Intervals Pro.
  3. 4.6 mile hike, fairly hilly, about 600 feet gain, tracked by Workoutdoors.
I had the AW on my left wrist and the Garmin on my right.

I also ran the podcasts app for the entirety of the run. i wanted to stress test the battery because while this is about as long as I typically go, I've gone 5+ hours before.

Finally, I wanted to see what shows up in Loseit for calories as this is actually what's most important to me although it's the least fun and motivational.

Calories

This will be a recurring theme but they were pretty close. Garmin and Workoutdoors had the hike within 1 calorie of each other. For the run the Garmin was 10 higher and the warm up had the workout 3 calories higher. All basically irrelevant.

Distance/GPS

The Garmin seemed to consistently mark the distance longer by a couple of percent. My phone wasn't near on any of these activities so I don't see that affecting it. It did this for all sections so something is different.

I don't sweat the GPS. I just like to know where I've been. That said, I like how Workoutdoors presented the information. It's nicely done.

Heart Rate

No differences that would matter on the test.

I would like the AW to test the heart rate more regularly however. I'm not how often it captures it on a run, it was pretty much identical to the Fenix every time I looked, but seeing 8 minutes ago for a resting rate isn't really your current resting rate.

Now to where there are differences

Battery

So, I started this at 96% and finished at 64% so I definitely think 6 hours, although it would be a squeaker, is possible. That said, I do maybe one or two 6 hour workouts a year so it's not really an issue. I haven't done a single one this year.

With the Fenix, on this same workout, I'd be around 75%, so the AW did ok with everything running. But, that isn't the problem.

The problem is every single day I've had this watch, it winds up in the 50% to 60% when I put it on the charger. So, here's the difference. I can drop the Fenix on the charger, when I shower, and it'll be at 90 to 100% forever. A days typical use, without any workouts, and it's above 90%, often above 95% (Fenix 5 never went below this).

This might be good enough, and I don't care, much, about sleep tracking, but the watch really needs a better battery so you can get through a week with partial charges when you shower/shave, and then catch up say on Sunday night. I haven't tested this but I bet it wouldn't go 3 days this way, especially if you were doing consistent workouts of an hour or more.

Might not be a deal killer but, well, it's just barely good enough.

As a side note, my phone has been sucking battery life since I got this thing. Might be a setting, bluetooth, maybe unrelated to the watch, I don't know.

Usability

The AW isn't hard to see in daylight, it's fine in fact, but the Fenix is easier to see when working out, but harder the rest of the time. The Fenix is a rock and can take a beating. On the other hand, outside of the Nike band, and the weirdness of putting it on, the AW is really comfortable. I like wearing it, I like the UI, I like a lot of things about it, in fact. But, when working out, the Garmin is just plain easier to use.

Also, I have no problems with the wrist flip to activate the screen. It's a complete non-issue so far.

Maps

I screwed up with Workoutdoors so I didn't test the routes / mapping. But, it showed me a map and, well, it's no where near as good as the Fenix mostly because it's kind of hard to read. Fenix mapping and directions on a course are excellent. I don't go many places that I'd get lost in but sometimes I take new routes and having the map telling me to turn left in 60 feet is fantastic. Of course, trying to find a restaurant on the Garmin is, um, tricky.

Apps

This is kind of +/- for the AW. Without apps this watch would, frankly, be useless to me. I have to jack information all over the place to get things to work, but in the end, it does work. The advantage of the Fenix is it's all in one place, one place that I like, and that works. I could probably get used to Training Peaks though. I think it's arguably better than Garmin connect from the little bit I've seen but all the moving and signing up and buying apps doesn't taste quite right to me.

On the other hand, the app market kind of reminds me of the Alexa app market. Sure, there's 30.000 of them, but there's not even 50 that you want to install. I get the same vibe from the AW 4 except there's maybe 10 that I really want or need. But, I really need some of those 10!

Conclusion

So, to be honest, I really don't know, still, what to do. If the AW had just a bit better battery life it would be no question but it doesn't. I imagine that we'll see a doubling of it's battery life, assuming they don't eat it with a faster processor, in a couple of years but then I imagine Garmin will come forward with new things too.

They are 2 good products and it is actually hard to decide between the two, at least in my use case as a fitness guy but a non-marathoner.
 
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Relentless Power

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Jul 12, 2016
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Nice comparison. I think the Garmin Fenix is really nice hardware and they have improved with their software compared to how dismal it used to be , but I still think there are general complaints that it doesn’t perform as well or as as fluid as the Apple Watch is. The only other downside I heard about Garmin is there customer service support is lackluster, which would be imperative when it comes to something like the Apple Watch.
 
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PatrickNSF

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Jan 24, 2011
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Thanks for adding your perspective.

I've mentioned this before, but I'm a marathoner and have been back and forth between the AW and Garmin since Series 0. I sold my Series 3 LTE over the summer and went exclusively Garmin for a few months. When the Series 4 was released I tried my spouse's upgrade for a bit of time before turning it over.

For running (for me), nothing compares to the instant-on screen of the Garmin, particularly during tempo runs, speed workouts and races. That being said, I find the combination of the AW with Stryd using iSmoothRun quite good. I'm not sure I'd trust it for a race, but it's great for easy runs. I find the optical HR much better on the AW4 than the Garmin 935 and the F5+ that I tired to replace it with. DCRainmaker has confirmed as much in his review and subsequent comments.

But I agree about battery life. If you're doing any GPS workout and trying to use the watch for sleep tracking, it's going to spend a portion of the day on the charger. Or you can use two watches. With the 935 (and even the F5+ with its battery issues) keeping the watch charged is a nonissue. With the AW it's also tedious using multiple apps that store data in different places, where with the Garmin everything resides in one app (that I quite like) and on the web.

I know a few people who continue to use a Garmin for running, and an AW for the remainder of the day and I often do as well. But it's a shame to have a watch as nice looking as the Fenix and not wear it. The Fenix makes the AW look pretty bland and ordinary.

Good luck figuring it out! Happy to continue sharing my thoughts if it helps.
 
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matrix07

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Jun 24, 2010
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I work out at gym (Elliptical, Weight Lifting using Strong) and also run outdoor for 12-14 km and plan to up it to half marathon soon and I still find no need for something like Fenix. I don't even consider anything that doesn't have cellular now that I'm getting used to it. It will feel too crippled to me. Another thing that I will never consider is putting my credit card information into an app of a company that isn't a big, big tech. That is way too risky.
One of the thing that are rarely talked about of Apple Watch is it is not a stand still product. It will get better in the first few years. When I purchased it my S3 LTE can't do automatic detect of work out, now it can. It doesn't have Podcasts, now it has. You can't compete with someone, now you can. You have to say Hey Siri now you don't. etc.. (also an ability to talk to my wife, who's at another city, casually like you're in the same room with WT :p) and I think that is one of the most important and exciting part of Apple Watch and people rarely talk about it. I don't understand why..
As I see it, S4 form factor is a platform for the next few years and S4 itself will no doubt have at least 2 major updates that the owners can look forward to and that will change the watch that you invest today significantly.
 
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James.K.Polk

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Aug 31, 2015
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Thanks for adding your perspective.

I've mentioned this before, but I'm a marathoner and have been back and forth between the AW and Garmin since Series 0. I sold my Series 3 LTE over the summer and went exclusively Garmin for a few months. When the Series 4 was released I tried my spouse's upgrade for a bit of time before turning it over.

For running (for me), nothing compares to the instant-on screen of the Garmin, particularly during tempo runs, speed workouts and races. That being said, I find the combination of the AW with Stryd using iSmoothRun quite good. I'm not sure I'd trust it for a race, but it's great for easy runs. I find the optical HR much better on the AW4 than the Garmin 935 and the F5+ that I tired to replace it with. DCRainmaker has confirmed as much in his review and subsequent comments.

But I agree about battery life. If you're doing any GPS workout and trying to use the watch for sleep tracking, it's going to spend a portion of the day on the charger. Or you can use two watches. With the 935 (and even the F5+ with its battery issues) keeping the watch charged is a nonissue. With the AW it's also tedious using multiple apps that store data in different places, where with the Garmin everything resides in one app (that I quite like) and on the web.

I know a few people who continue to use a Garmin for running, and an AW for the remainder of the day and I often do as well. But it's a shame to have a watch as nice looking as the Fenix and not wear it. The Fenix makes the AW look pretty bland and ordinary.

Good luck figuring it out! Happy to continue sharing my thoughts if it helps.
You're describing my experience, exactly. Traded back-and-forth more than I care to admit, and while Garmin is certainly a better piece of running gear (especially for track workouts or anything where you need splits), the Apple Watch is gaining ground, quickly.
 
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CmdrLaForge

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Feb 26, 2003
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Thanks a lot for the comparison between the 2 watches. I own and still use the very first Apple Watch for tracking my workouts and so far so good. But I am training for a triathlon and as the watch is not useable for swimming and counting the laps myself is ok but not great I am looking for a new workout watch.
 

Kermit262

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Sep 16, 2014
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Central Ohio
Agree with others about your write-up. I had a Garmin Fenix 5 before switching to the nearly identical Forerunner 935. A particular issue I'm having with my Apple S4 is that the HR monitoring is essentially broken. It doesn't provide a chart after the run, and during the run my HR is all over the place (e.g., I'm maxed-out on a recovery run). If I can ever get this issue sorted out, I'll be happy to use the Apple Watch for casual runs. But overall, nothing beats the Garmin for workouts.
 
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oeagleo

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Feb 5, 2016
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I've done this "back and forth" thing for over a year now, and have come to only this conclusion. The AW4 is a fantastic piece of kit, designed to be a smart watch with surprisingly well done workout capabilities. I like how Apple doesn't rely simply on steps, but takes a complete approach with their 3 rings, Move calories, exercise minutes, and stand for a bit each hour, rather than just steps. The only drawback is the obsession of filling in the rings, (a motivator?) and if you get sick, or otherwise miss a day, the dread, drama, and heartbreak of not filling in that week/month.

The Fenix is an excellent piece of Exercise kit, designed (IMHO) for those who are either very serious athletes, or professionals, for they are usually the only ones who are concerned with VO2Max, Training load, etc. Nice looking watch, feels somewhat like you've got a Buick on your wrist, but the rugged look is really "in". Falls way short of the AW in the everyday uses like activity tracking, banking, shopping, messages, E-mail, etc, all the things you buy an AW for.

So, the real thing here is that we're essentially comparing apples and oranges. (Ha! I made a funny!). One is a smartwatch with health/activity tracking, the other is an Exercise watch with smartwatch capabilities. Which do you spend more time doing? Training, or living?

Still, there's the "look" of each, so to me, it's entirely subjective, I go from the AW4, back to the Fenix 5+, back to the AW4, back to the 5+, etc, etc... Of course, others may see this differently, but I thought I'd just toss this in.

Nice review up above though, enjoyed seeing my same thoughts. :)
 

PatrickNSF

macrumors 6502
Jan 24, 2011
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Given the number of us who are flipping back and forth between a Garmin and an AW, it might be a good idea to share some of our tips or best practices.

For example, do you wear both watches when you run?
Do you track steps and sleep, and which watch do you use?
Have you used any third arty apps and sites (e.g., Gyroscope) to try to consolidate the health data between the two?

These are a couple of things that I struggle with, and why it was kind of nice for the few months I was without an AW this summer and just kept all of my data in Garmin Connect.
 

Kermit262

macrumors 6502
Sep 16, 2014
276
380
Central Ohio
Given the number of us who are flipping back and forth between a Garmin and an AW, it might be a good idea to share some of our tips or best practices.

For example, do you wear both watches when you run?
Do you track steps and sleep, and which watch do you use?
Have you used any third arty apps and sites (e.g., Gyroscope) to try to consolidate the health data between the two?

These are a couple of things that I struggle with, and why it was kind of nice for the few months I was without an AW this summer and just kept all of my data in Garmin Connect.
For over 400 days straight, I wore my Apple Watch on my left wrist and the Garmin on my right. I did this because I had a long 10,000 steps per day streak with my Garmin that I didn't want to break. But last week I stopped wearing my Garmin and decided to only use my Apple Watch to track activity, steps and sleep. I now only wear my Garmin for my runs, and only for structured workouts. Otherwise I just wear my Apple Watch. I feel so liberated - like I broke free of my chains lol.
 

PatrickNSF

macrumors 6502
Jan 24, 2011
464
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I feel so liberated - like I broke free of my chains lol.
Ha! I've often worn a small Vivosmart on a clip when I'm wearing my AW to keep steps updated in Garmin Connect. And I've often switched to the Garmin for sleep tracking so that the AW could charge overnight. But I find AutoSleep quite a bit better than Gamin sleep tracking, though I would prefer the data consolidated somewhere (other than in the Health app).

And I'm probably in the minority on this, but I like some of the Garmin watch faces much better than what's available on the AW. On the Garmin, I think ActiFace is pretty impressive, and when I have an upcoming race I use Countdown. I can't say I'm really satisfied with any of the AW watch faces, including the new ones.
 

DontGetTheCheese

macrumors regular
Original poster
Nov 22, 2015
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Thouht I’d follow up on this.

I’m going to keep the AW and probably turn it into my daily driver, so to speak. I’ll probably sell the Fenix later this year once the sale goes away, maybe next year. Something could still happen to frustrate me about the AW and I wind up changing my mind.

What it came down to, for me, is that the AW’s UI kind of equals the fitness capabilities of the Fenix but the UI of the Fenix is way behind the fitness capabilities of the AW. In other words, the combination of the two is better on the AW for my needs. Really, the only major problem is the battery on the AW but it’s good enough for 95% of what I do.

I can, 100% understand someone going in a different direction, however.
 

brentc133

macrumors member
Jan 31, 2012
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Thouht I’d follow up on this.

I’m going to keep the AW and probably turn it into my daily driver, so to speak. I’ll probably sell the Fenix later this year once the sale goes away, maybe next year. Something could still happen to frustrate me about the AW and I wind up changing my mind.

What it came down to, for me, is that the AW’s UI kind of equals the fitness capabilities of the Fenix but the UI of the Fenix is way behind the fitness capabilities of the AW. In other words, the combination of the two is better on the AW for my needs. Really, the only major problem is the battery on the AW but it’s good enough for 95% of what I do.

I can, 100% understand someone going in a different direction, however.
I’ve done the exact same as you. I keep the Fenix 5 sapphire in the drawer charged ready to go.
 

TriApple

macrumors member
Mar 16, 2011
73
8
I'm right there with some of you on this thread. I train for full and half Ironmans and use a Garmin to do so. 5x to be specific. Just got an Apple Watch (I've had one before, but it's been a while). I only have a handful of training sessions in so far... but my thoughts are this:

1. Running: does 90% of what I need for running, if not more. When I get some interval workouts from my coach I might say more like 75%.. but I used to train before Garmins could do what they can do today.. and still managed to do repeats.

2. Swimming: The Garmin can do more with planned sets and drills, but the reality is, I don't care. I want to track distance and pace. it does that. I'm happy with this and won't miss my Garmin here.

3. Cycling: I won't use it here, I'll wear it.. but my 520 will be the master here... not being able to connect to my Quarq power meter makes the watch useless for tracking cycling. That said, I'll still wear it and not bring my phone with me. Still more convenient. Additionally I use the Varia Radar and lights, also not compatible with the AW. Nor would I expect it to be.

4. When not training: No comparison, and this is the majority of my time anyway (insert IM training joke here). the Apple Watch blows the Garmin away for function when I am not training.

I use a Whoop Band for sleep and training impact to my body, so I didn't use the Garmin for that anyway, which is good since the AW really isn't made for it. I know you can do it, but ...

Also, I should note that my specific use case is as a near full time traveler for work. The above lets me travel with only my Apple Watch and the Garmin stays on the charger at home for race day - where I will for sure use it. The 520 stays next to it ready to be charged.]

I use HealthFit to import, automatically, all my AW sessions into TrainingPeaks.. and Garmin sends it there to - so that's my Book of Record and what my coach reviews.

From a battery perspective... just did an hour run with music streaming on and ended with 72% (started at 97%). I don't run anywhere near 4 hour training runs (race day for an IM, sure, but it won't be on my wrist). For my longer rides I won't have music on, so suffice to say, I expect it to last for all my training sessions for the way I intend to use it. The last time I had an AW, I could not feel that way.
 
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Toonartist

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Sep 19, 2017
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Yeah, my Fenix 5 stays in the top draw now and only comes out for bike days.... power, cadence and speed sensors. Other than that, the aw4 gets used all the time.

The optical HR sensor is miles better than the one on the Fenix 5 and handles cold conditions well. That said, I still use a Wahoo TICKR when it gets cold and that connects up well with the aw4 and, if I'm on the bike, it connects to both the aw4 and Fenix 5 at the same time, bluetooth and ant+. During warmer days, I see no reason to even use the HR strap.
 

vanhalen26

macrumors newbie
Nov 14, 2018
21
3
I’m a marathoner, train daily. My Fenix 5 plus now only gets worn when I run - bit of a waste actually. Maybe I should sell it and get a forerunner instead. The Garmin’s can’t be touched when it comes to training, but the AW blows it away for everything else.

I have an Apple Watch 3 cellular and wear it to when I run, I can leave my phone behind and still listen to music and get any key phone calls. It’s cold out now in Toronto, so my Garmin goes over my jacket so I can see the run info, and the AW goes under as I’m afraid it will get undone and fall and break if strapped over my jacket, so I miss the notifications now, but still get the music.

The Fenix does music to, but it’s a brutal interface and has constant dropouts with my headphones.
 
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DontGetTheCheese

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Original poster
Nov 22, 2015
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So, I had my first hiccup with the watch today. Basically, the watch didn’t get a GPS connection, set my starting position at my phone, and added .14 miles to my workout. Now, the time was still right, and it was still a personal best, but it is a problem because the workout has very specific segments and I was testing one of them. I didn’t expect to go for a personal best, and ironically, the watch doing what it did might have pushed me to do it.

And this is where the watch starts getting tricky. There’s no question in my mind the AW is better than the Fenix overall. But, the workout part of things keeps wanting to drag me back to it. For example,
  • The phone GPS and the app not picking it up. I waited a bit for the GPS to connect but I’ll admit I’m not sure how long.
  • TrainingPeaks, which is a good app, now wants $9.99/mo, which they won’t get, to do anything more than record my workouts.
  • The clusterduck of apps vs one home. I like seeing the mileage on my shoes, my recover, my workouts, laps, etc., in one easy to use place.
This is leading me to the same solution as the guys above, neither one of these are good enough to do the job by themselves.

Regarding music, I used Spotify on the Fenix, and it’s miserable getting podcasts onto it. The app crashes, I can’t queue them, have to load them one at a time. And in one case, a historical podcast, the app crashes when I go back about 100 episodes which is where I was in the podcast sequence. It’s clunky to find podcasts, add podcasts, stop podcasts, etc. It’s a way better experience on the AW.

Anyways, I’m not as happy today as I was yesterday. I guess next time I’ll wait longer to make sure I have a GPS signal before starting.
 

PatrickNSF

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Jan 24, 2011
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>> The phone GPS and the app not picking it up. <<
When I use the AW to record runs without a Garmin (which is rare), I prefer to have the watch rely on its own GPS vs the phone (and I prefer not running with a phone anyway). I seem to recall reading that the quality of the phone GPS will vary depending on where you carry it, and when I do carry it I keep it in a running belt under my shirt.

>> The clusterduck of apps vs one home. I like seeing the mileage on my shoes, my recover, my workouts, laps, etc., in one easy to use place. <<
I couldn't agree more. Whenever I do an AW run I export it into Garmin. The downside is that it doesn't count to the Firstbeat feedback.

I've been doing a trial of Spotify, but much prefer Apple Music on the AW. I used Spotify today with my AirPods and it worked, but there was a bit of stuttering, and it's tedious to change playlists or volume on a Garmin during a run.

In the end, I see myself jumping back and forth between the two, primarily running with the Garmin and using the AW as an iPod nano with LTE. I dislike wearing a running belt and carrying a phone with me enough that the hassle of running with the second watch doesn't seem as bad as it (likely) looks.
 

oeagleo

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Feb 5, 2016
549
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West Jordan, Utah
It’s SO good to see others with the same problem as I! I too have an AW4, and absolutely love it, but I also have a Garmin Fenix 5+, and love it too. Love having everything in one place, makes it easy to see the whole picture, and I export my AW data to Garmin Connect. I miss the FB stuff, Training load, recovery, etc, so I truly feel your pain.
 
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DontGetTheCheese

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Original poster
Nov 22, 2015
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Are you guys doing manual exports? RunGap? HealthFit doesn’t have Garmin Connect as an option. I thought it did but, nope.
 

PatrickNSF

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Jan 24, 2011
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I use RunGap for everything – AW to Garmin, Garmin to AW, Garmin to Strava...

Also, I do everything to Strava manually since I only want my runs and rides uploaded.
 

oeagleo

macrumors 6502a
Feb 5, 2016
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West Jordan, Utah
Are you guys doing manual exports? RunGap? HealthFit doesn’t have Garmin Connect as an option. I thought it did but, nope.
I too use RunGap for everything, there's gobs of sites you can export to once you opt for the paid version (Subscription), something like $1.99 for 3 months, really cheap considering some of the other subscription plans out there.
 
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DontGetTheCheese

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Original poster
Nov 22, 2015
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>> The phone GPS and the app not picking it up. <<
When I use the AW to record runs without a Garmin (which is rare), I prefer to have the watch rely on its own GPS vs the phone (and I prefer not running with a phone anyway). I seem to recall reading that the quality of the phone GPS will vary depending on where you carry it, and when I do carry it I keep it in a running belt under my shirt.
Just to clarify, I don’t take my phone with me. I was about 50 yards from the car, probably for a couple of minutes doing a light warm up, started the app and took off. The GPS hadn’t grabbed hold so it took the last position it had, my car. This resulted in a 1/3 of a mile being off by about 50 yards.

My start and finish was the red dot. The green is my car, where I left my phone, and you can see it was off for about a 1/3 of a mile. I’m not actually sure that it even fixed on the right turn but presumably somewhere after that it did.
 

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PatrickNSF

macrumors 6502
Jan 24, 2011
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Oh, that's bizarre. I wonder if the AW would have picked up GPS quicker had Bluetooth been turned off on the phone.

I'll admit that I haven't been paying too much attention to GPS tracking lately, as I use a Stryd whether I'm running with a Garmin or the AW. I find that pacing with both watches is much more reliable with the Stryd, so I either pair it with my Garmin or use it with iSmoothRun on the AW.

When I have compared the GPS tracks, they've been fairly close...or, at least, close enough for my purposes.