There are two things that go hand-in-hand very well, running and music.
Having a running watch with music functionality therefore is a sought out feature by some enthusiast runners.
However, with so many options to choose from such as Apple, Garmin, Polar, Suunto and Fitbit, how do you know which watch is the best? Here we try to compare the most popular ones so that you might consider one suitable for you.
1. Apple Watch Series 6
Reasons to buy
- Blood-oxygen sensors
- Sleep tracker
- Apple Music and Beats Radio accessibility
- Phone notifications
Reasons to avoid
- Shorter battery life vs other running watches
The prevalence of the all-time favorite Apple Watch has been upgraded to Series 6 with a few minor upgrades that will undoubtedly be appreciated by many. The Watch now has fast charging ability and a brighter screen versus the past models. Runners have raved about the new colors available for the Watch on the latest version.
The Apple Watch Series 6 has two variants for customers to choose from; a GPS model and a Cellular model that has LTE. This product is available in 40mm and 44mm sizes and has notable features such as an Always-On display, blood oxygen monitor, ECG, sleep tracker, watchOS 7 operating system, S6 chip, hand-wash detector and work-out types.
The Watch 6 Series has been marketed by Apple to have an improved fast-recharge ability from 0-100% battery percentage with just one and a half hours. Runners would never have to worry about raising their wrists from time to time to check their watch with the Always-On feature of the Watch. The screen is now brighter due to the Retina display that is said to be 2.5 times brighter than other models.
One main feature of this product is the new blood-oxygen sensor that can tell runners how well they are adapting to altitude change when taking on high altitude places. Some reviewers have claimed that this feature might not be as useful to runners, however, this is a great timely feature because of the high demand for pulse oximeters due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Along with the sleep tracking tool, runners can wear the Watch overnight while sleeping.
Runners have lauded the ability of the Watch to track VO2 Max and detect when runners have lower scores. The accuracy of the GPS technology of this product has also been noted by many. The Cellular or the LTE variant lets runners answer calls and respond to text messages from their iPhones while the GPS mode is on.
With the help of Siri, the Watch also supports music streaming and has access to Apple Music and Beats Radio as long as there is a membership. Music can also be stored within the gadget. Like the past models, the battery life of the Watch lasts for 18 hours, however, some reviewers have noted that it drains faster when they use Bluetooth or GPS or data, which they hope to be improved on the next model upgrade.
2. Fitbit Sense
Reasons to buy
- Premium heart monitoring feature
Reasons to avoid
- Inconsistent raise to wake
- Step counting can be sometimes inaccurate
The Fitbit Sense is a premium and advanced health smartwatch that is considered to be a close competitor to the Apple Watch. This product highlights features that would be highly useful for runners on their run. Once purchased, this product includes the watch itself, a long and short classic wristband and a charging cable.
The small wristband can fit a wrist size with 5.5-7.1 inches in circumference while the long wristband fits a wrist with 7.1-8.7 inches in circumference. With features such as Stress Management Score, EDA scan app, ECG app, SP02 monitor, built-in GPS, Sleep Stages and Sleep Score, Smart Wake, Sleep Mode, Voice Assistant, Music Experience, Fast Charging mode and BioSensor Core.
The Fitbit Sense helps runners to monitor their heart rate, time, pace and distance on their runs. The monitor would stop once they stop running and continue when they resume their runs. This compact and lightweight watch accentuates a Corning Gorilla Glass that protects the touch screen on the watch. Aside from running, it also highlights many workout options perfect for biking, boot camp, circuit training, golf, hiking, kickboxing and so much more.
The Sense’s music player can also accommodate up to 300 music tracks. The heart rate is displayed prominently on the screen and the watch vibrates to alert the runners whenever they are moving between heart rate zones.
Along with monitoring the heart rate, the Fitbit Sense also monitors the demand for ECG, blood oxygen, stress and mood of the wearer. Runners could also make use of this watch once they receive a call or a text message from their phones, it would display right away on the bright resolution screen. Thanks to the Voice Control feature of the Sense, runners can take calls and reply to messages via Google Assistant or Amazon’s Alexa.
This product is also lauded by many runners who have used it due to its 50-meter water resistance. However, Fitbit advises wearers to immediately dry the band after using it underwater or once drenched in water to not irritate the skin. It also helps runners to have contactless payment with the Fitbit Pay app in the watch.
The battery life can last up to six days that would be reduced with different usage and settings. Also, some customers have noted that the Sense could sometimes have inconsistencies with lighting up when they raised their wrist and the step counts might not always be accurate.
3. Garmin Forerunner 945
Reasons to buy
- Great for triathletes
- Bike crash detection
- Spotify music
- Playback feature
- Volume adjust
Reasons to avoid
- Limited color availability
For runners engaging not only in running but also participating in triathlons, the Garmin Forerunner 945 is a great choice for a running watch them.
With a more sophisticated and thinner profile, this watch also features Bluetooth technology, a lens material made with Gorilla glass 3 plus DX coating, fibre-reinforced polymer bezel, QuickFit watch band compatibility, a silicone strap material and a 240×240 pixels display resolution. This product weighs 50 grams and has a physical size of 47 x 47 x 13.7 mm.
The Garmin Forerunner 945 features Spotify music service, music playback and stores up to 1000 songs. Runners can control the playback and volume of the music on the watch itself. Like the Fenix series, Garmin has also incorporated color maps on the Forerunner 945.
Along with these features comes runner-friendly generated round trip courses in the watch. As mentioned, this product is also great for triathletes due to its ability to measure distance in pool and open water swimming as well as the stroke counts, paces and laps. Aside from running, the Forerunner 945 can also collect data on hiking, skiing, golfing and different paddle activities. This product also has a safety feature for when a bike crash happens, the wearer could alert any family or friend for help.
Some customers have lauded the long battery life of the Forerunner 945 with it lasting until 2 weeks when in Smartwatch mode, 10 hours when used with GPS mode on with music and 36 hours when music is playing with the GPS mode on. It also displays the runners’ success and progresses with a comprehensive training load measurement.
Another great feature about this product is the Garmin Pay that aids in virtual and contactless paying. However, some runners have noted that this watch might be too expensive for some customers and hoped that another model would be released with more color combinations or variations.
4. Polar Vantage V2
Reasons to buy
- Has basic smartwatch functions
- Great performance metrics monitoring
- Offers triathlon-oriented features and modules
- Durable aerospace aluminum casing
Reasons to avoid
- No physical music storage
Polar’s Vantage V2 is the new and improved version of the past model Vantage V released the late last year of 2020. The Vantage 2 is a lightweight GPS watch that has been marketed with tons of advanced built-in tools for runners.
This product is packed with tons of performance assessment features that would help runners and athletes alike. The Vantage 2 has unique features such as a 52g weight, 47mm case, a 1.2-inch display that has 240×240 pixels, tracking features like GPS, GLONASS, Galileo, QZSS and over 130 sport modes.
The Vantage V2 is a top-of-the-line, premium multisport GPS watch that also offers music playing and management to give runners a better running experience. Great for running, swimming, cycling and a lot more activities, this product also features Bluetooth and WiFi capabilities.
The Vantage V2 has features focused on running and multisports that provide precise metrics on time, speed, swim and distance. Another great thing about this product is it gauges VO2 max and alerts any wearer with mid-workout reminders. This product has an advanced heart-monitoring system with its 8-led optical heart rate.
Training and recuperation feedback is also provided together with monitoring and recording weight lifting and CrossFit workouts. The screen displays plenty of helpful exercises for the wearer using an animated icon that shows how to do each move and changes to a timer when the wearer starts to move.
The Vantage V2 can help runners to recover with FitSpart recommendations that complement their runs with supportive, strength and cardio workouts. The battery life of the watch can last up to 40 hours and would vary depending on the user settings. When in low GPS mode, the watch can track for 100 hours.
The music feature for the Vantage V2 provides runners with the ability to control volume, pause and switch songs, however, runners should have their phones with them since this watch has no onboard music storage. Some reviewers have seen this as something to be improved upon and they have also noted that this product might be too expensive for a watch that is missing that storage feature.
5. Garmin Fenix 6 range
Reasons to buy
- Pro models have great music features
- Toe-to-Toe kid activity tracker
- Improved battery life
Reasons to avoid
- Might be too expensive for others
- No flexibility on applications
- Might be too large for others
Garmin’s Fenix 6 range of running watches is marketed with two models; the Pro and the Base. This product has been lauded by many runners to be one of the best in the market due to its great ability of sports tracking. From running to skydiving, runners can depend on the Fenix 6 series on their runs.
With excellent varying features on its clock, health monitor, sensors, safety, tactic, activity tracking, running, golfing, cycling, swimming and kid activity with an included 22mm QuickFit watch band. Runners can avail this product with different model sizes and many color combinations.
The Fenix 6 series is the latest model released by Garmin last 2019 with almost a dozen different watch variants. The main difference between the Pro and the Base models is that the former has more music features, so runners who look for the best music features should opt for the Pro model.
The Base model can only control music, while on the other hand, the Pro model can store up to 1,000 songs and has music streaming services such as Spotify, iHeartRadio, Amazon and more. All versions of the Fenix 6 range feature a wrist heart rate monitor. It also shows a display of topographical and street maps and runners can also upload pre-routed routes. Along with a 32GB storage for preloading maps, this product also has popular maps preloaded in it and more can still be downloaded.
The sizes for this watch series vary on its model; the Fenix 6S has 42mm size, the Fenix 6 is 47mm and the Fenix 6X is 51mm. The improved battery life for these watches can reach up to 6-15 hrs with GPS mode on and if not, it can stay from 9-21 days. Aside from the aforementioned models, the Fenix 6 also has a Solar model with a Power Glass feature that has solar charging that could help runners running on a hot, sunny day.
Some key features for this product are also a PulseOx, respiration rate, ELEVATE Optical HR Sensor, heat and altitude acclimation and safety and incident detection. Runners have claimed that this is one of the most durable running watches out there, however, noted the expensive pricing for this product which increases when choosing a higher model and that it has no flexibility when it comes to app installment.
6. Suunto 7
Reasons to buy
- Spotify music streaming
- Battery-saving GPS mode
- Offline maps
- Always-On screen
- Great for hiking and trail running
Reasons to avoid
- No music storage
- No LTE
The Suunto 7 is a Wear OS running watch that would be perfect for runners looking for a Google-supported watch with music features. This product is compatible with both Android and Apple devices, although runners who are more used to Google OS would fare better in using this watch. The Suunto line is not as prominent in the world of GPS running watches as opposed to other brands such as Garmin and Fenix.
The 7 has features such as a 70g weight, built-in GPS (GONASS, QZSS, Beidou), Gorilla glass material, stainless steel bezel material, a case made with glass fibre reinforced polyamide and a silicone strap. Runners can snatch the 7 with different color combinations and they can choose between stainless steel or a titanium style.
The Suunto 7 has an optical heart rate sensor and a barometric altimeter. The heart rate sensor provides great performance on picking up trends when tested for running. The 7 features almost 70 different sports modes such as running on different types of paths, hiking, swimming and many more.
To maximize the usage of this product, it is recommended to download Google Fit and Suunto app to support all the features and completely record all stats. Daily activity stats can be viewed on the watch, however, with the help of the mentioned apps, runners can easily view details about their activities such as pace, heart rate, duration, cadence, speed, steps, calories, sleep tracking and more.
It can also connect to other fitness apps like Strava and Endomondo. Runners would appreciate the support this product gives for outdoor activities such as running. It provides runners with detailed information about terrains, trails and contour lines that are helpful for hiking and trail running. It also features outdoor offline maps wherein runners can download a 40-mile area which will also update once connected back to WiFi.
Another exciting feature for the Suunto 7 is the HeatMaps which allows runners to view paths that are heavily travelled by other Suunto users. Runners can also improve their running experience with music streaming on the Suunto 7 via Spotify. However, there is no music storage for this watch, hence, runners need to bring their phones with them on their runs. The battery life is fairly average and has been tested to last for less than 24 hours.
How To Choose The Best Running Watch With Music
A great running watch should be able to provide runners with improved and enhanced running performance and experience on the road. A highly-priced watch does not always mean the best out there in the market. Runners can refer to certain features provided below to guide them into buying the best running watch with music:
What do you want in a watch?
The first thing is to determine what kind of watch you need. Does music help your longevity on the run or do you get distracted from it? Do you want to be able to change songs just with voice command?
Are you a runner who needs to be constantly in the loop for email and messages? Knowing what you need while you’re on the run is important to maximize the features of the watch you’re eyeing.
Ease of Use
The best running watch with music should complement your run and not be a nuisance to it. One of the most important factors to consider when choosing your watch is its ease of use. Do you have to go on a full stop to navigate and change music? Is the monitor big enough for easy viewing? A great running watch helps you while on your run, so make sure you wear it and try it first.
Battery life is an important feature to consider when choosing a running watch. Runners should look for watches with rechargeable lithium-ion batteries that can averagely hold a device or a gadget active for 9-12 hours on a GPS mode. Runners should only consider buying a running watch that suits the needs and longevity of their runs.
With lesser feature usage and a power saver on, runners can boost the batteries for their chosen running watch. Usually, the expensive running watches have a premium grade battery life such as the Polar Vantage V2 that can last up to 40 hours.
Health Monitoring Features
Runners should look at the type of data or stats that they want to be tracked when choosing a running watch. Having a list of goals when running can be helpful to know which running watch could offer runners what they need. Runners who want to monitor their distance and pace should consider a mid-level running watch.
For tracking advanced metrics, runners can opt to buy mid-level or advanced running watches. Runners who seek to keep data on varying spots can look for a multisport watch. Lastly, runners who want to keep track of their heart rate should consider running watches with a heart rate monitor.
A responsive and brightly lit screen on a running watch would greatly help runners on their runs. Runners should not struggle with accessing their running watches or changing their music due to the unresponsiveness of the screen.
A notable running watch should also feature great protection of the screen such as the Fitbit Sense that has Corning Gorilla Glass and the Garmin Forerunner 945 that has Gorilla glass 3 plus DX coating.
Music storage in a running watch is a great addition that could optimize the running experience. While music streaming is great, it could only be utilized with a running watch that has LTE, however, music storage is a better feature to look for since it can be used without a WiFi connection or LTE.
Frequently Asked Questions
Some running watches can be used without a phone, some cannot function without one. Those that can work without a phone may have limited usage to music streaming or health monitoring features only. Best to check with the manufacturer first before purchasing, then decide if you’re comfortable running with both a phone and a watch.
Virtual assistants on running watches increases accessibility to the device, and would make your run a lot easier. Some running watches have integrated virtual assistants such as Google Assistant, Amazon Alexa and Siri.
These types of running watches have microphones assimilated within the devic. Runners who look for this feature should consider purchasing the Apple Watch series or the Fitbit Sense which also accommodates music playing features. You’ll be able to change your music just with voice command.
Marko Rakic is a trail runner and fitness enthusiast from Sydney, Australia. He is the lead writer for The Ultimate Primate and believes the best way to live a happy life is to take a holistic approach to fitness and health.