In case some of you wandered here hoping to find recommendations on the best GPS watch for 2018, this post isn’t about that. Ask yourselves this. Wouldn’t our training experiences be better if we could combine the best of all the GPS smart watches on the market into one single wearable? Rightfully so, and that’s what this post is about. A dream GPS smart watch that curates the best bits of all the flagship wearables out there without shackling us to the various platforms.
Last year I conceptualised my dream smart watch and the likes of Apple, Garmin, Suunto and Fitbit made the cut. This year, we see an old timer being dropped and replaced by an even older-timer. *Gasp!*
I always look forward to writing this post and conclude that the amount of time I spend on Ebay and Amazon looking for bargains for these watches is directly correlated to whether the watches are features at all. And it is fun imagining what the best could be; kinda like wondering what you’d do if you had won the lottery 🙂
So without further ado, these are the wearables that will make up this dream GPS smart watch of mine for 2018.
The Suunto 9 is hands down the best looking GPS smart watch I’ve ever laid my hands on. So much so I was willing to cough up a premium price for a wearable that’s comparatively lacking in features when pit against the competition. Yet this watch garnered a Runner’s World Gear of the Year award for 2018 accompanied by the following description “Three things will remain at the end of the world—Twinkies, cockroaches, and this watch.”
The secret sauce is FusedTrack – GPS sampling rate at 1 or 2 minutes combined with on board sensors to plot out a track that’s pretty close to what the actual route would be had the GPS been turned on to every second. In turn, the battery life is extended far longer than most wearables can fathom; 120 hours to be exact.
If you’re planning a UTMB or a ultra race in your calender somewhere in 2019, this is without a doubt the gear of choice.
Garmin has the best balance of features without the flimsiness and short battery life of full fledged smart watches.
Their most recent flagship, the Fenix 5 Plus series, set a new high in terms of features and pricing, likely leaving most fans drooling yet apprehensive at the same time.
How feature-packed is it? Think running to a map on your wrist while listening to a downloaded playlist from Spotify via connected Bluetooth headphones. Now imagine having your heart rate, cadence, running power from an accessory measured and saved for post run analysis on Garmin’s Connect platform. But, that’s no the end yet. Your improvement over time is also tracked and measured as well via Firstbeat technologies so you can view your VO2 max, training load, recovery load and much more. And if you need to buy a drink along the run, conveniently use Garmin Pay right on the watch.
And that’s what a Garmin can do if your wallet can stomach it.
Polar’s successor to their famous V800 comes in the form of the Vantage V. The company is ambitious enough to offer an all-in-one solution for their users who swim, bike, and run. The Polar Vantage V comes equipped with Polar’s Precision Prime optical sensors and native running power without the need for accessories.
Furthermore, by tapping on their years of data, Polar serves up training load pro and recovery pro with the sole purpose of reducing incidences of injury due to over-training; something all of us should be aware of.
This watch is heavy on training science and less so on looks when compared to the Suunto 9, less features versus Garmin Fenix 5 Plus, and definitely not as smart when pit against the Apple Watch. Designed specifically for those who wants a taste of no-frills science backed training tech from Polar.
Apple Watch will give you the best smart watch experience versus the competition, with seamless compatibility with their mobile device, app, and music platform. The customisation segment is heavy with Nike and Hermes collaborations, changeable watch faces, and a multitude of straps to choose from.
All that being said, there’s only so much one can do on a square faced watch with a single scrolling crown. My personal experience with the Apple Watch Series 1, 2, and subsequently 3, has all but let me down after a month or two of continuous usage.
My relationship with the Apple Watch is one of love and hate. I love how this watch is heavy into health science (think Afib detection, elevated HR, fall detection, ECG, and Apple Health) yet disappointingly lacking in performance training science needs. (inadequate app platform, subdued controls, poor battery life, minimal training metrics)
I look forward to the day when Apple decides to place more emphasis on usage and less on a uniform look. But that won’t be very Apple isn’t it? My guess is this watch will suit most people out there looking to stay active and keep fit.
Finally, time and again, Amazfit has impressed with the value for money strategy; their latest Stratos is an outstanding example.While it isn’t quite Garmin as yet, it did send a clear message that they too are capable of high performance GPS smart watches, somewhat. Further additions such as the Amazfit Bip and the upcoming Verge shows the company isn’t resting on their laurels -I look forward to even greater things to come from them in 2019.
Just imagine, the battery life and FusedTrack tech of Suunto 9, the smarts of the Apple Watch 4, the on boards maps and the robustness of the Fenix 5S Plus, the training science of the Polar Vantage V. And at a price of the Amazfits. Wow.
Oh well, time to wake up.