by Eddie Suarez
Take a look around and you’ll see runners tracking their workouts with either a Garmin or a smartphone app. Which is better? Should you spend the money on a Garmin or just go with a free or almost free smartphone app? Let’s compare both options.
The first thing to consider is battery life. A Garmin can track your workout for up to 24 hours, depending on the model. And even though your phone might be able to track you for a day, it may not leave you any more juice left for phone calls or tweeting about your run.
Consider too that using a smartphone app to track your activity will be using data. Users with limited data plans have to take this into consideration. One long run over your data limit can cost you as much as an entry level Garmin!
Then there’s the ease of being able to look at your wrist to track your progress while in the activity. Your phone will sit in an armband or belt making it difficult to look at the screen. Also, you have to consider that it might require waking up and unlocking your phone. The Garmin is always ready for you on your wrist. Smartphone apps get around this by announcing your stats at specific intervals but you will never get the on-demand stats without looking at your phone’s screen.
A key component of tracking your workouts is your heart rate and cadence. A Garmin makes this easy. Smartphones don’t necessarily “pair” to heart rate straps or foot pods without special accessories or add-ons.
Newer Garmin models are also embedding Fitness Trackers into their watches. This means you’ll have to wear one less item on your wrist. You can wear an FR15 or 920xt and forego the fitbit. This also consolidates tracking your daily steps into one location. You won’t have to sync two different devices and check multiple websites. All of your data will at your fingertips on Garmin Connect.
Finally there’s a matter of accuracy. A dedicated GPS unit will be more accurate than a device that is sharing the tight quarters with all the doodads stuffed into a smartphone. Additionally, where a Garmin might record data point every half or quarter second, the smartphone app will record one every second or longer. This helps with battery life but makes the GPS track inaccurate. To understand this, try drawing a circle with just 4 dots. Now draw a circle using 100 dots. It may not seem like a big deal but running 26.2 should result in your device showing as close to 26.2 as possible. Imagine running a full marathon and your smartphone reports you only ran 24.6 miles!?!? The rule is if your device doesn’t record it, then it never happened!!