Increasingly there is a big movement towards being phone free, this is especially true with walkers, runners and outdoor sports enthusiasts. Recently I spent an extensive amount of time online researching to buy a watch suitable for running with music and Bluetooth headphones that allowed my wife to leave her phone at home. This research took me so long, I felt it would be worth sharing in the event it helps others. When I say it took me a long time – probably 9 hours or research. Over doing it really.

The idea of running with only Bluetooth headphones and a watch, while still tracking GPS location, pace, heart rate, times while listening to music without the need for a bulky armband for your phone sounds to me like a perfect scenario. Leaving my phone at home is a freeing feeling and good for me (and you I expect).

Running Watch Research

Most of the research I did was on Amazon but there are a lot of running blogs that have bits and pieces here and there. My issue was that no one blog had all the options listed. There were posts about music on your watch but only a couple of models. So the list that I’ve compiled (as at Feb 2019) is as up to date as possible. I won’t put prices as they change frenetically so easier to check the price for each at the time your researching to buy.

Main criteria for a running watch with music

  • No need for phone
  • Accurate GPS (Glonass a bonus)
  • Easy to use interface for running
  • Good Bluetooth for headphones/earphones
  • Good heatrate monitor
  • Decent amount of space for downloading music on to the phone

‘Nice to have’ for this music running watch

  • Spotify with download option on watch
  • Waterproof
  • Great battery life for long runs when GPS, Music and Heartrate tracker are all working.
  • Integrates with Runkeeper first, or Strava as a second choice.

Here is the list of running watches with phone-free music

The notes on the end of some of the watches is just what I believe was the overall consensus from the hundreds of reviews I read.

Quick List (longer details follow below)


Each watch in more detail


Garmin Vivoactive 3 Music

The Garmin Vivoactive 3 has a few things going for it. Overall the price and features make this a Top 3 choice for runners who what a good running watch + GPS + onboard music. Here are the key features, positives and some negatives.

Vivoactive 3 Music Features

  • Download and store up to 500 songs on the watch
  • Bluetooth headphone compatible
  • Garmin Pay available (contactless payment method unique to Garmin)
  • Wrist-based heart rate
  • VO2 Max measurements
  • It’s a smartwatch too
  • Bunch of preloaded sports apps
  • Some smartwatch apps available e.g. Uber
  • 5 Hour battery life with running and GPS going
  • 7 Day batter life in smartwatch mode

Pros

  • It’s a Garmin. That seems to hold a lot of weight in the running world.
  • Equal memory size to most other watches so no points off for that.
  • 2 Colours available
  • Waterproof 5 ATM
  • GPS, Glonass & Galileo (all three 😄 )
  • All-day stress tracking – this is unique to Garmin.
  • Affordable price considering the Brand and features.

Cons

  • Garmin Pay – not convinced about this one.
  • Limited colours – be nice in White

The Vivoactive 3 Music is available on Amazon here for latest price and more reviews: Vivoactive 3 Music


Apple iWatch 4

The Apple iWatch 4 is almost a given in this. It has a fantastic processor speed which ensures that it not only makes a great running watch (with music) but it also is the best all round smartwatch available. With the ECG feature available in the US it also has medical benefits. But it’s expensive.

Apple iWatch 4 Features

  • Comes in a variety of colours to choose from. Lots of watch bands to choose from too.
  • Adjustable and swappable bands a plenty.
  • The Apple iWatch 4 can include a nano-SIM which is unique to other phones.

Pros

  • Speed – processor is unmatched in a smart device currently
  • ECG – it’s a medical device too
  • GPS, GLONASS, Galileo and QZSS. If you can’t get a signal for tracking your runs…you must run in a cave.
  • Software updates are a sure bet for at least a few years. It might slow down but it’ll get some of the good stuff they release each year.
  • Music can be streamed or downloaded.
  • 16GB storage facility – most running smart watches with music only have 4GB. It’s be shared but it’s still much better.
  • nano-SIM. Leave your phone behind – run without it and still take/make phone calls and control Siri etc.

Cons

  • Cost. Big expensive cost.
  • It’s square. A subjective thing but feels wrong being square
  • Probable not fully featured for Android users.

I went with the Samsung Gear Sport because it was affordable and seemed to have a straight forward interface. The bezel works well and the interface is attractive. The colour was also appealing to my wife. #winning

2 months in and many runs finished the Gear Sport was a good choice for the price. Transferring songs to the phone was very easy, much easier than I expected so I would recommend it.

If I’ve missed a winner from the list let me know in the comments below.

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