Running watches that let you run without needing your phone for music or GPS, that’s the goal.
Looking for the best running watch with music and GPS? Maybe even a watch with Spotify? Me too. I’ve noticed increasingly the big movement towards being phone-free, this is especially true with walkers, runners and outdoor sports enthusiasts.
To have a running watch with music AND GPS built-in is what people want most of all so they can leave their phone at home and be free to run, track their run stats, and enjoy good music while running. All that with no phone calls and no interruptions. But, you need it to be good right? It can’t have terrible Bluetooth that drops the music, you can’t have bad GPS that drops your run mapping stats or heart rate monitoring.
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 – phone-free running with music (and GPS). 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 over 9 hours of research. Overdoing it really.
Of course, the latest and most exciting news to hit this article is the release of the new Garmin Solar powered range. This includes the Garmin Fenix 6X Pro Solar (which has offline music), Gamin Instinct Solar (no phone-free music), Quatix 6X Solar and Tactix Delta Solar. The Fenix and aquatic and tactix have offline music from Spotify, Deezer, Amazon Music. This makes them one of the best integrated running / sports watches with music on the market, as you have choice in the music provider. Well played Garmin, well played.
- Running watches that let you run without needing your phone for music or GPS, that’s the goal.
- All the running watches with music compared
- Running Watch with Music Research
- Running watches with music & GPS in 2021
- 1: Garmin Vivoactive 3 Music
- 2: Apple Watch 4
- 3: Amazfit Stratos Multisport Smartwatch
- 4: Fitbit Ionic
- 5: Garmin Vivoactive 4 and 4s
- 6: Samsung Galaxy Watch
- 7: Apple Watch 6
- 8: Garmin Forerunner 645 with Music & GPS
- 9: Samsung Galaxy Watch3
- 10: Garmin Venu Sq Music
- 11: Huawei Watch 2 Sport
- 12: Fossil Sport Watch – Gen 4
- 13: Garmin Fenix 5X Plus (fēnix)
- 14: Fossil Gen 5 Carlyle
- 15: Apple Watch 5
- 16: Garmin fenix 6X Watch
- Past models from this list
- Conclusion on which running watch with music we chose…(drum roll?)
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 to be in a good headspace (and you too I expect). In addition to researching for my wife, I also researched and purchased a smartwatch – although my priorities were smartwatch first and running watch with mp3 music second.
All the running watches with music compared
|#||Running Watch Name||Offline Music Storage||Water Resistant||Price Range|
|1:||Garmin Fenix 6x Multisport||32GB||10 ATM||$$$|
|2:||Galaxy Watch 4G||4GB||50m (5 ATM)||$$|
|3:||Amazfit Stratos||4GB (1.9GB Avail)||5 ATM||$$|
|4:||Amazfit Sports Watch 3||4GB (1.9GB Avail)||5 ATM||$$|
|5:||TicWatch Pro 4G||4GB||IP68 (Light swimming)||$$|
|6:||Fossil Gen 5 Julianna||8GB||3 ATM (Light swimming)||$|
|7:||Fossil Gen 5 Carlyle||8GB||3 ATM (Light swimming)||$|
|8:||Samsung Galaxy Watch Active||4GB||5 ATM||$$|
|9:||Vivoactive 3 Music||3.5GB||5 ATM||$$|
|10:||Samsung Galaxy Watch3 |
|11:||Apple Watch 4||16GB||5 ATM||$$|
|12:||Fitbit Ionic||2.5GB||5 ATM||$|
|13:||Garmin Vivoactive 4 & 4s||4GB||5 ATM||$$|
|14:||Samsung Galaxy Watch||4GB||5 ATM||$$|
|15:||Garmin Forerunner 645||3.5GB||5 ATM||$$|
|16:||Samsung Gear Sport||4GB||5 ATM||$|
|17:||Garmin Venu Sq Music||4GB||5 ATM||$$|
|18:||Huawei Watch 2 Sport||4GB||Water resistant (IP68)||$|
|19:||Apple Watch 6||32GB||5 ATM||$$$|
|20:||LG Watch Sport||4GB||Water resistant (IP68)||$|
|21:||Fossil Sport||4GB||5 ATM||$$|
|22:||Garmin Fenix 5X Plus||16GB||10 ATM||$$$|
|23:||Apple Watch 5||32GB||5 ATM||$$$|
|24:||Garmin Forerunner 245 Music||4GB (3.5 Free)||5 ATM||$$|
1 ATM = 10 Meters
IP68 is light water resistance and we’d not swim with our watch on.
Running Watch with Music 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 (updated as at Jan 2021) is as up to date as possible with only running watches that include phone-free music as standard. I won’t put prices here as they change frenetically so easier to check the price for each at the time your researching to buy. Links for each below.
Main c 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 heart rate monitor
- Decent amount of space for downloading music on to the phone
‘Nice to have’ for this phone-free music running watch
- Spotify with download option on watch
- 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.
Full list of running watches with phone-free music (updated for 2021)
The notes on the end of some of the watches just what I believe was the overall consensus from the hundreds of reviews I read. I will update this list over time as new watches come along as I’m always interested in an upgrade.
Quick List (longer details follow below)
- Vivoactive 3 Music (Most affordable Garmin with Music)
- Vivoactive 4 Music (with Spotify and download music to watch options)
- Apple Watch 4 (Best watch overall)
- Amazfit Stratos
- Fitbit Ionic
- Polar M600
- Samsung Galaxy Watch
- Apple Watch 3 (Still good value)
- LG Watch Sport
- Garmin Forerunner 645 (Good choice for runners and Garmin fans)
- Samsung Gear Sport
- Garmin Venu Sq Music
- Huawei Watch 2 Sport (Best Android compatible watch – see our review of the Huawei Watch 2 Sport here)
- Fossil Sport
- Garmin Fenix 5X Plus (Most ridiculously powerful sports watch for 2019 (now Fenix 6 for 2020). #hardcore.)
Since writing this original post I did say I’d update this as new models of running watches with music come to marketing in 2019 thought to 2021 – all with offline music options so you can leave your phone behind.
The release of the Qualcomm’s Snapdragon 3100 processor for Android watches in 2019 will improve performance and the release of the Apple Watch 5 will certainly spice things up. Fossil has been quick to release new watches this year with the latest being the Gen 5 range: Carlyle and Julianna.
The new Samsung Galaxy Active uses the proprietary Samsung Tizen OS which seems to be performing quite well as a sports & running watch. I certainly think they have done one of the best-looking round watch face sports watches that also cross over to everyday wear. The screen is lovely.
I expect this year we’ll see a lot more sports watches come to market with Spotify built-in with offline options for downloading music to the watch.
Updated list of running watches with music for 2021:
- Garmin Venu – it has a great look with the usual Garmin decent sized screen with advanced touch options and Spotify built-in. Garmin lovers will appreciate this new model for 2020/21.
- Samsung Galaxy Watch Active – it looks really nice. There is a nice black colour but also a really lovely Rose Gold aimed at women. Both 40mm faces. Wireless charging.
- Fossil Gen 5 Carlyle – Men’s – comes with 8GB storage
- Fossil Gen 5 Julianna – Woman’s – also comes with 8GB storage. That’s a lot of offline music!
- Huawei Watch GT – looks a little similar to the last one but it’s much better, and a little sexier.
- TicWatch Pro 4G – This new release from mobvio. A 4G model with Wear OS. Also looks very nice. Only on Verizon at the moment which is sad but still a great option if you want cellular! Streaming music. Sadly still the Snapdragon Wear 2100 chip but more RAM which helps!
- Apple Watch 5 – still the best. Made available on Sept 20th 2019 with an increased focus on health and fitness. This Apple Watch 5 will have an always-on screen and they say it will still have the same battery life as before. I guess we’ll see. Watch OS 5 launched 19 September. Update: Now Watch OS 7 and Apple Watch 6.
- Amazfit Sports Watch 3 – launched in August 2019 and good looking for sure. This is charged with Corning Gorilla Glass 3 and stainless steel bezel – unless you go for the Elite edition which has AF+AR coated sapphire glass and a titanium bezel. More on this one soon.
- Amazfit GTS – the closest thing we’ve seen to an Apple Watch look-a-like. The dial is different but the square design and interface will remind everyone of the Apple Watch. This is a great looking watch as an alternative to the Apple Watch. Released in August 2019. This is a serious fashion and fitness watch and is available in a range of colors.
- Galaxy Watch 4G – now available so you can leave your phone at home. Smart move from Samsung as more and more wearable companies are looking at how to include eSIM or nanoSIM to meet customers expectations, or desires at this stage, to be able to leave the phone at home but still be connected.
- fēnix® 6X – Pro and Sapphire Editions – taking the Fenix 5 up to a Fenix 6x. This thing has more options than a Macdonald’s order. 42/47/52mm casing size options. Music, maps and WiFi. 10ATM, 32GB and SOLAR!! The power glass absorbs the sun to assist in powering. The Fenix 6 is now THE most serious high sports watch to own. And yet, no 4G?
- Huawei Watch GT 2 – this puppy has a 2-week battery life! Thanks in part to Huawei taking the bull by the horns, quitting waiting for a decent Qualcomm chip and developing their own Kirin 1 chip instead – dual-chip actually. The Huawei Watch GT 2 was only released in September 2019 so it’s going to be a little while before it gets around the world. The advanced sports tracking sounds very interesting and I like the slim form-factor of the watch glass face. I’d put up my hand for one of these. It comes in a 46mm or 42mm watch face and 3 different models to chose including Sport Edition, Classic Edition and Elite Edition. I quite like the Classic Edition with its silver finish and brown leather strap. 5 ATM and on-board music – space to be confirmed.
- Garmin Forerunner 245 Music – a stylish newer model from Garmin with a tougher look than it’s older siblings. The Garmin 245 offers Spotify built-in for streaming or downloading music so you can get the best on your run, and listen to music too.
- Garmin Vivoactive 4 – the Vivoactive 4 comes with an interesting new body energy monitoring software inclusion called ‘Body Battery’. This is meant to help you know when your body is optimised for rest or working out. Spotify onboard allows you to download music so you can leave your phone at home.
Running watches with music & GPS in 2021
This is list is in no particular order to keep it fair. In saying that, Garmin and Apple seem to dominate. With the recent news that Google is buying Fitbit (for $2b) we can see that Google feels their current Android selection is a little lacking.
Of all the runners we have polled, asking about their preferred brand of running watch, Garmin seems to win out every time. I’m not sure if that is a bias runners have, or if it’s legitimately the truth of running watches. With more recent updates to Garmin’s line up to include solid offline Spotify integration it makes them a good choice.
In saying that the Apple Watch 5 is still the leading smart watch that also happens to offer music on the phone for running, allowing you to leave your phone behind.
1: 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.
Garmin 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 battery life in smartwatch mode
- 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.
- Garmin Pay – not convinced about this one.
- Limited colours – be nice in White
Vivoactive 3 Music – for latest price and more reviews: Vivoactive 3 Music
2: Apple Watch 4
The Apple Watch 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 it also has medical benefits. But it’s expensive.
The Apple Watch 5 is newer, faster and exceeds the 4 overall, but this is still a solid performer that only slightly lags behind its newer sibling. Great bang for your bucks.
Apple Watch 4 Features
- Comes in a variety of colours to choose from. Lots of watch bands to choose from too.
- Adjustable and swappable bands .
- The Apple Watch 4 can include a nano-SIM which is unique to other phones.
- 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 smartwatches with music only have 4GB. It’s being 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.
- Cost. Big expensive cost.
- It’s square. A subjective thing but feels wrong being square
- Probable not fully featured for Android users.
3: Amazfit Stratos Multisport Smartwatch
I really wanted to get this watch. It was a real contender – the features are plentiful and the screen looks really nice. It also has a natural round watch shape which was appealing. I was a bit too masculine and large for my wife but I seriously considered it for myself. Seriously impressive value for money for a running watch with music.
Amazfit Stratos Features
- 5 ATM water-resistant – this would be OK for swimming in
- VO2 Max
- GPS + GLONASS
- Heart rate sensor
- 22mm regular watch strap
- Waterproof (5 ATM)
- Battery life
- Built-in music capabilities
- Value for money
- Overall features for a watch are plenty
- Decent processor speed
- Strava features
- Multisports mode
- No NFC
- Slightly complicated user experience
- Music – ensure you have good Bluetooth signal
- Not sure about OS platform – no evidence it’s WearOS so…?
- Music space approx. 2gb (4gb total on watch)
4: Fitbit Ionic
Definitely a design that people will love or love…less. This Fitbit Ionic just didn’t seem to hold enough ‘tech bling’ for me. So as a running fitness watch, it’s a subjective choice for sure. It’s very popular and a solid brand behind it.
Fitbit Ionic Features
- Store and play up to 300+ songs. Depending on the quality of the music files – this seems pretty typical but some units go up to 500 songs.
- Smartphone notifications
- NFC including mobile payments
- Phone free music (like all watches on this list)
- Sleep tracking included
- Built-in coaching features
- Experienced brand
- Design – if you like it
- Build quality
- Water-resistant (50m – 5ATM).
- Finger sized friendly screen
- Good battery life
- Heart rate wrist-based monitor
- Design if you don’t like it
- Can be a little slow
- Storage is plenty but some might want more.
5: Garmin Vivoactive 4 and 4s
The Garmin Vivoactive 4 is the bigger watch. The 4s is the smaller running watch. Both come in a 40mm and 45mm watch face but the 4s is smaller. This is the main difference in the two watches. There are many different colours available in both with the 4s having a couple of more delicate features in the design.
I expect they are marketing the 4s as more presentable and the 4 as more rugged.
There are upgrades from the previous Vivoactive 3 model including some nice updates. Great battery life, up to 7 days when just used as a smart watch and up to 5 hours when used when running or exercising with the GPS and Music playing.
There is a wide range of preloaded exercise options and Garmin coach on the Vivoactive 4 and 4s which can help you get trained up for 5k, 10k, half-marathons and marathons. Nothing like having a trainer to help achieve your running goals. It also has Pulse Ox sensors.
The thing that we really like about Garmin’s direction this year is the way they have integrated music on to their watches. You might need a music subscription to these services but if you do you can download from Amazon Music, Spotify and Deezer. Simple to do and it’s great to have the choice of services.
Garmin Vivoactive 4 (010-02174-01 ) + Vivoactive 4s
- Just <4GB of space for MP3 music downloads using Spotify, Amazon Music and Deezer (you might need a subscription to those third party services).
- Bluetooth connectivity
- Wrist heart rate monitor including Pulse ox.
- 5 ATM Water rating so good for swimming or showering etc.
- Garmin quality
- Good integration with iPhones
- Onboard music services are unbeaten – <4GB is as good as anyone else
- Garmin Coach for runners who want a little extra support.
- Good for swimming with a 5 ATM rating
- None of note.
6: Samsung Galaxy Watch
The Samsung Galaxy Watch is probably one of the best selling smartwatches right now. It’s not specifically a running watch but as it has all the sporty bits and it has music so it seemed wrong to leave it off. Clearly, the look alone will turn some people off, especially my wife, or so I predicted. The Galaxy watch did lead me to the eventual choice for her and it was extremely close to being my choice also. Safe to say the Samsung Galaxy Watch is one of the only serious current competitors to the Apple Watch.
Samsung Galaxy Features
- 46 mm watch face (also comes in 42mm watch face)
- 4GB internal storage
- Light sensor (for dynamic display)
- Wireless charging
- Samsung Pay
- Swim proof – not sure that means waterproof.
- Built-in microphone and speakers
- Looks great for a tough watch
- Great battery life
- Swim proof
- Samsung Pay built-in
- Samsung Health & Fitness tracking included (same as their sports watches)
- Bluetooth connectivity
- MP3 storage for phone-free running and exercise with music
- Round watch face – more natural
- Built-in microphone and speaker means you can take calls on this. Your phone has to be in Bluetooth reach but you can answer and talk through the watch
- Wireless charging on the Samsung Galaxy Watch is great. So much easier not having to line up charging points.
- Proprietary OS. Generally, I tend to prefer Google/Apple/Samsung type platforms where updates are somewhat assured.
7: Apple Watch 6
The Apple Watch 6 has kept its physical design. There are a few new straps you can choose from and some nice new colours including Blue and a (red) model.
This new version has better V02 measuring and the addition of blood oxygen monitoring. You still get the ECG feature as well, making this a serious health device in addition to being a powerful fitness and running watch.
You can get the cellular version for true phone free running and there is a healthy 32GB of storage on the watch for music and apps. This means if you don’t go cellular you can get the cheaper GPS model and still have offline music for your fitness activities.
There are so many positive features on this watch that it still takes the lead as the best running watch with gps and offline music. The Samsung Watch3 and new Garmin 745 are good, but just not this versatile.
Apple Watch 6 Features
- ECG built-in
- Blood oxygen monitoring
- V02 Max measuring
- Waterproof 32GB storage
- Wrist-based optical heart rate sensor
- 50-metre water-resistant (5 ATM)
- Comes in 40mm and 44mm sizes
- Fall alerts
- More features than can poke a stick at
- Always on display
- Excellent build quality
- Variations – colours, size, straps – you can really make the Apple Watch 6 your style.
- Powerful processor – can handle voice assistants etc well
- Loads of offline music storage
- Still at the pricey end, especially if you want Cellular and GPS
8: Garmin Forerunner 645 with Music & GPS
Another strong contender from Garmin for sure. Garmin seems to have really captured the running watch market very well. The issue is with the prices and I feel over time they are going to have to work hard to beat out the rising contenders like Apple Watch and whatever Google plans for Wear OS in the future. While Google isn’t a big threat right now, it’s price point for cheaper running watches with music and GPS will need to be considered. There are also a number of good Wear OS watches coming out with Spotify too. But I digress!
The Garmin Forerunner 645 with Music is a great watch. It didn’t make the cut based on price but it was probably one of the favourites for sure.
If you really love running, want the Garmin name and you want to fit in at the running club, this is a great choice. If you want a more feminine touch to the design then check out the Garmin Forerunner 245 which is newer but still much the same specs and can handle running with stored music and GPS.
Garmin Forerunner 645 Features
The Garmin Forerunner 645 Music features:
- Bluetooth connectivity
- Garmin Pay (like apple pay/Samsung pay/google pay…but Garmin pay – NFC contactless payments so you don’t need your phone or wallet for a run!)
- Space for up to 500 songs
- Wrist heart monitor
- Water-resistant (5 ATM)
- Some wireless services connectivity (Spotify)
- It’s a Garmin. That means something in the running world. Probably the go-to brand for sports, running and outdoor watches.
- Garmin Pay built-in. So you can leave your wallet at home and still buy a coffee.
- The Garmin training software is smart – gives you what you need.
- Integration with Spotify streaming service is a big plus. No need to manually manage files so much.
- 5 ATM water rating but wouldn’t put too much trust in that if your swimming a lot.
- Battery life is great!
- Pricey. Not saying it isn’t worth it and if you want a running watch only, then it’s good. But if you want a few more smartwatch features then the Watch 4 is a better choice in this price range, if you can live with shorter battery life.
9: Samsung Galaxy Watch3
This was one of the most anticipated launches of 2020 for Samsung. All the previous owners of the Samsung Galaxy watch were excited to see what new features would be released. The Samsung Galaxy Watch 3 definitely competes with the Apple Watch (on price also) and was first with the blood oxygen measurement.
It still runs a smart assistant called Bixby and you can talk to it like you would Siri or Google Assistant.
Physically, it still looks a lot like the previous model but with improved features, speed and storage.
Tizen has proved pretty stable over the years.
Samsung Galaxy Watch3 Features
- Finally includes offline music with Spotify support
- Tracks seven main sports and health activities.
- Sleep tracking
- Stress tracking
- Blood OX level monitoring
- Heart Rate monitoring
- Trip/Fall Detection
- Great looking watch.
- Blood OX level monitoring
- Spotify now included (offline options for music)
- Samsung Pay (where supported)
- Massive 8GB storage onboard
- Rotating Bezel is back with the Watch 3
- Bluetooth and LTE options available
- Tizen currently better than Google Wear OS
- Didn’t get any cheaper
- Tizen is a closed OS
- Some great additions in the Watch3 but they didn’t step far from the previous model – is that a con? or…
- Some frustration with Verizon connectivity
10: Garmin Venu Sq Music
Garmin has built on the success for the Venu with the Venu Sq. It comes with an impressive 6-day battery in watch-only mode. This time is greatly reduced if using music and GPS, of course. Designed with smaller wrists in mind with a 125-190 mm band circumference it still has Garmin Play, Spotify Offline, Amazon Music, Deezer, Garmin Fitness options and the addition of tracking your personal moon cycle.
There is nothing lacking in this Garmin which makes it excellent value for money. It’s packed with all the tracking radio options and the powerful additions that Garmin’s operating system offers.
For the price this is an impressive and popular sports watch and of course, it offers offline music for your running. Just makes sure you select the Music option when you buy it. The Venu Sq Standard doesn’t offer offline music, the Venu Sq Music does.
Garmin Venu Sq Music Features
- Numerous color options
- Pulse OX Sensor + Wrist based Heart Rate monitoring
- Stress Tracking
- Menstrual Tracking
- Advanced Sleep Monitoring
- Garmin Coach
- Fitness tracking
- Garmin Pay
- GPS / GLONASS / GALILEO
- Nice fit for smaller wrists
- Fully featured for the price
- Spotify / Deezer / Amazon Music
- Garmin Coach and all the fitness features from Garmin
- Pulse OX Sensor monitor
- Garmin Pay – leave your wallet at home
- Always on display option
- Costs most for the music version
- Nothing else for this price
11: Huawei Watch 2 Sport
It’s easy to write about this watch as it’s the one I choose. After 6 months of use, I can’t say enough good things about it, but I wrote a separate review on it which you can read here.
I knew it wasn’t a new model but as there were few other watches being released I figured that it was the best of the bunch. I wasn’t crazy about a super sporty looking watch but as the owner of a Seiko 5 watch (SNZF17), which is my favourite watch of all time (even though it’s quite cheap) I was happy that it had a tough look to it. The Huawei Sport 2 ticked all those boxes.
When running with the watch I use Google offline music as it’s the built-in option. I do have Spotify on it but that only works with your phone, google works without your phone. With google music, I can stream music from the cloud on the phone (I have the 4G model) OR before you leave home, and your phone behind, you can click the albums you want and download them for offline use. You can also download on the 4G/LTE model without WiFi but that will use data.
This means you can run without your phone and have all the music you need.
Huawei Watch 2 Sport Features
- GPS and GLONASS
- Wrist-based heart rate monitor
- Huawei Health built-in
- Sleep tracking built-in
- Wear OS
- Interchangeable watch bands – standard watch size
- Built-in NFC payment – Google Pay
- 4GB on watch storage for music.
- Comfortable – I can wear this all day and not notice it
- Wear OS – updates often, isn’t the fastest, but it works
- Good integration with iOS for notifications
- Sleep tracking is great
- GPS is solid – great on watch mapping and very pin-point accurate
- Heart rate and workout statistics and graphs are really great – nice on the phone and on the watch
- Running coach and running plans built into Huawei Health app are good
- Speed. This is a complaint of every smartwatch using a Qualcomm Snapdragon 2100 chip, which is nearly all of them right now. It works but it could be faster. The 3100 chip is being used in more smartwatches this year.
- No other complaints at this price.
12: Fossil Sport Watch – Gen 4
Powered by Google Wear OS you can be sure you’ll get updates and be able to change the watch face to suit. Mediocre reviews on this steered my clear but there is a huge Fossil fan base out there, and considering Fossil watches come out of the same factory as most other brands it seems likely they are as good in terms of build quality as all the rest.
Fossil Sport Watch Gen 4 Features
- Wear OS
- Swim proof – 5ATM
- 24-hour battery life
- Magnetic charger
- 43mm Men’s and 41mm Women’s
- 22mm watch band (Men’s) and 18mm watch band (Women’s)
- Heart rate tracking
- Offline music storage – 4GB on watch storage
- GPS (no clear idea if it’s only GPS or if it also has GLONASS or similar?)
- iOS and Android compatible
- NFC Google Pay
- Wear OS so at least you know it will maintain some sort of updates
- Swim proof
- Men’s and Women’s options…if you like being matchy matchy
- Offline music storage – 4GB
- Built-in microphone
- NFC Google Pay is built in so you can ‘coffee’ with the cool kids after your run…or just pick up some milk at the store on your way home
- Battery life can suffer pretty quickly of you like to doodle with your watch a lot. True of most Wear OS models here
- A little slow – as all Wear OS Snapdragon 2100 models are here
13: Garmin Fenix 5X Plus (fēnix)
Let’s be clear, this is not just a running watch, although you could use it just for that and be very happy. The Garmin Fenix 5X is a multi-sport watch with serious firepower. It has been updated to the Fenix 6x now but the 5x is still not sluggish. It’s a chunky monkey so if you have petite wrists then you might look like a kid trying to fit his Dad’s wetsuit (I have petite wrists). It comes in Orange too, which you will already have realised I really like for a sports watch. If you have the money then there is little debate this is the best of the best.
Garmin Fenix 5X features
- Premium multisport GPS smartwatch
- Garmin Pay
- Stores up to 500 songs
- GPS, GLONASS and Galileo built-in (no ones getting lost)
- 10 Day watch life (or 8 hours with GPS and Music going – Marathon-able)
- TOPO Maps
- Loads of colour/spec options
- Wrist base heart rate
- Spotify compatible – Garmin did an update across a whole bunch of watches.
- Multi-sport options
- Waterproof – not just resistant
- If Topographical maps are an important part of your running i.e you are an ultra marathon runner, then this is a big pro to the Fenix.
- Garmin Pay NFC eWallet
- Spotify integration
- Cost – it’s not cheap but if you’re serious about running, or multi-sports, then this is the high end.
14: Fossil Gen 5 Carlyle
New for 2019 and already exciting all the Wear OS / Fossil fans in the Fossil Gen 5. This is perfectly aimed at a market of people where it’s common for both people in the relationship to have the watch. The customer seems to be young and cool. The style between the watches is not vastly different, but different enough that the Gen 5 Carlyle and Julianna are clearly designed with both Men and Women respectively. The Gen 5 Julianna has a beautiful Rose Gold model which will appeal to a lot of women and definitely brings a new look for a ladies smart watch with music.
Fossil have jammed in the features and the most significant improvement with the Fossil Gen 5 is the upgraded processor – now the Qualcomm Snapdragon 3100, upgraded from the 2100. Speed has always been one of the major complaints with Wear OS devices so the Snapdragon Wear 3100 is a welcome update to Wear OS smart watches. As it is the newest and best broad market watch in 2019 it is going to sell like hotcakes. I also expect this and the Samsung Galaxy Active will battle it out.
Fossil Gen 5 Carlyle Features
- Wrist-based Heartrate tracking
- Changeable watch bands – style is important people.
- 8GB on watch storage which gives plenty of room for music
- Google Pay
- Swimproof (3 ATM)
- Speaker and microphone built-in
- Wear OS
- Google Assistant
- For a new release, it’s affordable
- Includes all the things you want or need in a running watch & smartwatch
- 8GB is a good amount of on watch storage for apps/music etc
- 44mm for the Carlyle is a great size for display
- Snapdragon 3100 chip is faster and able to handle more – especially things like Google Assistant commands.
- Great battery life.
- Swimproof is a big win here.
- Size might be a lot for skinny wrists unless you like that look
- Nothing else of note.
15: Apple Watch 5
The Apple Watch OS 5 has an always-on screen but it’s not really clear if there is a lot here to sing and dance about. A few more options for straps and some new apps. Watch OS 6 has arrived also with some performance updates. While you wouldn’t think of this as your first pick as a running watch with music, it’s actually a perfect match for that and so much more.
The always-on screen is a bit of a big deal as no longer do you need to do that awkward check the time thing, especially in a meeting or when you’re in a conversation with someone. Much easier to take a sneak peek at the screen without needing any kinetic movement.
The eSIM will become more standard over time is my prediction, so the watch can operate completely independent of an iPhone.
Apple Watch 5 Features
- Noise app alerts you if the abient audio around you is too loud.
- Cycle tracking app for women
- Expanded fitness tracking options – tracks more types of exercise
- Continues to provide offline music with syncing options what just work. A good reason to choose this if you like running and want music with no phone.
- eSIM option so you can not only leave the phone at home for music, but you can also leave it at home and use the Watch for calls and messages.
- Siri onboard. This is something Apple Watch still has over Wear OS – Siri works really well.
- Has a built-in Compass – I think this could be great for outdoor adverturers and expect there will be a news story one day that tells us how someone made it out of a deep dark forest after getting lost by using the Watch Compass.
- Watch OS 6 app store on the watch so you can find apps and install without the need for your phone.
- Stainless Steel or Aluminum body options.
- 40mm or 44mm
- GPS + Cellular
- Sapphire crystal glass
- Water-resistant 5ATM (Swimproof)
- Noise app is pretty cool.
- Lots of straps to pair and mix and match
- It’s essentially become a phone independent watch for calls, apps, music and messaging. Pretty impressive.
- All-round solid watch for sports, running and a lot more.
- Still expensive but this also makes the very capable Watch 4 look good.
- New leather loop strap is nice, but expensive too.
16: Garmin fenix 6X Watch
The 2020 release now also includes the Garmin fenix 6X Pro Solar edition which includes a built-in solar charging ability on the watch. This allows you to charge the phone when out in the sun which is a major break through. See on Amazon. Make sure to watch for the Pro Solar if purchasing as they look similar and have similar names to the fenix 6x without solar.
The Garmin fenix 6x is some serious firepower for a multi-sports watch – much more than just a running watch with music. It includes some cool smart features but there a bunch of features it bypasses to ensure it remains a serious watch for serious sports enthusiasts.
It comes in a range of really great looking colours and finishes including a nice Rose Gold.
Garmin fenix 6x Features
- 1.4″ display
- Mapping options – Topo maps
- Onboard music (offline options)
- v02 estimates
- Garmin Pay
- Maps included for 2000 ski resorts around the world. Pick your next ski run from your watch. That’s pretty cool.
- Power management options so you can see what’s using the battery juice up fastest.
- Wrist-based heart rate sensor
- GPS, GLONASS and Galileo
- 42/47/52mm sizes
- 10 ATM – the highest-rated sports watch waterproof rating on our list in 2019
- 32GB Storage
- So.many.options! Bands, materials, bundles etc. Garmin have doubled down on this model and it sits at the top of the list if not for the price and also if you don’t need the smartwatch features of the Apple Watch 5.
- Comes in 6, 6 Pro, 6S, 6S Pro and 6X
- True multi-sport watch
- GPS that works
- Topo maps are a nice addition, was also on the fenix 5
- Loads of features and finish options
- No 4G LTE option
- Cost, but you have the money then this is not a con.
Past models from this list
The Polar M600 was a watch that I wanted to like because it was one of the only ones to break the design mold. It has an android OS and a nice clean interface. It is a now a little older and never really caught on with running fans. It’s also one of the only models that supports music in the Polar watch range.
The Samsung Gear Sport is still a great watch with offline music but Samsung has released newer models that mean this moves off the active list. It’s water-resistant to 50 meters and finally, it looked better than a lot of others in this space. If you can get it on sale, it still performs.
The Apple Watch 3 is still a great watch but now that it has been surpassed by more than 2 models it seems time to retire it to this section. You can get it for a great deal so it’s still worth considering if you’e not the type that needs the latest and fanciest of gadgets.
The LG Watch Sport tried to enter the fray but didn’t seem to hold its own well enough. It is now discontinued.
Motorola Moto 360 Sport – this watch was released in 2016 and while you can still get your hands on it, there are better options on the market.
Conclusion on which running watch with music we chose…(drum roll?)
Running watch for my wife:
I went with the Samsung Gear Sport for my wife 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 very easy, much easier than I expected so I would recommend it.
The real winning watch was the Apple Watch 4 and now the Apple Watch 5 but just couldn’t stretch to that considering this was also a bit of a test as to whether she would like using a running watch with music, or a watch at all.
Running watch for myself
So, an update on the below is that I’m moving to the Apple Watch 6 on release next week. It’s been a long time coming but I just struggle with the Wear OS software on a slow chip so it’s time to upgrade. This will give me phone-free running with music but also the eSIM and Apple Pay will let me leave my phone at home for most trips out of the house. I share more later.
I went with the Huawei Watch 2 for myself and while running was not my priority I have clocked loads of runs on this and love it. Connects to my Bluetooth earphones easily. The GPS on it is excellent and the heart-rate monitor is also consistent. It’s light, comfortable and also quite comfy to sleep wearing at night for sleep monitoring. The built-in fitness app data is attractive and well organised and the sleep tracker is excellent.
I especially bought this for the built-in 4g sim card so I can use it as a watch and phone on the go (like the Apple Watch but cheaper). This doesn’t seem to be on the US model but is on the UK model.
If I’ve missed a winner for running with music, let me know in the comments below.
This post was last updated on 2021-12-02 / Some images from Amazon Product API & some links may be affiliate links which may earn us a commission from purchases.