Take your music with you wherever you train with these triathlon smartwatches
Respect to those athletes who can push themselves in training without the motivation of a personal playlist of pump-up tracks. For the rest of us, music is a key component of our training because it helps set the pace of our run or ride and push past our personal bests.
Portable music has come a *looong* way from the days of the Sony Walkman. As if having virtually every recorded piece of music accessible via a smartphone wasn’t awesome enough, these days, you can store thousands of your favorite songs right on your smartwatch and cut out the smartphone entirely.
That’s a dream come true if you’ve ever struggled with bulky armband phone holders or belt clips, but built-in music control and storage are not available on every training smartwatch. You're inevitably going to have to compromise when trying to optimize battery life and cram in as many sensors as possible. But brands like Garmin and Suunto, along with Apple, have managed to give music-loving triathletes everything we want on a wrist piece worth considering if you’re an iPhone user.
So, let's dive in!
Garmin Forerunner 945
Not only is the Garmin Forerunner 945 one of the best triathlon smartwatches in terms of tracking all your training and recovery metrics, but it’s also a perfect companion for keeping all of your tunes with you without a connected smartphone.
Garmin offers onboard storage for music with the Forerunner 945 -- up to 4GB -- allowing you to transfer music from your personal library on your computer. Alternatively, you can sync playlists from popular third-party streaming services like Spotify, Deezer, or Amazon Music. Of course, you’ll need a subscription to one of those services to take advantage of that.
Once you’ve got your music loaded onto the watch, simply pair your favorite pair of Bluetooth headphones, and you’re ready to crush your next workout without needing your phone in range.
Key features of the Garmin Forerunner 945:
The Forerunner 945 offers the complete suite of features for a triathlete: from tracking and collating the crucial metrics and data for optimizing your training performance to the ability to load up the watch with your favorite playlist for your next ride or run.
The accessibility to your active stats means you can track your body performance during your run or ride and then sync all that data to your phone. There are also great features for maintaining rest and recovery that you might not consider when you’re just starting out. Building these good habits early goes a long way in maintaining your athletic longevity.
Garmin also offers a compelling option for new triathletes with the Forerunner 945 Blue Bundle. Along with a stylish blue watch strap, the bundle includes two chest strap heart monitors: the HRM-Tri for all-purpose heart rate monitoring throughout all phases of your training and the HRM-Swim, specifically designed to hold tight even during wall pushes in the pool.
That’s where the Garmin brand shines: they offer a wide range of supporting accessories that all mesh well together, either by connecting through the watch or syncing data to your smartphone. Having all of your training needs under one umbrella is convenient for set up, data transfer, and daily use.
What you need to know: The Garmin Forerunner 945 offers the best selection of features for triathletes, but especially so if onboard music storage and control is important to you.
- Arguably the best watch for triathlon training
- 4GB of storage for music
- 36-hour battery life in GPS mode
- Jam-packed with sensors and useful features
- Vibrant, sunlight-visible color display
- Support for contactless payment
- Easy swap bands available
- Premium pricing
- Limited to black for the watch casing
$599.99 USD, amazon.com
Suunto offers a solid lineup of versatile sport watches for all your triathlon training needs. The Suunto 9 would typically be our top recommendation for its outstanding battery life, robust features, and durability, but it sadly lacks daily smart features like contactless payments and music controls.
That’s where the top-selling Suunto 7 takes the stage. What the Suunto 7 lacks in extreme battery life is offset by the ability to control music playing through your phone. You can even sync thousands of songs from your favorite third-party music streaming service that allows offline playing from the Google Play Store.
Of course, the less robust battery life means some limitations for music on your longer training sessions. Listening to music directly off your watch via Bluetooth headphones puts quite the strain on battery life -- not to mention the drain of GPS and other sensors. That’s why you might be better off keeping your phone with you and connected to your watch so that you can still have music controls on your wrist and preserve some of that battery life to train longer.
Key features of the Suunto 7:
The Suunto 7 is the first smartwatch from Suunto with software built on Google’s Wear OS platform, which only complements Suunto’s branded style of health and fitness tracking with the power of Google and the Play Store.
The inclusion of Wear OS also makes the Suunto 7 a great option if you’ve been looking for a training smartwatch with daily smart features like contactless payment, message notifications, caller ID, and, of course, music control. On that platform, Suunto built in over 70 different sports modes, heart rate monitoring, offline maps for navigation, and stat tracking with connectivity to popular platforms like Strava and TrainingPeaks.
While the battery life is not as substantial as in the Suunto 9, there’s plenty of juice to power you through your day with the full suite of smartwatch features. And Suunto is constantly adding and upgrading the features on their watches, with the latest upgrade offering sleep tracking, body management resources, active heart-rate monitoring, and turn-by-turn navigation.
What you need to know: The Suunto 7 is the best Suunto training smartwatch that offers support for music, whether you keep your phone tethered to your watch or prefer the simplicity of onboard storage.
- Google’s Wear OS offers compatibility with music and other apps
- Great blend of features for training and daily life
- Available in a variety of colors and styles
- Connectivity with popular stats apps like Strava
- Control music playing from your phone or sync playlists from third-party music apps.
- Battery life is not as epic as other triathlon watches
$339.99 USD, amazon.com
Apple Watch Series 6
We’d be remiss writing an article on the best smartwatches with music without mentioning the latest Apple Watch. No other smartwatch is as easy to set up and use for music storage and control -- and especially so if you’re already well-entrenched in Apple’s tech ecosystem with an iPhone in your pocket and AirPods in your ears.
The latest features introduced with the Series 6 include LED blood oxygen sensors, one-touch EKG readings, and an always-on altimeter tracking your elevation. These are powered by a new and improved processor that allows for better battery life in GPS mode.
That's all to say, Apple’s continued focus on health tracking upgrades benefits any serious athlete looking for a stylish everyday watch to wear in the pool, on the track, or the bike without missing a stride.
If you’re thinking that the $529 model of the Apple Watch Series 6 is too much of a casual consumer product to hold up to the rigors of triathlon training and races, you are probably right. That's why Apple also offers stainless steel and titanium variants that are significantly more durable (and expensive) than the base model.
Apple has continued to refine and improve its wrist accessory year over year to the point where the Series 6 offers enough options for everyone, even multi-sport athletes.
Plus, you have the option of going with a GPS-only model that tracks your runs, rides, and swims, or the cellular model that allows you to make and receive calls, stream music or podcasts, and access other features right on your wrist without needing to be tethered to your phone.
Key features of the Apple Watch Series 6:
One of the key reasons to own an Apple Watch is just how easy it is, from initial setup to the great daily use features. If you already own an iPhone and a pair of AirPods, frankly, how do you not already own an Apple Watch? If you own an older model, the question then becomes, is the Apple Watch Series 6 worth the upgrade?
Well, with the introduction of blood oxygen monitoring and simplified EKG monitoring via the crown and the new optimized chipset that improves the overall battery life, there’s good reason to if you’ve got an older model.
What you need to know: The latest Apple Watch Series 6 offers more ways to track your health and workouts with all your music right on your wrist. If you own an iPhone and love to run with AirPods, an Apple Watch is a natural choice.
- Titanium casing offers durability for triathletes
- Apple’s iconic design and ease of use
- Upgraded EKG reader and blood oxygen sensors
- Available in GPS-only or GPS+cellular models
- Not compatible with Android phones
- Titanium models are over $1000
- Battery life will only last for Sprint and Olympic distance events
$399.00 USD, amazon.com
Which triathlon watch with music should I buy?
If music plays a vital part in your workouts and training process, buy a smartwatch that enables you to bring your favorite tunes wherever your training takes you.
Your best overall option is the Garmin Forerunner 945, arguably the best triathlon watch you can buy that also offers onboard storage for your music along with support for popular third-party music streaming services.
The Suunto 7 is a good option if you want a solid mid-range training watch that doesn’t miss out on key daily smart features baked into Google’s Wear OS.
Last but not least, the Apple Watch Series 6 has evolved into quite the contender for anyone looking for a smartwatch that does daily fitness tracking and so much more.
What do you use to take music with you on training days? Let us know in the comments or reach out on social media!