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Garmin's new Forerunner GPS smartwatch adds music and payments

This could be the serious runner's alternative to the Apple Watch and Fitbit Ionic.

Garmin's new Forerunner 645 comes in music and non-music models.

Smartwatches have become the new iPod replacements, especially for runners. Most smartwatches like Apple Watch, Android Wear models and Samsung Gear can already store music, but in the fitness watch landscape, it's new territory.

Fitbit made its first music-storing watch last year with the Fitbit Ionic, and now Garmin's first music watch is the Forerunner 645 Music. It's a GPS running watch with Garmin's wrist-based payments platform, Garmin Pay, and has storage for 500 songs.

It's very similar-looking, with its round screen and ability to load apps, as the Garmin Vivoactive 3 that went on sale last fall. But it's the step-up extra runner-focused features that could make this the smartwatch for more hardcore use.

The differences here?

  • Music storage (Garmin's, which needs to be transferred via a computer, or specific streaming apps like iHeartRadio on a phone)
  • Extra runner-focused training modes from Firstbeat (a training analysis mode, training load guidance, and feedback on workout impact)
  • Physical buttons to control everything, instead of a touchscreen (helpful for runners).
  • A higher price ($450, or $400 for a version without music playback, vs $300 for the Vivoactive 3).

For any serious runner who likes training stats, this might be an interesting option.

Other specs:

  • 7-day battery life in smartwatch mode, 5 hours in GPS/music mode
  • 42 grams
  • Steel bezel, color screen
  • Always-on heart rate
  • Garmin Pay on-wrist contactless payments
  • Clip-on Running Dynamics Pod measures stride length, cadence, ground contact time balance, vertical oscillation, vertical ratio and ground contact time without a phone
  • Swim-ready water resistance
  • Garmin Connect IQ app store apps and widgets, downloadable to the watch