What to consider when buying a running watch with music

Running watches with music explained

As running and fitness watch’s with music start to get more popular we now have different options for putting music on our wrist and leaving behind our smartphone, but each of these options can be confusing and sometimes misunderstood.

Most people are used to streaming music from your smartphone, but now you may want to break free when running and store music on your running or fitness watch. So before you go off buying a new running watch with music storage, read on to understand the different offerings along with the limitations.

I just want to put a quick disclaimer before I go on. The only watch that has really cracked music is the Apple Watch in my view. This is down to the streaming service (Apple Music) and the hardware being developed by the same company, Apple

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So until we see more cooperation between the mainstream streaming providers and the watchmakers, nothing is going to move much on this.

Putting music on your running watch using a computer

On face value putting music onto a running may seem straightforward and in most cases it is, but there is a but. In order to take advantage of the storage to play music on a running watch, this music needs to be DRM free.Garmin Forerunner 645 music

DRM free is music that is not protected and locked to a specific device. So if you have purchased music from iTunes or downloaded it from Spotify kind of services, then you won’t be able to use this on “most” running watches.

So what is DRM free? DRM free music is music that is normally ripped from a CD or downloaded from a questionable source like a pirate site. Now whilst you can get DRM music from legit sources, it is harder to come by and in my view its a step back to the MP3 player days of transferring music when the rest of the world has moved onto to accepting and using streaming services.

Streaming music on your watchMusic streaming on your wrist

Streaming music to your fitness or running watch can be easily confused with streaming music like you would on your smartphone. Traditional music streaming services either offer offline playback with the music is saved on the device or streaming of music over mobile data for live playback.

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But the streaming offering that comes with most running or fitness watches is not streaming in reality. Most of the services are syncing of playlists for offline playback. So in most cases, you cannot decide you want to listen to a song, find it and then stream it whilst out and about without involving your smartphone, so in my view, this is not true streaming.

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The only exception to this is the Apple Watch 3 that allows you to stream music over wireless data, but as of writing this article, you cannot search for songs on the Apple Watch and then stream.

Choosing a running or fitness watch that works with your streaming serviceMusic controls on a watch

Music streaming has really taken off in the last view years with the likes of Apple Music and Spotify dominating with the latter having over 70 million subscribers, so choosing a fitness or running watch that works with your streaming provider is important.

So if you take Apple Music, for example, this can only be used with Apple Watch. However, if you are a Spotify user, the choice is currently Samsung watches with some rumours suggesting Spotify may be coming to Apple Watch soon.Garmin Forerunner 645 music paired with Bose QC35

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Whilst the list below is not exhaustive of the fitness watches and music streaming services, it will give you some idea.

  • Garmin: Deezer, iHeartRadio, maybe others soon.
  • Apple: Apple Music only
  • Wear OS: Google Play Music, iHeartRadio and Pandora.
  • Samsung: Spotify (offline playback)
  • Fitbit: Pandora and Deezer

Fitness & running watches with Music – Things to remember

  • Music needs to be DRM free when transferring from a computer. The only exception to this is the Apple Watch, which will obviously allow syncing of music from iTunes.
  • Music on a fitness watch is not streaming, its only offline playback of synced music.
  • Ensure that you buy a fitness watch that works with your music service. So for instance, if you use Apple Music, then the Apple watch is the only real option.
  • But most of all, buy a fitness or running watch that meets the primary need of sport. You can always use a smartwatch armband to take your phone with you.

Thanks for stopping by and reading this short guide, if you have any questions or comments please leave them below.

Consider reading: Best running watch with music


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Jon Ratcliffe
I have a huge passion for technology having worked in the sector for over 18 years in a variety of roles. I cover Wearables, tech and smart home. My reviews and information will talk about how the product works in reality and not just what the marketing departments want you to think.

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