Run to the beat: Best running watches and smartwatches with music playback

Run to the beat: Best running watches and smartwatches with music playback

UPDATED: Take control of your workout tunes and leave your smartphone at home
Top sports watches with music

Music makes running easier, but for those looking to run to the beat and have their workouts tracked with a GPS running watch, it usually means strapping on a phone as well.

The good news is the latest running watches and smartwatches are coming equipped with on-board storage and even music streaming access, so you can leave your smartwatch behind and run untethered.

Essential reading: Best smart headphones for running

Thanks to Rocky Balboa we all know that workouts are easier when we're pumped up by our favourite power song playlists. Science has even gone and proved the positive effect a few killer tunes can have when you're trying to kick your own ass on the pavements, in the gym or even doing laps down the local pool.

While dedicated sports watches still offer the best way to train, GPS equipped smartwatches are quickly catching up. What's more, while the entire selection below (bar the Apple Watch) is limited to MP3 playback, smartwatches will be the devices best placed to support the likes of Spotify and Deezer.

GPS running watches with music playback

TomTom Spark

The TomTom Spark boasts all the normal running metrics (distance, speed, time), has a built-in optical heart rate monitor which aced our tests, plugs into nearly every running app. However, it's listed here for its 3GB of storage and ability to play MP3s to a pair of wireless Bluetooth headphones.

Check out our full TomTom Spark review.

$249.99, | Amazon

Adidas miCoach Smart Run

The miCoach Smart Run features a built-in MP3 player, allowing you to load up to 4GB from your iTunes and MP3 music by dragging them into a folder on your computer and syncing via USB.

You can then use the Smart Run's Bluetooth 4.0 work to pair Bluetooth headphones giving you control of your running playlist from your wrist. For those who prefer those cloud-based music services Adidas has just done a deal with Microsoft-owned MixRadio, and Smart Run users get the library of 32 million tracks free. However, there's no support for Spotify or Deezer yet.

$299, | Amazon

Timex Ironman One GPS+

A ruggedised durable watch built to withstand the toughest fitness regime, the Ironman One GPS+ is only available in the US currently, but Timex's smartwatch looks an exciting prospect for one main reason. It's super-smart multi-sport watch with 3G meaning you can run, bike and listen to streaming tunes without having your smartphone strapped to your arm.

Essential reading: The best GPS running watches

If you like your tunes local then there's also 4GB of music storage for music that you can unleash by hooking the One GPS+ up to a Bluetooth headset.

$399, | Amazon

Smartwatches with fitness & music

While running watches have long been the only choice for serious athletes, the smartwatch is fast catching up. The benefit is that smartwatches have the full power of apps at their disposal, while dedicated running trackers are one-trick ponies, albeit, with superior tracking chops.

Choosing a smartwatch currently means losing the in-depth stats such as cadence tracking, vertical oscillation monitoring and other pro-running feedback, but means you can get big beats straight to your headphones.

Moto 360 Sport

The Moto 360 Sport has lagged behind the second generation smartwatch, but is hitting the shelves in Europe on 18 December and the US on 7 January. Only the second Android Wear smartwatch to feature GPS inside, the Moto 360 Sport plays nicely with your favourite running apps and can also play music from its built-in 4GB of storage.


Sony SmartWatch 3

Sony's latest smartwatch may have wilted in the the round-face of the Moto 360 and LG G Watch R, but it packs powerful running and sports features that can give most entry-level running watches a run for their money. Firstly, it has built-in GPS so it will track runs accurately when you leave your phone at home. What's more, it has 4GB of internal storage and Android Wear has been updated to enable playback via Bluetooth headphones.

$194, | Amazon

Apple Watch

The Apple Watch Sport collection has a distinct health and fitness flavour. Not only does it come with strengthened Ion-X glass, there are also five different matching fluoroelastomer colour bands to give it an active twist.

Smartwatch showdown: Samsung Gear S v Apple Watch

Built in sensors track movement, heart rate and activity and fire data into Apple's Health app on the iPhone and iPad for post-workout analysis. You'll also be able to use familiar running apps like Nike+ Running and Endomondo to track your training and put a beat to your blood, swear and tears, using one of two playback options.

You can play music by transferring playlists from your phone to the watch and pairing a set of Bluetooth headphones. However, if you're an Apple Music subscriber you can transfer playlists from the service, putting even more tracks at your fingertips.

From $349, | Amazon

Need some inspiration?

Wareable ed James Stables recently smashed (his hip while doing) the Amsterdam marathon. Check out his training playlist on Spotify.


  • LaxMom says:

    NOT really in depth.  Just returned my Microsoft band. Still looking. I want exactly what MS band offered but must have comfort.

  • keith says:

    You mention some watches enable you to stream music. I don't believe this is possible. Which one(s) were you referring to when you said "equipped with on-board storage and even music streaming access ..."?

    • CDR_Shepard says:

      Happily, it's not only possible, it's under $200 from Timex. Comes with a year's wireless access from AT&T, and 4GB of internal storage that will talk to your Bluetooth earpiece.  Anything else you're thinking is "impossible?"  Just wait.  As Napoleon reportedly said, "'Impossible' is a word found only in the dictionary of ____."

  • Fangjun says:

    The Samsung Gear S doesn't have a built-in GPS sensor. How is it "GPS enabled"? Does "GPS enabled" mean it has to be paired with a carry-on phone with GPS?

    • skullmonkey says:

      It does have GPS, I run with mine without my phone. I use Nike+ and it records my route.

    • NoThanX says:

      When the Gear S is not paired to smart phone, it will use it's own GPS. This requires cellular service but will accurately map out your run. I do find that it's accuracy leaves a lot to be desired, so factor that in. I side load my music list and pair it to a wireless headset. Works great for anything under a half marathon.  More than that, and I had to turn GPS to save battery life.  Been using it for about 9 months and enjoy it.  It's also nice to have a phone on my wrist when on long runs, without having to carry my actual smartphone.  Hope that helps. 

  • SatomiTakara says:

    You've got a couple typo's in there. I assume that's supposed to be blood "sweat" and tears under the apple watch and also I'm pretty sure it was supposed to say leave your smart"phone" behind not leave the smart"watch" behind

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