If you explore the outdoors, then you should buy a smartwatch with a built-in GPS. A smartwatch with built-in GPS has multiple benefits over a smartwatch without GPS. If you are new to the world of GPS watches, this guide is for you.
In this blog post, I will explain to you everything that you should need to know while purchasing a GPS watch in the year 2022.
What is a GPS Smartwatch?
A GPS smartwatch is a type of watch that uses the Global Positioning System (GPS) to track your location and activity data by connecting to GPS satellites. With the help of GPS signals, it can track your distance, pace, and location. As a result, you dont need to carry a smartphone or any other device to see your real-time location or activity data.
Additionally, these devices also allow you to share your real-time location with your friends or family. So, if you are going for a run in the woods and want your family to know where you are, then GPS smartwatches got you covered.
Advanced GPS Smartwatches such as Garmin and Apple devices have an SOS feature. If you are in danger and cannot make a phone call, then you can press the SOS button. As soon as you press the watch’s SOS button, your GPS location will automatically be shared with your emergency contacts. So they can come to your rescue.
Fall detection is another excellent feature found on top-end GPS smartwatches. If you fall and are unresponsive for more than one minute, the watch will automatically call the local Emergency Services(911) with your exact location.
To work Emergency SOS or fall detection feature, you must have paired your smartphone with you, or your smartwatch must have LTE(Cellular) feature. An LTE smartwatch can connect directly to the cellular network by bypassing your smartphone to make phone calls or send SMS. There are many benefits of GPS smartwatches and now let us see how a GPS smartwatch works.
How does it work?
GPS smart watches work by connecting to a network of satellites in space. The United States Air Force manages these satellites, and they are used for navigation, communication, weather forecasting, search & rescue missions, astronomy research, and several other purposes.
When you turn on GPS, the watch’s built-in GPS receiver connects to these satellites in space. Once this connection is established, the watch tracks your location and activities. It uses signals from several orbiting GPS satellites to compute your position on Earth within a few meters of accuracy.
However, if you are indoors or in dense forest areas, GPS sensors lose their accuracy because they require a clear line of sight with the satellites. Depending on the quality of GPS sensors used on your smartwatch, the accuracy can vary from one device to another.
Garmin is my personal favorite when it comes to GPS smartwatches. The company uses superior quality GPS sensors on its smartwatches and offers excellent accuracy. Garmin Fenix 7, Forerunner 955, and Venu 2 Plus are some of the best Garmin GPS smartwatches you can buy in 2022.
How Accurate is GPS in Smartwatches?
The accuracy of a GPS watch depends on the quality and number of sensors used in it. In addition to GPS, some smartwatches come with multiple satellite navigation systems, providing more accurate tracking than devices with single GPS sensors. GLONASS and GALILEO are other popular navigation systems used in smartwatches.
The Russian Global Navigation Satellite System (GLONASS) is an alternative to GPS, and it offers better accuracy in urban areas where the buildings can block GPS signals. Similarly, GALILEO is a European satellite navigation system that can be used as an alternative or in addition to GPS.
A smartwatch with multiple location tracking sensors, such as Apple, Garmin, and Suunto, offers better accuracy than a smartwatch with a single GPS sensor. Hikers, military personnel, and other outdoor enthusiasts prefer GPS smartwatches with multiple location tracking sensors for better accuracy.
What is a smartwatch with a connected GPS?
A smartwatch with connected GPS is a device that uses your smartphone’s GPS to track your location and activities. This means you need to carry your smartphone while going for a run, hike, or bike ride. However, I don’t want to take that heavy smartphone during workouts.
The smartwatch uses the GPS signal from your smartphone to calculate your position and track your activities. Connected GPS watches are not as accurate as built-in GPS because it relies on the quality of GPS in your smartphone. Plus, a smartphone uses only GPS, while a smartwatch uses multiple satellite navigation systems for better accuracy.
However, a smartwatch or fitness tracker with a connected GPS is cheaper than one with a built-in GPS. If you are on a budget and do not mind carrying your smartphone while working out, then a smartwatch or fitness tracker with a connected GPS is a good choice. Affordable fitness trackers such as Mi Smart Band 7, Garmin Vivosmart 5, Fitbit Versa 2, etc., come with a connected GPS.
What are the benefits of a GPS Smartwatch?
There are multiple benefits of using a smartwatch with an in-built GPS. As mentioned, fall detection and Emergency SOS are the two primary lifesaving features of GPS smartwatches. Now let us check the other significant benefits of a GPS smartwatch.
2. GPS Smartwatches are highly accurate in tracking outdoor activities
GPS Smartwatches are for outdoor enthusiasts such as runners, hikers, and mountain bikers. The built-in GPS in these devices offers better tracking of your location and activities than a smartwatch with a connected GPS.
If you are into running or biking, you can use the distance, pace, and other data from your GPS watch to improve your performance. Advanced GPS watches such as Garmin Fenix 7, Epix Gen 2, Apple Watch Series 8, etc., come with onscreen navigation, which allows you to explore unknown routes and trails without getting lost.
2. It is easy to carry and use
A GPS smartwatch is a small and light device that you can easily carry while running, hiking, or riding a bike. You do not need to bring your smartphone with you as these smartwatches have built-in GPS.
In addition, smartwatches with GPS are easy to use. You can start tracking your activities with just a few taps on the screen. The latest GPS smartwatches come with color touchscreens and support voice commands, making it even easier to use them while you are moving.
3. Improve your Performance
Since GPS wearables give you more accurate data about your performance, you can use that information to improve your running, cycling, or swimming. For instance, if you see that your pace is slower than usual, you can adjust your training accordingly.
These are some key benefits of using a GPS smartwatch to track your activities. In addition, GPS Smartwatches come with many other features, such as multiple sport tracking modes, advanced health tracking features, smart notifications, and more. This means that a smartwatch with built-in GPS has become necessary for outdoor enthusiasts.
Now let us have a look at some popular GPS smartwatch makers in 2022.
Popular Smartwatch Brands with GPS
Garmin is the industry leader in making GPS devices, including smartwatches. The company has been making GPS smartwatches for over two decades and offers a wide range of models for different needs. The Forerunner, Fenix, and Tactix Series from Garmin are popular among runners, hikers, and mountain bikers.
These top-end GPS watches come with all types of tracking sensors, including GPS, GLONASS, GALILEO, and BaiDou, to track your location accurately. These watches are durable enough to accompany you on your most challenging adventures. In addition, Garmin also offers a wide range of health and fitness tracking features such as heart rate monitoring, stress tracking, sleep tracking, etc.
The battery life of Garmin watches is also pretty impressive, and smart Battery Modes in Garmin watches optimize the battery for longer life. For instance, the UltraTrac mode in Fenix 7 watches disables certain features to extend the battery life up to 75 hours.
Besides, Garmin also makes the best solar smartwatches, such as Instinct Solar and Fenix 7 Solar. These watches come with a built-in power glass which uses sunlight to recharge the battery. These solar variants are excellent for trail runners, hikers, and military personnel who need a watch that can go for weeks without recharging.
Suunto has become another credible brand in the GPS smartwatch industry. They offer plenty of GPS watches with accurate location tracking. When it comes to pricing, the Suunto makes its GPS watches more affordable than Garmin.
The Suunto Spartan, Ambit, and Traverse Series are some of the most popular GPS smartwatches from the company. These watches also include other important sensors such as altimeter, barometer, and compass. Plus, they also offer various tracking modes for different sports.
The Suunto 9 Peak is one of my favorites from the company. It is highly accurate and lightweight compared to other watches from the company. However, it does not have music support that I cannot miss while running.
Apple also makes the best GPS smartwatches on the market. All these current models, from Series 3 to Series 8 and SE, have a built-in GPS. In addition to GPS, Apple watches also use other satellite navigation systems such as GLONASS, GALILEO, and BaiDou to track your location accurately.
However, the poor battery life of Apple Watches is a big downside. The battery lasts only about four to six hours with GPS and music playback, making it less preferable to track long adventures such as hiking or trail running.
The good news is that the new Apple Watch Ultra has 36 hours of battery life, a significant improvement. Besides, the watch has a fast charging feature that can charge up to 80% in just one hour.
Do GPS Smartwatches require a subscription fee?
Fortunately, you don’t need to pay any subscription fee to use the GPS feature on your smartwatch. A GPS smartwatch will directly connect with the GPS satellite network and doesn’t require a cellular or Wi-Fi connection. It is only a one-time purchase, and you will be good to go, and I should say it is worth each penny compared to its features.
Wrap things up
Now I hope that you have a better understanding of GPS smartwatches and what to look for while purchasing one. The Garmin Fenix 7 and Forerunner 955 are my personal favorites because of their durability, accuracy, and long battery life. You can also consider other affordable options from brands like Fitbit or even consider a smartwatch or activity tracker with connected GPS.
Saneesh VS is a tech and fitness lover who enjoys running and reviewing smartwatches and fitness trackers. He shares the latest industry news, useful tips, and buying guides. He stays active or spends time with his family when not writing or testing gadgets. Beyond his tech and fitness pursuits, Saneesh also brings a wealth of knowledge as a healthcare professional. Trust his well-rounded insights for all your tech and fitness needs.