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Biggest Drawback of the Apple Sport Watch For Runners: No On-Board GPS

Apple Sport WatchThe big news yesterday was Apple’s announcement of two new iPhones as well as the Apple Watch. Like most people, I’ve been eagerly anticipating the announcement of the Watch since rumors have consistently hinted at a slew of fitness-related features. Done well, the watch had the potential to be a game changer in the fitness tracking market.

I’ve spent the morning reading through a lot of the press about the Watch release. In many ways Apple did not disappoint – the Watch in general has a ton of interesting features, and on the fitness front it has a built in optical heart rate monitor that allows you to ditch a chest strap (looks similar to that on the Mio Link which worked quite well for me), does fitness tracking, and can do run/workout tracking (see more on this below though). However, I don’t see these fitness features as being that unique compared to other fitness devices already on the market, and I’m left feeling a little underwhelmed.

The video below provides a nice overview of the features of the Sport Watch:

The one feature that is missing that concerns me the most as a runner is the lack of integrated GPS. This means that for the Apple Watch to function as a run tracker, you need to have your phone with you on the run – the GPS chip on the phone does the recording, and the watch pulls the data from the phone. There are other devices on the market that function in a similar manner, including the Magellan Echo, and they can work well, but carrying your phone with you on every run can be a bit of  pain Apple Sport Watch Heart Rate(particularly the larger iPhone 6’s that were announced!). I really like the Magellan Echo for example, but there are times when I really would rather leave my phone home and just head out with a wrist-based GPS device.

I’m not a tech expert so just speculating here, but I wonder if the absence of on-board GPS has to due with battery life issues. Apple has been quiet about expected battery life for the Watch, which could be another drawback for those who plan to use it as a fitness device. If I had to guess, we will at some point see an iteration of the Apple Watch that has built-in GPS, but without it my interest in this one is lessened significantly.

How about you, excited or underwhelmed by the Apple Watch as a fitness device?

About Peter Larson

This post was authored by Peter Larson. Pete is a recovering academic who currently works as an exercise physiologist, running coach, and writer. He's also a father of three and a fanatical runner with a bit of a shoe obsession. In addition to writing and editing this site, he is co-author of the book Tread Lightly, and writes a personal blog called The Blogologist. Follow Pete on Twitter, Facebook, Google+, and via email.

Comments

  1. I think that on-board GPS is going to become more of a niche feature – in general you should always have your phone with you for basic safety reasons … and younger adults and kids (I’m from the pre-internet and pre-cell phone era) won’t even go to the bathroom without their phones!

    So I think that looking at the lack of on-board GPS as a drawback is missing the point. The rumored crappy battery life, however …

    Also, I would be interested in looking at how long the iPhone 6 and 6+ last with GPS enabled (and other phones, for that matter, as I recently moved from iPhone 5 to a Galaxy Note 3 and will likely grab an iPhone 6+) ?

    • Onboard GPS is niche and needless when most carry their phone with them 24hours a day, even when running.

    • Miles1139 says:

      I think running with a giant phone strapped somewhere on your body makes you more of a target for theft, personally. This canard of ‘needing’ to have your phone with you at all times only seems to have crept up as an excuse for this watch not having it’s own GPS like so many other devices. Indeed, many people saying, “You should always have your phone anyway,” or, “Who runs without their phone?!” don’t even seem to realize that there are many, many fitness watches available already with GPS. And there will be many more by the time the Watch comes out.

      Bottom line – I and at least three other people I know would have purchased this if it had it’s own GPS, but without it, I just got the Microsoft Band. I was resigned to using my Garmin, but the Band does everything I need to do, the GPS locks on VERY fast, it keeps good HRM when I compared to my Garmin strap with the 210, and the gps is also more accurate than my phone, which is often off by quite a bit, especially in rural areas.

      • Considering there are so many other benefits of running with your phone, music, maps, calls if you need a pickup and something to do if you need a rest – you’re in a minority.

        The Apple Watch is designed to permanently pair with your apple phone – thats it – it’s a design decision, not an omission.

        Good luck with your microsoft band…..

        • Roadrunner says:

          Obviously you’re not a serious athlete. Sorry to inform you that the vast majority of serious runners and athletes – amateur and professional – do not bring a phone with them. And half dont listen to music either. A watch that would provide GPS and some basic communication ability would have been a game changer… The apple watch as it is now does nothing that your phone already does – since YOU have it with you all the time.

          • Obviously you’re a serious bell end.

            OK – so regardless of your pointless elitist dig – I’ve completed two half marathons in the last six months, that gets me into amateur status so ner ner ner-ner-ner.

            When I train, I use my phone and BT headset. All the time. When I run in races. I use my phone and BT headset. When I train 90% of the people I run past, use a phone and headphones. When I run in marathons, 50% minimum use phones and headphones. Nobody in this country is ever away from their phone, it just doesn’t happen.

            In the gym It’s 95% phone and headphones. What have you got against technology?

            What does listening to music have to do with being a “serious athlete” what sort of idiot are you?

            As for ” The apple watch as it is now does nothing that your phone already does”

            – well no other than IT’S ON MY WRIST AND I CAN USE IT AS I RUN EASILY (Or work out, or stand on the tube or when I’m having a shower or bloody well anything).

            The watch will be a huge success.

      • When I run… I run. I don’t have a duty to be on call 24/7 and in case of an accident either a) I’m too far away to get reception or b) I can hail a cab with that $20 in my shoe.

        The argument would be a little bit different if cellphones nowadays weren’t huge bricks.

        • You use your phone for making or taking calls? How quaint.

          I use mine to send and receive messages so there’s a hot coffee waiting for me when I arrive, I use it to listen to an audio book so my training goes after, I use it to listen to Spotify so I can get the adrenaline going, I use it to take notes on thoughts that occur to me so I can act on the later (thanks to the Zen of running). I use it to track my speed, my location and route.

          Just because all *you* do is run, with nothing, presumably, but your birthday suit and some trainers, doesn’t mean other people don;t enjoy the world of running in a different way. Don’t be elitist.

  2. I use a pebble/runkeeper for all my running so loss of GPS does not bug me. Not sure if I would get this device anyhow because I am perfectly happy with my pebble. I am on the fence. It needs to really wow me in the reviews.

    As for why they did not include it, I think it has a lot to do with battery life but also, the device is overall built to work in concert with the iPhone. Not having GPS is just a part of that. Of course, Apple could move away from being locked to a phone in future versions.

    • I have a pebble from the kickstarter, it’s sort of OK but theres so much hassle to get the thing going it drove me mad, now it sits in a drawer unloved or even charged.

      The Apple Watch will, as always, just work, that friction free experience is worth the cost.

  3. I was also underwhelmed by it. I was kind of hoping for something more from a running standpoint – GPS integration would have been really awesome and compelling enough for me to shell out the big bucks.

    As someone who carries her phone on runs (begrudgingly) for safety reasons, I like the direction the Timex One is headed, and hope other GPS watches start to follow suit. It’s bulky, but I’d rather have a bulky watch that can duplicate the most important functions of my phone on the run than have to carry both.

  4. Brad Patterson says:

    I completely agree, Pete. It seems like it might be good for “general fitness” people, but for dedicated athletes (runners, cyclists, etc); it appears to fall short. The lack of GPS along with the reliance on the phone and the fairly high price point will keep me away. Hopefully the followup versions will be far improved and more cost effective too.

    Ironically, if I WANTED to run with my phone, I can just use an app like iSmoothRun and not need a watch at all.

  5. My thoughts exactly. I would’ve been all over it if it had GPS, but really, I don’t think it can do much of anything without your phone.

  6. Current battery life is “about a day” apparently, but expected to improve somewhat before it’s launched in early 2015.

    For me, it won’t replace the Garmin for the same reasons you mentioned. Not to mention there doesn’t seem to be much information about where your data goes. I’m assuming there will be tie-ins with the standard iOS running apps like RunKeeper etc.

  7. The dedicated GPS watches are one more single purpose gadget to charge and as time goes on will fall behind phone apps in capabilities. I like what Apple has done with their Watch. A relatively “smart” watch tightly integrated to the phone where the phone can do what it does best: crunch data, GPS, communicate. I suspect battery life will be better than a dedicated GPS watch and at least as good as the phone but of course not as good as the Magellan Echo which is a controller and display for phone apps that’s it, with a faint screen and 6 month battery life. Still love the Echo.. for now. I for one like to carry my phone when I run and have found plenty of shorts with super adequate pockets as well as belts vests etc… One key reason I carry my phone when I run is to take photos. Yes if I see something neat I will stop, take a look, and maybe snap a pic. atch will eliminate the need for a separate HRM band or bracelet so that HR can become something practical to follow for example on waking. The “built-in” app is just a start. Specialized apps we already use will adapt with versions with all kinds of capabilities.

  8. My thoughts exactly; I was hoping for GPS, but didn’t really expect it. First, it’s too expensive to add for the marginal user. Second, too much bulk on it’s own–let alone all the other stuff they are trying to do. Third, the battery life will probably already be compromised. Think about basic GPS watches–when they aren’t in GPS mode, they last roughly a week. In GPS mode, they last well less than a day. If you start with something that’s already inside of a day in standard mode, GPS would crush it.

    Nevertheless, I think Apple made a great product here. They’ve never been in the high-end fitness market–but I’m shocked with how many people are content to run with their phones (Apple or otherwise) for their timing and running device. Also, the fact that this watch does feature directional signals and maps I think is a pretty valuable feature that many GPS watches do not have (the Timex One may, not sure).

    I can see the tremendous value there for the casual runner who wants to explore new places on vacation but doesn’t want to stare at a phone.

    All Apple products improve over time. The high end fitness market is big enough so that I’m sure a later version will address it, especially as runners don’t mind bulky watches.

    • GPS shouldn’t be considered too expensive. Apple went to great lengths to define the market for each type of Apple Watch. From high end Gold Plated to Lightweight Sport. For a sport watch to be useful and have universal appeal it would make sense for the range to include GPS. As a long distance runner and an Apple Product fan, without on board GPS, I unfortubately won’t be retiring my Garmin 610 watch anytime soon.

      • If Apple were trying to replace the sports market – maybe they would be worried about you not retiring your watch, but they aren’t, so it doesn’t matter.

        What the watch will do is do the tasks that the majority of people with Garmin watches want – basic functions, meaning only real tech or fitness freaks will need them – pushing Garmin into even more specialist and smaller markets.

        GPS isn;t too expensive to put in the watch – it’s unnecercery because all iPhones have GPS and all apple watches are designed to be permanently paired to an iPhone. Apple doesn’t care if you don;t run with your phone. You are a tiny minority – not their market.

  9. It is clearly a fitness gadget rather than a sports oriented tool. For instance, is it water proof at all?

  10. I don’t see the value yet. I was surprised it was so bulky. In that regard it looks like what Motorola or numerous others have had. Somehow I thought they’d come up with something sleek. Plus, I’d never run with a phone, so I wouldn’t get GPS. Are many people really excited by it?

  11. Not sure that I would buy an Apple watch anyways- but if it had GPS in the watch my interest would go way up. Then I could stop using my garmin 305 as well as the chest strap. Would it really be that hard to put a GPS on it? They cost themselves a lot of interest and $$$ by not.

  12. @Michael+Anderson, I vehemently disagree that ” in general you should always have your phone with you for basic safety reasons”.

    I will never bring a phone (smart or otherwise) on any of my runs. I’m really flummoxed by the notion that a cell phone is required all the time for safety.

    • Agreed. Where I live (Capitol Hill in DC) a phone makes you a bigger target for would-be muggers. I prefer not to carry anything but the watch on my wrist anyway. Probably an Apple Watch would make me a target regardless, but I’d still consider one if they came out with a sport version that included GPS.

      • Capitol hill says:

        Are you living in the 80’s? Capitol hill is fine, or do you live in SE and run into weird places? H street is also not Capitol hill, you silly person. How silly, wrong, and dumb.

        • Roadrunner says:

          A cellphone for “safety”? What kind of safety is that? Maybe if you were running alone in some remote area and got hurt, ok. Certainly not for safety against crime. You would be knocked down and have your phone stolen before you could use it to call the police, who will arrive after the fact to take a report while you are being treated EMS. Spend some time on self-defense training and stop relying on the police to come and take a report after you’re victimized.

          • Given that, you know, you’re running, it’s quite likely you could *keep* running and out run any assailants – plus how about injury on a quiet road? or even needing to summon the emergency services for someone else who needs them? Or ordering a cab? What have you got against technology? Does it go against the pure honesty of the athletes run? (your ideal not mine)

  13. I’m wondering if eventually we would be able to pair up the watch with 4iiii’s Sidekick GPS pod? That would give us a way to get the GPS data we need, though it still means carrying an extra device.
    I think I’ll wait to see how the Timex One does in reviews.

  14. I already have a sports watch with an accelerometer in it that costs a third of the price.

    I would have bought it if it had GPS that you could toggle on/off to preserve power. It would have also been great if they had engineered a way to convert kinetic movement into electrical energy.

    I doubt we will see anything like these features until v3 even v4 :(

  15. Jim Mullahy says:

    Thanks for the review Pete. I love Apple products, but like you, I have absolutely no desire to carry anything while running. I understand others may carry their phone for safety reasons. I guess as a guy, given I’m out running, safety does not enter my mind; and I live in the heart of Boston, running everywhere here. I’m staying with my Garmin.

  16. Ha ha, as a dedicated flip phone-user I guess I’m out on this one!

  17. I never run with a phone. Also Apple presents it as a sport watch. Then it’s a poor sport watch. Besides the lack of GPS on the watch a Garmin for example at the same price level provides much more information about my run and you can program a lot like intervals etc
    For me the Apple watch is one in the row of smart watches

  18. I’m not understanding this entire post or thread. Please feel free to throw things at me if I’m wrong. But, the website clearly states it has GPS. link to apple.com

    “On the back of the case, a ceramic cover with sapphire lenses protects a specially designed sensor that uses infrared and visible-light LEDs and photodiodes to detect your heart rate. Apple Watch uses this sensor, along with an accelerometer and the GPS and Wi‑Fi in your iPhone, to measure all kinds of physical movement, from simply standing up to actively working out. This allows Apple Watch to provide a comprehensive picture of your daily activity, suggest customized goals, and reward you for reaching personal fitness milestones.”

    derpa derp derp?

    • “along with an accelerometer and the GPS and Wi‑Fi in your iPhone” – The GPS is in the phone, not the watch, the watch merely communicates with the phone, so if you don’t carry the phone with you on the run, the watch cannot record GPS since it lacks an on-board chip.

  19. Pete – I’m super excited, and believe it will be huge for runners, as I noted on my post: link to runinamerica.com

    With regards to carrying an iPhone during my training runs I have for over a year exclusively done all my training using the the excellent iSmoothRun App on my iPhone 5 in lieu of my Garmin Forerunner (see: link to runinamerica.com). Accordingly, I was delighted to find out earlier today from iSmoothRun’s senior App developer that iSmoothRun will develop an Apple Watch App to extend Apple’s functionality, and that the iSmoothRun App with support HealthKit.

  20. As always, Apple products are very pretty. Little things about the watch bother me for running. First, it looks like the wristbands are part of the watch, is this true? My buddy has a FR110 and will have to replace the whole watch when the straps go. It seems like this could be a problem. This is the kind of crap that bothers me about Apple since they removed the option to replace batteries in their laptops. I think making the straps replaceable would be a huge step for me to consider this watch as a true fitness watch. As far as not having on-board GPS, I never thought Apple would do that. The whole idea is to be companion piece to the Iphone.

    The battery drain could be a problem with GPS AND Bluetooth running at the same time. I’m very happy with my FR620. I often take my phone along for music or podcasts, but I also love just getting out into the trails and bomb through a run without any garb excepting my watch.

    My wife often reminds me though that none of this matters. As long as it comes from Apple, folks are gonna fork over the cash and defend their purchase fiercely.

  21. Michael+Busch says:

    I only run with my iPhone on long runs. What I notice is that no matter how I tweak the settings, the GPS on the phone is not nearly as accurate as the GPS on my Garmin 610. The Garmin isn’t perfect, but it is much more accurate. It syncs with Strava, etc., and my only complaint is the lack of HR without a strap functionality. I imagine that will come in one of the next few Garmin iterations.
    As for safety carrying a phone – (1) if you are listening to it while running it is probably less safe, and (2) if someone knows you have a phone with you they might mug you to get it. So, I don’t buy the safety argument.
    I have MacBook Pro, and an iPhone, but I think Apple is a company on the decline. Is it going away, hardly, are it’s best, read Steve Jobs days behind it, yes. I think the Apple Watch is a strategic blunder, and coupled with forcing a bad U2 “album” into my phone, indicates to me that they aren’t innovative, but rather just greedy.
    And, I fundamentally have a problem with these wrist based fitness devices that monitor your vital signs all day. Where does that data go? To the Cloud. Who can access it? Anybody. So, it can and will be used against you for various reasons, including employment screening.

  22. While I don’t have a iPhone or plan on getting one I was looking forward to see what Apple would deliver with their watch. No GPS and no telecoms support force you to take a phone with you, and being tied to the iPhone rather restricts it too. And… it won’t be available till next year, so not enough features and late to the market.

    The Samsung Gear S seems to be the only current smart watch that ticks all the boxes w.r.t replacing the need for Garmin and a phone. Battery life would be a big questiion with the onboard GPS. We’ll have to wait till we reviews of these watches comes out to see how viable it is as a running watch.

    Even if watches like the Apple Watch and other smart watches are a bit of fail this generation, another year and hopefully many of their short commings will be addressed.

    I really look forward to the day when I get put on my smart watch and leave both my HR monitor chest strap and my phone behind and go and run a 24hr race without worrying about the battery going flat. I want it all, and I want it now!

    • And yet the Apple Watch will sell 10 times the number of shipped Samsung Gears on day 1 – look me up I’ll send you a tenner if they don’t.

      Features don’t sell products, they never have, solutions however, and this watch brings many solutions to the market that were way too fiddly before.

      • What solutions is it bringing? We know nothing about the HRM accuracy, it doesn’t have a GPS, and the band seems to be attached to the watch permanently. Oh, and nothing about onboard music storage, but that doesn’t matter cause it needs the phone anyway. It’s essentially a second screen for your iPhone that costs nearly twice as much as a subsidized phone. At least with Android, the Android Wear is already something that’s been maturing for a while and I can test it out. Also, there are SEVERAL Android SmartWatches coming out BEFORE the Apple Watch that have GPS. The LG G R, the Gear S, and the Sony Smart Watch 3 are just a few. I’m just going to buy one of those now.

        This is coming from someone who has a Macbook Air, a 27″ iMac, iPad mini, 1st gen iPad, ipad shuffle and an iPod Nano that I use for running, and an iPhone 5 (soon to be 6). I REALLY wanted the Apple Watch to be the only choice, but at that price point with the lack of functionality compared to the Android watches, I have to wonder if they’re pulling my leg.

  23. Andrew Lischuk says:

    The more I think about this watch as a running watch the less I like it. Having to run with the phone on you makes me think that I’d be better off with just using a phone based app like runkeeper or another to track my data and I can use the ear buds for information. Also, given the increasing size of the phones I can’t even begin to imagine how silly these look on runners arms. Soon you’ll need a backpack for this instead of an armband. I do like the wrist integrated heart rate monitor though as my chest strap can be a minor annoyance. I would think that someone could integrate the heart rate monitor into the arm band since the brachial artery is right there. I still am sticking with my Garmin 620 and I only run with my phone when I am on call, just too much junk to carry around.

    • I’ve a Garmin 620 and a week after the Apple Watch comes out I’ll sell the 620.

      I don’t want a dedicated watch, it’s more hassle to put it on when I train, or remember to pack it for the gym, the stats it gives me are way over the top for amateur marathon training I do.

      You also can;t wear the Garmin as an ever day watch!

      I always have my phone when I run (and most runners do), one so I can call people but more importantly for the music and books I run to!

  24. Andrew, the full featured run app will be on the phone and the Apple Watch will serve as a display, controller, and through sensors on back data collector. The Magellan Echo already does this in a far simpler way. I use iSmoothrun and can set up multiple screens of data from everything the app collects. Over time I am sure the runkeepers, iSmoothRun, etc… will program to the watch to do the same. I actually use both the watch and the audio feedback from the phone via the speaker, and with the Apple Watch likely in the future its built in speaker. For example in races I have the phone tell me last mile spit audio, no need to squint at the watch and keep track of average pace, distance, time on watch. For intervals it can tell me when to go without looking at watch and even if I am behind or ahead of a goal pace.

  25. Actually, you can leave the iPhone home and go for a run and the Apple Watch can still track the distance you’ve run by using the accelerometer like a pedometer. We’ll have to wait and see how accurate that is though.

  26. I am with you Miles! Already half there with my Magellan Echo and will be first in line for the Apple Watch. Jeff, I am very curious as to the accuracy of the pedometer. If they can pull of something better than the usual, and Apple often does, it will be a real home run for runners. I have used iSmoothRun app on iPhone 5s which leverages the accelerometer in the phone and found the pedometer function so so, relatively accurate if pace is consistent and terrain flat but not great. I wonder if moving the accelerometer to the wrist can improve accuracy. I always carry the phone in a pocket never on my arm.

  27. GPS and i buy Apple watch instantly, without it.. meh.

    GPS should be in that watch, why not?

    • Because it would make it larger, heavier, and dramatically decrease battery life.

      • There are several Android watches coming out with GPS before the Apple hits the market. They seem to be about the same size and I’m guessing will last a few hours with GPS enabled, which is fine for me, and with HRM also built in and music storage, if they can go 2 hours on a charge for working out, that’s all I wanted from the Apple Watch. I understand battery life issues, as I’m guessing most runners do, because I already use a Garmin 210 with GPS and HRM, and it lasts only a few hours with GPS running. That’s why you can shut it off.

  28. Frank P, the watch bands are interchangeable. That was a huge focus of the introduction and videos. I haven’t heard either way on music on board. GPS is clearly missing but… we don’t know how accurate the accelerometer(s) may be. I am watching for a surprise there as to date they have been terrible on phone apps but with them on the wrist… I am going to be the HRM via the wrist will be outstanding too and likely better than the pretty good Mio wrist band. “On the back of the case, a ceramic cover with sapphire lenses1 protects a specially designed sensor that uses infrared and visible-light LEDs and photodiodes to detect your heart rate. Apple Watch uses this sensor, along with an accelerometer and the GPS and Wi‑Fi in your iPhone, to measure all kinds of physical movement, from simply standing up to actively working out” link to apple.com . As far as I am concerned I always run with my iPhone paired to a Magellan Echo Watch so the Apple Watch will be something I will look at and maybe I will finance it by selling my fancy Swiss watch!

  29. I would be shocked if the next version of the Apple watch doesn’t have onboard GPS. Timex just came out with a watch that can do all the Apple watch can do plus has tracking capability without the need of a phone. I’ve upgraded to an iPhone 6 but I also held onto my iPhone 4S and use that as my fitness phone. Cell service doesn’t need to be active for the phones on board GPS to track your location. Also, it’s small enough to fit in my fuel belt pouch. Until the Apple watch has an onboard GPS I won’t be changing what I do. Once the Apple watch does have an onboard GPS though I’d gladly use it as a running watch versus having the iPhone in my fuel belt pouch. Just got a wait till version 2.0.

    • It won’t ever have built in GPS as it’s built with two devices in mind at all times.

      It doesn;t matter that Timex released one that did, or that my Garmin already does, as both those watches will always be fringe enthusiast phones, the Apple Watch will be mainstream, high end, different market, different numbers.

  30. The answer to me is obvious – either apple or some third party will come up with stylish and thin bands for your other wrist – or ankle – that will talk to the watch and have gps with a very long battery life – then there will be the cellular connection band that is prepaid for two years at some minimal amnt to stream data and music – then there will be the band with the glucose sensor etc. one function per band – great battery life – very simple and stylish – unlimited possibilities = awsome

  31. Aaron Wolf says:

    It does require an iPhone in your pocket to work and will be useless if your battery dies. Because you know, that never happens.

    Snark aside.. I’ll probably buy one.. Just to try to reduce straring at my phone like a zombie. I’ll ne staring at my watch now. Great.

  32. Not so fast on writing off the Apple Watch for lack of GPS. I would have been surprised if Apple didn’t have a trick up their sleeve, they always do… It appears possible based on this Mac Rumors article that the Watch accelerometers pedometer will get tuned by GPS data of your stride and speed so that you can get accurate distance, speed data without having to carry the phone all the time. We’ll see but I am betting it will be more accurate than what I see from iSmoothRun app which tries to pull this off for treadmill runs. See my blog post here. link to samwinebaum.blogspot.com.
    Also latest Strava update does away with the clumsy Instagram pictures on the go feature. Now just pick and include your pictures after the run.

  33. Apple rarely disappoints. It now appears they have a way to fine tune it seems automatically the data gathered by the accelerometers in the watch to get accurate speed and distance using runs with the phone, see below I bet it is going to be better than what we have seen from others such as iSmoothRun which does a pretty good job using their app and the built in accelerometers to track this data. I use their treadmill mode indoors and it is pretty good on an indoor track not so good on treadmills. One thing is for sure I long ago left the dedicated GPS watches behind(too fussy, another battery, and synch to worry about) for my iPhone. and I am a fairly serious if older runner, multiple BQ half around 1:36. See my blog post below about the news that the Apple Watch seems to tune via GPS and also a neat new way to add pictures to Strava runs. link to samwinebaum.blogspot.com

  34. I’m back and I’m getting an Apple Watch. Game over, Apple wins, and I’m a convert. Of course I completely overlooked that they’d come up with a lot of uses for it beyond fitness and that they’ll likely have the best software and best strapless HRM. If I want GPS on runs, I’ll use my Microsoft Band and can probably get the data out somehow. I just don’t like running with my phone.

    That said, at the gym, it’s the Apple Watch all the way. For day-to-day tracking, of course the Apple Watch will be the best. Not sure how i could have been so stupid as to overlook that Apple always comes up with the best way to do things in the nicest package.

    A big thing for me is after going to Disney World twice last year, paying for stuff with the Magic Band and not bringing your wallet anywhere (or a room key) if you don’t feel like it is pretty awesome. Apple Pay ALONE will be a huge mover of the Watch, not to mention once it unlocks doors and controls the internet of things in the home.

    As far as the GPS fine tuning the Apple Watch, absolutely. I already do this with my Microsoft Band where I notice the pedometer is off when I use a treadmill (or the treadmill is also off?) but when I use GPS just walking to work or something, it becomes a lot more accurate.

    I have no doubt Apple will have found the best possible way to do this and that it’ll be better than what everyone else is doing. They just have pockets way too deep to not do it, and from what i saw on that secret testing facility (think it was on CNBC?), they are EXTREMELY serious about this thing being a great overall health tracking device.

    Can’t wait!

  35. No gps what an absolute disaster for apple.
    NO gps = Not a sports watch in the slightest.
    Some reviews say you should carry your phone what a load of tosh, clearly these people do not run any meaningful distances to post stupid comments like that.

    • Yes a genuine disaster. what will they do?

      Oh wait – it will fly off the shelves and put already pressured Garmin on the scrap heap.

      I frequently run half marathons and I *ALWAYS* have my phone on my arm and a watch on my wrist. Next month it will be an apple watch,not a garmin.

  36. Many people commenting here seem to know very little about technology. If Apple WAS dumb enough to include on-board GPS I would not have bought one. It already has major battery problems, and GPS sucks juice more than any other app. I know of no runner who will not carry a phone with them when running.

  37. I fully agree with this article! I run with my Garmin watch and Apple Shuffle only. I don’t want to strap on my iphone 6 Plus to run. If the watch had a on-board GPS feature I would have already bought one. Since it doesn’t I’m sticking to Garmin products for running.


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