GPS smartwatches have become very popular among the running community as they not only keep you in touch but measure your stats and record your run so that you can map where you have been. Location tracking features similarly apply to cycling, rowing, navigation, walking, trekking, hiking, golf, etc. Lots of smartwatch apps and watch faces are now available to support and track those activities. The better ones are also able to analyze and portray your activity visually for improving, motivating and social sharing.
As the market has become more crowded it has become increasingly difficult to decide on which one to buy. We looked at some of the best GPS smartwatches around to help you choose one to meet your needs.
The Best GPS Watches
Apple Watch Series 7 – 8
The Apple Watch Series 7 retains the design we know and love, with a bigger display and different case sizes. It boasts a 20% larger display than the 6, thinner bezels, and rounder corners than previous versions. This year’s additions include a blood oxygen sensor and faster charging. It also offers the same outstanding features as previously, like a brighter always-on display and a built-in compass.
Also, it’s now dust-proof and charges 33% faster than the Series 6.
Because of its S6 64-bit dual-core processor, the Apple Watch Series 7 is 20% faster than the Series 5 but no faster than the 6. The Series 7 is available in a cool new green colour too. The Apple Watch 8 adds car crash detection and skin temperature monitoring which can be a plus.
An electrocardiogram (ECG) sensor comes with this Apple Watch model, which may detect cardiac issues such as atrial fibrillation. Fall detection is also built-in, which notifies emergency contacts and services if you fall. There’s also a microphone and speaker, which are great for accepting phone conversations.
It’s available in two sizes: 41mm and 50mm, with GPS alone and GPS + Cellular variants. The price is affected by the size of the display, the case material, and the kind of watch band. Finally, of the 32GB of storage on the Watch, up to 2GB can be used for onboard music storage.
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Garmin Forerunner 945 LTE/955
One of the most advanced multisport GPS in the market today with the addition of cellular connectivity which makes it stand out. It may not look as classy or rugged (depending on the model) as the Garmin Fenix 7 but it’s probably the better option if you’re into sports more than anything else.
The 945 LTE addition is quite a nice feature as it enables you to run without having to carry your phone and remain connected. You are able to make and receive calls or important texts while you’re out and about. Indeed the cellular functionality is one serious advantage for runners.
When it comes to choosing a GPS watch, you should to make sure your watch is supported by the leading multisport apps such as Strava or MyfitnessPal. With the Garmin 945 LTE, your support options are many.
Garmin Forerunner 955
With its strong track record, you’d expect Garmin to be the leader in GPS smartwatches. The Garmin Forerunner 955 does not disappoint with its long battery life and quality fitness tracker.
It’s priced around $499 but if you are an avid sportsman or woman then it is worth every penny. You can monitor your fitness stats and it will even tell you how productive your regime is. The watch can track all your exercises and, as it’s waterproof, can track your swimming too.
The battery life is phenomenal and will last for 24 hours when continuous GPS mode is in use or up to 60 hours when you put it into saver mode. This watch not only lasts longer, it tells you how your exercise is affecting you. A real contender!
Withings Steel HR Sport
Withings’ watches may not have the pull of the big brands but its smartwatches offer some excellent features and the Steel HR Sport is no exception. The watch boasts an incredible battery life of up to 120 hours when in GPS mode and has a design that is easy to read.
This watch is not really for the sports-mad but it does the basics well and looks good on your wrist. Some of its key features include heart rate monitoring, connected GPS and the watch links to your smartphone to give you your notifications. It can track 30 different activities and at around $150, is one of the more affordable GPS smartwatches on the market.
The Withings Move is an affordable option to acquire a nostalgic, classic watch design. It comes in four different colours: black, blue, pink, and green, so you may choose the one that best matches your mood. Plus, it offers seamless synchronisation, so you can use the Health Mate app on your smartphone to view all of your data and trends.
More, it comes with ten pre-programmed workouts and can monitor your activity throughout the day. You may also utilise the Move’s sleep tracking function to keep track of your sleep. Your Sleep Score is determined by the length and frequency of your light and deep sleep cycles, as well as the number of interruptions, depth, and regularity with which you wake up. You may set a Smart Wake-UP time for yourself so that you can feel energised and ready to tackle the day.
The battery life of the Move is up to 18 months. Yes, you read it right: 18 months! It’s water-resistant up to 50 metres, so you may rock it in the shower, tub, or pool. On the downside, it lacks a heart rate monitor and GPS, and the plastic casing is easily scratched.
Polar Grit X
If you’re looking for a running watch with excellent navigation, the Polar Grit X is a more compact option than the Garmin Fenix 6 and Suunto 9. You’ll get 40 hours of battery life in regular GPS mode, but by reducing the tracking frequency, you can get up to 100 hours. It pings your location every 120 seconds in this mode, and all superfluous sensors are switched off, similar to the Fenix and Suunto 9.
This isn’t particularly useful for runners. In most cases, but it will get you through long ultras and multi-day hikes without the need for a battery pack. Another important gear for runners navigating tough terrain is the Hill Splitter. This feature detects when you start ascending or descending and displays the amount of time you’ve been running the incline or drop, as well as the steepness of the incline or dip.
Polar Vantage V2
One of the best multi-sport choices was Polar’s Vantage V. A lightweight and attractive watch, introduced in 2018. And it was capable of tracking a range of activities and providing a variety of training load and recuperation information to help you plan your workouts.
The Vantage V range now has a new leader. More evolutionary than revolutionary, the Vantage V2 keeps the original’s recognisable appearance while enhancing many important elements of the multi-sport abilities.
This second-generation has been rebuilt in aluminium, resulting in a 14-gram weight reduction. It also features a greater waterproof certification than the original. Plus several new faces, and the ability to manage music on your phone.
It also has Komoot route guidance, hill splits, and smart fuelling advice, as well as a bigger battery. Importantly, it is far less expensive than the Garmin Fenix 6. In actuality, the Polar Grit X, which is similarly equipped but less priced, is projected to be the Vantage V2’s most formidable rival.
The Vantage V2 is clearly more concerned with sports performance than with smartwatch functionality. With a limited set of smart features and a laggy touchscreen experience.
As with the Vantage V, which was designed to go the distance in every discipline, the V2 can accompany you through most sports. Any 20 of the 130 specialised profiles can be loaded onto the watch using the Polar Flow app. Each mode contains information related to the activity you’re doing, such as running.
It includes route guidance as well as sophisticated tracking and training capabilities. For each action, you’ll also get heart-rate data and, if it’s an outside activity, GPS path tracking.
Fitbit Versa 4
The Fitbit brand has been around for some time and the Versa is a smartwatch that offers built-in GPS and fitness feedback.
The watch offers lots of features that will help you to understand how your body is working and responding to activity. It also allows you to listen to music if you pair it with your headphones.
The battery life is great and the watch will need to go on charge every 6+ days or so. If you are using the GPS mode continuously it would last up to 12 hours so if you only use the GPS to track runs or other outdoor activities it will last longer.
One of its best features is that it is waterproof so there is no need to remove the watch no matter where you are or what you are doing.
Though, if you want something a little more sophisticated from Fitbit that has an equal fitness to smartwatch vibe (including stress tracking), we recommend you look at our Fitbit Sense comparison.
Garmin Forerunner 245/255 Music
This Garmin watch boasts a music option so that you can enjoy your favourite tunes when you work out. Garmin is a pro when it comes to GPS and this watch utilises all its expert knowledge and has all the features we’ve come to expect in a smartwatch.
If you want to know whether your training is working or if you are doing the right amount of exercise for optimal results then this watch can tell you. It checks your exercise history and compares it with each workout to tell you if you are being as productive as possible.
The screen is easy to read and displays your key stats clearly so you can focus on exercising. Aside from exercising, the GPS mode can be used to help you track your routes when out and about and the watch also offers sleep monitoring so you know how good each night’s sleep is.
Suunto 9 Peak Pro
Suunto recently released a new professional sports watch, the Suunto 9 Peak, which is the company’s smallest and lightest device yet.
Despite the fact that this is not a typical style for a guy, it is what the people want. Similar companies, such as Polar and Garmin, have followed suit. The Suunto 9 Peak, which is 36 per cent slimmer and lighter than the Suunto 9 Baro, follows this trend.
Suunto’s better materials, which include less plastic and more metal than Polar’s watch, resulting in a watch that is significantly smaller but also heavier than the Ignite 2.
The Suunto 9 Peak, available in titanium or stainless steel, is a high-end watch with a hefty price tag.
Garmin Fenix 7
Known for their high-tech watches, Garmin always makes sure every base is covered on their smartwatches. The Fenix 6X is part of the Fenix 6 range and offers the biggest screen of the three watches (51mm). This premium smartwatch offers a range of different smart features, including GPS too.
The GPS features on this smartwatch are ideal for anyone who wants to navigate sports via their wrist. With pre-uploaded maps (including ski maps for over 2,000 different resorts worldwide), you’ll never get lost. The watch uses multiple navigation systems that combine GPS, Galileo, and GLONASS for accurate results. Alongside impressive GPS features, the Fenix 6X also offers a 3-axis compass, various built-in health sensors, a barometric altimeter, and a gyroscope too.
The Fenix also features a rugged design that has been tested to U.S military standards. This watch will last the test of time without breaking. The display is 1.2”(depending on the model) and always on, making sure you can quickly read the screen when you’re on the go. Users can also access a range of performance metrics, PacePro technology, and specialized smartwatch features such as Garmin Pay.
While this watch is one of the best on the market right now, for potential customers it comes with a big price tag. But, when you consider the durability, design, and features that come with this watch, it’s worth the investment.
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Garmin Vivoactive 4S
The Garmin Vivoactive 4S has a smaller watch face than its big brother, the Vivoactive 4, but it still has full health and fitness tracking, on-screen workouts, and music streaming capabilities. This wristwatch has energy monitoring for the body battery. You may keep track of your energy levels throughout the day to see when it’s ideal to exercise and when it’s best to unwind. It contains a Pulse 0x sensor, which determines how effectively your body takes oxygen by measuring blood oxygen levels.
It also has a stress monitoring tool that may aid in mental health improvement. If it senses that you are nervous, it will remind you to relax and even encourage you to do a brief breathing exercise. It tracks your activities throughout the day as well as your sleep. You’ll receive a thorough picture of how you sleep with a breakdown of your light, deep, and REM sleep phases, as well as Pulse 0x and breathing data.
The Vivoactive 4S has 20 preset GPS and indoor training modes, including walking, running, cycling, pool swimming, golf, and more. It also features easy-to-follow on-screen aerobic, strength, yoga, and Pilates workouts to help with technique and injury prevention. The battery life falls short of expectations, and the screen is difficult to see inside.
The Coros Pace 2 is presently the lightest GPS sports watch on the market. It weighs just 29 grammes and has a high-quality, quick-drying, and comfortable nylon band that is perfect for daily usage. With a full GPS battery life of 30 hours, the Pace 2 offers a 20% longer battery life than its predecessor. If you need your battery to last even longer, go to UltraMax for nearly half the power consumption. Coros Pace 2 may monitor your exercise and sleep for up to 20 days if you don’t utilise GPS mode regularly.
On the Pace 2, there are 14 pre-programmed sport modes. It records your running, riding, swimming, strength training, and other physical activity. If you wear your Coros Pace 2 to bed, it will keep track of your sleep cycles, length of sleep, time spent awake, heart rate range, and average heart rate. You may set bedtimes, wake-up hours, and alarms to ensure that you wake up refreshed and ready to face the day.
Pace 2 has a continuous heart rate monitor, an always-on altimeter, and a thermometer, allowing you to keep track of your health and wellbeing at all times. It also comes with an easy-to-use app. It lacks a touchscreen, though, and instead has two keys and a scrolling wheel. You won’t be able to download, stream, or play music either.
Do GPS Smartwatches Offer Incident Detection?
Alongside accurate GPS services, smartwatches are expected to have many modern features. One very popular feature is incident detection (also referred to as fall detection). This recent smartwatch service can recognize if the owner has fallen over, and it can then notify selected contacts or even the authorities.
This feature compliments GPS watches as users are often outside and incident detection gives them an extra layer of protection when hiking or taking part in adventurous sports.
Want to explore how incident detection works? Read our in-depth incident detection review here.
Does Incident Detection Use GPS?
Some watches do incorporate GPS into their incident detection services. For example, Garmin uses GPS to send emergency contacts to the exact location of the user. This ensures that the wearer will receive help, no matter where they are. The combination of incident detection, emergency calls, and GPS is ideal for anyone who wants to put safety first.
There are so many options out there to choose from but we are certain that by combining GPS with the latest smartwatch then you can exercise better and track where you have been along with the type of ground you have covered and the gradient.
Garmin and Fitbit watches are made for GPS tracking whereas the other watches offer GPS as an extra. It is always a good idea to check how long the battery life is when the GPS is in use rather than the overall time as some models’ batteries can drain quickly when GPS is in use.
Any of the ones listed here come highly recommended and we hope this helps you when choosing your new watch!
Last Updated on December 12, 2022
Emma brings over a decade of freelance copy and content writing experience and is our Editor, Social Media Manager, and regular contributor. Specializing in long-form content such as blogs, articles, lead magnets, and white papers, Emma also provides businesses with email marketing, website copy, and landing pages.