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Maybe I’m finicky, but when I got into running, the fact that I needed to bring my phone on every jog frustrated me no end. But it recorded all the information I wanted, like my average pace and how many calories I had burned, so I needed it. Thankfully, GPS watches mean this is a problem of the past. These devices do everything my phone did and much more in some cases. There’s a model to suit all needs, whether you want to find your way around a new city or prepare for an ultra marathon.
Apple Watch Series 7
- 32 GB of internal memory
- Wireless fast charging
- Lots of wellness and activity tracking features
- Waterproof to 50 meters
- Works with Apple apps and Apple Pay
- Short battery life
- Not compatible with android devices
Amazfit T-Rex Pro
- Great value
- Battery lasts for up to 18 days
- Water-resistant to 100 meters
- Basic GPS technology
- Lack of connectivity features and apps
Samsung Galaxy Watch 4
- Good value
- Lots of wellness and activity tracking features
- 16 GB of built-in memory
- Works with Play Store apps and Google Pay
- Battery lasts up to three days
- Doesn’t work with iPhones
- You need a Samsung Galaxy to use all features
Best Overall: Apple Watch Series 7
Best Budget: Amazfit T-Rex Pro
Honorable Mention: Samsung Galaxy Watch 4
Best Sports: Garmin Fenix 7 Solar
Best Hiking: Sunnto 9 Baro
Best Running: Garmin Forerunner 255S
To choose the GPS watches on the market, I employed The Drive’s comprehensive research methodology and evaluated dozens of watches before choosing the top contenders. Although I haven’t personally tested these products, my selection is informed by consumer testimonials, expert reviews, and discussions on relevant online forums.
I visited the running subreddit to get a more informed opinion of what athletes felt about the GPS watches on the market.
Best GPS Watches Reviews & Recommendations
The Apple Series 7 covers all bases well, rather than being hyper-focused in one area. It's a great option for someone who wants a do-it-all watch, as long as you’re using an iPhone. If you’re on a tight budget, check out my value pick, the Amazfit T-Rex Pro.
Things to Consider Before Buying GPS Watches
If you ever find yourself in areas where a regular GPS watch’s signal is weak or nonexistent, you’ll need to invest in a watch that uses multi-band GPS technology. These models work with multi-GNSS satellite systems (SPS, GLONASS, and Galileo). Other connectivity features you need to consider when buying a GPS watch are LTE, NFC, Bluetooth, Wi-Fi, and payment services. A watch with NFC that has a payment service, such as Google Pay, is useful for people who don’t want to carry their phone or wallet all the time.
Battery Life and Size
Using the GPS feature on a watch drains its battery quickly. So if you’re planning on getting a GPS watch to tackle weekend hikes in the wilderness, you’ll need to find one with a long battery life. But watches that have a long battery life in GPS mode tend to be pretty big, measuring up to 50 mm. This can make them uncomfortable for people who want a watch to wear daily and track their sleep health. So, depending on what you want to use your watch for, you might need to find a compromise between battery life and size.
If you want to listen to music while you run without carrying your phone, you’ll need a watch with extra memory. People who want to download the apps they use on their phones will also need plenty of memory. If you plan on keeping your phone on you at all times, then you probably won't need lots of built-in memory.
Some watches are intended to be used as an extension of your smartphone, like the Apple Series 7 and Samsung Galaxy Watch 4. These models will feature many wellness and activity tracking features but won’t be especially geared towards sports or hiking. Other watches that are more sports focused, like the Garmin Fenix 7, will be better suited to athletes who want more information. Activity-focused watches can coach and help prepare you for races, and make workout plans based on how well you’ve recovered from the previous day’s activity.
GPS Watches Pricing
You can pick up a GPS watch for less then $170, which will be fine for some people but will lack the features and sensor accuracy of higher-priced models. For between $200 to $450, you’ll get a good general smartwatch with GPS or a good sports-specific watch geared towards runners or triathletes. Watches priced between $450 and $900 will have the best GPS capabilities, tons of preloaded maps of ski slopes and golf courses, and be perfect for hikers and endurance athletes.
You’ve got questions. The Drive has answers.
Q: Does a GPS watch work without a phone?
A: Yes, GPS watches work independently from phones. But to access all the functions of some watches, you’ll need the watch to be connected to your phone.
Q: Do GPS watches need the internet?
A: GPS watches use the GPS satellite network to triangulate your position, so they don’t need access to the internet.
Q: Do GPS watches need a sim card?
A: A GPS watch doesn’t need a sim card to work. But some watches can work with sim cards, which enables them to use the cellular network so you can access the internet and make and receive calls.
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Our reviews are driven by a combination of hands-on testing, expert input, “wisdom of the crowd” assessments from actual buyers, and our own expertise. We always aim to offer genuine, accurate guides to help you find the best picks.Learn more