Smart Watch for high precision GPS tracking?

Hi All,

I use my Android phone to track my wanders and help me map some pathways through local forrests and parks.

But I’ve had enough of the phones crappy GPS wandering all over the place.

I’ve been thinking of getting a cheapish smartwatch to provide higher quality GPS tracking. If I got one that supports Galileo that should improve things, shouldn’t it?

Anyone got experience with smart watches, are they good for GPS tracking?

All Thoughts welcome, as long as they aren’t just “buy this £500 device instead” :slight_smile:

I’ve not done any testing, but a smartwatch or other device with additional GNSS tracking may not help much, particularly under trees. There will be some statistical improvement but the trace will still appear to wander under some conditions.

One idea is to hold the smartphone in a steady horizontal position; placing it vertically or having the position vary while walking may cause variation in reception. But only testing can confirm if this would result in a noticeable improvement on your device.

The thing I found to give a full step-wise improvement even under trees is to add RTK, but that strays into the “buy this device(s) instead” area.

What are you using RTK with?

I was hoping that a watch being on your wrist would allow it to get a better signal, rather than being in my pocket. I think android gets less accurate once the screen turns off. Holding a phone horizontally isn’t really practical, mainly coz I don’t want to look silly :slight_smile:

Conventional cotton / synthetic fabric has very little impact on GPS reception. Depending on the design, it might be possible that a watch could be better, however it is also more likely to be power limited in the current generation of electronics. *1

An option to run a horizontal test without looking like a mad scientist: place it flat in a backpack, possibly secure to another object that will hold it in position. I have a pouch for an older GPS logger that straps on top of my backpack strap so that it rides flat on a shoulder. (That logger is the XGPS160 by Dual, but accuracy is about the same as a smartphone).

For my RTK setup, I’m using a paint can lid as a ground plane for the magnetic antenna - all held in position in my backpack.

For RTK there are 3 common approaches:

  1. Feed live NTRIP/RTK parameters to a GPS receiver from your smartphone. I’m using a device from ArduSimple but the big disadvantage is that it requires a live Internet feed, which makes the approach useless in the wilderness. Also some areas don’t have free nearby NTRIP/RTK feeds. I keep thinking that certain models of Smartphones could offer this as a built-in feature, but I haven’t noticed any.
  2. Use 2 devices with one functioning as a RTK base station. If the position of the base station is accurately known, then the resulting feed is very accurate. If the base station is just something nearby out in the field, the GPS track will be repeatable but absolute accuracy can vary. Ardusimple offers a number of configurations as a place to get started.
  3. Use a device that records enough data that is usable by RTKLIB to correct the GPX track afterwards. I haven’t investigated enough to know the details of how it works and which devices record correctible data.

*1 UBlox has announced their M10 line of ultra low power wearables that track all GNSS systems. It will probably be another 1-2 years before they are widely available to consumers.

I have used a number of watches with GPS, most of them are pathetic and not accurate, the best one of them that I found for GPS accuracy was Garmin Forerunner 645.


I’m using a Garmin Forerunner 235 and find it to be quite accurate. It’s an older model, and now the price should be way down.

One thing with phones though, I do believe there are accuracy/precision settings.

Many Garmins, like Instinct, support multiple satellite systems (GPS + GLONASS + Galileo) which should give good very accuracy.

Though I have had GPS-only Garmin Etrex 30 handheld-unit for years and find it to be accurate enough (±3m) for most use, can recommend it too.

For watch reviews and gps accuracy see

I haven’t have much experience with such watches but a friend of mine once suggested Garmin Forerunner 645. I am not sure about the feature but my friend seemed happy to have it. You must also give it a try.

GPS are the Garmin Forerunner 945 and the Coros Apex.

I was hoping that having the watch on your wrist would allow it to get a better signal than having it in my pocket. I believe Android becomes less accurate once the screen is turned off. Holding a phone horizontally isn’t very practical, mainly because I don’t want to appear ridiculous smile.