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14 Pros and Cons of GPS Watches

14 Pros and Cons of GPS Watches

If you are on the market for a new watch that does more than just tell you the time of day, it may be time you look into GPS watches. These watches were made for runners, fisherman, hikers, hunters, campers, and even those in the military; nonetheless, if you just love a good piece of technology, these watches have got it all. 

The pros of GPS watches include route and distance tracking, incident detection, many location-based features, and much more. On the other hand, some cons may be the cost of the watch, the cell service required for it to work, the fact it needs to connect to a smartphone, or the battery life.  

If you are someone who loves the outdoors and needs a new piece of technology that both looks good and helps you become a better runner, fisher, hunter or camper, then a GPS watch may be for you. Keep reading this article to find out all you need to know about what is both good and bad about GPS watches. 

Pros of GPS Watches

There are many pros to having a GPS watch, and finding one that has all the features you want and more is a breeze with the many brands and models currently available today. GPS watches were built for adventure, and if you choose to take a step out into nature, read on to see some of the best GPS watches you can find in the market to ensure that you get the best option to suit your needs.

Tracks Your Running Pace, Distance, and Intervals

If you are a runner or love to walk, the built-in GPS can allow you to track the pace you are going, how far you go, and some watches will even give you the option to track your intervals as well. 

This amazing feature will allow you to not only get in your exercise but can help you train for marathons by letting you know your speed, tracking your intervals, and sending you these updates straight to your smartphone.  

If it is a Garmin brand watch you want, the Garmin Forerunner 35 is designed for runners, and you can upload your distance and pace to their online community to be able to track and receive insights on your data. 

Garmin also has more advanced GPS watches such as the Garmin Forerunner 45S, which has the interval and distance tracking in addition to other cool features that will be mentioned below. 

Keeps Track of Your Path and Route

If you are a runner, a hiker, a camper, or just prone to getting lost when you are out and about, the GPS allows you to keep track of the route you have taken. 

The first benefit of this feature is that you are able to go back later and take a look at the path you took and be able to copy it again if you ever want to. The Garmin Forerunner 45S is one of the GPS watches that will track your route for you. 

The other benefit and probably more beneficial one is available in the Suunto Traverse Alpha GPS watch. This watch will automatically keep track of your path using a breadcrumb trail, so you never have to worry about getting lost. You can also plan your path ahead of time using this watch if you want to get where you are going as soon as possible. 

The Suunto watch is also compatible with the Suunto Movescount App on IOS or Android, where you can keep track of plenty of your data. 

Maps Your GPS Coordinates 

Another thing your GPS watch can do is keep track of your exact GPS coordinates. This can be beneficial to use for later viewing if you want to remember a certain spot that may not be easy to find. 

If you are a hunter, this allows you to place your coordinates of traps you may have set up so you can come back to them later. 

If you are a fisherman, using this feature to keep track of good fishing spots can make finding your way around much easier. 

If you are in the military, this is a great tool for marking the position of a base that could be somewhere in the middle of the forest so you can always see where it is. 

Incident/Emergency Detection

The only thing that may be worse than being lost in the woods is being hurt in the woods. The Garmin Forerunner 45S comes equipped with incident detection technology that can be active during select activities that will alert an emergency contact with your current location through a paired smartphone. 

The Apple Watch also has a similar feature that can detect fall detection. This feature can allow you to call for help as soon as it detects a fall. 

Location-Based Technology 

The benefit of having a watch with a navigational system within it is all of the features that can be added. 

The Suunto Traverse Alpha watch has a unique location-based moon phase calendar within it that will show you the moonrise and moonset times, an amazing feature for those who want to make sure they are ready for the best hunting or fishing times. 

This hardcore watch also comes equipped with a feature that if you are a hunter, you are sure to love. This feature is an automatic shot detection technology that will keep track of when and where you shoot, allowing you to see the coordinates of that location later on.  

In addition, the Suunto watch will also show you the local weather trends and send you any storm alerts, so no matter your adventure, you will be prepared. 

Great for Camping, Fishing, Hunting, or Hiking

If you are someone who loves the outdoors, a GPS watch is the perfect companion for not only keeping you safe but also helping you during any endeavor. 

Here are some of the great things that GPS watches (specific brands and models) can help you do. 

For Camping

  • Leaves a breadcrumb trail and tracks your path, so you always know how to get back to your car or a pick-up location
  • Allows you to save specific locations that may be best to set up camp for the night, or to ensure that if you decide to wander off, you know how to get back
  • Sends you weather alerts, so you know what to prepare for while outdoors

For Fishing

  • Allows you to save a specific location so you can keep track of the best fishing spots you may have come across
  • Moon phase calendar is a great tool to use to know when the best times to fish are
  • If you are on the water, the breadcrumb trail and/or path tracker will keep you from getting lost

For Hunting

  • Automatic shot detection technology can save when and where you made a shot 
  • Moon phase calendar is a great tool to use to know when the best times to hunt are
  • Allows you to track your path back to your campsite or car with ease
  • Allows you to pinpoint specific locations so you can come back to them (great if you set up traps in a surrounding area) 

For Hiking

  • Leaves a breadcrumb trail and tracks your path, so you always know how to get back to your car or a pick-up location
  • Incident detection will send your current location to an emergency contact through your smartphone if you are unable to call for help yourself 
  • Sends you weather alerts, so you know what to prepare for while outdoors
  • Allows you to track your route, see your distance, track intervals and look at your pace at any time after your hike

Selection of Different On-Trend Style Options

Just because the watch is made for the outdoors, it does not mean that you can’t look good while wearing it. 

  • The Garmin Forerunner 35 has a simple, sleek look with a square screen that looks both sporty and casual. The comfortable rubber watch strap comes in multiple colors, including black, white, frost blue, and limelight. 
  • The Garmin Forerunner 45S is similar to the previous but has a round screen for those who prefer the classic watch look. This sporty watch has black, white, purple, and red rubber straps and two different sizing options. 
  • The most complex GPS watch, the Suunto Traverse Alpha, has a classic masculine style that makes this watch one you can wear both to work and out on a fishing trip. One style option features a copper stainless steel bezel with a black silicone strap. The three other options feature stainless steel bezels with a water repellent nylon strap that comes in black, foliage, and a camouflage pattern. 

The Apple Watch, on the other hand, was not built to be solely a GPS watch. Therefore, the square screen and sleek strap look is built for anyone from a working professional to active teenager. 

If you decide to opt for this more complex GPS watch, it may seem like your strap options are limited to plain and simple colors. But you can actually purchase almost any strap of your choosing like a MEHO Stainless Steel Band Replacement Strap or the WFEAGL Leather Bands

Other Features of a GPS Watch

The great thing about investing in a GPS watch is that you are most likely getting more than just a watch with GPS technology. Many GPS watches come with a ton of other features that make the investment in one of these watches worth it. 

Some of the other amazing benefits and features you can find in a GPS watch are: 

  • Step counters and calorie counters
  • Built-in flashlights
  • The ability to get mobile notifications sent directly to your watch for both calls and text messages
  • A compass
  • You can control your music
  • Vibration notifications


Cons of GPS Watches

While there seem to be more pros to a GPS watch then there are cons, there may be some things you want to consider before you invest in this piece of technology. Below, we have outlined the list of cons and downsides of GPS watches that you can check out before you decide to purchase your own watch. 

They Can Cost a Decent Amount of Money

One of the biggest cons of purchasing a GPS watch is that some of them tend to run a bit pricier. The average price for a basic GPS watch is around $90-$120. However, if you are looking at ones with more features, you are looking at anywhere from $200-$1000. 

Before you decide to make this purchase, you may want to consider if the features you are getting from the watch will be fully utilized. Since all smartphones now have GPS technology within them, you may not need to splurge on a watch if the only feature you will use is the GPS. 

However, if you are a runner, fisher, hunter or camper, a GPS watch could be exactly what you need. 

Cell Service or Wi-Fi Can Cut Out in Areas

If the GPS feature and location-based services of the watch only work when they are either directly connected to a smartphone, cell service or Wi-Fi, you are at risk for the service dropping and the features no longer working. 

This could also happen if your phone battery dies. So, a major downside of the GPS watch could be (if this is required) that it has to be connected to a smartphone or internet service. 

GPS Feature May Drain the Battery 

Since the GPS feature and location-based features will constantly be running while in use, they can drain the battery of the watch. 

  • The Garmin Forerunner 45S watch has a battery life of up to 7 days in smartwatch mode. However, if it is in GPS mode, it only has 14 hours of battery life, so if you need the watch to be in GPS mode for over a day, you will need somewhere to charge the battery. 
  • The Suunto Traverse Alpha watch has a battery life of up to 14 days in watch mode. Once it is switched into GPS mode, it has a shorter battery life that is approximately 10-15 hours. 
  • The Apple Watch, when used, has a battery life of 18 hours total, and it isn’t completely known what features will drain it faster. But it can be assumed it will die faster if it is in constant use.  

Cheaper Versions May Have an Inaccurate GPS

While no known complaints have been made about the GPS in the Garmin, Suunto or Apple GPS watches, you may be at risk for inaccurate navigation if you opt to save some money and buy a cheap GPS watch. 

As they say, you get what you pay for, and if you want to get a GPS watch, it is worth investing a little more in the technology to ensure that it works properly. 

Could Be More Difficult to Use

If you are not a tech-savvy person or are someone who prefers things to only have one or two buttons, you may find some brands and versions of the GPS watches to be difficult to use. 

With more features comes more things to do, and if you have to connect it to a smartphone, the difficulty may only increase from there. Having to go through an entire set-up process can make this watch more confusing for some people. However, the Garmin Forerunner watches are the more simple of the GPS watches, and they claim them to be easy-to-use. 

Watches such as the Apple Watch, are much like a smartphone, and if you are someone who struggles to use a smartphone, this kind of watch may not be for you.  

Have to Connect it to a Smartphone

While many people these days do have a smartphone as a means of communication, some people may not or some people, if they do, aren’t completely familiar with the many things you can do with it.

Many GPS watches rely on your ability to connect the watch to an app that can be downloaded onto a smartphone for you to get the full usability of the features it has. However, this is not the case for every single GPS watch. 

Closing thoughts:

The amazing piece of technology that is a GPS watch can easily make it become any runner, fisher, hunter, or nature lover’s best friend from the location-based benefits alone. The bonus of getting to choose which color suits you and the many other accompanying features make it that much better. 

If you are willing to learn the technology, have a smartphone and think it is worth the investment, then a GPS watch can end up doing a lot more good for you than bad. Although, if you are not going to really utilize the features that come with a GPS watch, you may be better off opting for a simple version or sticking to your cell phone’s navigation system to get you around. 


Up Next In GPS Watches:

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Garmin Forerunner 735xt Review for Trail Runners

Garmin Instinct Review: Features and Performance After 60 Days

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