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Do GPS Watches Give Directions?

Do GPS Watches Give Directions?

GPS watches are gradually transforming into must-have gadgets for outdoor enthusiasts of all types looking to track and improve their training. Most GPS watches come standard these days with features making it easy to measure distance and speed, but can these handy devices give the user directions?

GPS watches do give directions through triangulation, a process that determines the time difference between the duration when the signal is sent from satellites to the watch. Through the use of GPS receivers, GPS watches interpret the time difference to provide directions based on satellites.  

Are you interested in learning more about GPS watches? Read on as we shed more light on the various features of GPS watches and what you need to watch out for when looking to buy one.  

Features of Advanced GPS Watches

GPS watches are designed to add convenience and efficiency to workout routines. Some of the main features that you’ll find in most advanced GPS watches include the following.

Workout Tracking

GPS watches that fall in the medium to upper price ranges come packed with workout tracking features. These GPS watches allow you to track several types of workouts, like swimming, cycling, and running simultaneously.

The ability to track multiple types of workouts allows you to time your transitions from one activity to the next, consequently increasing your overall efficiency. Less advanced watches mostly provide running data only instead of integrating the data with other physical activities like swimming. 

Training Estimates

GPS watches help to improve training by providing accurate estimates. For instance, some advanced watches like the Garmin Fenix 6 Pro can predict when you’re likely to complete a track based on your records and current statistics.  

Even better, GPS watches can provide crucial information on the amount of time your body will need to recover from a run fully. This feature is useful, especially when paired with a Heart Rate Monitor, as it will reveal accurate details regarding your training load.

Navigational Features

Modern technology continues to change how we use portable devices like watches. Unlike before, when watches were only used to tell time, modern smartwatches come integrated with new technologies that increase their versatility and usability.

For instance, GPS watches are known for their ability to tell directions through satellite communication. Some brands like the Suunto Traverse Alpha have built-in electronic compasses that help increase the accuracy of direction.

Through GPS watches, it is possible to reroute back to your starting point or even load pre-designated tracks or courses. These navigational features are ideal for outdoor enthusiasts and trail runners, especially those taking up new trails.


Did you know that GPS watches can display your altitude and the elevation gained during a workout? Most smartwatches use either a barometric altimeter or GPS coordinates to provide accurate and reliable elevation data.

Activity Tracking

One of the best features of GPS watches is their ability to track activities such as steps taken, distance traveled, and calories burned. Some watches like the Fitbit Fitness Smartwatch take it a notch further and even track sleep quality, among other great features.


Run/Walk Alerts and Auto Pause

Most GPS watches are intelligent enough to pause the timer whenever you stop running. The automatic pause feature can come in handy when running in urban areas where you’re likely to stop depending on traffic.

Once you stop running or come to a halt, your GPS watch will respond by pausing, which saves you the labor of having to start and stop your watch manually during a workout.

Data Upload

Most GPS watches allow users to transfer their workout data to other platforms or applications for further review. The ability to transfer your training data to common programs like RunKeeper or Strava improves your training quality, consequently boosting your overall efficiency.

Heart Rate Monitor

Most GPS watches come with a built-in optical Heart Rate Monitor. The HRM measures pulse at the wrist, allowing you to determine the intensity of your training and overall workout load. This feature is ideal if you’re after improving your cardiac health.


GPS watches give users the edge when it comes to high-performance workouts. For instance, you can pre-set your intervals, specifying how fast, and far you want to go, and your GPS will monitor your performance based on your set targets.

This feature comes in handy during extreme workouts or improving your performance in a specific area.

Customizable Screens

The design and functionality of GPS watches continue to change with every latest release. Most GPS watches boast of customizable screens that allow you to determine the details you want appearing on your screen.

The whole idea behind using GPS watches is to focus more on runs and physical activities instead of struggling to record data. Due to this, several high-quality brands allow users to create multiple pages of useful information that can be easily accessed during a run.

What Causes Interference in a GPS Watch? 

GPS watches are usually affected by large bodies or objects that stand in the way of the signals. For instance, a tall building in a town center or tall trees in a forest can interfere with signals, leading to delays or slightly incorrect distance readings from a GPS watch.

GPS signals can be completely blocked by skyscrapers or heavy foliage, exactly why it’s advisable to use GPS watches in flat surfaces or areas. In case there is interference in signal reception, try moving away from the obstacle and rechecking the direction. 

Disclaimer, checking for navigation can take anywhere from a second to several minutes before your GPS watch gives accurate navigation details after the interference.

Factors to Consider When Buying a GPS Watch


Before you settle for a particular GPS watch, it is crucial to consider the features presented in different brands. As expected, the costlier options usually have advanced features that mid-level and basic GPS watches lack.  

If you want to assess your heart rate data, you’ll need a watch with an HRM. But if distance, time, and pace are what you’re after, then you can opt for a mid-level GPS watch. 

Advanced watches normally provide detailed stats that can help you to move closer towards achieving your goals.  


GPS watches come in different price ranges, and similar to other products, you’ll have to pay top dollar to purchase advanced watches.  

Basic GPS watches will allow you to record pace and distance while the more expensive options will allow you to access advanced features such as directions, built-in accelerometer, training estimates, interval training, and run/walk alerts.


Battery Performance and Comfort

GPS-enabled devices are known to consume massive power, and GPS watches are no different. You’ll find that costlier GPS watches have better battery performance compared to the cheaper options. Therefore, if you want a GPS watch that can serve you for several hours when out in the wilderness, considering saving up for the more advanced watches.

You should also consider comfort when looking to add a GPS watch to your fitness or outdoor gear. Modern GPS watches are lightweight and comfortable, making them ideal for long term use when outdoors.

Closing thoughts…

GPS watches come packed with several features that make training or participating in outdoor activities easy.

Besides performing the basic functions, GPS watches can tell direction, record running or walking stats, monitor heart rate, and collect other useful information to determine training load.

But before you settle for a particular GPS watch, be sure to check on factors such as price, features, and battery performance. Doing so will ensure that you invest your hard-earned cash in a product that adds value to your workout routine.


Up Next In GPS Watches:

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Garmin Instinct Review: Features and Performance After 60 Days

Are GPS Watches Accurate on a Track?

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