Apple Watch GPS - Alternative to iPhone

Discussion in 'Apple Watch' started by Bob190, Jul 16, 2015.

  1. Bob190 macrumors 6502

    May 21, 2015
    A question for all the developers out there ...

    For me, the one glaring shortcoming of AW is the lack of onboard GPS capabilities. As a serious, competitive runner and cyclist, I unfortunately still have to wear my Garmin Forerunner on one arm, and my AW on the other to adequately track runs. I know I could just wear the Garmin, but I like to get a complete picture of my activities during the entire day.

    I am like a lot of runners and don't like to run with my phone ... I have never found a solution that allowed me to carry it comfortably, especially on long runs. Especially given the fact that phones have gotten ridiculously big in the last few years.

    Since Watch OS2 will be released this fall, I was wondering if it will allow peripherals like Bluetooth GPS units to connect to the watch? Hardware wise, I imagine it would be capable since other Bluetooth peripherals like headphones and HR chest straps can communicate with the watch already.

    I am asking because I think there could be a market for a small wristband with a GPS sensor that would communicate to the AW via Bluetooth to provide GPS position data to the watch. It doesn't have to my a AW band (but that would be the ultimate solution), but could be a separate band that is worn on the same or other wrist.

    I realize there would likely have to be a native app that would support this, but it is something I would love to see.

    I really have enjoyed my AW, for me, the HR tracking is dead on to a chest strap, but still having to run with another dedicated running watch is kind of a pain.

    Anyone have any insight as to whether this would be possible?
  2. powerbook911 macrumors 68040


    Mar 15, 2005
    I think that is an excellent question Bob. The watch has made me get into running, well I don't know if you'd call it running yet.

    How close is the watch to your GPS monitor after the calibration? I realize it's not enough for you, but I was still curious how close it is?

    As I'm not really a runner yet, just building up, I don't mind having the phone right now, but I can see that I'm going to want to get rid of it once I go for longer runs and faster runs.

    I really like your idea. I hope others will chime in on the possibilities!
  3. Michael CM1 macrumors 603

    Feb 4, 2008
    It wouldn't shock me to see some products like that come out if the right APIs are available. I know WiFi iPads had a $100 add-on for GPS back in the day.

    I'm no runner, so take this with a massive grain of salt, but I would just find a decent armband for your iPhone. Well, unless you have a 6 Plus. Then you're getting into iPad on your arm territory. I think this is just one of those first-generation compromises like the original iPhone not having 3G. Not enough people were going to miss onboard GPS, the cost per unit to Apple would rise and it would probably reduce battery life a good bit while in use.
  4. zhenya macrumors 603


    Jan 6, 2005
    I'm in the same boat Bob. I won't buy the Apple watch until it has built in GPS as I don't like to run with my phone either.

    I will say though that when I do run with my phone, which happens a fair bit when I travel and I'm in an unfamiliar place, or when I go for a long solo trail run and want the safety, I have a couple of options that work. I have a couple of pairs of Patagonia trail shorts that have hip pockets that fit the iPhone 6 and smaller models perfectly. I don't want to do it every day, but when I need it's comfortable and doesn't bounce. It also fits in my flipbelt comfortably and without bouncing.
  5. Bob190, Jul 16, 2015
    Last edited: Jul 16, 2015

    Bob190 thread starter macrumors 6502

    May 21, 2015
    I don't know, I think they would likely sell many more Watches if they had onboard GPS. Cost would likely be very minimal to Apple, the GPS chip could be toggled on/off or disabled completely in a setting so you could chose not to use it at all (like the HR monitor). If it had GPS, it truly would be the ultimate running watch ... Heart Rate, GPS Tracking and Music (the holy grail of what most runners want with no phone required). There is nothing currently available that have all three features as far as I know. The Sony SW3 has GPS and Music, the Fit Bit Surge has HR and GPS, the Microsoft Band has HR and GPS, the AW of course as HR and Music. None of the Garmin or Polar devices allow you to store and play music from the watch.

    Personally, most runners/athletes that use sports tech (Garmin, Polar, etc.) are used to charging devices frequently, so I think the additionally battery drain is a non-issue. Frankly for me, slapping it on the charger for an hour or so after a workout isn't a big deal. I don't know why it is touted as such an issue all the time.

    As I stated above, it would likely have the ability to be disabled, so it would not impact battery life for anyone who didn't want to use it.
  6. zhenya macrumors 603


    Jan 6, 2005
    I think that Apple left the GPS out of this device for several reasons. One, it would undoubtedly have an effect on size and battery life; possibly the two most concerning aspects of this first generation device. Even if the GPS could be managed to minimize battery effect, it would greatly complicate app integration with the watch, and one buggy app could drain your battery in a matter of hours.

    Further, Apple clearly sees this watch as a companion for the iPhone. They want the two to be tied together, and with that point of view, it's no wonder they left out the GPS. The other devices you are comparing it to are primarily fitness watches where GPS is the primary feature. With Apple Watch fitness is merely one feature out of many.

    I am waiting for the day that my Apple Watch has GPS, a phone for emergency calls, and Apple Pay is widely accepted so I can run with no concern of bringing my phone. I accept that day is not here yet and that it may not be here for a few more years. iPhones were extremely limited until about the 3rd generation as well.
  7. Bob190 thread starter macrumors 6502

    May 21, 2015
    Great points .. I think your assessment is right on the money.

    Still holding out hope that AW2 has GPS as one of the hardware features .. but early rumors don't seem to be pointing in that direction.

    Would love to see Apple officially open up the diagnostic port under the band to allow 3rd party smart straps (GPS, charging, etc.), but I doubt that will happen.

    Curiously, and off topic, the makers of the ReserveStrap which is a 3rd party battery charging band for the Watch which uses the diagnostic port, say it doesn't violate Apple's requirements for 3rd party bands ... so maybe there is hope.
  8. zhenya macrumors 603


    Jan 6, 2005
    I think an accessory option could be a good one. I would potentially buy an Apple Watch if I could get a small GPS receiver I could pair it with. In fact, in some ways this could be a benefit - many gps watches don't have the battery to last through an ultra - with the AW paired to an external receiver competitors could potentially have multiple receivers they change out as necessary at rest stops.
  9. Newtons Apple macrumors Core

    Newtons Apple

    Mar 12, 2014
    Jacksonville, Florida
    Maybe a GPS in Gen2 but battery power would take a hit. My Fitbit Surge can go 5-6 days without using the GPS but if you use GPS for two days for about 90 minutes each day, the Surge will be screaming for a recharge. As circuits get smaller and smaller they use less power so I can see that maybe one day . . . .
  10. PatrickNSF macrumors 6502


    Jan 24, 2011
    This would be excellent. Slide the Watch into a GPS sports band (with extra battery power) when you want to go for a run, slide the Watch into your stainless link band when your done. It would be genius.

    I would still need some ability to make and receive calls while out, so running without a phone – even on long, training runs – isn't an option for me...yet.
  11. Bob190 thread starter macrumors 6502

    May 21, 2015
    Has anyone with a external Bluetooth GPS unit tried to pair it with the AW? I know you can pair them to an iPhone and iPad.
  12. firewood macrumors 604

    Jul 29, 2003
    Silicon Valley
    WatchOS 2.x currently does not allow access to the Core Bluetooth API, which might make it impossible to connect to any 3rd party GPS add-ons.

    Maybe WatchOS 3 ?
  13. BarracksSi, Jul 17, 2015
    Last edited: Jul 17, 2015

    BarracksSi Suspended


    Jul 14, 2015

    For the moment, download Under Armour Record and connect it with your Garmin account. It logs your Garmin Connect workouts, and I believe it writes them to Health, too.

    I'll go check again and edit my post if I find otherwise.

    [edit] UA Record connects to Garmin and adds its workouts to its own UA data, but it doesn't move Garmin workouts to Health.
  14. sdallnct2 macrumors regular

    May 3, 2015
    I run and I jumped on AW right away over getting a dedicated GPS running watch.

    Last summer I increased my mileage and distance. Moving from mostly 5k's to halfs. I was about to get a dedicated GPS watch when I read about AW and decided to wait for it. And so far pleased I did.

    Since starting running about 4 years ago, I have always run with my iPhone strapped to my arm using the Nike+ GPS. So using AW is great for me.

    And I actually think it a better value than a dedicated GPS running watch. It not only is a display for running but a great fitness tracker. Not to mention notification and such. I wear it 18 hours a day rather than only while running.

    Of course I wish it had GPS, but just don't find it a deal breaker.

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