Series 4 GPS accuracy just terrible

okusai3000

macrumors newbie
Original poster
Jan 30, 2013
22
1
Hello everyone,

I purchased a Series 4 last month and besides of being a funny toy, the GPS works insanely bad. I'm just an amateur runner, but the accuracy it's super far from the cheapest Garmin or Suunto clock. I'm honestly surprised how this could be possible, but it happens all the time.

I have tried:

a) with the phone with me.
b) Without the phone.
c) Workouts; Strava; iSmoothRun

The results are same, being the worst one the workout app.

By the way, I had a series 1 (no gps) that I had to use with the phone with me, and the GPS was also really bad. I thought that the main problem back then was the watch generation, but here the problem persists.

In the following pictures you can see what the series 4 says that I did, and on the second picture, what my colleague did with his Garmin Fenix 5.

upload_2019-6-15_18-34-31.png

upload_2019-6-15_18-39-35.png



upload_2019-6-15_18-37-48.png



upload_2019-6-15_18-38-59.png



Does anyone have any idea what's going on here?

Thank you!
 

QCassidy352

macrumors G4
Mar 20, 2003
10,570
2,660
Bay Area
DC rainmaker has reviewed the Apple Watch and found the GPS to be not the best but not awful. Your results do look kinda abnormally bad.

I guess for me, given the level of running I do at this point in my life, it’s perfectly fine. If I were still competing seriously, I’d probably stick to garmin.
 

Significant1

macrumors 6502a
Dec 20, 2014
707
210
In the workoutdoors thread (https://forums.macrumors.com/threads/workoutdoors-new-workout-features.2134687/page-17#post-27457166), one recommended that you can improve gps reception by rotating the watch "correctly". if you wear the watch on your left wrist change orientation, so the crown is on the left.

There might be something about. When I first had my watch, I was also extremely disappointed about gps accuracy and couldn't understand why it wasn't an issue in the forums. But then I started bringing my phone and extent the distance and didn't notice. But I did also started wearing the crown on the left on my left wrist to avoid sleeves etc. activating it.. But monday I went on a run watch only and the gps accuracy is actually quite good. Comparable to your Fenix 5 example.
 
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Monkswhiskers

macrumors regular
Feb 6, 2018
194
86
In the workoutdoors thread (https://forums.macrumors.com/threads/workoutdoors-new-workout-features.2134687/page-17#post-27457166), one recommended that you can improve gps reception by rotating the watch "correctly". if you wear the watch on your left wrist change orientation, so the crown is on the left.

There might be something about. When I first had my watch, I was also extremely disappointed about gps accuracy and couldn't understand why it wasn't an issue in the forums. But then I started bringing my phone and extent the distance and didn't notice. But I did also started wearing the crown on the left on my left wrist to avoid sleeves etc. activating it.. But monday I went on a run watch only and the gps accuracy is actually quite good. Comparable to your Fenix 5 example.
Yes, this works for series 3, I'm not sure if the build is the same for the series 4, check iFixit for antenna location.
 
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Significant1

macrumors 6502a
Dec 20, 2014
707
210
Yes, this works for series 3, I'm not sure if the build is the same for the series 4, check iFixit for antenna location.
It is not clear in their tear down. They find a yellow donut, they guess is or contain the antennas, but not in detail how the different antennas are laid out. I have a Series 4 40mm and no longer a problem when wearing the crown on the left side on my left wrist. So worth a shot for OP.
 

Monkswhiskers

macrumors regular
Feb 6, 2018
194
86
It is not clear in their tear down. They find a yellow donut, they guess is or contain the antennas, but not in detail how the different antennas are laid out. I have a Series 4 40mm and no longer a problem when wearing the crown on the left side on my left wrist. So worth a shot for OP.
When I first got the watch gps was 30% out, unacceptable. I thought I'd persist for a couple of weeks before selling on and it indeed got better (building satellite cache/dialling in accelerometer metrics perhaps?) I still assumed Garmin would be much better as per their rep, so bought an Instinct. It was certainly no better, slightly worse if anything. Now I look at people's Strava activities (with their various makes and models of devices) and see no difference really. If you want a pretty (but swooshy) track then the workout app is great, more realistic then Strava app or WOD app.
Gps is good for 3m-50m accuracy depending on conditions. As mentioned previously, if you are really anal about distances, get Stryd.

P.S One thing is for sure, Apple will have a dedicated team and resources working on software improvements. DC Rainmaker recently posted about Garmin's abysmal approach to fixing bugs and how it is driving customers away. It seems they are using the old Microsoft model of releasing software half-baked and relying on the users to report all the bugs so they can fix. A bit of a joke seeing how much they charge for their top line watches.
 
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Akrapovic

macrumors 6502a
Aug 29, 2018
535
744
Scotland
For sure rotating the watch and putting the phone into aeroplane mode is a massive improvement on the Watch. Before I was lucky if I could get the route to show within 30m - often it was the wrong street! Now it's almost spot on the whole way.

I've done more runs since that posted WOD thread and given it worse case scenario - under wet trees with thick cloud cover. Still full reception in WOD. Only blip I've had is in a tunnel under a road, which is understandable.

Rotate the Watch. Phone in aeroplane mode.
 

okusai3000

macrumors newbie
Original poster
Jan 30, 2013
22
1
Thanks everyone for their replies. I’ll definitive going to try to rotate the crown.

On the other hand, I have realized today something very important: Both times that I got this kind of terrible results I had the phone with me in airplane mode and it seems that THE WATCH IS STILL CONECTED.

Next time if I carry the phone with me I’ll disable Bluetooth too.
 

xDKP

macrumors 65816
Feb 27, 2011
1,450
1,073
Denmark
Thanks everyone for their replies. I’ll definitive going to try to rotate the crown.

On the other hand, I have realized today something very important: Both times that I got this kind of terrible results I had the phone with me in airplane mode and it seems that THE WATCH IS STILL CONECTED.

Next time if I carry the phone with me I’ll disable Bluetooth too.
Yeah some of the connections persist even if you disable Bluetooth and set it to airplane mode. Try without the phone at all.

I’m a pretty avid runner and have been running many marathons with my Apple watches - my S2 was good on accuracy but feel the S4 is even better with barometer.

I’ve never heard the trick with rotating it though - do we really have data that supports this? Shouldn’t Apple at the very least show people working out with the watch in the rotation?

 

Significant1

macrumors 6502a
Dec 20, 2014
707
210
I’ve never heard the trick with rotating it though - do we really have data that supports this? Shouldn’t Apple at the very least show people working out with the watch in the rotation?

Don't eat everything you see in commercials raw. Besides I am not sure what kind of exersize she is doing, but it is definitely not using gps. The data is what we are trying to establish. There is no right and wrong, else Apple wouldn't make it optionally, but there might be some advantages wearing it a certain way. I think the classic way is having the crown as shown on the picture and what most people are used to. For usability I also prefer it in that orientation, but I get too many false activations and none, when rotating it.
 

Akrapovic

macrumors 6502a
Aug 29, 2018
535
744
Scotland
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Here are runs with the GPS signal data. First set are with the watch orientated normally. With these 3 runs I am attempting to avoid running under tree cover. You can see some pretty larger errors in these. Average signal is terrible and the lines are inaccurate.

Next are 3 runs with the Watch rotated round. I am going for worst case scenario in some of these cases - running under wet tree cover. The average improves drastically. The line is more accurate. There is minimum accuracy is not much worse than the average. The only signal loss was running through a tunnel. The transformation from rotating the watch is remarkable.

5D1AE0BF-7926-49F3-BEBC-DD1EE6143C07.jpeg
70A24828-DD2A-4DB0-8C09-11FB63CC0E77.jpeg
D25F96BD-F6CC-4433-BF6F-C5DF598006C5.jpeg
 

Freakonomics101

macrumors 68020
Nov 6, 2014
2,261
1,408
I don’t know if the Series 3 has this problem but my crown is also on the left and GPS is pretty spot on. I don’t know about results with the crown on the right as I haven’t had it set that way in a couple years now.
 

Monkswhiskers

macrumors regular
Feb 6, 2018
194
86
Hey glad you all like my tip of rotating the watch, no need to thank me but if you all want to club together and buy me a SSSB Series 4 then I wont stop you :]

I think it is a tricky business anyway for gps whilst running as the arm is swimming back and forth so anything to help improve signal is a bonus. If you compare cycling gps tracks there are nowhere near the amount of issues.
 
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xDKP

macrumors 65816
Feb 27, 2011
1,450
1,073
Denmark
View attachment 843283 View attachment 843284 View attachment 843285

Here are runs with the GPS signal data. First set are with the watch orientated normally. With these 3 runs I am attempting to avoid running under tree cover. You can see some pretty larger errors in these. Average signal is terrible and the lines are inaccurate.

Next are 3 runs with the Watch rotated round. I am going for worst case scenario in some of these cases - running under wet tree cover. The average improves drastically. The line is more accurate. There is minimum accuracy is not much worse than the average. The only signal loss was running through a tunnel. The transformation from rotating the watch is remarkable.

View attachment 843286 View attachment 843287 View attachment 843288
Thanks - that's pretty impressive difference.... I've just rotated it and will try it out on my run tomorrow.. It's a trip around a 10K lake we run every Tuesday a couple of friends, so I have a lot of data on it.

What app is this you use?
 
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Akrapovic

macrumors 6502a
Aug 29, 2018
535
744
Scotland
The app in those screenshots is WorkOutDoors. I use that to record the runs because it has a great map interface on the Watch (so you can explore new routes!) and because the iPhone app is incredibly detailed, so you can see things like the GPS accuracy. From there you can export to Strava, either through the app itself, or using HealthFit to sync it.

I fully endorse the rotate the watch so the 'bottom' is at the top when you run, and iPhone in aeroplane mode.
 
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okusai3000

macrumors newbie
Original poster
Jan 30, 2013
22
1
The app in those screenshots is WorkOutDoors. I use that to record the runs because it has a great map interface on the Watch (so you can explore new routes!) and because the iPhone app is incredibly detailed, so you can see things like the GPS accuracy. From there you can export to Strava, either through the app itself, or using HealthFit to sync it.

I fully endorse the rotate the watch so the 'bottom' is at the top when you run, and iPhone in aeroplane mode.
Folks, remember that airplane mode on the iPhone keeps connected the watch. You must disable Bluetooth in the phone or airplane mode on the watch.
 
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Akrapovic

macrumors 6502a
Aug 29, 2018
535
744
Scotland
Folks, remember that airplane mode on the iPhone keeps connected the watch. You must disable Bluetooth in the phone or airplane mode on the watch.
It doesn't matter if the Watch is connected to the phone or not. There are 2 GPS sources - Watch and Phone. iOS does not differeniate between these sources. It combines them into 1 data stream, and provides that combined source to the applications. By putting your phone in aeroplane mode, you're forcing the Watch to use the Watch GPS. The connection between the Watch and Phone doesn't matter. Having only 1 GPS source is what matters.

You could also leave your phone at home and run without it if you want. But start the run when you're a significant distance away, otherwise you'll jump between the sources.
 

Significant1

macrumors 6502a
Dec 20, 2014
707
210
It doesn't matter if the Watch is connected to the phone or not. There are 2 GPS sources - Watch and Phone. iOS does not differeniate between these sources. It combines them into 1 data stream, and provides that combined source to the applications."

By putting your phone in aeroplane mode, you're forcing the Watch to use the Watch GPS. The connection between the Watch and Phone doesn't matter. Having only 1 GPS source is what matters.
Do you have any documentation to this?
In order to save battery, I really doubt the watch, will keep the gps running when connected to iPhone.
 

Akrapovic

macrumors 6502a
Aug 29, 2018
535
744
Scotland
Do you have any documentation to this?
In order to save battery, I really doubt the watch, will keep the gps running when connected to iPhone.
It probably does turn off the Watch GPS to save battery, but the apps are unaware of that. They are just presented with GPS data - it does not differentiate between the Phone and the Watch. So your Watch app has no idea if it's getting the GPS data from the Watch or the phone. Isolate the phone and you know you'll only have 1 GPS data source.

https://forums.macrumors.com/threads/workoutdoors-new-workout-features.2134687/page-16#post-27403475

It's also very easy to test. Do a series of runs. With the phone (no aeroplane), without the phone and with the phone in aeroplane mode. You'll see the difference. Use WorkOutDoors to review the signal strength afterwards. Significant difference with the phone in aeroplane mode, and an even larger difference with watch rotated round.

I'd highly recommend anyone who is unhappy with the GPS performance try this. I was so unhappy with the GPS that I was even looking at getting rid of the AW and moving to something more 'pro'. But since I found these tricks I'm super happy with it. Complete 180 for me.
 

okusai3000

macrumors newbie
Original poster
Jan 30, 2013
22
1
The thing is that the GPS it’s not turned off on the airplane mode. You can give it a try. That’s why you need to disable Bluetooth.
 

Akrapovic

macrumors 6502a
Aug 29, 2018
535
744
Scotland
The thing is that the GPS it’s not turned off on the airplane mode. You can give it a try. That’s why you need to disable Bluetooth.
Loaded Apple Maps and Footpath in Aeroplane mode. Neither find my poisition. Also, in aeroplane mode and Bluetooth turned itself off, and the Watch has the red "no contact with phone" icon on it.

You started the thread saying the GPS was terrible (and I agree!), but I've given you some things to try which flipped my opinion on it. I went from getting rid of the Watch to being delighted by it. Whether you believe them or not, give them a try. They are almost certainly fixes for your problem.
 

Significant1

macrumors 6502a
Dec 20, 2014
707
210
The thing is that the GPS it’s not turned off on the airplane mode. You can give it a try. That’s why you need to disable Bluetooth.
If you put your phone in airplane mode, it disconnect the watch. I testet. So you will not be using the phone gps receiver in airplane mode.

However, it is correct, that if you want to disconnect without using airplane mode, it is not enough to just disable BT in control center, you have to do it in settings.