Looking for a running smartwatch with built-in GPS that’ll accurately track your runs, and help you get more from them? We hear you. Whether you are looking for a smartwatch that’ll track basic data such as your step count and calories burned, or a more advanced smartwatch that’ll gather stride length and vertical ratio metrics, there’s a device out there for you.
Running GPS smartwatches come in all shapes and sizes, and some are more capable than others. In this article, we’ll take a look at some of the best.
Here are our top running GPS smartwatches, curated for this year
New Balance RunIQ
A reasonably priced, Strava integrated smartwatch for running with built-in GPS
- Sleek, cool, stylish design
- Bright display for daytime running
- Strava integration
- A few years old now
- GPS battery life not great
The New Balance RunIQ smartwatch has a crystal clear, 400 x 400 resolution, 1.39” AMOLED screen. This gives it great visibility if you’re running at night or on a sunny day. It comes with a 410mAh battery which will allow you a full day of battery, but only about 5 hours when it’s in GPS mode.
It is powered by an Intel Atom Z34ZZ processor, and comes with 512MB of RAM, and has 4GB of internal storage. This makes it very capable of managing most tasks, but it can lag at certain times.
New Balance has also integrated with Strava, which is good news for Strava users.
Great running watch, fitness tracker, and smartwatch all-in-one
- GPS and Glonass location features
- Bad compatibility with iOS
- Limited battery life with iOS
Inside the Polar M600, there is a MediaTek MT2601 dual-core 1.2 GHz processor, 4 GB of in-built storage, and 512MB of RAM. This means it can handle nearly any app that you can load on to the Wear OS 2.0.
In addition to this, there is a 1.30” 240 x 240 resolution TFT display, protected by Gorilla Glass 3. This won’t be as crisp as some of the others on this list, but it enough for all of your running needs.
In terms of location features, the Polar M600 uses both GPS and Glonass. This will give you accurate data, but not for long: the battery in GPS mode will last 4 hours on Android and even less with iOS.
Apple Watch Series 5
Best GPS smartwatch for iPhone compatibility
- Partnership with Nike
- Always active display
- High price-point
The Apple Watch Series 5 comes in a number of designs, and there are loads of ways for you to customise the watch. Importantly, Apple have teamed up with Nike so that the watch integrates perfectly with the Nike+ Run Club app.
You’ll find flawless data on your activities, which will automatically sync, and give you insightful analysis. The Run Club app also has guided workouts and more.
The screen on the Series 5 has an ambient light sensor which automatically adjusts the screen brightness. It is also always active, dimming slightly (but totally visible still), when the accelerometer detects your wrist is at your side.
The only downside to this smartwatch is the price-point, which may be too high for some. But, if you’re already in the Apple ecosystem then it’s basically a shoo-in with their other devices.
Moto 360 Sport
- AnyLight display
- Competitively priced
- Battery life on GPS not amazing
- No advanced tracking features
One of the key features that the Moto 360 boats is its proprietary AnyLight display. In effect, the watch has two screens: a normal LCD display, and a transflective display. This means the screen is highly readable in any light and will allow you to exercise in any environment – be careful, the switch between the two modes is very abrupt.
Inside you’ll find a Snapdragon 400 quad-core 1.2 GHz processor, 4 GB of onboard storage, and 512 MB of RAM. This is plenty enough power to do the tasks you’ll need of it, and enough storage to keep an album or two on there.
The 360 comes with a 300 mAh battery, which means daily charging each night is a necessity (about 14 hours of life). But, when using this smartwatch with built-in GPS, this will drop to about 4 hours. Enough for a quick marathon or you average 5k-10k weekend runs.
Garmin Vivoactive HR
- Amazing battery life
- Great tracking and integration with Garmin
- Small screen
The first noteworthy thing about the Vivoactive HR is its integration with the Garmin fitness suite of apps.
The screen on the Vivoactive HR feels a little outdated. It comes in at 0.8” x 1.13” in size, and has a resolution of 205 x 148 pixels. This can make it hard to read in brighter lighting conditions, but this is the sacrifice that Garmin has chosen to make in order to extend battery life.
The battery life of the Garmin Vivoactive HR is about 5 days with normal use, which is impressive for a smartwatch. And, in GPS mode, you get an astonishing 13 hours. That’s more than enough for your weekend runs, marathons, or ultras.
Garmin Fenix 6
- GPS and Glonass tracking
- Uses Garmin proprietary software
- No touch screen
The Garmin Fenix 6 has impressive locations features and connectivity. It includes GPS and Glonass tracking, which will give you unrivalled detail and precision in your tracking data. Alongside this, the Fenix 6 uses Garmin’s own specialist software, which means you’ll be getting much better data and analysis than the Google Wear OS or Watch OS.
If you want a GPS smartwatch with a touch screen, then steer clear of the Fenix 6. In order to be versatile in all environments, the touch screen has been sacrificed, and you navigate the menus with the mechanical side buttons.
The watch is expensive, but this will get you an impressive 14 days of battery life, 36 hours in GPS mode.
Garmin Forerunner Series
- Relatively cheap
- Great for runners
- Easy to use
- Limited features aside from running
- Basic music controls
The Garmin Forerunner series are high-performance smartwatches that have been designed specifically for runners. It offers advanced running metrics, just as ground contact time and stride length, to help you get more from your runs.
Ground contact time, balance, stride length, and vertical ratio metrics are available. These are not available with any Android Wear smartwatch. It also offers a stress core, performance condition, and lactate threshold function.
As you run, the Forerunner series analyses your pace, heart rate, and heart rate variability and presents that data as an assessment for your fitness. The software is intuitive and easy to use, with charts, graphs, and maps. In addition to all these things, the Forerunner offers email, call, text, and calendar push notifications.
- Competitively priced
- No phone needed for GPS
- Not precise tracking data
- Step count is inflated
The Fitbit Surge comes with a 1.25” always-on, backlit screen which will allow you decent visibility in most lighting conditions. This is a consequence of the screen being monochrome.
Unlike the other similarly priced Fitbits, the Surge’s GPS satellite tracking allows you to leave your phone at home and still track your full runs. This is a real step-up from some of the other Fitbit models. The tracking data, however, can be a little imprecise compared to high-end GPS smartwatches, and some corners might be rounded, or paths moved over. In addition to this, the step count is often inflated, and the Surge reports many more steps than one has taken.
The battery life is pretty good for day to day use, and you can get about 4 days without charging and using standard activity tracking. However, when you turn off the GPS this will plummet significantly.
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- Fitness points
- Personalized workouts
- Waterproof up to 40m
- Strap is a bit flimsy
- A few activities missing
The TomTom Spark 3rd Edition bridges the gap between fitness tracker and smartwatch. It offers push notifications and Bluetooth music streaming as a smartwatch should but transcends Android Wear’s fitness tracking capability with TomTom’s specialized OS.
With GPS and heart-rate monitoring, the Spark will track all your runs perfectly. You can setup running goals, and you’ll be rewarded with a vibration and a badge should you hit any of your targets. It’s a simple but effective way to keep you motivated.
When you get running, the TomTom has a three-way split screen showing your calories burned, the time of your workout, and the average pace. But distance, lap pace, and heart rate can also be assigned to the split-screen. The GPS tracking is reliable and consistent, and the TomTom Spark 3 has a 24-hour battery life.