Of all the features you look for in a fitness-focused smartwatch, GPS consistency is the most important when you’re running (or walking, biking, hiking). After months using the Galaxy Watch Active, then Active 2, I just got tired of being frustrated by its inconsistent GPS.
If your GPS isn’t accurate and consistent, nothing else matters.
It’s not that GPS on the Watch Active 2 is particularly bad in most cases. In a wide-open field or walking path, or running along suburban streets, things were well within a normal margin of error for a wrist-worn GPS tracker. The issues come with how it handles edge cases. Running in a city with tall buildings and tree-lined streets, moving around cars and construction areas, pausing and resuming at various points all introduce problems. The watch’s GPS (and software) just can’t handle and correct for these grey areas, and the accuracy really starts to drift.
I started to notice it when running the same routes over and over again, getting notably different distance- and pace numbers. I confirmed it when I started running the same route with multiple watches. In one test with my Garmin, Watch Active 2 and Puma Smartwatch, the Garmin was less than 1% off of my pre-mapped distance, while the Active 2 was 6.4% off and the Puma was an absurd 13.5% off — that’s unacceptable. On some long runs with friends, my Watch Active 2 has been off as much as 1 mile every 10. That’s a lot, and I quickly lost confidence that the numbers I was being shown on my wrist during a run, and eventually at the end, were accurate. That makes comparing run-to-run performance, and training for specific goals, really difficult.
My Garmin is just accurate. Every time. No matter how I run, where I go, how often I pause and resume, or anything else. Side-by-side with a friend wearing a Garmin we’re typically accurate to one another in the hundredths of a mile. At worst we’ve been separated by 0.15 mile (about 800 feet) over a 10-mile run — I can live with that.
Physical buttons really do beat touch screens
This content was originally published here.