You may have stumbled across the term connected GPS, especially when reading about Fitbit’s line of smartwatches and fitness trackers. There’s actually a pretty big distinction between connected GPS and built-in GPS, which we’ll talk all about in this article.
What is connected GPS?
The term connected GPS is a fitness company’s way of saying a wearable can tether to your smartphone’s GPS, but it doesn’t have a GPS sensor built in. Connected GPS is an easy way for a manufacturer to add GPS functionality to any device. Instead of including a GPS sensor directly in a wearable, the wearable can tether off your phone’s built-in GPS hardware. This brings down the overall cost and physical size of the device, as a manufacturer wouldn’t need to spend the extra money or physical space on a standalone GPS sensor.
On the other hand, there’s one big downside to using a device with connected GPS over one that has a GPS built in: the wearable is heavily reliant on another device to use its full potential. So, if you want to use GPS functionality on a connected GPS-enabled device, you’ll also need to carry your phone with you.
Which devices have connected GPS?
Most devices you can buy today with connected GPS are fitness trackers, including many Fitbit device. The Fitbit Versa, Versa Lite, Fitbit Inspire, and Inspire HR fall into this category. Other wearables not made by Fitbit also have connected GPS functionality, including the Xiaomi Mi Band 4, Withings Move, and more. Here are a few of our favorite devices with connected GPS:
Though connected GPS is a great feature to have, many other manufacturers opt for built-in GPS technology instead. Some of the latest smartwatches like the Fossil’s Gen 5 smartwatch line, the Samsung Galaxy Watch Active 2, and the Misfit Vapor X all have built-in GPS functionality. There are seemingly countless other devices, new and old, with built-in GPS. Here are some of our favorites:
- Fitbit Ionic
- Garmin Vivosport
- Garmin’s Forerunner 245 Music
- Garmin Vivoactive 3 and Vivoactive 3 Music
- Samsung Galaxy Watch
In an even bigger cost-saving measure, some manufacturers completely skip adding GPS (connected GPS and built-in GPS) to their devices. The Samsung Galaxy Fit and Garmin Vivosmart 4 are prime examples. Though both companies make good fitness trackers, this little omission makes them a hard sell over something like what Xiaomi is offering given its price point.
What is the best option for you?
In the end, what kind of GPS functionality you need is primarily dependent on your physical activity. If you are an outdoor runner, cyclist, or swimmer, and you want to track your workouts as accurately as possible, you should purchase a device with built-in GPS. Garmin has a ton of GPS running watches available with built-in GPS, and the Fitbit Ionic is pretty great too.
If you work out in a gym or you don’t mind carrying your phone or mounting it to your bike, connected GPS is a great option, especially one of Fitbit’s connected GPS offerings. Smartphones today have excellent GPS technology built-in, so you can rely on high-end technology without paying a high-end price tag.
If you rarely work out, or you never use GPS when you do, it simply comes down to personal preference. Style aside, devices with connected GPS are usually more budget-friendly. They also typically have a smaller profile, so if you are someone who wants to wear a traditional watch as well as a fitness tracker, one of these devices would be a better option.
I am no competitive athlete, and I personally prefer Wear OS devices, so I would be more inclined to grab something like the Fossil Sport or Mobvoi’s TicWatch Pro. But, if I wanted to save some money and all I wanted was a device to extend my phone’s functionality and maybe count my steps, it would be really hard to pass on the Xiaomi Mi Band 4.