Best GPS smartwatches and fitness trackers 2024

The best GPS smartwatches don't just have GPS. Yes, your typical smartwatch has other global navigation satellite systems (GNSS) like GLONASS and BeiDou, but it'll only access one at a time. Because of that, obstacles like buildings, mountains, foliage, or even clouds will skew your GPS position, messing up your fitness results.

That's why the best smartwatches for GPS accuracy offer multi-system GNSS or multi-band GPS. "All-systems GNSS" pulls data from multiple satellite systems, since one can substitute its data if the other becomes blocked. "Dual-frequency GPS" is especially accurate because it uses the original L1 satellites and the newer, more accurate L5 satellites with a protected aeronautic frequency and faster signal error correction.

Our picks below aren't just smartwatches with better accuracy on paper. We've actually tested these smartwatches, and have ranked the most accurate models right at the top. Plus, we've included the rare few fitness trackers that offer onboard GPS instead of relying on your smartphone. 

These are the best GPS smartwatches for location accuracy and mapping

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Want a fitness tracker with built-in GPS? Try one of these!

Deciding how much GPS accuracy you actually need

We've described all the different watches with All-Systems GNSS or dual-frequency/ multi-band GPS, but do you actually need those? Or is simple GPS data all you need? Well, it depends on where you typically work out. 

All-Systems mode employs two or more satellite systems at once, but the benefit of this depends on how well alternative systems like GLONASS, GALILEO, BeiDou, or QDZZ actually perform in your area. Garmin says multiple GNSSs help with "increased performance in challenging environments and faster position acquisition than using GPS only," while COROS recommends it for these areas: "city near tall buildings, neighborhoods with significant tree canopies or mountainous/hilly terrain." Overall, this is a useful perk, but you're still liable to deal with reflecting location signals.

Dual-frequency mode offers the most accurate data you can get because it tracks you across L1 and L5 satellite data coming from multiple directions, so if one signal is blocked, you can still count on the other to pick up the slack. Garmin says this delivers "more consistent track logs, improved positioning, improved multi-path errors, and fewer atmospheric errors." COROS recommends it for "rock/ice climbing sheer rock faces in narrow canyons, hiking deep within forests, in between mountain peaks, or near sheer cliff drop-offs such as the Grand Canyon." 

In other words, you may not need dual-frequency tracking outside of extreme conditions, but it's certainly nice to have, and it generally offers better tracking even if you live somewhere totally flat. On the other hand, this mode also consumes the most battery life, so you have to consider which GPS smartwatch will last long enough for your needs.

As for trackers, most of our favorite fitness trackers rely on connected GPS, meaning you need your phone nearby to track your workouts. Most phones have pretty accurate location data on par with what you'd get with a GPS-only smartwatch, so a fitness tracker or watch with built-in GPS lets you run without a phone but doesn't necessarily give you a huge accuracy boost. It's only with All-Systems or dual-frequency that you'll get the best possible performance, which means choosing a bulky fitness watch over a tracker.

Michael L Hicks
Senior Editor, VR/AR and fitness

Michael is Android Central's resident expert on fitness tech and wearables, with an enthusiast's love of VR tech on the side. After years freelancing for Techradar, Wareable, Windows Central, Digital Trends, and other sites on a variety of tech topics, AC has given him the chance to really dive into the topics he's passionate about. He's also a semi-reformed Apple-to-Android user who loves D&D, Star Wars, and Lord of the Rings.

For wearables, Michael has tested dozens of smartwatches from Garmin, Fitbit, Samsung, Apple, COROS, Polar, Amazfit, and other brands, and will always focus on recommending the best product over the best brand. He's also completed marathons like NYC, SF, Marine Corps, Big Sur, and California International — though he's still trying to break that 4-hour barrier.