Most smartwatches these days have built-in GPS, plus other global navigation satellite systems (GNSS) like GLONASS and BeiDou, so you can get accurate workout tracking without needing your phone for connected GPS. But only a rare few fitness trackers support the technology, possibly because it makes them too heavy or bulky. So we'll help you find those rare few trackers that let you leave your phone behind.
Also, a rare few smartwatches support more accurate tracking like All-Systems GNSS, which accesses multiple satellite systems simultaneously for more accurate results. And the newest technology is dual-frequency GPS, which accesses L1 and L5 GPS data for multiple angles on your position that can help bypass major obstructions like mountains, buildings, or foliage.
So when it comes to the best GPS smartwatches & fitness trackers, we'll try to lay out all of the models that give you the best possible accuracy for your training; otherwise, we'll simply name some of the best fitness watches that happen to have GPS data.
These are the best GPS smartwatches for location accuracy and mapping
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The most accurate GPS smartwatch
Aside from being our top pick for the best running watches, the Forerunner 265 supports both All-Systems GNSS and dual-frequency GPS. Our reviewer found its post-workout maps extremely accurate in areas where foliage and buildings thwart GPS-only watches. It lasts 16 hours in SatIQ mode, which switches to dual-frequency when the signal gets weak but otherwise uses battery-saving GPS.
Same tech, better battery and maps
The Garmin Forerunner 955 has the same perks as the 265 for a slightly higher price, but lasts a full 20 hours in dual-frequency GPS mode or over 30 hours in SatIQ mode. Just as accurate as the 265 in our tests, the 955 takes more advantage of your location data with tools like full-color maps and turn-by-turn navigation. Just keep in mind that if you want an AMOLED display, you'll have to upgrade to the Forerunner 965.
True All-Systems GNSS
Some "all-systems" modes don't actually live up to the name and only use two satellite systems at once. The COROS APEX 2 Pro actually does use all five GNSS systems at once, and also supports dual-frequency GPS mode. And it has an absurd battery life capacity: 75 GPS-only/ 45 All-Systems/ 26 dual frequency. Like the Forerunner 955, it has a touchscreen, color maps, and in-depth running metrics.
Hardcore fitness for iPhones
We haven't tested the Apple Watch Ultra, but our iMore colleagues gave it a very positive review, praising its software tools for running and hiking and its 36-hour battery life (nothing compared to a Garmin, but very decent for a lifestyle watch). It has dual-frequency GPS tracking, though no all-systems mode. If you use an iPhone and can stomach the price, it's a surprisingly strong runner's watch.
Affordable all-systems tracker
Unlike the Pro version, the COROS APEX 2 doesn't have dual-frequency GPS, but it does have all-systems GNSS support. With its Titanium/ Sapphire Glass build, lightweight nylon strap, and an excellent 45 GPS-only/ 28 All-Systems hours, the APEX 2 is a solid option that saves you money compared to the Pro.
Dual-band + MaxTrack accuracy
Most recent Amazfit watches have dual-band tracking, but the latest Cheetah Pro goes beyond L1/L5 and six GNSSs signals; it has a new "circularly-polarized" satellite that the brand claims is "99.5% as accurate as a professional gold standard GPS locator." This watch has a 1,000-nit AMOLED display and can download GPX maps for your runs. We're currently reviewing the Cheetah Pro's accuracy for ourselves, but we're optimistic.
Rugged dual-band fitness
The Amazfit T-Rex 2 gives you dual-band and all-systems tracking in its GPS Accuracy mode, and at a much lower price point than most of the other GPS smartwatches on our list. We're big fans of its bright display, military-grade protection, and decent number of fitness sensors for health data. Even without MaxTrack, it's pretty darn accurate for GPS.
Top-tier mapping tools
The Garmin Fenix 7 is the most hardcore option on our list. Aside from the usual dual-frequency/ all-systems data, the Fenix 7 has full-color topographical maps, GPX downloads, Nextfork map guides to keep you on your trail, ski resort maps, golf course maps, nearby hiking checkpoints, and other tools that help you know where you are at all times.
Your Android "pro" option
We've mostly emphasized fitness watches over traditional Android watches on this list. The Galaxy Watch 5 Pro only lets you use one GNSS like GPS at a time, but its 80-hour battery life is among the best ever for its type of watch, and it lets you download offline GPX maps if you don't have a signal for Google Maps.
Want a fitness tracker with built-in GPS? Try one of these!
Our favorite tracker
One of the rare fitness trackers with built-in GPS, the Charge 5 also has a ton of health sensors, NFC tap-to-pay, and an attractive 1-inch AMOLED display. It comes with six months of Fitbit Premium, so you can get feedback on your current health and fitness progress.
Basically a mini-smartwatch
We're including this on our list of fitness trackers with built-in GPS even though it's barely a tracker with a display this size. The Xiaomi Smart Band 7 Pro gives you the same perks as the popular Mi Band 7, but adds GPS, a wider AMOLED display with an always-on option, and a larger battery. This "Pro" watch is still a budget option, and doesn't require a subscription like a Fitbit.
The Fitbit Charge 4 isn't something we necessarily recommend buying anymore, now that the Charge 5 has supplanted it, but it does have built-in GPS, a rarity for trackers these days. It lasts seven days per charge and has both heart rate and blood oxygen tracking.
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.
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Michael spent years freelancing on every tech topic under the sun before settling down on the real exciting stuff: virtual reality, fitness wearables, gaming, and how tech intersects with our world. He's a semi-reformed Apple-to-Android user who loves running, D&D, and Star Wars. Find him on Twitter at @Michael_L_Hicks.