Garmin Forerunner 245 Music Source: Garmin

Best Smartwatches and Fitness Trackers with GPS Android Central 2020

Whether you're a casual or professional athlete, GPS is often one of the most sought-after features when buying a smartwatch or fitness tracker. Depending on your budget and what other features you're seeking, there are some great options out there, but you'll often have to pay more for the privilege. If you're serious about tracking your activities and want all of the details plus built-in GPS, we'd recommend the Garmin Forerunner 245 Music. It has plenty to offer, especially if you're a highly active individual who's committed to detailed fitness tracking.

Best Overall: Garmin Forerunner 245 Music

Garmin Forerunner 245 MusicSource: Garmin

If you enjoy exercise just as much as you enjoy tracking it, you'll love the Garmin Forerunner 245 Music. It comes with built-in GPS that's reliable and accurate. It also promises at least seven days of battery life in smartwatch mode. You'll get a total of sox hours in continuous GPS mode with music playing, which is more than enough juice to track even your most active day of workouts. Whether you're cycling, swimming, indoor rowing, or stair-stepping, the Garmin Forerunner 245 Music can track it, and you can listen to sweet tunes while doing it.

This GPS smartwatch also boasts 24/7 heart rate monitoring, stress/sleep tracking, a Pulse Ox sensor, VO2 max estimation, which is a feature the measures the maximum amount of oxygen you use during an intense workout, and more. You'll have support for Garmin Coach and Running Dynamics so you can set your goals and monitor your progress as you work to achieve them. The training status feature will let you know when you're training too hard or falling short. The training effect feature tells you how your workouts are influencing your speed and endurance.

It may not support other smartwatch features, like NFC payments, but you still get impressive activity tracking, notifications, onboard music storage plus streaming, Wi-Fi connectivity, and, of course, convenient onboard GPS.

Pros:

  • Excellent battery life
  • Music streaming & storage
  • 5 ATM water resistance
  • In-depth fitness tracking
  • Pulse Ox sensor
  • Stress/sleep monitoring

Cons:

  • Few smartwatch features
  • Not an attractive design
  • Hefty price tag

Best Overall

Garmin Forerunner 245 Music

For fitness and feature lovers

The Garmin Forerunner 245 is the perfect GPS running smartwatch with Wi-Fi, music storage, heart-rate monitoring, and more.

Best Smartwatch Features: Samsung Galaxy Watch Active 2

Galaxy Watch Active 2Source: Android Central

Those who want a GPS-enabled wearable that is designed for activity tracking and beyond will likely want something with more smartwatch features. The Samsung Galaxy Watch Active 2 is one of the most well-rounded options out there. Its lightweight design is subtle but appealing and has a crisp, colorful touchscreen display. Navigation is especially easy thanks to the digital rotating bezel. These smartwatches run on Tizen OS, which is smooth and simple once you get past the inevitable learning curve. Battery life lasts for 2-3 days depending on how you use the watch, but that's not bad compared to other wearables that require daily charging.

The Samsung Galaxy Watch Active 2 is more than a pretty face. It's also got automatic activity tracking for six workouts, 39 additional workouts, heart-rate monitoring, and sleep/stress tracking. The new-and-improved Running Coach provides real-time pace metrics with a rundown of what to expect from your workout. This feature also offers audio cues via the external speaker or Bluetooth headphones.  

There's an LTE version of this smartwatch for those who want the full experience, but you'll have to pay more for it. Regardless of which model you choose, you'll enjoy notifications, Wi-Fi, Samsung Pay, music storage, well-rounded activity tracking, and a trusty GPS. While third-party app support could be better, it's hard to complain about that with everything else that you get.

Pros:

  • Lightweight, attractive design
  • 5 ATM water resistance
  • Stress/sleep tracking
  • Automatic activity tracking
  • Heart-rate monitoring
  • Optional LTE

Cons:

  • Third-party app support is lacking
  • Tizen OS takes practice
  • LTE version can get expensive

Best Smartwatch Features

Samsung Galaxy Watch Active 2

A well-rounded wearable

As one of Samsung's newest wearables, the Galaxy Watch Active 2 lives up to the hype.

Best Value: Garmin Forerunner 35

Garmin Forerunner 35 PressSource: Garmin

Want a GPS smartwatch that can track the basics but you don't have to break the bank for it? The Garmin Forerunner 35 might just be what you're looking for. It's one of Garmin's most budget-friendly trackers that has both GPS and a heart-rate sensor. You'll enjoy all of the basic benefits as far as tracking is concerned. It's not going to have multi-sport modes or advanced training metrics that pro athletes might want, but it has plenty to offer the casual runner.

You can count on the Forerunner 35 to track your steps, distance, time, pace, and calories burned. It has the ability to store up to seven activities, too. If you're a fan of interval training, this watch allows you to set a length of time for a chosen activity, the rest time, and the number of intervals you want to complete. You can expect nine days of battery life in smartwatch mode and 13 hours in GPS mode. You'll have music controls and smartphone notifications as well.

The swimproof design makes it water resistant up to 50 meters, but there is no swim mode on the Garmin Forerunner 35. You won't have more advanced smartwatch features, like NFC payments or music storage, but you can't argue that this affordable GPS smartwatch does a great job of covering the basics.

Pros:

  • Great battery life
  • Activity/sleep tracking
  • Heart-rate monitoring
  • Interval training
  • 5 ATM water resistance
  • Music controls

Cons:

  • Lacks key smartwatch features
  • No swim tracking

Best Value

Garmin Forerunner 35

The basics and then some

If you want a smartwatch with GPS that takes care of the basics nicely, the Forerunner 35 will impress you.

Best Premium Pick: Apple Watch Series 5

Apple Watch Series 5Source: Android Central

If you're all about the "go big or go home" mentality when it comes to wearables, you might not be afraid to spend money on a premium smartwatch. One such option is the Apple Watch Series 5. It's definitely not cheap, but it's got a lot of features to back up the price tag. This new edition has an always-on display, which is a simple but helpful feature to have on a smartwatch. The display will still go to sleep when not in use to conserve battery, but the screen will still be visible in a dim low-power mode.

In addition to onboard GPS, activity tracking, and heart-rate monitoring, the Apple Watch Series 5 also has a built-in electrocardiogram (ECG). This feature can detect an irregular heartbeat that could be a sign of a more serious health condition. If you opt for the cellular version, you'll be able to use the international emergency calling feature without having your phone nearby. There's also a digital compass for recording and showing heading, incline, latitude, longitude, and elevation. This might be a bit basic but some users will find it handy.

You'll have some other perks, like 5 ATM water resistance, Apple Pay, notifications, extensive app support, and a whopping 32GB of storage. You won't have sleep monitoring and you should be prepared to charge this smartwatch daily with its subpar 18-hour battery life.

Pros:

  • Optional LTE
  • 5 ATM water resistance
  • Heart-rate monitoring
  • Built-in ECG
  • Emergency calling
  • Apple Pay

Cons:

  • Short battery life
  • No sleep tracking
  • Expensive

Best Premium Pick

Apple Watch Series 5

Never settle for less

The Apple Watch 5 has a lot more to offer than GPS, including great health and activity tracking features.

Best Oversized Option: TicWatch Pro

TicWatch ProSource: Android Central

Another excellent GPS smartwatch is the TicWatch Pro. This wearable is large and in charge, which is ideal for those who want a screen that's easy to read with a quick glance. It has a unique dual-layer display that helps extend the battery life of the watch. When in Smart Mode, the TicWatch Pro uses the typical AMOLED display in conjunction with the LCD panel for approximately 2-5 days of juice. As for Essential Mode, this enables the LCD without any color. You'll be able to focus on fitness tracking with impressive outdoor visibility and up to 30 days of battery life.

The TicWatch Pro is packed with smartwatch and tracking features. Other than the built-in GPS, it can track your steps, calories, distance, and cadence throughout the day while also monitoring your heart rate. All of your tracking will be synced to Google Fit. Other helpful features include notifications, Google Pay, Google Assistant, Wi-Fi, and more.

Keep in mind that using Essential Mode can be a pain. It turns off Wear OS, which can take a while to boot back up. It also turns off Bluetooth, so you won't feel a buzz for notifications. Don't expect this watch to be fully waterproof, either. It's only rated IP68 so you'll be protected against splashes and dust, but that's about it. Many people enjoy large smartwatches, but users with small wrists might find this one to be a bit much.

Pros:

  • Large, easy-to-read screen
  • Unique dual layer display
  • Heart-rate monitoring
  • Multiple battery modes
  • Activity tracking
  • Google Pay and Google Assistant

Cons:

  • Too bulky for small wrists
  • Essential Mode is annoying to use
  • A bit rugged looking
  • Only IP68 water/dust resistance

Best Oversized Option

TicWatch Pro

The biggest of them all

The TicWatch Pro may not be for tiny wrists, but there is a certain audience that will appreciate this giant GPS smartwatch.

Best Compact Tracker: Garmin Vivosport

Garmin Vivsport Family HeroSource: Garmin

Perhaps you're here because all you want is a fitness tracker with GPS. While many trackers can connect to your smartphone's GPS, it's a lot harder to find a fitness tracker with onboard GPS. But Garmin offers the Vivosport, which is an ideal solution for those who don't want a full-on smartwatch. It's not the company's newest tracker by any means, but it does have what you need for a successful tracking experience. 

Along with the GPS and basic activity tracking, you also get heart-rate monitoring, sleep and stress tracking, automatic exercise detection, and 5 ATM water resistance. It even has VO2 max estimation. The Fitness Age feature analyzes your data and tells you what your estimated age is in regards to fitness. That's not bad for a compact tracker that won't weigh you down during your activities. Not to mention, the battery lasts for a full week before you need to charge it again.

As mighty as this tiny tracker might be, don't expect it to function like a smartwatch. Unfortunately, it doesn't have any buttons, so all of your navigating will take place on the small touchscreen. This can be frustrating at times and take a while to select a particular activity. It's swimproof but there is no dedicated swim tracking mode, which is a missed opportunity.

Pros:

  • Solid battery life
  • Automatic exercise tracking
  • 5 ATM water resistance
  • Activity/sleep tracking
  • VO2 max estimation
  • Heart-rate monitoring

Cons:

  • No swim mode
  • Bland design
  • Small screen can be tricky to navigate

Best Compact Tracker

Garmin Vivosport

A compact tracking solution

Want it all but don't want to spend a fortune on it? Do you just want a fitness tracker? The Garmin Vivosport is for you.

Best for Newbies: Fossil Sport

Fossil SportSource: Android Central

If you're a beginner in the fitness tracking realm, you'd benefit from a smartwatch like the Fossil Sport. Not only is it affordable, but it offers some key features that will enhance your wearable experience. You'll love having onboard GPS on your wrist along with 24/7 heart-monitoring, NFC for Google Pay, Google Assistant, activity tracking with Google Fit, and 5 ATM water resistance.

The Fossil Sport comes in a sweat-resistant plastic frame along with a soft rubber band for all-day comfort. There are various vibrant color schemes to choose from, too. One of the biggest Wear OS gripes was the old Snapdragon Wear 2100 processor. Fortunately, this device is running the new Snapdragon Wear 3100, so it's not as sluggish as some of Fossil's previous models.

As you might've gathered by now, every smartwatch has its flaws. With the Fossil Sport, it's definitely the short battery life and mediocre performance. The only consolation here is a low-power mode that promises to extend the battery life, but you won't be able to do much more than tell time and that defeats the purpose of owning a smartwatch in the first place.

Pros:

  • 5 ATM water resistance
  • Heart-rate monitoring
  • Snapdragon Wear 3100
  • Google Assistant
  • Google Pay
  • Bright, colorful design

Cons:

  • Battery only lasts a day
  • Wear OS still lags

Best for Newbies

Fossil Sport

Perfect for beginners

The Fossil Sport is an extremely comfortable smartwatch with a workout-friendly design that's both functional and appealing.

Best for Style: Garmin Vivoactive 4

Garmin Vivoactive 4Source: Garmin

One of Garmin's newest arrivals is the Vivoactive 4, which brings with it some noteworthy improvements. For starters, you'll be able to choose between a 40mm and 45mm model. You get an extra day of battery life with the larger version, which gives you eight days in smartwatch mode and six hours in GPS with music mode. When it comes to the features, you'll love having onboard GPS, 5 ATM water resistance, a Pulse Ox sensor that tracks blood oxygen saturation levels, stress/sleep tracking, and heart-rate monitoring.

Whether you're hitting the elliptical, going for a run, or relaxing with some yoga, the Vivoactive 4 has sport modes for just about anything you can think of. There is also a Body Battery feature that allows you to check your energy levels throughout the day by analyzing your key metrics. This is especially helpful when you want to schedule your exercise and rest periods at optimal times based on your energy levels.

There aren't too many downsides to this GPS smartwatch. If you pick the bigger 45mm model, you'll only have two color choices: slate or silver. The Vivoactive 4 uses the standard transflective display that's often found on Garmin wearables. Given the price tag, a higher quality display would have been nice to see here.

Pros:

  • Long-lasting battery
  • Stylish smartwatch
  • 5 ATM water resistance
  • Heart-rate monitoring
  • In-depth fitness tracking
  • Music storage

Cons:

  • Pretty pricey
  • Display could be better

Best for Style

Garmin Vivoactive 4

Style and performance in one

Garmin understands that a smartwatch can be both fashionable and functional, which is what the Vivoactive 4 is for.

Best for Fitbit Fans: Fitbit Ionic

Fitbit IonicSource: Android Central

If you've already dabbled in the Fitbit ecosystem and you'd rather not have to learn a whole new operating system, the Ionic should be right up your alley. While this smartwatch could definitely use a refresh, it's still a good pick for those who want built-in GPS. It offers 5-day battery life and can track activity, sleep, heart rate, pace, calories, and distance. You'll enjoy an Automatic Exercise Recognition feature, which lets you automatically record select exercises like running, biking, and more.

However, if you fancy yourself a fashion guru when it comes to smartwatch selection, the Fitbit Ionic may not be for you. The boxy design isn't exactly attractive and while a large screen is nice to have, it's a bit overdone here and can start to feel bulky. If you're able to get past that, the high-resolution color touchscreen provides you with easy navigation. This smartwatch also comes with music storage for 300+ songs and Fitbit Pay.

The Fitbit Ionic isn't a new smartwatch by any means but, with that said, it does deliver on some important points. You get built-in GPS along with a decent fitness tracking suite, long battery life, and some great smartwatch features.

Pros:

  • Up to 5 days of battery life
  • 5 ATM water resistance
  • Heart-rate monitoring
  • Activity/sleep tracking
  • Automatic exercise recognition
  • Music storage

Cons:

  • Bulky on the wrist
  • Unattractive design

Best for Fitbit Fans

Fitbit Ionic

Go the distance

If you love Fitbit, the Ionic is the perfect GPS smartwatch with long battery life, music storage, Fitbit Pay, and more.

Bottom line

A lot of smartwatches and fitness trackers don't have built-in GPS, while others allow you to connect your watch to your phone's GPS. If you want the privilege of built-in GPS, you'll need to pay a bit more, but there are options available, including some that are affordable.

We're big fans of the Garmin Forerunner 245 Music for its advanced running features, onboard music storage, long battery life, and built-in GPS. Most athletes will be fond of all the tracking perks that come with this GPS smartwatch, like Garmin Coach, Running Dynamics, a Pulse Ox sensor, and VO2 max estimation. It may not be the most attractive option on this list, but it definitely delivers when it comes to having a reliable GPS and robust tracking suite.

If that one doesn't interest you, there are some other solid choices. Perhaps you want something more affordable or a smartwatch that's a tad more fashionable. Whatever it is you're looking for, there's no shortage of options when it comes to finding a smartwatch or fitness tracker with GPS.

Credits — The team that worked on this guide

Courtney Lynch is a freelance writer at Android Central. She's obsessed with all things health, fitness, and music. At any given time she can be found checking out the latest and greatest gadgets while simultaneously petting her dog and sipping iced coffee.

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