Consider These 3 Factors When Selecting a Running Fitness Tracker

The options for running watches seem almost endless. Whether you're a seasoned marathoner or the occasional jogger, the right running watch can help you track progress, set goals, and enhance your overall running experience. Running watches come with countless different permutations of features, but there are three of these that we have found to be the most essential for runners. We did the running watch research for you so you can spend more time running not googling.

1. Connected GPS vs. Built-in GPS

Connected GPS and built-in GPS are two different approaches to incorporating GPS functionality into fitness trackers. GPS is an essential feature for running watches and it is important to understand the difference between these versions.

Built-in GPS

A fitness tracker with built-in GPS has its own GPS hardware within the device. The GPS hardware independently acquires satellite signals to track your location, speed, and distance without relying on a connection to a smartphone.

This feature is essential if you plan to use your watch without a connected smartwatch. Built-in GPS is also more accurate than connected GPS and provides real-time distance data. However, compared to connected GPS, turning this feature on in your watch may increase battery consumption during use and potentially reduce overall battery life. This feature is usually more expensive than connected GPS.

Connected GPS

A fitness tracker with connected GPS relies on a paired smartphone's GPS for location tracking. Rather than having GPS hardware, the watch’s GPS capabilities come from a connected smartphone. This means that you must carry your smartphone with you on a run. Compared to built-in GPS, these watches typically have longer battery life and are less expensive.

Location accuracy and real-time tracking may depend on the reliability of the Bluetooth connection between the fitness tracker and the smartphone.

2. Music Controls vs. Downloaded Music

Running watches often offer the ability to control music playing on a smartphone via the smartwatch or the ability to download music to the watch itself to bypass needing to carry a phone to play music.

Downloaded Music on Watch

These smartwatches have the storage hardware to store music directly on the watch itself. Users can transfer music files or sync playlists from a computer or a paired smartphone to the watch. This makes it easy to listen to music directly from the smartwatch without needing a connected smartphone.

Music Controls

Music controls on a smartwatch refer to the ability to control music playback on another device, usually a paired smartphone. The smartwatch acts as a remote control for the music app on the paired device. You can play, pause, skip tracks, and adjust the volume using the smartwatch without taking out the smartphone. However, with music controls, you still need to bring the smartphone with you on the run since the watch only controls music and does not have it downloaded.

3. Battery Life

Last but not least is battery life. If you’re planning on running marathons or even ultra marathons with GPS it is important to check not only the regular battery life of a watch but also the “Battery life with GPS” to determine if the watch’s battery can last as long as your desired run time. Generally, if you are running for less than 5-6 hours this is not an issue.

To find the best running watch that fits your needs take our free quiz!


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