GPS watches or apps on your phone?

Are GPS watches redundant now with availability of GPS Phone apps?

1 to 20 of 43 messages
09/10/2011 at 01:33
I have seen reviews where people use various apps on their IPhone or Android phones to measure and log speed, distance and pace. Are these making GPS watches less popular? Yes, you have to take your phone with you, strapped to your arm probably. Yes it`s not moisture proof [sweat and rain]but cases are available. But it`s certainly a lot cheaper to get an app.

So are apps making GPS watches redundant?
09/10/2011 at 07:58
No - don't have an iphone or an android  - but did buy a GPS watch -
09/10/2011 at 09:25
Not at all simply because the GPS on most phones are shite imho. I have run the same course with both a smart phone and Garmin310xt and find the phone gps freaks out more specially in built up areas, the phone gps when used round an area such as the docklands really goes mental and suggests I can run though buildings, the Garmin still freaks out but vastly less so.
My phone can also not measure my cadence or heart rate, and you can not swim with it..... there is also the convince with having the device on your wrist.
09/10/2011 at 09:28
I saw an image a while back showing how many times each checks your position. The phone systems check much less often meaning the route is much less accurate
09/10/2011 at 10:46

I dont think you can program in an interval session into a phone, or program in pace zones with audible alerts.

You would certainly struggle to see how far / fast you had travelled whilst actually running - and smart phone battery life is worse than a May Fly.

Its a bit like pople who go fell walking with a map app on their phone instead of a proper handheld gps with map and compass.... Yeah - it kind of works a bit, but not very well or for very long or with any kind of reliability.

09/10/2011 at 13:21

I paid £100 or so for my 305. And £20 for my phone.  I have no intention of acquiring a smartphone or iPhone so have no idea of how much they cost, but I suspect it is more than £120. When these doohickeys combine the cost and the full functionality of the Garmin (on payg please), then I might be tempted.

It'll probably happen at some stage but not just yet.

09/10/2011 at 14:10
I use the Runkeeper App in my iPhone. Its not wonderful but it does give me reasonably accurate assesment of how far and how fast I have run.Ideally I would have a GPS watch and hopefully Santa will bring me one.However I do have a skinny wrist so not sure which watch will be best for me?
09/10/2011 at 14:44
i used an app on my desire hd which was fine and pretty accurate.  The only problem was that if you were trying to stick to a set pace it was nigh on impossible to see the screen when it was strapped to your arm - I therefore stopped using it and gt myself a garmin 405cx which is just bloody brilliant!!
09/10/2011 at 16:49
I have used both this year extensively. I can assure everyone that the Garmin is WAY more accurate and tracks a lot more data. Some iPhone apps (esp. Runkeeper - which I have used for tons of activities) often have the calories well out, the distance made up, the times based entirely on when the activity started and stopped (if importing it) etc.

I now leave my iPhone in my bag, clip on a iPod Shuffle if I want something to listen to (currently Running and Life Podcasts) and use my Garmin 305.

The apps are great for beginning etc, especially Get Running (Couch to 5k) which is brilliant and got me started and moving well.

09/10/2011 at 17:52
I have a HTC Incredible S that I put in my running belt and use earphones. I use Cardio Trainer App (Android). It plays my music, talks to me telling me splits and pace, gps even maps my route and I could upload them to Facebook if I wanted. Love it. A GPS watch won't do this for me.

I also have a history on my phone of time, distance, pace and calories burned.

Todays run

49 Mins, 5.5 miles, 9:01 pace, 708 calls

1. 7:14
2. 9:02
3. 8:53
4. 9.44
5. 9.45
Edited: 09/10/2011 at 17:56
09/10/2011 at 18:17
You took 708 calls while running 5.5 miles at 9 min miling? That's what I call multitasking.
09/10/2011 at 18:23
09/10/2011 at 18:52

I was without my Garmin for a few days while I sent if off for a refurb. I used 2 apps while I was without.

I think the first  was run keeper. I had run a 6 mile route in 57 minutes I knew the distance and clocked the time. The phone clocked me as doing 11 miles

Now much as I would have liked to believe it.....The next day I did a 6 miler and it measured it as less than 4 and clocked me doing 13mm...

I did wonder if you were starting and had no idea how far you were running how you would be in for a shock in a race...

09/10/2011 at 20:22
Phones use AGPS (assisted gps) since the gps inside the phone is not strong enough it uses the network to assist plotting your position. Hence the inaccuracy of the apps. They are fine for a casual, just out for a jog while keeping track of distance type runner. But for more accurate,detailed progress and stats, a dedicated gps device is a must.
09/10/2011 at 21:15
On the london marathon my Garmin 205 had me finishing on Birdcage walk, Docklands had confused it, however cardio trainer on my htc desire also regularly adds 10% to my distance wherever i run, but as someone said it plays music and talks to me which helps.
09/10/2011 at 21:23
Whilst not completely accurate, the music is a massive motivational factor for me.
09/10/2011 at 21:44

Can you program an interval / tempo session into a phone app?  If not, what's the point? 

I love my Garmin - it's a fantastic piece of kit.   Yes they're not 100% accurate but neither are those phone apps! "Carrot has just finished a Runtastic run of 17.58 miles in 36 minutes"... erm yeah, right.

I only run with music when I'm on a treadmill in the gym anyway, and then the treadmill tells me how far / fast (or slow) I'm going.  And even they aren't guaranteed accurate!  I wouldn't want to take my phone running with me, certainly not strapped to my arm anyway.  Do they have waterproof covers? 

I doubt phones would make GPS watches redundant, much like how Sat Nav hasn't made the good old reliable road atlas redundant

09/10/2011 at 22:24
I do think my Runkeeper App is reasonably accurate.Fortunately I have not had any crazy runs of 18 miles in 35 mins or anything like that.I do know that GPS isn't as accurate on hills although I suspect that may be the same with a Garmin GPS watch?
For me its about cost/value/portability etc.If you have a smartphone id say use the apps if you can be bothered carrying the phone however there is no doubt I would prefer a GPS watch but we can't all afford them.
10/10/2011 at 11:31
GPS hardware in early/ cheap smartphones is too inaccurate for apps to be very good. Latest hardware eg iPhone 4 is very good and the apps are getting better. DC Rainmaker goes into this very thoroughly here:

Over the last 11 weeks I've used Runkeeper and iSmoothRun apps on an iPhone4. I couldn't see the point of a specialist watch when the phone already had the technology. However I eventually bought a Garmin Forerunner 610.

The apps are good. I like the way the phone talks to you to provide updates and coaching during the workout. They automatically squirt the data up to websites like which is much more convenient than messing around with USB sticks like you must with the watches. However I found that the pace based coaching didn't work at my slow running speeds. This is because the apps sample GPS position every 5 seconds and use algorithms to interpolate the track and pace. The 610 can be set to sample every second. Comparing tracks, I find the watch more accurate and the pace coaching works.

I did try using a wahoo fitness dongle to get heart rate and cadence data into the phone from chest strap and foot pod. It was too unreliable for me and I gave up with that.

So now the 610 is my primary device but I still use the phone as a backup sticking it in a ziplock bag when it's raining. I think apps are a great way to get experience with GPS tracking and learn what you really need from these devices. However, if you start to get more serious about using them, the current technology comes up short of the special purpose watches. You get what you pay for I guess.

10/10/2011 at 11:55
I previously used Run.GPS on all my previous phones. As mentioned the phones GPS is not great so I used a bluetooth GPS receiver which it a lot more accurate.

Now switch to a Garmin.

I switched because on a couple of occasions it locked up or lost the signal and would not get it back until the phone was re-booted. Really annoying during a race.

Not easy to start them at the beginning or a race, hit the start button, lock the screen and then strap to your arm. Ok for a marathon, waste of time in a 5Km. Then reverse the process at the end.

The arm strap Velcro has damaged some of my clothes.

The only thing I miss the voice of the lovely lady every mile telling me a load of stats (distance, time, current pace, average pace).
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