GPS running watches such as Garmin Forerunner, Tomtom Spark or Polar M400, make up one of the fastest‑growing segments of the wearable device market, and for good reason. While simple wrist‑based fitness trackers need to tether to a smartphone for positioning and distance information, GPS watches have onboard GNSS reception. For runners, hikers, and other outdoor athletes, having accurate distance and location data available at a glance helps them pace themselves better, track performance, and navigate difficult terrain with ease.
But while GPS watches are invaluable for outdoor athletes, today’s watches have to be charged very often when GPS is used. GPS functionality is without a doubt the number one drain in a wearable device, and it’s no different for these advanced sports watches. Not only do athletes have to charge their watch often, but GPS watches also often come in bulky designs to accommodate the large batteries needed.
However bulky watches with poor battery life may soon be a thing of the past. A new GNSS technology from u‑blox is now on the market that promises watches with slimmer designs, better battery life, and even more features.
When it comes to wearables, form factor rules. Worn on the body, these devices need to be comfortable and attractive. Ergonomics, weight, and aesthetics all need to be taken into account to a much higher degree than in any other consumer electronics category.
For GPS watches, the battery has been a significant barrier to slimming down the device. GNSS functionality currently is the biggest power consumer in the system, so to keep operating times sufficient, large batteries are needed.
With one‑third of the energy consumption of previous‑generation positioning technology, the u‑blox UBX‑M8230‑CT GNSS chip with Super‑E mode changes the game. Thanks to its ideal balance between power and performance, it allows GPS watches to sport much smaller batteries while still supporting the same battery life and without impact on tracking accuracy. For GPS watches, smaller batteries mean slimmer, lighter, better‑looking watches. Also very attractive to women who aren't fond of bulky devices, but certainly love running.
With more and more GPS watches coming on to the market, devices have to offer more features and benefits to stand out. While basic GNSS location tracking and recording functionality was once enough, these days the best GPS running watches offer advanced running metrics, music, on‑device route mapping, heart‑rate monitoring, and more.
More features unfortunately mean more processing, and more energy consumption. By saving energy with an efficient GNSS receiver, there’s more power budget for other watch features.
The u‑blox UBX‑M8230‑CT allows these watches to incorporate more functionality to stand out from the crowd: music storage and playback that allows users to be untethered from their phone; advanced running metrics for users to view detailed running performance data right, or even route‑mapping data on the watch itself. Heart‑rate monitors and other fitness data tracking sensors can also be accommodated, allowing GPS watches to merge fitness tracker functionality.
A Better Watch
With the newest generation of GNSS positioning technology, the biggest problem with wearables – power consumption – has been solved. The UBX‑M8230‑CT GNSS chip from u‑blox provides strong positioning performance with one‑third of the power consumption of standard parts, allowing these devices to be slimmer, easier to use, and more functional than ever. The future of GPS sports watches is looking bright.