GPS Watch vs GPS App

My birthday is approaching and I am considering buying a Garmin watch - But I have questions about is it worth it vs a smartphone app?

I use Endomondo at the moment, and I love the App, the vocal feedback I get, the fact that I can play music at the same time and I only have the single device. I also have a Wahoo Blue HRM which works seamlessly with it. I also like the rich tools their website has.

So with this in mind, is there anything that a Garmin watch/site combo (Or other brand) will offer that a GPS Smartphone app won't? What are the cases for/against?




  • I run with someone who uses Endomondo. It's clear that my Garmin is significantly more reliable and accurate on distances.  I don't have figures to hand... but I think that if we ran a 6.2 mile race together, my Garmin would read somewhere between 6.15 and 6.3 miles, depending on tree cover etc.   I reckon the Endomondo app (on his phone) would read anything from 6.05 to 6.4miles.

    It sort of doesn't sound a lot, but using a simple example, if you're a 10mins/mile runner, that inaccuracy is equivalent to a 3.5 minute range for the phone or a 1.5 minute range for a garmin.   To me... that's a huge difference if you're trying to track your 10K times.  

    Let's see if others agree.

  • I've found generally that when running the same route, Endomondo is generally pretty consistent at recording the same distances each time I run the route - but of course thats only a benefit if that consistent time is correct!

  • I'm having the same debate.  I use the Nike+ app which links with my trainers.  Really like the app, but I only know my time/distance when it speaks to me.  This is why I'm considering a GPS watch so I can look at my wrist as often as I like.

  • A lot must depend on the GPS accuracy of the phone model you're using - and how it deals with things like trees.  I think he has an iPhone, but don't know which one.

    Trees/high buildings can be an issue, because we're often in and out of them... the Garmin claims (by the manufacturer) to cope with this particularly well.

    I was once told  that a lot depends on how many times per minute the phone / watch refreshes its position.  And that with phones, they have so many bits of data constantly being thrown in and out for their masses of applications, that they simply cannot communicate as frequently as a gps watch, which really only has one function of that type.

    I don't know if that's true, or if things have moved on in the couple of years since I heard that.

    As you can tell, I'm not a world expert on this image -  just sharing my limited experience.

  • Its all good feedback!

    It makes sense that it would depend on how much the phoen refreshes and that a dedicated device may be more accurate. But can I bet 200 quid on the importance of accuracy?

    I like the idea of not using vocal feedback from the App, as all of that is easily visible on the watch.

    However, I've also just invested in a bluetooth HRM from Wahoo, which by the looks of it will need replacing with an ANT compatible one to work with a Garmin!

  • Being able to check your pace whenever you want is one of the main advantages of a garmin , ive found it very useful on fast paced runs as its easy to fall of the pace without realising and a mile is too long to wait to find out.

     Another thing is phones are not waterproof and usually get mashed in a fall(  it Happens !) if they are on your shoulder and cost a hell of a lot more to replace  than a watch.

  • You can also set up all sorts of interesting interval sessions on many models of garmin, so they can be a much more powerful tool.

    Battery life tends to be better as well.

    Also - you don't have to take your phone with you!!!!

  • I'll second the importance of being able to see your current pace. I used to use endomondo on my phone, but since I got a Garmin fr10, I feel much more in control of my training, and my parkrun time has tumbled as a result. If you weren't bothered about HRM, I'd highly recommend the fr10 as a great budget watch. As it is, you'll need to pay quite a bit more, especially as the cheapest HRM compatible Garmin (the 110) doesn't display current pace as far as I can tell.

  • I have a Garmin 205 that I love, but do like my gadgets and have a smartphone too, so I installed the endomondo app as well.

    My garmin seems more accurate and is so much easier to use.  I ran with my phone in a sports case on my upper arm, but it's fiddly to start and stop, and impossible to visually check progress whilst running.

    I did like the ability to immediatly share my run with friends on facebook or with my account to track my calories used, but ended up ditching the app after too many inaccurate results or losing signal (or forgetting to turn on the GPS and seeing the prompt screen at the end of the run!).

    The garmin connect website allows me to share my runs with whoever I like (though I need to connect my watch to my PC in order to upload the data), and gives loads of info about the run.

    I much prefer my Garmin.

  • Interesting!

    The other thing I guess is that I'm not *really* sure I know how to make the best use of my HRM. However I know will always take my phone with me on a run - for emergency contact and for music. So I could always use that in addition.

    I like the idea of being able to be more responsive to my average pace and would give me much more control during a run or race.

    Do the garmins require a USB cable? Can they use wifi? I have an iPhone and iPad but no laptop aside from a crappy old thing

  • Phones sample less often so guess more to map the route between their mapped points.

     Depending on the conditions they can be good, but other routes they can suck. 

  • Garmins use a USB cable to charge and to connect to PC/laptop. No idea whether you could upload to the garmin connect website via USB to iPad or not, though I have  a garmin connect viewer app on my Nexus. So long as you can access the internet on your laptop you should be OK to uipload to the gasrmin connect website.

  • Happy (soon to be) Birthday Matt image

    Dont do Apple stuff sorry but when I get back from a run as I walk in the front door my data starts to upload to my garmin training centre and Garmin connect wirelessly so as soon as I've had a drink my data is there for me (and the world to see). I also use a footpod (for cadence) and if the GPS fails then it calibrates distance from my footpod but not sure all models do this? (910xt) 


  • I have a phone app and a garmin. I almost exclusively use the garmin and save the phone app for when I've forgotton to charge the watch. Main reason - I like being able to see pace/distance/time just by glancing at my watch rather than having to get my phone out.

    As for accuracy, I was chatting to someone recently who had done a bit of research. She was suggesting that the accurancy does depend on the phone, and that iphones were less accurate that Andoids. I do know whenever I run with the phone (iphone) and watch, the watch says I've run further, though the discrepancy isn't massive.

  • My watch always says I have run less than on my iPhone heheimage

    last marathon watch was 42.3km phone 44.8km

  • When I first got my 910xt I wore that and the old 305cx a few times and found they gave different distances, again, not by much but over a marathon it would make a difference.

    Oh, and this one is weird, data from the Garmins (both of them) will upload to my training centre and garmin connect but display wildly different elevation gains. It might be my default settings? but garmin connect shows todays 10 miler as an 'elevation gain' of 270 metres (885 feet) and my training centre shows 'total ascent' of 1193 feet (363 metres).

  • stu jstu j ✭✭✭


    on the connect website you have the option under 'additional information' in the bottom left hand corner to use 'Elevation Corrections', which may explain the difference.  From their site:


    What are Elevation Corrections?

    Elevation Corrections cross reference the horizontal position (latitude/longitude) provided by the GPS with elevation data that has been acquired by professional surveys. When corrections to elevation data are made, each trackpoint of your activity now contains the elevation from the web service, not the elevation provided by your GPS device.

  • Thanks Stu, however, if I use that the differences are even greater, in the example above if I click on elevation corrections the elavation gain reads as 951 metres - 3120 feet! Maybe I need to try contact Garmin? Maybe it's something to do with living on the Isle of Mull, I don't get weather here either (well, of course we have weather lol, just not recorded by the Garmin).

    *sry for hijacking your thread Marty*

  • stu jstu j ✭✭✭

    lol - fair enough, no idea then!

    Matt - to get back on track.  I run with a mate who uses his phone and I use my garmin 410.  His mileage differs quite significantly from mine, and if we're under a tree canopy for any length of time his pretty much goes off the charts (high or low miles depending on its mood).  I am faily certain he uses the Nike+ app.

    I do have a footpod though that may help in keeping the distance / pace somewhat more consistent.

  • Cheers Andi! it's still a month away but if I've got a gizmo to look forward to so much the better.

    Its definitely more accurate then - especially if it takes into account elevation adjustments - so no hijacking occurred!

    I think elevation gain is the "Net" elevation. So maybe total ascent - total descent = elevation gain?

    Total Ascent: 363
    Elevation Gain: 270
    Total Descent: 97

    Or however you want to slice and dice it? So basically, your starting point for your run is 270 lower than your finish point.

    I don't even know if my own maths are making sense...

    Anywhooooo It looks like if I also want a WiFi enabled watch I need a higher spec model too... This is going to turn into quite the expensive treat!

  • Mp Matty image

    Thanks for the Maths lesson and yes, it would make sense however my runs are out-n-back so ascent & descent are more or less the same (within a few metres normaly).

    Yup, the more 'goodies' you want on your watch the more you pay - the 910xt was expensive (and I dont swim so don't need the stroke counter). Funnily enough if you want to use it as a normal watch you do have to mess with the setup somewhat. There have been sales of older versions of Garmin as the newer models come out so maybe keep an eye out. My old Garmin was the 305cx (think it was upgraded to 405cx) but the battery started losing charge quickly and wouldn't have lasted the 5 hours I'll be running for my first Marathon at the end of the month.

  • Well having the same start and end point totally scuppers my theory! Ha ha. Much like anything I say theres always a flaw, it's just usually the missus that picks it out image


  • Biggest benefits of the watch imo are:

    1) Easy to glance at for 'instant pace'.

    2) Saves battery life of the phone if you use both (I have phone for Spotify and watch for stats). GPS eats phone battery.

    3) If you're training for a race you can upload your whole training plan to the Garmin and it knows what you are doing on each day and takes you step by step through each activity. It's brilliant for interval sessions.

    4) Can combine it with a footpod to give you cadence stats.

    EDIT: Oh should mention that once the data is on Gamin Connect you can do what you like with it. I started out with Nike+ and my friends use Nike+ on their phones so I stick my Garmin runs into a converter and it uploads it to the Nike+ website. I'm guessing you can do the same to Endomondo if you still want to track your stats there.

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