Apple Watch 6 GPS: The quest for accuracy

Some weeks ago my wife and I switched from Garmin Sport watches to the Apple Watch Series 6. More about my initial experience you can find here.

Initial Impression

For my wife there have been no problems with the accuracy. The differences between the Apple Watch and her Garmin Forerunner 235 was marginal and not important. And this was consistent across Garmin Connect, Apple Fitness and Strava.

For me on the other hand, the initial accuracy was really off. On short runs the distance was already 200-300 meters different. On a half marathon distance the difference was around 500 meters. This is, at least for me, a difference that is to much.

How to fix the problem

Now after a few weeks, the problem was really annoying and I searched for a solution. On Apple itself I could only find some articles that were not linked to the GPS problem itself.

But as ever so often it was YouTube for the win.

The solution is to reset the watch calibration via the Watch app on your iPhone. Then, you should do an outside activity (either running or walking) for at least 20 minutes. The watch will recalibrate itself based on different speeds and your movement. Afterwards it should be able to track yourself properly again.

For the first activity you should then have no connection to the iPhone, so best put it in flight mode. Then also disconnect the watch from your home wifi. Basically anything that could be used to locate the watch. For me I even disabled LTE not to have the cellular collection messing anything up.

The result

As today I reset the watch calibration I was instantly able to lower the delta between the Garmin Watch and the Apple Watch. Even the Apple Watch pre recalibration and post calibration have a difference in distance of around 300 meters on a 12km run.

I hope this fixed my problem with the GPS accuracy. I believe that Apple should do a better job here for the initial setup. There should be a small flag in the software that checks if it is an initial setup and then just take the GPS data.

In addition a small indicator for the GPS strength would not hurt. The signal is just not always perfect and this is okay to admit.

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