How Does the GPS on Apple Watch Work?

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Apple Watches are of the most advanced smartwatches out there, and they come with a ton of useful features. One of the newest advancements in smartwatches, whether from Apple or from other brands, is built-in GPS.

The Series 2, 3, 4, and 5 Apple Watches all come with built-in GPS. There are also cellular Apple Watches, which include both GPS and cellular functionality.

That said, what exactly is the GPS on your Apple Watch, and how does the GPS on Apple watch work. Read on.

How the GPS Works

In essence, the GPS in your Apple Watch works the exact same way as the GPS on anything else. The main function of GPS is to triangulate your position on the face of the planet.

First off, your Apple Watch features a built-in GPS receiver which receives signals from various satellites orbiting in outer space.

At this time, there is a network of 24 satellites which surround the earth. These satellites are known as the NAVSTAR satellites.

Thanks to the number of satellites in space, there is enough coverage for any receiver, such as your Apple Watch, to receive signals from up to 3 or 4 of these satellites at once.

The reason why this is important is because in order to triangulate your exact position on the face of planet earth, your Apple Watch needs to be able to receive signals from at least 3 satellites simultaneously — hence the word “triangulation.”

In order to triangulate your position, a GPS receiver, such as your Apple Watch, measures the distance between itself and each of the satellites.

Based on the position of each satellite, as well as the time it takes for each signal to reach the watch, the receiver can then determine your exact position. This is the same for your GPS Apple Watch as for any other GPS.

What is GPS on an Apple Watch Used for?

Now that you know how the GPS on your Apple Watch works, you might be wondering why this is useful. What would you want to buy a GPS Apple Watch? There are various benefits that come with having a built-in GPS right on your wrist.

Location Services

One of the main things that the GPS on your Apple Watch can be used for is for positioning or location services.

For instance, when you Google something like “Chinese restaurants near me,” in order to get the best possible results for the closest restaurants to you, the Apple Watch needs to be able to see where you are.

This is no different than on your smartphone when it asks you “may so and so access your device’s location.”

Without that GPS, Google, maps, search engines, and other services which require your location will not function. For these location services to work, you need to have a GPS receiver on your person, which in this case is the GPS Apple Watch.

How Does the GPS on Apple Watch Work


Another convenient aspect of having a GPS enabled smartwatch is that you can use map services.

Whether you want to look up the nearest dentist to you, you want to find the quickest route to a location, or you want to use an instructional step by step, GPS will guide to get you to your final destination, none of it is going to work without GPS.

A GPS Apple Watch can guide you to your destination using highly accurate maps.

All you have to do is enter the address of your final destination and your Apple Watch can guide you the rest of the way using this highly sophisticated network of NAVSTAR satellites.

Of course, this can also come in very handy if you get lost in the woods or anywhere outdoors.

The days of paper maps are long gone, and they are hard to use anyway, especially without a compass. However, with a GPS Apple Watch, you can simply look at your wrist and find out exactly where you are.

Workout Metrics

One of the main benefits which people love about GPS enabled watches is that they serve as great fitness and workout tools. GPS watches like this can’t just see your location.

They can do so much more, such as measuring speed and distance traveled, which is useful for runners, cyclists, and for other athletes.

By determining your location when running or cycling starts, and then again when you are finished, a GPS Apple Watch can measure exactly how far you have traveled and how long it took you to get there.

For anybody looking to increase their cardiovascular health and increase their performance, such as running speed, this comes in very handy.


The way in which a GPS Apple Watch works may not be all that complicated, but that said, there are a lot of neat and useful functions which the addition of a GPS receiver brings to the table.

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