When the Apple Watch was announced a few months ago, Apple certainly did a nice job of presenting some of the things it will be capable of. While it has some cool features, I am sure that not everyone is going to rush to drop a minimum of $350 on the Apple smartwatch (could be wrong there, who knows yet!).
Smartwatches have been around for a while but Apple raised the interest level significantly. Like ’em or hate ’em, Apple has never been about inventing a product so much as providing their own brand of innovation to existing product categories. And when they do that, people tend to forget about the products that got to the category first. The watch is nothing different in the sense that many manufacturers have churned them out before (I think Samsung already has something like 5 smart watches out!) but the Apple Watch is the one that everyone talks about. I will admit – even though there is nothing about the watch that makes me need it, seeing it sure made me want to give it a try! (Disclaimer, I was a lifelong PC guy before switching to Apple gear a few years ago)
But, there was one key piece of hardware information that I was waiting to hear about only to find that Apple chose not to include it. Rumors before had indicated as much but I was really holding out hope that it would be there and that missing piece was a GPS onboard chip. Granted, the watch is going to be able to use the GPS on the iPhone for fitness activities and has some pretty neat fitness parameters already built-in to the watch, but I would have definitely been sold had it come with a GPS chip. Though I run with my phone quite a bit, I always like the option of being able to go with nothing more electronic than my GPS watch when I want to just run distraction free. Having a watch that depends on my phone is not something that fits that bill (hence the reason I no longer use a Pebble watch). That is why I like my Garmins – to the point, accurate, self-contained, and rugged. Oh, and one more thing – long-lasting.
So, Why Am I Happy About No GPS Chip?
That last part brings me to why I am happy that Apple did not put a GPS chip in their soon-to-be-released watch. Reports are beginning to come out and shed some light on the battery life of the Apple Watch and they are not that great. Admittedly, the watch does a ton of stuff, but if I want to use it for a run, it better have enough battery life to get me through any long run I am on. That is why I keep moving back to the Garmin 3xx and 9xx series watches (currently on the Garmin 920XT but will likely move to the Fenix 3 at some point). There battery life is awesome! I can easily get through an entire week of running (and longer) without having to hook it up – and I use the watch everyday as my regular watch! Not only that, but I get all my iPhone notifications on my watch – text messages, e-mails, sport scores, phone calls – you name it. Even the Garmin 6xx series watches would give you enough battery life to get through a marathon with some ease.
Not so with the Apple Watch! Some reports are claiming that using the watch (linked with your phone) for activities such as running will cause the battery to run out in 3 -4 hours! And 4 hours is what they are targeting for! People looking to the watch as their running watch will certainly not find it suitable for marathons! In fact, depending on what you are using on the watch, it may not even last long enough for some people’s half marathons.
Of course, future editions will get better (wouldn’t be surprised if their R&D department already has a better battery they are gearing up to use in the Apple Watch 2!) with battery life, but for now I can totally understand why Apple decided not to go with things like a GPS chip or an actual standalone phone chip. And I am happy they did not. Can you imagine what battery life would be like with a GPS chip?! So, if you want a watch that can give you notifications and do a great job in the battery life department as well as give you a solid GPS watch, watch out for the Garmin Fenix 3 (though it will cost more than the Apple Watch). If you want a watch that can handle 3G data as well, be sure to check out the Timex One GPS+ – it even does music!