Sports: April 2008 Archives


April 14, 2008

Joe Hall asks why one would want a GPS-enabled watch. Roughly speaking, there are three features I want:
  • Altitude measurement (though note you can get sports watches with a barometric altimeter, which is actually more accurate, at least when you want to measure elevation gain;/lost).
  • Speed and distance. It's nice to be able to get some sense of how fast you're running and I find the GPS more convenient and comfortable than the foot pod pedometers that are the alternative.
  • Performance comparison. For my money, the coolest feature of a GPS sports watch is that you can get real time display of where you stand compared to a previous performance on the same course, which is a lot easier than remembering your time at multiple checkpoints. I can't figure out whether this is really useful—in fact I suspect it encourages you to push your workouts too hard to beat your previous pace—but it's still pretty sweet.

In principle a gizmo like this might be useful for getting you un-lost, but the fact that you don't have a real map, just a view of where you've been, makes it pretty hard to use for anything other than backtracking. If, for instance, you're doing a loop and there are multiple trails but not a dense enough network that you can just vector in on your start point directionally, than without a trail map a GPS is pretty useless. Pretty good for out and back trips, though.