Apple has confirmed the Apple Watch Ultra, Series 8, and SE (2022) can now rely solely on their built-in GPS sensor and no longer need to utilize the GPS signal of the iPhone it’s connected to. Older Apple Watch models will still utilize the iPhone’s GPS whenever possible.
While this change isn’t recent, it’s gone under the radar for the past few weeks. It was uncovered by DC Rainmaker, a reputable sports tech reviewer (via The Verge), in a recent Apple support document update.
Although this doesn’t change a lot regarding the everyday use of the Apple Watch for most owners, there are a few things worth noting. First off, this should result in the Ultra, Series 8 and SE (2022)’s GPS being more accurate in some situations since the wearable is strapped directly to the user’s body and not in a pocket, bag or backpack like the iPhone typically would be.
It also negates the weird GPS handshake issues with the iPhone that were common in the early days of the Apple Watch and that I still encounter occasionally with older versions of the wearable. On the other hand, this shift could also result in slightly worse Apple Watch battery life, given the smartwatch is no longer piggybacking off of the iPhone’s GPS chip and is utilizing its built-in hardware.
In a way, this makes sense, given you likely have your iPhone with you when you’re wearing your Apple Watch anyways. It’s unclear how negatively this change affects the Apple Watch Ultra, Series 8 and SE (2022)’s battery life, but considering how much Apple has boasted about the wearables’ battery life, the impact is likely minimal.
It would have been great if Apple offered Apple Watch users the option to turn independent GPS on/off since both methods of connectivity have advantages and disadvantages, but Apple isn’t exactly known for offering consumers a lot of options when it comes to features like this.
Source: DC Rainmaker, Apple Via: The Verge