Samsung Gear Sport GPS Fix, Kinda [Updated!]

This is only my third day with the new Samsung Gear Sport and my first tests with the GPS have been extremely disappointing.  If you having problems with GPS on your Gear Sport or Gear S3, you might want to try the “fix” I discovered.

***New Update (March 26, 2018):  I have noticed that this page has been getting a lot of traffic lately so I wanted to update it.  The issues discussed in this article seem to have gone away for me (I’m able to use GPS fine with or without my phone) after firmware updates but a new issue popped up the other day as I was using GPS on a hike.  I was out shooting an updated review for the Gear Sport and was comparing the GPS accuracy versus the Garmin Fenix 5s and the Gear Sport was doing beautifully until it stopped recording my GPS location.

The hiking activity continued tracking my heart rate but the GPS tracking stopped about 3/4 through my hike.  When I got back home and looked at the portion of the hike the Gear Sport recorded I could see where it stopped recording my movement.  Luckily, since I had also been recording the hike on video I knew exactly what caused the GPS to stop because I received a text notification on the watch at the exact spot that the GPS stopped tracking me.

I’ll test this out some more and if it happens again I will contact Samsung and see if there’s a fix or if they’re even aware of the issue.

I’m also working on a new updated review that will be out soon so stay tuned.***

In the first test, the GPS only worked about 3/4 into the walk for a couple minutes and then stopped working again.  The second test was a hike that I take for all my GPS tests and it took over 10 minutes into the hike before it connected.  I even stood still in an open field for several minutes and it never connected.  When it finally did connect, it would only be for a few short seconds and then disconnect again.

So, I then went to my handy bike trail which makes it easy to know whether a GPS is accurate or not because I can compare the path to the trail on the map once the workout has been synced with its corresponding app.  Well, this time it didn’t connect at all, after several attempts.

So, I began doing some Googling to see if anyone else had been having issues and since this is only day 3 of the Gear Sport being available to the public, I didn’t find anything but I found lots of issues with the Samsung Gear S3, the predecessor to the Gear Sport.

Apparently, the built-in GPS doesn’t function well as a stand-alone device.  It only works well when paired by Bluetooth to your phone.  Mine was paired but I had power saving enabled on my phone and learned through another customer’s experience that if I turned power saving off then it might work.  It did!  After turning off power saving the watch found my location almost instantly.

I still need to do some more test to make sure it stays connected.  But after walking about 3 miles in the cold trying to get the GPS to work, I’m pooped.  I’ll update this article with the results later.

I’m not satisfied with this “fix”.  I’m supposed to be able to leave my phone behind and rely solely on the built-in GPS of the watch to record my workouts.  While, I always have my phone with me, I don’t want to have to use my phone to help the watch find and keep my location.  I don’t want to have to turn off power saving on my phone either.

As a side note, the Ticwatch 2 uses this same strategy.  After the last software update, a message appeared informing me to make sure my watch was connected with my phone by Bluetooth.  I don’t remember the exact wording.  Now I know why my last GPS workout with it went so badly. I had recently enabled power saving on my phone.

The funny thing is, I just reviewed a much less expensive fitness tracker with built-in GPS that outperformed both watches in terms of GPS connectivity.  So, I know it’s possible for a watch to truly be a stand-alone GPS unit and it has nothing to do with the price of the watch.

So now, I’m debating whether to keep the Gear Sport or send it back…I was really counting on it to have a reliable built-in GPS.

Well, if I come across a better fix or some other news on the topic I will keep you posted.

Update:  After thinking that possibly the GPS in my Gear Sport was defective, I discovered by chance that there is a problem using the built-in GPS when the phone is connected.  Even if I select to just use the built-in GPS on the watch, it still communicates with the phone and I can’t get the GPS to work if power saving is enabled on the phone.

Last night my phone’s battery went dead.  I forgot to put it on the charger before going to sleep so the watch was on stand-alone mode when I woke up.  I tried the GPS again and it connected almost instantly!  I then went for a hike with the phone turned off and the built-in GPS of the Gear Sport did a terrific job tracking my path.  So, now I guess I’ll have put my phone on airplane mode if I have it with me.  Hopefully, Samsung can fix this problem.

Luckily, I’m okay with using my phone’s GPS most of the time since I’ll be using MapMyWalk which displays a map with my position as a walk or hike.  It has to be connected to the phone to show the map.  But it’s good to know that the GPS does at least work on my Gear Sport.