Apple Watch GPS: A Technical Discussion

by Jason P., Director of Engineering at Shotzoom

Apple Watch® is a great piece of technology and hardware that has helped enhance the Golfshot experience. It has allowed us to bring the power and tools of Golfshot to your wrist, removing the need to pull out your phone constantly. Understanding the functionality of Apple Watch's GPS technology can help you choose your best on-course experience utilizing Golfshot with Apple Watch.

First let’s dig a little deeper into the hardware and operation of each device to understand the technical limits.

Apple Watch Series 1

The Apple Watch® Series 1 doesn't have an onboard GPS chip. This means it utilizes the iPhone as its sole location provider. Whatever the iPhone is seeing in terms of location is what the Apple Watch will see and use. Additionally, if you turn off your iPhone or break the connection no more GPS information will be sent or found on Apple Watch 1.

Apple Watch Series 2

The Apple Watch® Series 2 introduced an onboard GPS chip. This allows the Apple Watch 2 to provide GPS updates without having to be connected to the iPhone. For the sake of battery life, the Apple Watch Series 2 will utilize the iPhone's GPS when it’s connected and available. Once disconnected from the iPhone GPS, the Series 2 will utilize its own internal GPS until a connection to the iPhone is re-established.

So when using Golfshot or Golfshot Plus on the course this leaves you with 3 primary ways to play #yourbestgolf with Apple Watch:

Playing with your iPhone in your pocket
Both Series 1 and Series 2 Apple Watch users will see the iPhone’s GPS being reported on the Apple Watch

Playing with your iPhone in your cart
Both Series 1 and Series 2 Apple Watch users will see the iPhone’s GPS being displayed while the device is in range. This means if you move 5-10 yards away from the golf cart, you'll still be displaying the location of your iPhone in the golf cart.

If the connection to the device is severed, Series 1 users will get no further updates while Series 2 users will see the onboard GPS location until the connection to the iPhone is re-established.

Playing with your Apple Watch disconnected from your iPhone
Series 1 users will be able to see basic hole information and score on the Apple Watch but no GPS updates will be received.

Series 2 users will receive GPS data from the onboard GPS chip on Apple Watch 2 and will utilized that until connection is re-established.

In short, there are many ways to use Golfshot in tandem with the Apple Watch Series 1 or 2. Understanding the technical workings of the GPS on your Apple Watch can help you choose the best setting and experience to play your best golf.

A note on battery life…
Battery life is a huge focus for us at Golfshot because a golf app that can’t last a full round isn’t a tool worth using. There are ways for the Apple Watch Series 2 GPS to be constantly running and always up to date. But the sacrifice of doing this is a battery life that has been unable to finish a round of golf in the most ideal scenarios.

Make sure to download the latest versions of Golfshot and Golfshot Plus for Apple Watch stability and performance improvements. For questions or feedback, please email us at support@golfshot.com.