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What is Dual-Band GPS in a Smartwatch? Regular GPS vs. Dual GPS

Smartwatches have come a long way from being just fitness trackers. Your wrist can be loaded with features. And one feature that I find highly useful is the GPS on a watch. Especially while walking, looking at your wrist for directions is more convenient than your phone. There has been a lot of development on the GPS front, and in this article, we want to cover one such development- the dual-band GPS in a smartwatch!

Amazfit TREX 2 Smartwatch with Dual Band GPS

Dual Band GPS in a Smartwatch!

Most smartphones from 2020 have started adopting dual-band GPS systems. The current GPS systems in smartwatches use just a single frequency channel. Some companies have also started exploring adding a dual-band GPS to a smartwatch.

The main objective of using a dual-band frequency system in a smartwatch is to increase the precision of GPS output data. While Dual Band is not available on many commercial watches yet, it seems an interesting development to look into.

What is Dual Band GPS?

The new dual-band GPS/GNSS technology significantly improves accuracy compared to the older single-band technology used in smartphones and automotive navigation systems. Over the last two years, various smartphones have been beginning to use this ground-breaking location technology.

In modern mobile devices, the typical GPS accuracy is five meters. An additional frequency band can get the accuracy to a centimeter level. The GNSS systems (under which GPS is also a part) transmit on multiple frequencies. These frequencies have different structures and encodings.

Using multiple bands improves accuracy by reducing the effect of errors caused by atmospheric distortion. These high-precision systems were mainly used in high-end industrial and aerospace applications, but with the advent of low-cost dual-band receivers, they can now be added to consumer devices.

Multi-band receivers commonly use the L1 and L2 signal bands. Operating at a frequency of 1575.42 Mhz, the L1 band is the primary band used in most navigation systems. The secondary L5 band operates at 1176.45 Mhz and enables a dual-frequency GPS solution. So when a device configures to use both bands, it receives two different satellite signals.

How GPS L1 Band and L5 Band Signal Differ

The key parameter is the code chip rate – the number of pulses per second at which the code is transmitted or received. The chip rate of the L5 signal bands is ten times greater than the L1 signal bands. By the proportional property, the error reduction capability is increased by ten times, too.

Therefore, the multi-path errors are greatly reduced. This results in a signal that has great anti-interference properties and contains the minimum amount of noise.

Simply put, the dual-band GPS uses two frequency bands instead of one, and a superior (L5) band with a standard (L1) band results in a highly accurate GPS positioning solution.

How Does Dual Band GPS Work on a Smartwatch?

If you read the previous section – you would have encountered multi-path errors. By definition – Multipath error results from interference between two radio waves that have traveled paths of different lengths between the transmitter and the receiver. If that was a tad bit technical, take a look at the illustration developed by Garmin below.

How GPS Works on Smartphones and Smartwatches

The smartphone in your hands – is a receiver that tries to gather GPS signals from multiple satellites. On an obvious note, there will be a lot of objects between your smartwatch and the satellite – ranging from tall buildings to particles in the ionosphere. Multiple paths are generated when a signal path is reflected off objects in the path of the transmitter and the receiver. This means that there will be multiple signal paths between the transmitter and the receiver.

But, when an additional signal band like the L5 band is used, the situation is different. The new signal band can identify these unwanted reflected signals. This ensures that only useful and your smartwatch receives informative signals.

Single vs Dual Frequency GPS Accuracy

Advantages of Dual Band GPS

If your smartwatch has dual GPS, it will lock GPS signals quicker than a traditional watch. The position tracking will be more accurate, resulting in reliable distance, speed, and calorie ratings. And if GPS navigation is available on the watch, it will be more accurate.

Here are the advantages of dual-band GPS in detail:

  • Dual-frequency systems allow for improved positioning when using the device in challenging environments.
  • Dual-band systems can provide accuracy within about +/- 2 meters.
  • Dual-band detects and rejects reflected satellite signals better than a single-frequency receiver, improving accuracy.
  • Dual Band systems also help reject the environmental effects on the GPS signals.

Noticing the advantages, smartphone developers quickly adopted the dual-band GPS. Smartwatch makers, too, have recently tried to include it in their offerings. In the next section, let us look at smartwatches with the dual-band system.

Smartwatches with Dual Band GPS

Conventionally, smartwatches are only equipped with a single-band GPS. And when we hear about dual-band GPS on a smartwatch, it raises concerns about battery life. Yes, adding an additional GPS band can increase battery drain. Therefore, adding this dual-band functionality to a smartwatch with good battery life makes sense.

Look at the Coros Vertix 2 – one of the first to have a dual-band GPS. Coros CEO mentions that their energy-efficient technology ensures you can use the watch for around 50 hours with the dual-band signal enabled and 140 hours with a single-band GPS setting.

Coros Vertix 2 with Dual Band GPS

Garmin, too, jumped into the technology. Their D2 Mach 1, Epix (Gen 2) Sapphire, and Fenix 7 Sapphire Solar series have dual-band GPS technology. But on the flipside, Garmin’s CEO mentions that they would rather explore improving GPS signal accuracy through better processing power than the traditional approach. This can also improve power efficiency.

Garmin Fenix Solar 7

The Garmin Fenix Solar 7

A Viable Option For Purchase – Amazfit T-Rex 2

If you are hell-bent on having dual-band GPS on a smartwatch and want reasonable pricing, rule out any offerings from Garmin or Coros. Prices exceed INR 65,000, and, generally, it is expensive for a smartwatch.

Provided you have prior experience using dual-band GPS, and it is deemed necessary in any of your activities as per your testing – you can consider buying the Amazfit T-Rex 2.

Amazfit TREX 2 Rugged Outdoor GPS Smartwatch

Priced at 16,000 INR – it is the most and only inexpensive offering that uses dual-band GPS in a smartwatch. If you are interested, you can check out their official website.

Wrapping Up

This is all you need to know about dual-band GPS on a smartwatch. We hope we were able to simplify the back-end tech behind the accurate multi-band system. Anyways, do you care about the GPS type on your smartwatch? Let us know via comments. Stay tuned for more such interesting and informative guides.

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