Fixing the Samsung Gear Fit 2 GPS lock delay when running without phone

For the past few runs, I noticed that my Gear Fit 2 would only lock onto GPS after more than 0.5 km. By “noticed”, I of course mean “got super frustrated with and considered briefly throwing the gadget onto the ground and arranging for its utter disintegration through repeated jumping on it”.

Besides losing the first 0.5 km of my run data, the pacing information, delivered via synthesised voice, would be wildly inaccurate for the rest of my run.

Judging by this 22 page thread on the Samsung community forums, there are other users who were also less than happy that the Gear Fit 2 built-in GPS does not seem to work as advertised. Understandably, people bought the gadget in order to be able to go running without having to lug their smartphones along.

Fortunately, it turns out the explanation is quite logical, although Samsung really has to do better to communicate this to their users.

Why does my Gear Fit 2 take so long to acquire a GPS lock?

In short, at the start of my run, my smartphone was lying on my desk one floor up. At that point the Gear Fit 2 still had a bluetooth connection to the phone, and it was planning to use the phone GPS instead of its built-in unit. As far as I know, the gadget’s use of the phone’s GPS is not well known.

As the distance between me and the office building increased, the Gear Fit 2 obviously lost the bluetooth connection to the smartphone. With the current firmware (R360XXU1BPL1 at the time of writing), it takes the Gear Fit 2 about 0.5 km to realise that the connection is really lost, and that it should switch to its built-in GPS.

This as all pretty logical, but highly frustrating when you don’t know what’s going on. Samsung clearly has to do better.

The Fix

Knowing what the issue is makes the fix pretty straight-forward.

Before starting your run, disable bluetooth on your smartphone, and wait for the Gear Fit 2 to register loss of the connection. It should vibrate on your wrist, and then show a little rectangle at the top right of the display, like this:

Samsung Gear Fit 2 should recognise that it has lost connection with the phone, as shown by the rectangle at the top right.

You can now start the exercise app and then start your run.

This morning, my Gear Fit 2 acquired a GPS lock almost instantly. You can see this by the location icon which briefly flashes and then stays on (it’s very important that you ensure that it stays on before running off), and by the fact that the on-screen distance gauge (you only see the distance gauge if you have set a distance target) starts climbing immediately.

(Update: I’ve had more runs since. Sometimes the GPS struggles for half a minute or more to get a lock, with the location icon remaining in the flashing state. In these cases, I sometimes stop the run, and start over, until that damned flashing location icon goes stable. Frustrating.)

Samsung Gear Fit 2: Even casual runners should think twice.

For the price, the Samsung Gear Fit 2 packs a lot of features.

However, between this undocumented (as far as I can see) and sometimes plain frustrating GPS behaviour, the voice guidance which breaks easily and mysteriously (see another post of mine on that issue and how to fix it), and the battery life (a 40 minute run with music and GPS can use up 30% to 40% of the battery), slightly more serious casual runners (strange category, I know) might want to consider carefully their alternatives.

16 thoughts on “Fixing the Samsung Gear Fit 2 GPS lock delay when running without phone”

  1. I have a Fitbit Charge, which I think might be affected by the same issue. I’ve always instinctively first gone out of range of my phone and only than attempted the get a GPS signal on the watch. When I fail to do so getting a lock takes significantly longer.

    (It does have a “quick start” function but I found its precision to be a thing of luck, so I never start running before I have a GPS lock.)

    1. Hi there Leif, it’s great to have you around here!

      As far as I can see from the FitBit docs, only the Surge has a built-in GPS. Are you sure you have a Charge?

      1. Yes, but I think getting the initial lock could be assisted if it’s connected to a smartphone. Or if it thinks it is still in range to the smartphone it was connected to a few moments ago. Either way, it’s much better when I get the initial position with a smartphone in range OR completely out of range.

  2. Thanks for this information, I have also “noticed” the delay with the same level of frustration. But I still love my Gear Fit 2!

  3. Thank you very much for writting this article. Unfortunately I’ve already bought Fit 2, experiencing the same GPS issues with high inacurrancy and enormous battery drain when GPS on and listening to music. Tried to turn off as much functions as possible however still when I’m running around 1:40 run, battery loss is aprox. 90%.
    Anyone got experiences If Gear S3 doing any better?

  4. I’ve noticed the auto-wake feature causes my watch to stay on during the duration of my jogs because I don’t swing my arms much. This is what kills my battery. The thing is, I don’t think it was doing that a few updates ago, or I somehow didn’t notice. I only jog about 30 minutes. I’m worried that it won’t make the whole run when I start pushing an hour.

  5. After 2 runs that recorded my route as a zig zag blue line or like a runway take off track, both about 1k from where I started, I was about to throw my gear through the shop I purchased it from! Now I’m going to give it one last chance. Many thanks for this info.

  6. I’ll try this out.

    The distance delays but the time does not, correct? I lost .3 miles off a run, so that kills all the stats.

  7. Is there another way around thus other than turning off your Bluetooth? I always run or walk with my phone because I use the RunKeeper app, which I love. Plus, if you disable the Bluetooth, then you can’t use wireless headphones, right? Any advice would be appreciated, because the inaccuracy is very annoying. This morning my RunKeeper said 2.60 miles, which I know to be very accurate and Gear 2 said 1.81. That is crazy. Thanks.

  8. Very grateful for this info as was getting v annoyed that runs were tracking about 0.3km less than I knew they actually were. Glad to know about the Bluetooth fix!!

  9. Sorry this doesn’t work. As my Gear Fit 2 get’s older the more inaccurate it gets. I always make sure to turn off my phones bluetooth before starting a run so that I know the Fit is disconnected. Last run I did was 7km according to google maps, the Gear Fit logged 5.3 km!

    I usually do 5km runs around my block and the Fit gets the distance right maybe 1 out of 10 times now. It’s usually the first 2 kilometers that are off (way too long) but then it get’s back on track.

    The watch looks nice to be sure but it’s so wildly inaccurate I’m looking for alternatives.

    1. I just bought it and I’m having the same problem, I was quite sure i have disconnect Bluetooth before start running. Anyway first 0.5km didn’t log in gpx (which only shows 2km run), but it was worst Fit2 logged 4.8km but I ran 2.5km. I’m thinking in Charge 2 but coming from a Microsoft band 2 I’m going to miss GPS built-in.

  10. Thank you for sharing! I’m so glad I found this. I was really starting to get pissed off that the first chunk of each run was missing from my stats. I’d read somewhere that the GPS was slow to aquire a signal so I’d been starting the run on my watch and immediately pausing it, hoping that a 5 minute delay would help it catch a signal, but that never helped. Tomorrow I’ll turn off the bluetooth on my phone before my run and see how things work out after that.

    1. The problem with fit2 is that for catching your position you need to start the run and it doesn’t give you the option to wait until GPS has locked in. With bluetooth disconnected it took a couple of minutes (this is a different run than the described in my previous comment) to have gps signal and then in the middle of my run it just lost the signal and never recovered. More than that, it didn’t count any step at all, instead when I was home it started adding steps even if I wasn’t moving. I believed it added all the missing steps from the run and then stopped but while it was doing that I wasn’t able to start a new activity or even check my run.

      Next time I tried with bluetooth and my phone in the pocket but it was even worst. From a run of 8km (5 mi) it took just a point, as it sound, just one lecture of the GPS.

      What have i done? Returned for refund.

    2. Nevermind. Disabling the bluetooth on my phone didn’t help at all. It still didn’t start tracking my location until about a 3rd of a mile in, just like always. At one point I looked at it and it said it couldn’t get a GPS signal, move to a more open area. Meanwhile I’m in a wide open area, with clear skies and no tall buildings or trees nearby.

      Having a device with a built in GPS was the primary draw of this device and right now, the GPS seems useless.

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