A veteran of using various GPS devices will give you a gentle explanation.

NOTE: At the end of this article, I have summarized the types of beginner’s products.

GPS Types

There are three main types.

  1. Smart Phone Apps
  2. Running Watch (GPS Watch)
  3. GPS Logger

When I started in 2008, only GPS loggers were available. However, in the 2010s, with the spread of smartphones and the development of GNSS (Global Navigation Satellite System), the usability of GPS loggers has dramatically improved.

1. Smart Phone Apps


For beginners.

It uses the GPS function built into the smartphone to record location information.
Information other than GPS satellites (barometer, wireless base stations, etc.) is also utilized for position correction.

Strong point

  • Cost : Many apps are free to use.
  • Functions : Easy to share your records.

Weak Point

  • Takes a While to Get Started : You need to register.
  • Running Time : Consumption is so high that it doesn’t last more than half a day. External battery required.
  • Unstable Operation : Sometimes the app crashes and recording is interrupted.

They can be subdivided into sports-branded, app-specific, and GPS logger types.


This is an app developed by athlete-oriented sports brands such as Nike, Adidas, and Asics (in fact, many of them are service acquisitions).
The purpose is to brand their products, so the main use is “activity management”, mainly for athletes’ running.


An app that does not belong to a sports brand.
In order to differentiate from sports-branded apps, features such as “social networking functions,” “multi-sports,” and “enhanced image and video output” can be seen.
It is also characterized by easy data integration with other apps.

Major Apps

  • Strava : A record-oriented social medias for a variety of sports.
  • Relive : Tracking data can be made into videos.
  • Runtrip : A social medias dedicated to runners, where you can share your running courses.
  • RunGraph : A free app that requires no registration. Altitude can be visualized, better for trail runners.

GPS Logger Types, etc.

An application developed as a substitute for a GPS logger.
Many of them have narrowed down their functions, and each has its own features.
Since many of them are developed by individuals or venture companies, you need to check out their support system.

2. Running Watche


For athletes.

It is a wearable computer that has a heart rate monitor and pedometer as well as GPS.
It specializes in pace management for running and other activities, and is not very entertaining.
I have the impression that many GPS runners and GPS art enthusiasts use them together with their running watches.
If you want to start drawing with GPS, there is no need to buy a running watch.

Strong point

  • Waterproof : Can be used in the rain.
  • Running Time : Half day to 10 hours.
  • Multifunctional : Vital signs (moving pace/heart rate/number of steps) can also be measured.

Weak Point

  • Cost : Hundreds of USD to over a thousand USD.
  • Complex Operations : Non-measurement operations, such as data export and sharing, take much time.

Major Makers

  • GARMIN : The oldest and largest GPS brand in the world.
  • SUUNTO : Brands for Mountaineers.
  • POLAR : Brands for Mountaineers.

3. GPS Logger


For professionals.

A tool that simply records location information by calculating it based on radio wave information from location information satellites such as GPS satellites.
When GPS art was born, the use of GPS loggers was the mainstream.
Originally, it was a tool for soldiers and climbers to know their current location, and it was also used as an accessory for digital cameras (to link photos with shooting locations).
Its strong point is its battery life, but its weak point is that it has no function other than recording location information.
It is suitable for recording long distance and long time activities.

Strong point

  • Running Time : 24 hours or more depending on the model.
  • Easy Operation : All you have to do is turn the power on and off.

Weak Point

  • Single Function : There is no function other than logging.
  • Cost : High-performance products are expensive (hundreds of USD to over a thousand USD)
  • Expertise : Data needs to be processed to be shared on social medias.

Major Makers

  • GARMIN : Top global market share. Almost the only choice.
  • Other Brands : Inexpensive product is here, but reliability is not so good.

Which One is Better?

Here is my personal recommendation.

  1. A free smartphone app, if you are a beginner.
  2. A running watch, if already in use.
  3. Multiple uses for backup.
  4. Extra battery, if you use a smartphone & use it for more than 3 hours.

If you’re drawing on a run or walk, an app or a running watch will do just fine! (There are a few exceptions to this rule, where a GPS logger is a must for some productions.)

Let me help you!

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