Features | Alerts & General Features

Auto Lap

Found on almost every GPS watch, this feature does what it sounds like: automatically marks a lap. How often can be adjusted by programming the watch. With most watches, the default setting is a lap per mile.

Auto Pause

This feature, found on about half the watches made today, kicks in whenever you stop mid-run. Instead of manually pushing the start/stop button to pause the timer, the watch detects when you’ve stopped and pauses it for you.

Some watches let you manually set auto-pause at slower speeds rather than a dead stop. This is useful if you frequently run in areas with stoplights. What tends to happen is the watch takes a few seconds to realize you’ve come to a full stop and the auto-pause is delayed. By setting the auto-pause at, say, 20:00 min/miles, it’s more responsive to frequent starts and stops.

Auto Scroll

With so much data available, you’ll probably want access to more information than what can be displayed on a single screen. Many watches allow you to manually scroll through different screens by pushing a button. Auto scroll cycles through each screen automatically.

Customizable Screens

This feature allows you to choose which data fields you want displayed on different screens. Depending on the watch, you’ll be able to display anywhere from 1 to 6 different types of information per screen. Having as much information as possible shown on a single screen sounds like a good thing, but keep in mind that as the screen space is chopped into smaller sections, the size of the information displayed shrinks, making it harder to read.

Custom Bike Settings

GPS watches that pair with bike speed and cadence sensors must be programmed with wheel size in order to accurately determine speed and distance. Like a traditional bicycle computer, the sensor works by counting the number of wheel rotations, translating that into speed.

If you own more than one bike with more than one wheel size, the programmed wheel size on your GPS watch must be adjusted every time you switch bikes. To compensate, some watches remember multiple bikes – just tell the watch which bike you are using and off you go. The number of bikes that can be added varies, but generally it’s between 3 and 5.

Time and Distance Alert

Say you programmed an interval workout on your watch. You’re just about to start your first interval. How do you know when to stop? Most watches will alert you with an audible alert – a loud beep – and with a screen display.

Vibration Alerts

Higher-end watches often have a vibration alerts in addition to audible and screen alerts. This is handy if you run with headphones and don’t want the hassle of continuously looking down at your watch.

Run/Walk Alert (Garmin feature)

The run/walk alert notifies you at programmable timed intervals (say every 2 minutes) when it’s time to walk, and when it’s time to run. While this is a feature best for beginner runners – it’s included on Garmin’s most basic GPS watch, the Forerunner 10 — it’s also found on its higher-end watches, the Forerunner 610 andForerunner 910xt. Although this feature is specific to Garmin, a workaround is to create time-based intervals.