Android Wear: Google Maps smartwatch location accuracy without phone

Better than 50 meter location accuracy from smartwatch using LTE/Wifi

Recently my phone was off and I tried Google Maps 9.27 on the Android Wear LTE smartwach. To my delight, despite having no phone connected and no GPS in the watch, my location was found in less than 15 seconds to within 30-50 meter accuracy. As I walked down the city street and turned corners, the same accuracy held, updating every 10 seconds or so.

History

Several months ago, I had tried Google Maps on Android Wear with only a Wifi connection and location didn’t work at all. That is, the phone was off completely and Google Maps didn’t know where in the world the watch was, despite having a Wifi-capable watch.

Technical details of non-GPS smartwatch location capability

I did not ascertain if Wifi or LTE was being used for location, as I had both of them turned on. I was in a city area where there were lots of Wifi access points and a few LTE macro cells in range. In any case, the observed accuracy better than 50 meters was well within expectations of LTE and/or Wifi location accuracy without GPS.

This finding enhances the even an Android Wear LTE smartwatch without GPS as a nice standalone safety net for one in the city with a dead phone battery–you can make phone calls and get sufficient location accuracy in Google Maps from the smartwatch alone.

Note, in rural areas the accuracy may be considerably worse if fewer macro cells are in view and/or no Wifi access points are in range.