Your next Garmin watch could have a unibody metal case and super accurate GPS

Man stretching and checking GPS watch before run
(Image credit: Getty)

A newly registered patent explains how next-generation Garmin watches could offer more accurate GPS than ever, enhanced battery life, and cases crafted from single pieces of metal.

The document (ID US 20230187822 A1) was published by the US Patents and Trademarks Office (USPTO) this week, and describes a way of integrating radio antennas into a photovoltaic layer covering the watch's screen.

Photovoltaic material converts energy from sunlight into electricity, and is already used in the lenses of many of Garmin's watches to extend battery life. The company calls its own photovoltaic materials Power Glass and Power Sapphire.

How it works

So why make things more complicated? Well, right now the aerials for most GPS watches are located in the edge of the housing. This keeps them as far away from one another as possible, which helps to reduce signal interference.

The problem is that watch bezels are often made of metal, which is strong and looks attractive, but can interfere with the GPS signal or reduce its strength. Rather than shift to fully plastic cases, Garmin's patent suggests using the photovoltaic layer to form an aerial for location positioning, moving it away from the watch housing.

"The solar cell includes a substrate and a photovoltaic layer, the photovoltaic layer including a mesh of electrically conductive material positioned on the substrate and a first opening," explains the document. "The first antenna is formed by the first opening of the photovoltaic layer."

The patent goes on to suggest that "The housing of the electronic device may have a unibody construction and may be formed of electrically conductive materials, such as a metal, a metal alloy or a combination thereof."

Of course, a patent is no guarantee that this technology will eventually make its way into a consumer product (just look at how many patents Fitbit and Apple have registered for devices like smart rings). However, it's certainly interesting, and any advances that make location tracking more accurate are welcome in our books.

Cat Ellis

Cat is the editor of Advnture, She’s been a journalist for 15 years, and was fitness and wellbeing editor on TechRadar before joining the Advnture team in 2022. She’s a UK Athletics qualified run leader, and in her spare time enjoys nothing more than lacing up her shoes and hitting the roads and trails (the muddier, the better), usually wearing at least two sports watches.