Apple Watch May Display Incorrect Altitude Readings in Unusual Weather Conditions

The Apple Watch Series 6 and Apple Watch SE may give incorrect altitude readings in unusual weather conditions, as noted by iphone-ticker.de.

series6altimeter

The Apple Watch Series 6 and ‌Apple Watch SE‌ feature a next-generation always-on altimeter to provide real-time elevation information. Apple says that its updated altimeter cross-references information from GPS and nearby Wi-Fi networks to detect even the smallest changes in elevation above ground level, up and down to the measurement of 1 foot.

However, a large number of Apple Watch users in Germany have been receiving altitude readings that were incorrect by a wide margin. Many users reported that their altitude was calculated 200 to 300 meters too high, despite the fact that affected devices had worked correctly in the past.

Users on Apple's German support forums found that a period of low air pressure was causing the Apple Watch's altimeter to give incorrect altitude readings. While it is normal for changes in air pressure to affect barometric altimeters, the problem is usually dealt with by regular recalibrations to the current air pressure value at sea level. However, Apple does not allow users to manually prompt altimeter recalibration, and it is unknown how often the Apple Watch automatically recalibrates itself.

Affected users should still receive correct information when tracking a workout such as a hike, since the Apple Watch records altitude relative to the start point. Nevertheless, it is not clear why some Apple Watches are not using GPS information to link barometric measurements to location. This would allow the Apple Watch to identify when there are fronts of weather that significantly affect air pressure and then prompt altimeter recalibration.

Some users in Germany are reporting that they are still receiving disproportionately incorrect readings, while others have found that the only way to prompt altimeter recalibration was to factory-reset their Apple Watch and iPhone.

Tag: Germany
Related Forum: Apple Watch

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Top Rated Comments

chabig Avatar
45 months ago
Part of the problem is that people think altimeters measure altitude. They really don't. They measure air pressure. To derive an altitude from pressure, you need outside information–typically the local atmospheric pressure. There are no doubt some tricks Apple could do to improve the altimetry using GPS position and altitude information, but those would have to be coded into the software. Maybe the altimeter will improve with subsequent iOS/WatchOS versions.
Score: 12 Votes (Like | Disagree)
PinkyMacGodess Avatar
45 months ago
Anything based on an altimeter is going to be inaccurate at times. It's working on pressure to tell altitude. Atmospheric pressure changes. It's why we have weather. GPS is more reliable, but it too is somewhat inaccurate depending on how it can, or can't, get signals to triangulate the position of the device at that moment. And this assumes that the port the altimeter uses itself isn't plugged.

This is a 'dog bites man' story, IMO. Someone upset that it's inaccurate really needs to be better informed how it works. *shrug*
Score: 6 Votes (Like | Disagree)
PinkyMacGodess Avatar
45 months ago
Some may not know, but airplanes use a standard 'altitude' once they climb past 18,000 feet ('https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Flight_level'). When a plane is flying at 'flight level 350', that pilot needs to know that no one else was going to be flying at that same level due to inaccuracies in the physical measurement of air pressure, and that someone flying at flight level 340 is actually AT 34,000 feet, and not higher due to changes in weather and pressure. There are other regulations that cover flight level operations to try to keep passengers safe, and planes properly separated. To rely on physical altimeters would be incredibly dangerous.

Also plane altimeters are adjustable to compensate for local changes in atmospheric pressures. Imaagine taking off in stormy rainy low pressure areas like London England, and flying to the notoriously high pressure dominated Caribbean.
Score: 5 Votes (Like | Disagree)
4jasontv Avatar
45 months ago

American or European?
Do Europeans measure distance in sports venues?
Score: 4 Votes (Like | Disagree)
yaxomoxay Avatar
45 months ago
here you go.. now I had to cancel the trip to climb the Himalayas.
Score: 4 Votes (Like | Disagree)
swingerofbirch Avatar
45 months ago
Is it possible people are forgetting that their attitude and not their aptitude determines their altitude?
Score: 4 Votes (Like | Disagree)