Definition of Bearing in GPS Navigation

Yuji Kotani/Getty Images

Your bearing is the compass direction from your current position to your intended destination. It describes the direction of a destination or object. If you're facing due north and you want to move to a tree directly to your right, the bearing would be east. The tree would be at 90 degrees from your location. The direction of a bearing is also called an azimuth. 

The Bearing in GPS Navigation 

A GPS or global navigation satellite system is a common feature of most smartphones and many other electronic devices. The system identifies where the device is located, and it can also determine conditions there, such as weather and time. The U.S. government maintains the GPS system and allows free access to it. 

When you enter your intended destination into your smartphone or another device, its GPS feature pinpoints where you are and your location in relation to your destination. Your bearing is the direction you’d take to move toward that destination. In the case of the tree, you’d bear east to reach it. Your bearing is calculated to the nearest degree and is typically the most direct route from Point A to Point B. Yes, you might take a quick jaunt south to pick up a rock, but your GPS bearing does not and cannot anticipate that.

Some device maps offer alternative routes to a destination, but your bearing would remain essentially the same because your destination remains a certain direction away from your current location.