Finding Your Way: Dedicated GPS vs. Smartphones

Smartphones have been presenting a lot of competition to dedicated GPS units lately. The iPhone has plenty of apps that offer turn-by-turn directions. Microsoft’s WP7 is still a little rough around the edges when it comes to navigation, but it certainly gets the job done. Google Maps on Android is an extremely polished suite of navigation tools. Still, dedicated GPS units do offer a few benefits you won’t find in a Smartphone.


The Benefits of a Dedicated GPS

It’s a dedicated device – If you have a smartphone, you probably would like to be able to use it as a smartphone. This means every time you want to use it as a GPS, you have to pull it out of your purse/pocket, attach it to its car dock, plug in the charger (you don’t want it running out of batters later), and hope no one text or calls during an important driving instruction. You can leave a dedicated GPS unit in your car, and it will always be ready for you.

A better GPS signal – Smartphones have a lot of hardware stuffed into a small bit of space, and a solid GPS antenna isn’t always a priority. Dedicated GPS units have fewer size constraints and make the GPS antenna a top priority. They offer much more reliable positioning.

No data connection required – Most smartphone GPS apps rely on a data connection for maps and directions, rather than storing all that information on the phone itself. If you’re in an area with no cellular coverage, those apps are fairly useless for navigation. The apps that do store the data on your phone are generally very pricey or involve monthly subscriptions – that money might be better spend on a dedicated unit.

An interface designed for travel – Dedicated GPS units are designed to be mounted to the dashboard. The user interface large buttons and clear text. Smartphones are intended to be used in the palm of your hand and have smaller buttons and text.


The Benefits of a Smartphone GPS

Connectivity – That data connection means you’ll always have up to date maps, traffic conditions, and road information. It also means you have more search options available. Some dedicated GPS units have cellular data connections with the added benefit of the data being free.

More than just a GPS – Smartphones with multitasking can do more than just give directions. Most can be configured to continue to give you directions while playing music or connecting a phone call. Only a small handful of GPS units offer music playback capabilities.

You probably already have a smartphone – If you already have a smartphone (and a lot of people do, these days), its GPS capabilities are probably plenty for the occasional trip; however, if you find yourself using the phone as a GPS often, you might want to consider investing in a dedicated unit.


A Few of the Top Dedicated GPS Units on the Market

If you think a dedicated unit is right for you, here are a few of the top rated GPS units on alaTest.

Garmin nüvi 3590LMT

The nüvi 3590LMT offers a great screen and touch/voice interface as well as free data service for up-to-date traffic information. It’s a bit on the pricey side, but free map updates for life does make up for it.

TomTom GO Live 1005

TomTom’s GO Live GPS units offer the best in information services, including local searches, traffic, weather, and even fuel prices. The service is free for the first year, but costs $59.95 per year after that.

Garmin nüvi 2595LMT

The nüvi 2595LMT offers almost all of the same great features of the 3590LMT but is significantly cheaper. It has the same great interface and free traffic and map updates for life. The only difference is that it does not show 3D landmarks.

Editor in Chief : Arie Struik

One Response to “Finding Your Way: Dedicated GPS vs. Smartphones”

  1. BJ says:

    Some of the areas we travel in are off the beaten path and out of the range of a cell tower. Therefore, we have chosen a dedicated gps. (We assume that the Smartphone requires a cell tower to work.) We see the benefits of both the dedicated gps and the smartphone. But, presently the dedicated gps is the best choice for us.

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