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Which Is Better: GPS Devices or Smartphone Apps?

These days, just about every smartphone is outfitted with a GPS app. So, why would you ever need a handheld GPS device? There are several reasons why standalone GPS devices are still helpful for getting you from one place to the next, even if you have a smartphone app.

What Are the Pros and Cons of Using a Smartphone GPS?

gps devices
Do you use a GPS on your smartphone?


When you use your phone for navigation, you only have to carry around one device for GPS and communication purposes. This makes it more convenient, so you don’t have to carry around multiple devices.

Even though it’s convenient, the navigation apps tend to be processor intensive. This can result in your phone heating up and battery breaking down quickly. On top of this, the app will eat up your limited data plan.

Another drawback of using a smartphone is that the screen is usually about half the size of those found on standalone GPS units. Most GPS users would prefer to see the screen versus having to squint.

A plus of being able to use a smartphone GPS is that you can use it while taking phone calls and listening to podcasts or music. However, when using hands-free Bluetooth to answer phone calls, the GPS smartphone app will disappear momentarily when someone tries to contact you. Additionally, the directional voice prompts of the app will drown out the podcast or music you are listening to. Many people stick with the handheld GPS devices for this reason.

GPS apps on smartphones also have another major con. When you are outside of cell tower range, they have a habit of malfunctioning. Your inability to find your way around could put you in real danger when you travel in the mountains or more rural areas that have spotty service. GPS devices rely on satellites and you can download maps.

The Times Are Changing and So Are GPS Devices

gps devices
GPS manufacturers are making major updates.


The leading GPS manufacturers, including Garmin and Magellan, know they need to evolve if they want to stay in business. Consequently, they are correcting the pitfalls of using Android phones and iPhones as a GPS by building units with additional advanced features. For example, there are now GPS devices with turn-by-turn directions that announce information like street names. There are also touchscreen interfaces and detailed 3D graphics.

Some of the standalone units from GPS manufacturers have integrated dash cams. The Garmin Drive takes dash cam images and warns of lane departures and forward collisions. Bill Strand, Magellan’s Associate Director of Product Marketing, was recently interviewed by The New York Times. He noted that his organization was always asking itself why customers would continue to buy handheld GPS units. The answers they come up with guide them in their innovations that continue to make their products superior.

So, what do you prefer using for your GPS? GPS devices or smartphone apps? Let us know!

Related Blog: How Does a Phone Tracker GPS App Function Work?


About The Author

Sally Perkins is a professional freelance writer with many years experience across many different areas. She made the move to freelancing from a stressful corporate job and loves the work-life balance it offers her. When not at work, Sally enjoys reading, hiking, spending time with her family and travelling as much as possible.

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