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  • Deciphering GPS Navigation Devices
Technology Articles > Gadgets > GPS > Deciphering GPS Navigation Devices

While many modern smart phones can provide GPS navigation, satellite maps, and even turn by turn navigation, some believe it is better to use a standalone GPS navigation device.

Dedicated GPS navigation devices have better battery life, more complete maps, and do not use costly data plans to track your location. Tom-tom, Garmin, Magellan, and other similar companies provide GPS tracking devices for cars and individuals.

Is it necessary to buy a stand alone GPS navigation system? Or will smartphones and other all-in-one devices suffice to stand in as GPS navigation devices?


Most GPS navigation devices have similar features. This is because GPS navigation is a very mature technology. There is not a lot of exponential innovation going on, but instead slow iteration and refining of products. If you buy a GPS navigation system, you can expect that your navigation system will provide a top view of a map, a birds' eye view of a map, voice prompts (such as "turn left at the next turn"), and estimates for travel time.


The most common use of GPS navigation is in automobiles. The use case for this is simple: when you are driving to a location, the GPS navigation device will tell you where to turn and Wednesday. This is a relatively straightforward and obvious use case.

However, there are a number of other, less obvious uses. For example, golf carts have begun integrating GPS navigation systems into their dashboards. This allows golfers to see course maps and distance measurements to the hole.

Additionally, fleets such as taxicabs and emergency vehicle fleets can use GPS navigation systems to keep track of all the cars in the fleet. This allows emergency responders and taxi cab dispatchers to make the most efficient use of automobile resources. Finally, some innovative entrepreneurs have begun using GPS chips to track stolen cars. If your car is stolen, you could ostensibly see where the car is (provided that the thief has not disabled the GPS device).

Do you need a GPS navigation device? Candidly, you probably do not. Unless you travel to new cities often, do not have a smart phone with you, want to use as a GPS navigation device, or simply have the extra cash to spare, your resources are usually better spent on all-in-one devices. GPS navigation devices, while innovative five years ago, are no longer necessary.

An exception to this rule of thumb is if you can have one installed into the front panel of your car if you buy it new. A fully integrated GPS system is far more useful than one which you announced onto your dashboard or window pain in an unwieldy manner. An integrated GPS navigation system is sleek, can be easily hidden, and easily integrates with the audio in your car.

Also of note: you may have to buy updates to maps in standalone GPS navigation devices. As a result, you cannot always be guaranteed that the maps are up-to-date with construction data, new roads, or the fastest route.

Keep this in mind before planning any trips with GPS navigation devices, and be sure to check on how map updates work (as well as potential subscription fees) before you buy a GPS navigation system.