Standalone GPS vs Smartphone GPS

Global Positioning System, or GPS technology, has revolutionized how people are able to get directions and navigate while driving. A GPS is a navigation system that captures satellite imagery to provide an illustrated map to the driver of their route. With a GPS, the driver can input a location they want to drive to and the GPS will calculate, using satellite data, how to drive to that location, the approximate time it will take to get to that location, and where the driver is on the road at all times. Extra benefits found on GPS units may include live traffic and weather conditions. In addition, the navigation system comes equipped with a database of locations, businesses, sites of interest, hospitality businesses, as well as gas stations, that are in the vicinity of the driver's route.

The GPS became a consumer dream when units were created to sell on the marketplace. These small GPS units could attach to the dashboard of a car and are powered through the car's electrical system, usually through the car adapter. This allows the driver to have their GPS unit on at all times to help them navigate, detour, and figure out places to go as they are driving. 

Although many car companies decided to build GPS navigation technology onto the motor vehicle dashboards, consumers still bought GPS units to enhance their driving experience. However, a new technology arose that would change how GPS technology would be used: smartphones. Smartphones are not only a revolutionary way to communicate, the ability to access the internet and other forms of communication from a smartphone anywhere helps consumers perform numerous duties with their smartphones. One piece of programming that is available for most smartphones are GPS navigation applications or a built-in GPS program in the phone.

At this point, consumers then could have two choices. They could either buy a stand-alone GPS unit for their car or they could just use their existing smartphone for GPS help. In terms of cost, the smartphone has some benefits. Although stand-alone GPS units are relatively affordable, if a consumer already has a smartphone, there may not be any reason to use the extra money to purchase a GPS unit. In addition, the applications and built-in programs to the smartphones are no real extra cost and can be free to download if its a specific GPS app. That means for the price of the phone, the consumer gets GPS technology along with the device. 

Phones are also mobile. How many times can a consumer claim they went driving with a family member or friend who did not have a GPS and the consumer could just whip out their smartphone and find directions. Although GPS units are small and can be mobile, the the GPS has to be set up on any car dashboard and plugged into the car adapter for power (unless it has a full battery). Comparatively, the smartphone is just in a person's pocket and can be turned on for GPS navigation rather quickly. 

Smartphones also have the extra benefit of communication and internet research access. Say the family wants to head to a historical location that is several miles away. The phone can not only be used to find the directions, but then the phone user can call the site or look up the historical site's website or social media account to see the site's hours that day. A GPS unit does not have this option at all. 

Then again, GPS units are quite inexpensive compared to a whole smartphone. Many people who have regular cell phones will not have the access to the internet. For less than a $100, a person can purchase a GPS for their car without having to purchase a smartphone with a yearly phone and data plan. GPS units also have a longer battery life than a smartphone and it easily plugs into the car adapter. Using the smartphone for so many different things (GPS, calling people, internet) will drain the phones battery quickly. A GPS is also simple: it provides navigation. A smartphone user would need to juggle multiple tasks, like calling and web research, while using the GPS. This could interrupt key navigation tasks, like knowing which exit to take off the highway. In addition, GPS units have larger screens with typically better graphics that are readable to most people. A smartphone will vary in size, but the screen of any smartphone can be small. When a driver is finding which street to take their right turn on, the GPS screen will be more detailed than the smartphone screen. Finally, GPS units are able to be given away with ease. If a consumer wants a more complex GPS, they can give their old GPS to a friend or family member. Trying to do that with a smartphone with a contracted data plan is very difficult. 

In the end, all of these variables will matter more to some people over others. But, its important for consumers to know the benefits and drawbacks of having a smartphone for their GPS or having a stand alone GPS unit. Knowing every aspect of these devices can help the consumer choose the best GPS technology for themselves and their traveling habits.

Check out our infographic here!