Location Based Services

The Big Debate: GPS Device VS. Smartphone

You’ll be traveling internationally and wondering if you should purchase a GPS device or use your smart phone. You’ll be hiking in the wilderness and don’t want to rely solely on a paper map. You’re planning a day trip to new town and want to explore the area. Should you purchase a dedicated GPS device, or make do with your smart phone? Here’s your guide to the pros and cons of each.

A Handheld GPS Device

Acquiring something like a Garmin or Magellan handheld GPS device can feel a bit like unearthing a fossil, but new features on these have brought them into the current age. Many now even have a cellular capability and can provide real-time traffic updates. That said, they can be expensive, and you might still have to purchase and download additional maps, depending on where you’re traveling.
Size varies on handheld GPS devices, which can be a good and a bad thing. If screen visibility is of paramount importance, the GPS is the way to go. Navigating winding roads in Italy, for example, is much more difficult on the phone than on a large GPS screen that’s mounted to your dash and provides turn-by-turn directions. Battery life is also much less of a concern; GPS apps tend to drain phone batteries as fast as they can charge.
Finally, smartphones might work great if you’re walking or doing limited hiking, but relatively short battery life make a dedicated GPS unit optimal for wilderness hiking or trekking. Further, your smart phone probably isn’t as durable and waterproof as a handheld GPS unit.

Using Your Smart Phone for GPS

The obvious advantage to using your smartphone as a map is that you don’t have to pay for a new piece of hardware or tote around an additional device. It should be noted, however, that you might need to purchase additional sim cards or pay roaming fees when enjoying international travel, and depending on your method of GPS system, you might need to download additional maps, which might cost.


However, the convenience is hard to beat. Not only can you get real time traffic updates and the same turn-by-turn voice instructions as a dedicated unit, but you also have internet access at your fingertips to help you find fun new spots and explore the area. You also won’t need to manually update; all map apps can be updated over wireless internet (though you will need to make sure you’ll have access to wifi).
Essentially, a dedicated GPS unit or GPS on your smart phone offer you two great options. You’ll make the best choice by determining how and where you’ll be using GPS the most, and how much you want to spend. Happy travels!

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