Smartphones today have lots of integrated utilities, the GPS being one of the most used ones. This feature allows the phone to know your location, which can come in handy in a number of situations. First and foremost, it allows smartphone users to see their location and get turn-by-turn navigation instructions, but it can also come in handy for tracking the smartphone if it gets lost.

With companies like Google, Nokia, Microsoft or Apple constantly developing their mapping services and providing real-time information on more than just location, it seems that the smartphone can overtake dedicated GPS devices that have had an undisputed reign for many years. Probably the best mapping service is Google Maps, being used by hundreds of users worldwide, and as a fact, the question that is on many minds is: why still use a dedicated GPS device is you have Google Maps? Today we’ll try to find out which is better.

Google Maps vs. Dedicated GPS devices

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Google is constantly upgrading their mapping service by adding support for more areas, for example, by creating StreetView images for more places on Earth and providing real-time traffic information. On the other hand, GPS devices have very detailed maps, they acquire the location very fast and having only one purpose makes them more reliable than smartphones, as there are less things that can go wrong.

Nevertheless, we’ll be putting Google Maps and dedicated GPS devices head to head to see what advantages and disadvantages they have over each other. We hope that this will help interested users to pick the best solution for them.

Google Maps: Pros and Cons

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Like a bottle of wine, Google’s services have only gotten better with time, each update providing users with more functions and tools. However, some feel overwhelmed by all the things the service can do. Looking from an objective standpoint, Google Maps has both advantages over regular GPS navigation, as well as disadvantages.

Pros: 

  • Maps are free
  • Offline download of maps is possible
  • Can provide location information on the go, regardless of transportation mode
  • Internet connectivity is available for searching places
  • Portable
  • Maps are auto-updated
  • Better quality displays

Cons:

  • Many smartphones require Internet connectivity for navigation to work
  • Google Maps has limited support for offline maps
  • Depending on the device, it might be harder to operate
  • Lots of unnecessary features for some
  • Low battery efficiency (will probably require a car charger)
  • Relies on phone signal and might become inaccurate in certain locations
  • Navigation can be interrupted when a call or other notification comes in

Besides these pros and cons of Google Maps, there are other things to consider. Many people don’t want to bother with docking and undocking their smartphones every time they go for a ride, or maybe their devices have small screens, and they can’t make out the directions. The issue here lies beyond the simple advantages or disadvantages of Google Maps and have more to do with the actual limitations of the smartphone they own.

On the other hand, the versatility of Google Maps and smartphones in general make this solution superior to standalone GPS devices, as many users don’t wander off so far from home to need a GPS and a quick look at the map before they leave is enough.

Dedicated GPS devices: Pros and Cons

 

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There has been much talk about the demise of the GPS device, as some think of it as a relic of the past generation that is quickly taken over by other multi-purpose devices. But in certain aspects, the dedicated GPS device is superior to Google Maps or any other mapping service used in smartphones.

Pros:

  • Cheap and easy to use
  • Does not rely on cell phone signal
  • Long battery life (many also come with 12V car adapters)
  • Very accurate
  • Reliable in remote regions

Cons:

  • Not all models can be used outside vehicles
  • Bulky design
  • Some do not have integrated maps
  • Additional maps sometimes need to be bought
  • Touchscreen interface not as good as smartphones’
  • User must update maps manually on many devices (and some map updated are not free)

Dedicated GPS devices have advanced in the last few years in many ways, emerging as a gadget that anyone can afford and use with ease, as opposed to very expensive gear that professionals used. Nowadays, anyone can pick up a GPS device for around $100 – $150, which comes with preloaded maps and updates as well as some other goodies. Nevertheless, there is a customer base that wants the extra features and mobility of smartphones, and such, Google Maps is more suited for them.

Note: Keep in mind that not all GPS devices are the same, therefore, some might not apply in the list of pros and cons shown above. We tried to make it as general as possible.

Bottom Line: Which is best?

Each situation requires different tools, as many of you know by now. If you only drive around town and you have a decent-sized screen on your smartphone, Google Maps will serve you just fine, as it will provide all the information you might need. Easy access to other information that Google Maps has to offer is also a benefit in this situation.

On the other hand, if you are taking regular trips in remote areas, of if you are a driver that has to do cross-country routes or international travel, then a dedicated GPS device is the tool that is more suited, as it will work without Internet connection or cell phone signal. GPS devices are not at all overrated or useless, as they offer users better support in certain conditions.

In the Google Maps vs. Dedicated GPS devices there is no definite winner. The user must decide first which will serve his needs best, and then the better solution will emerge. If you fall somewhere in the middle, the best solution might just be to have both of them at your side.


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Author

I often wonder, where is technology heading? What do all of these advances mean for us and for our future? I sometimes miss the days when I didn’t know how to use a floppy disk, or how a computer CPU works, but now, until I find an answer to my questions, I’ll keep tracking these advances and show everything I find to those who share my interests.