Does A Stand-Alone GPS Have A Role Anymore In A World Full Of Smartphones?

garmin streetpilot c330Many of us are now carrying smartphones in our pockets. If you aren’t yet carrying one, stats show that you may in the not-too-distant future.

Most smartphones today have an integrated GPS and pretty well-developed navigation apps.

Case in point, this last weekend I navigated to a fairly remote point in east central Florida using my iPhone GPS and the Google Maps app. While on the property, I was even using the Maps app to peer down on the area I was standing using satellite view to get my bearings.

Amazing technology that we now carry in our pockets. Which brings up the question…

Is there really any place for a dedicated, stand-alone GPS anymore? Why are they being sold in stores anymore?

It seems as if phones have all the advantages. The maps are always up-to-date because they are downloaded on the fly from the Internet. On the contrary, a standard GPS requires map updates to be installed. And, they’re not free. Garmin, for example, charges upwards of $50 for a map update.

Phones have real-time data like traffic, and my experience with Google Maps has shown that the red indicators for heavy traffic on the map is pretty darn accurate. Getting live traffic data on a stand-alone GPS requires specially-capable hardware, sometimes an additional subscription, or being hooked up to your smartphone (which sort of defeats the point, if you ask me).

So, why the hell would anybody want a regular GPS anymore?

Truth is, if you have a GPS-enabled smartphone, you really have no earthly reason to buy a stand-alone GPS anymore. The advantages of a smartphone over the GPS are many.

The only possible reasons I could think of on why a regular GPS would still be preferable would be:

  1. You can get special-purpose GPS devices and maps, such as for marine or aviation navigation. Keep in mind, you CAN get such maps for your phone, too. But, it is more standardized on these special-purpose nav devices.
  2. The screen is usually bigger on a stand-alone GPS than on a phone. You may prefer that.
  3. The GPS on most smartphones is a real significant draw on the battery, so if you forget your car charger, you can kill off your phone pretty quickly. The stand-alone GPS’s are built to last longer on battery power.
  4. If you’re navigating in an area without cellular internet service, apps like Google Maps just aren’t going to work for you. One way or the other, you will need to bring your own maps. This is a strong argument for stand-alone GPS, although one has to keep in mind that you can get on-set maps for phones, too. Garmin even has an app on the iPhone and you can have your own maps installed, making your phone really no different than a standard GPS.

All that said, sometimes it comes down merely to preference. For whatever reason, some people prefer to keep their standard clamshell phones and simply don’t want to carry a smartphone.

Hey, to each his own. 🙂

But, there’s a reason why the prices for stand-alone GPS’s have dropped like a rock over the last few years. Because, more and more, they’re becoming obsolete.



  1. Robert Dyer says:

    It’s not the smartphone that’s going to make people stop buying stand alone GPS. It’s because in a couple of years it will be standard equipment in most new cars.

    • David Risley says:

      Anything is possible. I tend to think it will still be an add-on, though. But, you never know. 🙂

  2. Keep the GPS. When out of data coverage they do not have isssues like smartphones.

    • David Risley says:

      If you already have a GPS, I’d agree. If you don’t, there’s no reason to buy one, really. You can install maps to your phone and it will work out of range just the same.

  3. A dedicated device will always work better. A GPS will work better than a smartphone and will not be interrupted by a phone call.

  4. A good reason for a standalone GPS is for PRIVACY. You have NO privacy using your cellphone as your GPS device.

  5. I’ve tried the Google app on my Huawei Android phone and the voice synthesis is abominable and the volume far too low under normal traffic conditions. Here in the UK the mobile signals are still not great in a lot of areas so you’d suffer signal loss a lot of the time out in the countryside in the popular holiday areas. Also some of us can’t afford or don’t want/need data packages on our phones. I’d rather have my TomTom with proper voices anytime.

  6. The GPS is one more thing that frees me from having to have a smartphone.

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