Knowing where you are and which way to go are essential to getting where you want to go. The way in which man found his way round changed little for centuries, but new technology has changed this radically. Nowadays the navigation with GPS or Smartphone technologies is quite normal. Even that, many doubts may arise over which technology is better… GPS or Smartphone? Which is the most dependable device? When should you use one or the other? What does a GPS offer you? What are the advantages of a Smartphone?
A GPS works through a network of satellites some 20,000km above the earth, with synchronised orbits to cover the whole of the plant’s surface. When you want to know a specific position, the receiver automatically locates different satellites in the network, from which it receives signals to indicate this position. Let’s take a look at the 10 factors you should consider to decide which is the right device for you.
Before making any comparisons, it should not be forgotten that there is a very wide range of GPS and Smartphones; not all GPS devices are equally reliable; different models offer different possibilities and the quality of their features varies just as widely; there is a wide range of navigation applications available on the market, and so on. But this is not the issue, as all we aim to do here is to consider the 10 factors in deciding once and for all which is the most dependable navigation device.
Let’s take a look at the 10 factors to consider before choosing:
1. Battery life
The GPS comes out on top on battery life. This is a critical factor. It is well known that navigation is an activity that uses a lot of power. This is of vital importance as, at the most, a Smartphone can work without stopping for between 3 and 4 hours while a GPS can go on – depending on the model, manufacturer and so on – for between 6 and 20 hours. You should therefore think about what you are going to do and make sure your device gives the battery life you need. Added to this is the fact that many athletes use external sensors (speed sensor, cadence sensor or heart rate monitor) that increase the power consumption of your device even more.
Note: Anything else you do with your Smartphone – calls and so on – will shorten its battery life. You should also remember that if the battery in your Smartphone runs out, you’ll be left with no GPS and no way of making calls. Game Over!
Weight, a variable factor. Until recently Smartphones generally weighed in at less than GPS devices. But the unstoppable progress of technology has made Smartphones into increasingly complex, heavy items. In fact, we’ve compared tables of weights and we can state that many GPS devices – especially those designed to be worn on the wrist – are lighter than Smartphones. However, this is only a critical factor if the user needs it.
The GPS comes out on top on toughness. In general terms – we’ve already pointed out that the range of GPS on the market is very wide and therefore their quality can vary – the different models of GPS are designed for one specific type of activity, and therefore generally guarantee a degree of toughness in terms of damp, rain, impact, heat, extreme cold and so on. Not all devices are the same, but in general Smartphones are more fragile and meet less demanding standards of toughness. In this respect the sport you take part in will determine your choice.
The Smartphone comes out on top on price. Without taking into account the price tag of the Smartphone itself, a good application for navigation for your Smartphone will cost between nothing and €40. In this respect your Smartphone performs the functions of a telephone and also that of navigation for the same price or little more. Two for one on Smartphones!
*Note: There are some Smartphones on the market designed to perform both functions. This will affect their final cost and they will work much better for navigation.
The GPS comes out on top for the screen. There are currently brands of GPS that boast good practical design and quality maps. This means the maps must be viewed on a suitable, tough and transflective (visible in direct sunlight) screen. While it is true that there are Smartphones with excellent screens, none of them have all the features mentioned above. Another point in favour of GPS!
“Usability”, a variable factor. This can be a very important factor depending on what activity you are engaged in and what time of year you do it. In this respect, “usability” is taken to mean the device is practical and intuitive to use. In principle, the design of most Smartphones makes them ideal to use for most people. Nevertheless, it should be borne in mind that a GPS may be designed solely to meet specific needs that a Smartphone cannot. For example, the buttons on most GPS are designed to be suitable – in terms of their size, feel, sweat resistance and so on – for use even while wearing gloves, as cyclists, walkers and climbers do in winter. The screens of most GPS are also designed for this. Moreover, the resistive screen on many GPS – somewhat slower and less intuitive – allows the user to navigate while wearing gloves or with wet hands.
The Smartphone comes out on top for processors. The processors built into most Smartphones are superior to those featured in most GPS. This improves the speed and ease of use of Smartphones in comparison to GPS devices. Accessories are not a deciding factor. On the market, both GPS and Smartphone manufacturers have provided their devices with accessories to adapt their functions to the different needs of users. While it is true that every user’s needs are different, in general terms the main manufacturers have provided their products with protective covers, shoulder straps, attachments, bicycle cradles and so on suitable for each model. In this respect, every manufacturer supplies its own accessories. This is why we believe this can be a highly variable factor.
The receiver in the device is a factor where the GPS is the clear winner. Basically this is because the receivers fitted in most GPS are more sensitive and make it possible to connect to more satellites. In this way, the signal received by the device is faster, more responsive and more accurate. Nevertheless, it should be added that there are some Smartphones with quality receivers which are acceptable for navigation.
Use of the Internet is a factor in favour of Smartphones. The fact that Smartphones can browse the Internet is without a doubt a major advantage, giving them a host of online possibilities such as the use of other applications, downloads or exchanging content.
Even though a GPS device is designed specifically for navigating, there are arguments both ways. In any case, this appraisal aims to raise the most important aspects to consider and assess what each user’s actual needs are in order to determine the final choice. What did you choose, GPS or Smartphone?