From CNET: Does It Still Make Sense To Buy A GPS?

They're slimmer, more capable, and more affordable than ever before, but should you bother buying one when your smartphone can get you where you're going?

A GPS is one of those things I don't know how we as a society ever lived without. Like Google. And cell phones. And Nutella crepes.

Back in the stone age of satellite-assisted navigation (I'm talking 2003, around the time my thoroughly inept book on GPS technology came out), you could expect to pay hundreds of dollars for a slow, bulky, cumbersome device that might get you from point A to point B -- provided you didn't so much as think about visiting point C. (Points D and E were right out.)

What a difference a decade makes. Right now, there's a CNET exclusive on the 4.3-inch Garmin Nuvi 1390T, which costs a mere $89.99 and includes lifetime traffic data. Ridiculously good deal.

And over at eBay, Beach Camera is offering the 5-inch Garmin Nuvi 1490LMT for $129, a price that includes not only lifetime traffic, but also lifetime maps. Insanely good deal.

The question is, does anyone need a standalone GPS anymore?

If you own a smartphone, there's a very strong case to be made for "no." As Android phone owners know, the Google Maps app possesses keen navigation skills, and it costs absolutely nothing. (It can even help you navigate indoors, something no automotive GPS can manage.)

As for iOS devices, Google Maps offers rudimentary navigation, but there are countless apps that'll turn your iPhone or iPad into a killer GPS. (Many folks swear by MotionX GPS Drive, which costs all of 99 cents, but I continue to be partial to Navigon USA.)

And think about it: your phone is almost always with you, so it doesn't matter if you're in your car, your spouse's car, a friend's car, or a rental -- you've got GPS. What's more, apps like Google Maps and MotionX provide free traffic data and always-up-to-date maps, so you can bypass the hassles and expense associated with those items.

A phone also makes it infinitely easier to deal with points of interest -- especially if you're looking to call one of them. One tap and presto, you can check if a tourist attraction is open or make a reservation at a crosstown restaurant. Plus, because many GPS apps tap Google for search, you've got the largest and most up-to-date POI database known to man. The info on a standalone GPS can't compete.

On the other hand, there are some downsides to using your phone as your navigation system. For starters, unless you rely solely on voice-powered navigation, you'll need a way to mount your phone at eye level so you can peep the map. So plan on spending a few bucks for a universal windshield or dashboard mount. And get a decent one, because a lot of those gooseneck windshield mounts are way too wobbly.

Then there's the matter of power: GPS apps put considerable strain on your smartphone's battery, so if you're driving somewhere that's more than an hour or two away, make sure you have a car charger. It's a minor hassle, but a hassle all the same.

And let's not forget: when your phone is strapped to your dashboard for GPS duty, it's harder to use as, well, a phone. Not that you should be texting or dialing when you're driving anyway, but what if you're the passenger and want to while away the car ride playing Temple Run?

Maybe it's because I "grew up" using a standalone GPS, but when I need help finding my destination, that's what I reach for -- even though I know my Navigon-equipped iPhone is the better navigator.

And obviously not everyone owns or wants a smartphone, which itself is not an inexpensive purchase. There's something to be said for spending $90 or $130 one time, no additional fees or accessories required.

How about you? What's your navigation tool of choice these days: standalone GPS or GPS-savvy smartphone? I'm eager to hear your opinions.

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If you don't know where you are going, you might wind up someplace else. - Yogi Berra


Jim1348 wrote:

How about you? What's your navigation tool of choice these days: standalone GPS or GPS-savvy smartphone? I'm eager to hear your opinions.

Excellent analysis, Jim. I don't own a smartphone so I'm prejudiced, but I like my standalone GPSr.

"No misfortune is so bad that whining about it won't make it worse."

it depends

A gps in a phone just fine if you are a 'casual' user.
I think you'd need full-features of a stand-alone if your needs are more specific, like needing the most cost (or time) efficient route through 15 deliveries in a day.
Most certainly (in my experience only), a stand-alone is best for marine and air use.

I guess it's that pesky old 80/20 rule.


It is nice to have both...recent road trip I used both but the stand alone gps is much better in my opinion. I don't use my gps at home because I know how to get where I want to go. If not I have a choice between the two but don't have the gps in my car. I like of my cars has a built in which I really like....

Bobby....Garmin 2450LM

It boils down to what YOUR

It boils down to what YOUR NEEDS are and how much your allowed to spend..

Do you need a Smartphone is the question.

I have a plain old cell phone that does not even text. It is a pay as you go and my plan does not go over $10 a month. I use it mainly for emergencies such as after the last storm I called the telephone company to tell them my home phone was out of order or if I might have an emergency on the road otherwise it is turned off.
At home I use Vonage and when I go on a trip I turn on the voice mail and when I get to a motel I check it by laptop and do what is necessary. Usually nothing until I get home or email them back. Why ruin my trip by useless blather.
To me a smart phone is gadget I can live without. I have been very rude to people who have interrupted my dinner with their stupid loud one sided phone conversations near me. My space being quiet is more important than hearing a mindless one sided conversation.
A Smart Phone can get you from one point to another but will it warn you of speed cameras, give you directions with many stops without reprogramming, approaching restaurants from certain tv shows to see if you want to stop etc without having to pay for a plan.
As stated I do not need the Smart Phone for my GPS device is just as good and cheaper.

I have yet to find a need for a "Smart Phone"

View it more as a "status object" then a need. Our cells are $99 a year, and have thousands of accumulated minutes. Also 765 fits in a Dock built on my Frontiers Dash.

Smartphone vs. standalone PND

I would still rather use my Garmin as my main tool for navigation because this frees up my phone do to other things. I would rather not put all my eggs in one basket so to speak. Don't get me wrong, I love my iphone, but the battery already drains incredibly fast without using it as a navigation device. That being said, if my nuvi 765t ever breaks, I would consider possibly downloading the Garmin iphone app rather than spending money on a whole new PND, but let's hope that doesn't happen anytime soon (fingers crossed). So in other words, I will use the two separately as long as I possibly can.

Garmin Nuvi 3490lmt, 765t with Lifetime maps and Clear Channel traffic