With modern digital map apps, a standalone GPS unit for your car almost seems like an anachronism.
Simply launch them on your phone and you get real-time traffic updates.
The apps can reroute you around heavy traffic and you can even send your location to someone if you’re fetching them.
Using that feature, that person gets a real-time view of your location, saving you the hassle and danger of having to text them while driving.
Even built-in navigation systems now offer niceties like handwriting and speech recognition, making it super easy to key in an address.
With technology advancing so quickly, does it still make sense to buy a standalone GPS unit from makers like TomTom or Garmin?
Advantages of standalone GPS units
1. They don’t need a data connection to work. Like your phone, standalone GPS units rely on satellites in space to determine your location, but unlike your phone, they already have maps preloaded, so they don’t need a data connection to load upcoming terrain. Good if you’re in an area with poor mobile reception.
2. Using standalone GPS units means you don’t drain your phone battery. Sure, you could charge your phone on the go, but it heats your phone up and over time reduces your battery life.
3. Larger screens on standalone GPS units mean they are easier to see and manipulate while on the move.
Disadvantages of external units
1. They normally don’t have data connections, so you lose the benefit of real-time traffic data. Having said that, some GPS units can connect to your phone via Bluetooth to get that capability, but it’s a hassle to always need to connect them.
2. Large and bulky GPS units take up precious windscreen space. For those who like keeping their dashboards uncluttered, a phone holder is probably the extent of what they’re willing to bear.
3. Big screens don’t matter if your graphics are low-resolution, and most standalone GPS units don’t have the sharpest graphics. Map apps are displayed on your phone’s high-resolution screen, but the cheaper screens on standalone units sometimes means low-rent graphics.
Should you buy one?
With Singapore’s good mobile reception, there seems to be no reason to buy a standalone GPS unit anymore.
But people who drive for a living might want to consider one as a backup to their mobile phone.
Phone navigation apps suffer from occasional glitches, and it’s always good to have something you can fall back on.
Having peace of mind is always good when you’re on the road, and a standalone GPS unit helps.
But for the majority of us, having our phones is good enough.