GPS, Driving Your Way To The Future

Science and Technology has brought a lot of changes into our society particularly in the way we live and do things. Life right now is not as hard as it was compared to let say the 18th century. Science and Technology has become our life. A lot of things have been invented and created that are aimed at improve human life. Computers, cars, planes, medicines etc all of these were a product of man’s continuous search for knowledge and to apply this knowledge by creating tools or devices that could be use in our everyday lives.

The auto industry has benefited much from such studies and innovations. Automobiles have come a very long way since they were first conceptualized and created in the late 17th century.  From the simple steam-power engine automobiles to what they are right now is due to constant improvement and discoveries made through by technology.

Today’s’ cars are equipped with fuel-efficient yet powerful engines, safety gadgets like airbags, state of the art tyres and
cozy interiors. And with the improvement of communication and Internet technology, the use of navigation systems on vehicles is on the rise. I find Navigation Systems quite helpful when driving particularly in new locations or places. Navigation Systems, depending on its features, can give us information on where are the shortest routes to our destinations, live updates on how heavy the traffic is and our current position.

Smartphone GPS VS. Portable Navigation Device(PND)Car GPS and Smartphone GPS

Currently, we have a choice of using 2 navigation systems, Smartphone GPS and Dedicated Car GPS or PND’s (Portable Navigation Device). Smartphones are flexible, they are like a mini computer in your pocket.  You can have a lot of software installed and a lot come with a GPS systems inbuilt which various programs you can install can use.  PND’s on the other are stand alone electronic devices that combines positioning capability (GPS) and navigation functions.  So the question is why you would even need a PND these days?

Which one are you currently using?  I know choosing one over the other is personal preference.  I have tried both and found some interesting pros and cons in using these navigation devices. I would like to share with you what I found out. Most likely, if you have tried using these devices you already have a fair idea of what are the advantages of one device over the other and vice-versa.  However for those of you who are yet to try, I true the information here can help you decide what navigation system to use.

First off, screen size and user interface. I find PND’s better in terms of screen size and user interface for simple reason that most smartphones are not that big. On average smartphones are about 3.5 inches across compared to the 4.3 inches for dedicated Car GPS. The other thing is that the user interface in PND’s are specifically optimized to be viewed at arm’s length. I do not need to hold the PND device near me to view why current position or location because PND’s can be mounted on a windshield or dash mount with sacrificing the quality of viewing the information on the device. For smartphones, this can be difficult because everything is relatively smaller. It is probably better now with some newer smartphones that offer bigger screens but I still say it is not up to par with a dedicated Car GPS.  One thing that is in favour of the smartphone is the light touch of the touchscreen. Another  thing going against the smartphone screens is when you are viewing it under direct light. It becomes a little more difficult to read.

smartphone gps
A Mounted Smartphone Used As A Navigation System

Maps database and updates. Smartphone GPS map apps receive automatic and free updates that ensures the latest maps and database are on the phone. This I believe is one of the advantages of using a Smarphone GPS. Normally, PND maps need to be updated manually and is subject to a subscription. That means you need to pay to get the update.  If you ever get a PND I would not think about getting one without map updates included.  Otherwise a year or so down the track you will be left asking strangers directions again.  Road advancement is pretty quick in some areas.  Especially new housing estates.

Ease of Entering Addresses. I find doing this in Smartphones relatively easy with less typing. On my phone. the navigation app allows me to make use of my contact’s addresses and use the stored address for navigation. Another cool thing is that addresses that I searched over the Internet can be sent directly to my navigation app.

Using the Smartphone as a navigation device is quite convenient in the sense that I have one device that could do a lot of things for me. And it is always with me. This is one another advantage of using Smartphone GPS over a dedicated one. I don’t need to bring or carry another device just to be able to check my current location or position. I would simply access the app on my phone and voila I have the information that I need.

One of the main problems though I encountered when using smartphones as a navigation device is that the battery drains much faster. This is due to the fact that in order for the GPS to continue to run, the smartphone needs to be connected to either a 3G or 4G network. And we do know that connecting to either of these networks drains the battery quickly. This is one of the advantages of the PND over the Smartphone GPS.  Most smart phone you need to turn them to a setting that will not allow the phone to sleep.  This can magnify the battery drain issue.  If you have a car charger it is probably wise to use it if you have a navigation job over an hour or so.  This factor alone I did find very annoying.  Getting wired up, setting sleep off and then finally putting in the destination; by this time on my standard PND I use, I would be well down the street and on the way!

A Mounted Portable Navigation Device
A Mounted Dedicated Car GPS

The other thing that is going against the smartphone when used as a navigation device is the mounting. Compared to dedicated Car GPS, smartphones don’t come with mounting brackets and there is a need to purchase one which means an additional cost for us. And once mounted, it may be a little difficult to read the text on the screen. Car GPS on the other hand are designed and optimised for mounting that makes it easier to read the information displayed on its screen. Volume could be another problem for smartphones but fortunately we could connect external speakers or headsets to it.

Smartphone GPS are also limited by how good or strong the connection is to the 3G, 4G or wifi-networks. This is specially true when going to rural areas where there is little or no signal at all from the cellphone towers. On a positive note though, there are some apps that allows storage of maps on the smartphone’s memory or SD card. On the other hand, I find this a non-issue on a PND. Accuracy of the maps on the smartphone could be suspect sometimes. Though I have not experienced this, some people I know reported this issue. This could be annoying, the fact that we are using navigation system to help us get to our destinations quickly and yet somehow end up at the wrong place because of an in-accurate map.

These are some of the things I found out when using either Smartphone or PND as a navigation system. I hope somehow the information I have here can help you decide which device to use. You have to weigh the pros and cons. Cost may also be a determining factor. If you use a smartphone for navigation, you save money by not buying another device however consider as well if you are willing to put up with some of the disadvantages that comes with it. Same goes when you choose a PND. Are you willing to spend extra money for that purpose? It may be easy for some of us or it could be difficult. The important thing is we have a choice.


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