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Garmin and TOMTOM - Why they are better than GPS on your Phone.

Updated on January 16, 2010

It is not often that I do a complete 180 on something, but this just happened to me regarding GPS. I have used the GPS unit built into my car (2007) for the past couple of years. I have never been that impressed with it. My car is a 335i BMW coupe and the built in NAV was around $2000. It is slow and uses a DVD so it has become outdated... which led me to start using the navigation on my phone for around $10 a month, but at least it had live traffic and never went out of date. I was pretty happy with this for quite a while. I just switched wireless carriers a month ago and thought maybe I would look into a standalone GPS unit since then I could talk on the phone and use the GPS at the same time. So, long story short, I bought the basic Garmin Nuvi, I think it is the 205, for about $85 on Amazon.

I have been blown away by this device. I feel like I have been cheated by both my built in NAV and the NAV on my phone (I am also selling my car to get something with 4-wheel drive as I have recnetly moved to Denver from San Diego.) There are a couple of main reasons why I would recommend that ANYONE who drives get a stand alone GPS unit over one built into their car or using the service on their phone, even the free services available with Google etc.

Built in GPS units are EXPENSIVE and MAY become outdated FAST!

I look back and cringe at the thought that I paid around $2000 to have NAV built into my last car. Not only was that just a ton of money, I also noticed that because the system used a DVD for map information, that it was pretty much outdated from day one. In order to update the system I would have to shell out around $200 for a updated DVD....and then do the same in a year or two when that DVD became outdated. I am pretty sure that there are systems now that do not require the purchasing of new DVDs, but the initial cost is still so high, I just do not think the "coolness" factor that you get is worth the price you pay

Built in GPS units stay with the Car.

I would say that the times I was happiest to have the GPS on my phone was when I was in random places while traveling. Today's stand alone GPS units like those from Garmin, TomTom etc are small enough to take with you while travelling and many have GREAT battery life which allows you to use them even when not in the car if you needed to.

The second downside to the built in units staying with the car is that when you sell your car they go with it. Granted that this is not a huge concern since the stand-alone units are so cheap now, but I am pretty sure that the return I am going to get for the $2K I shelled out for the GPS in my current car will be no where near what I paid for it.

Phone based units are SLOW, expensive and can be unreliable

I work in the wireless industry, so I have used MANY different GPS features on numerous handsets and on all major US and European carriers. My experience has been pretty standard across the board. It is a neat feature, however, there are some problems.

1. It is expensive. Most of the features such as Verizon's VZ Navigator, cost around $10 a month. This certainly adds up when you consider that the unit I have fallen in love with cost me under $100 delivered.

2. It may not be TRUE GPS - most of the phone based systems use what is called A-GPS which stands for Assisted GPS. This is actually triangulation (technically it is trilateration...but whatever) off of their towers NOT location based on satellite data. There are some exceptions, but those require your device having a stand-alone GPS chip which the carrier has not crippled (Hey VERIZON, I am talking to you!!)

3. Even if it is true GPS, often the GPS chips are not up to par with what you will find in a Garmin or TomTom unit, so they can be very slow to find your location, have bad line of sight abilities and drop signal often.

4.Most of them will not allow you to use the phone and the GPS feature at the same time. This is especially true of the A-GPS systems. This is a serious pain in the rear for those of us who are on the phone a good deal.

Stand Alone GPS units have come down DRASTICALLY in Price.

This is perhaps the most compelling reason to trade in the other GPS options for a portable stand alone unit. Many of the best rated units are now available for under $150. I have the Garmin Nuvi 205 and absolutely am in love with it. What makes my love affair even better is that I got it BRAND NEW for $85 on Amazon! When you factor in the ease of use, large color touch screen and fantastic options like local search there is no way I can justify spending $10 a month to have this on my phone OR even to deal with not being able to use my phone and GPS at the same time. Not to mention that some of the higher end units now off Bluetooth integration, so you can kill two birds with one stone and get a GPS and Bluetooth speakerphone all in one.


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    • TheSituation profile image

      TheSituation 8 years ago

      Thanks for the comments Eileen and Nikki! Glad you liked the hub!!

    • nikki1 profile image

      nikki1 8 years ago

      cool hub. Thanx for sharing.

    • Eileen Hughes profile image

      Eileen Hughes 8 years ago from Northam Western Australia

      Great hub, yes the gps that are out now are so much better than a few years ago.

    • TheSituation profile image

      TheSituation 8 years ago

      Thank you Big Country! I am glad you liked this. I really like my Nuvi 205, but I know that for another $20 or $30 you can get a bigger screen etc. Thank you and good luck!

    • KCC Big Country profile image

      Karen Curtis 8 years ago from Central Texas

      I agree with OregonWino, this is another great hub from you. I have a stand-alone Garmin GPS that we bought a few years ago and yes, the prices have come way down. I'm looking to guy a handheld GPS system to assist me in my newest hobby, geocaching. I have a couple of hubs about geocaching and handheld GPS units.

    • OregonWino profile image

      OregonWino 8 years ago

      Another great hub! Man youa re on fire. I think it took me a couple of weeks to write my first 2 hubs and they were nowhere near this good!