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Must Have GPS Features

Updated on March 13, 2011


GPS units have become very much a mainstream electronic gadget. They are smaller, thinner and very trendy. They can be used inside your vehicle or outside your vehicle. Long lasting battery life lets you disconnect from the cigarette lighter and find your way shopping around the big city. Choosing the right GPS for you may be your biggest challenge. Many features will be the same on just about any model you choose but there are some features that - to me - stand out.

Garmin 3790T - Very Slim with Voice Commands

Garmin 3790T

GPS - Garmin, TomTom, Lowrance and Magellan

GPS Features

Maps are the centerpieces for any GPS Navigation unit's functionality. Once the satellites high in the sky have pinpointed your present location, and your destination has been entered into the GPS unit your route is automatically planned for you. Garmin has several GPS units that will map multiple (10) routes for you at one time. This is a great organizational tool to use when you have several destinations and stops to make one-after-another during the day.


Multiple 2D and 3D maps are available (US-Canada-Europe) and can be preinstalled on internal memory or on SD cards. You can also add your personal favorites. What?


Yes, Garmin GPS units lets you enter customized POI (Points of Interest). These may be schools, hospitals, gas stations, restaurants or even your favorite spot under the stars. TomTom GPS units let you enter your personalized map information and then it goes one step further. You get to share your map information with other TomTom users with "Map Share".


Displays provide the visual basis for the use of any GPS unit. Look for a touchscreen that can be seen in bright light. Several sizes are available - typically 3.5 to 4.3 inches. Both Garmin and TomTom have touchscreen sizes that range from approximately 3.5 inches to 5.2 inches diagonally. They both offer wide screen units that measure approximately 4.3 inches diagonally. The iWay 600C from Lowrance with its display that measures 5.0 inch diagonally is unique due to its waterproof status and its marine maps.


Most navigational information is entered through the touchscreen displays. The computer-like interface will lead you through the multiple functions with the touch of your finger.


Some displays will adjust their backgrounds according to the light source. Some will tone down the display during nighttime driving.


Voice turn-by-turn directions are available on some units. This text-to-speech feature is convenient not to mention safe. The less your eyes are distracted from the road the better. The step up is when the GPS unit tells you the name of streets and exits instead of just "turn right at next intersection".


It is common to hear a GPS unit speak to you - now the Garmin Nuvi 850 and 880 lets you speak back. Both the TomTom GO 920 and 920 T also sport this feature. Voice recognition allows you to speak to your GPS and give it directions for a change. TomTom


Bluetooth connection provides Handsfree cell phone use. Make and receive calls all without touching your cell phone. In fact some GPS units have small remote controls that attach to your steering wheel such as the TomTom GO 920, 920 T, and the Garmin Nuvi 850 and 880. These units will also typically feature built in microphone and speakers. You will find Bluetooth connectivity in most of the higher end GPS units.


Accessories that make your GPS experience better, safer and more enjoyable are available for any brand and model you choose.

Some accessories include:

  • Travel guides
  • Power cables
  • Extension cables
  • USB cables
  • Data Cables
  • Connection cable for iPod
  • Audio cable for iPod
  • Remote Antennas
  • Multiple mounts - auto, suction and friction
  • Chargers
  • Remote controls
  • Traffic Receivers
  • Carrying cases
  • SD memory cards



These are just a few of the interesting features that you can get on a GPS unit. There are so many units to choose from that it is difficult to choose. What if you buy one and then find another one later that you'd rather have. Well, this is the nature of electronic gadgets.


Start with your must have features and go from there. I am including a list below of features that may give you some idea of what is available. I will be writing in detail about some of these features soon so check back in regularly.


  • Bread Crumb Feature - find your way back to your car when you carry the unit with you
  • Traffic Alerts - some included and some by subscription
  • Entertainment Features - MP3, audio books, games and subscriptions that include movie times, gas prices, news and events
  • Internal antennas
  • Connection for a back up camera and grade changes - useful for RVs and large trucks
  • Enhanced Positioning Technology - continued navigation even in tunnels
  • FM Transmitters
  • Crossover features-Lowrance and Magellan models
  • Weatherproof features-Lowrance and Magellan models



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    • craigan profile image

      craigan 9 years ago from United States

      These gadgets are neat!