When buying a new GPS device or software package, there are many things to consider. You need to ask yourself questions such as;
1. What will it be used for ?
2. Who will use it ?
3. What environment will it be in or exposed to ?
4. Where (region) will it be used
GPS devices in general can be found at most retail outlets. You can pay as little as $50-$75 with the price climbing into the $100’s. It all depends on the four aforementioned questions.
The same goes for add on software for your smart phone. It can be as little as $Free and as research shows (at time of printing) up to $80 in your respective app store. The caveat here is that most smart phone GPS software (whether included or added on at a later date) require cellular service to locate and route you. That being said, cellphone service is everywhere and there are very few “dead” zones more than a second or two or at worst a couple of minutes. There is of course that 19 mile stretch of the Kangamangus Highway in Northern NH that is truly the longest dead zone this writer knows of.
Either way, you want to research the not only the features, but the maps within. Make sure they are published by a reputable navigational company such as NAVTEQ or TeleAtlas which is really owned by TomTom. So what is the big difference here ? As I see it, NAVTEQ maps are made in the USA, therefor may have more accurate data for at least North America. However, thanks to upgrades and changes since TomTom’s acquisition, testing and reliability proved to be equal. This is part of the reason TeleAtlas is now at the top of the GPS map market.
So there are three major players in the GPS market; Magellan, TomTom and Garmin. Each manufacturer has different models for different uses, environments, etc. They all have base maps with expandability depending on your destination. Opinions vary from publication to publication. Consumer Reports may put Magellan up top, while CNET elevates Garmin. Tom Tom seems to be the one constant during research, being posed as a great all around GPS.
So now, as yourself the four questions from above, and answer them honestly. You don’t want a top of the line GPS in your (awesome dude, let’s cruise. I just got my license) newly licensed son’s or daughter’s car, nor in one that is constantly taking the soccer or football teams from muddy field to muddy field. You do however want to opt for one that has free maps for life. That being said, the choice has been narrowed down to Magellan and Garmin.
So are you going to use it to take those long Sunday drives ? Do you drive for a living or perhaps commute into a major metropolitan area ? Are you going to need one that is more portable, perhaps for that hiking or skiing trip ? Are you going to go across the USA, The road to Hana (Hawaii) or cruise the autoban ? These are all questions you have to truthfully answer before doing your research.
If it is the long Sunday drive or perhaps one across country or sight seeing, then you want one that incorporates many different POI’s (points of interest). AAA incorporated in a GPS is a nice touch. That being said Magellan is the only major developer that incorporates the six million plus POI’s and AAA tourbooks within their devices.
Are you a commuter ? Then you need to add in one major feature; traffic reporting. All traffic reporting features give you the same data in the same time frame. The catch is that, after your intro period is up, TomTom charges you for its traffic services, where as Magellan and Garmin incorporate it into their (supported) units. This is a key feature for any true commuter or road warrior. It can mean the difference between and early, ontime or late arrival. If you are going for that once in a life time job interview, it can mean the difference between getting what you always wanted and staying where you are. Dollar for dollar, the newest out of Magellan faired the best, even when compared to previous units tested, the Smart GPS is what lived up to its name
That being said, let’s look at another reason for GPS devices to exist; hiking and biking and geocaching oh my. Here, there is no thing as traffic, but you do not want a cut-rate device, when getting lost or getting back to base can mean life or death (not including geocaching). You need one that can withstand the shocks and drops of the outdoors. How about one with major battery life ? How about one with a camera ? Well here, Magellan is what you want. Be sure and Check out the Explorist 710.
Lastly is to figure where you are going to use it. All the major players have maps. Some use NavTeq, some use TeleAtlas. This is not about that. This part is about the selection of maps available. Again, the clear winner here is Magellan. This is due to it producing not just vehicle navigation products, but outdoor and fitness products as well.
You can learn about Magellan and its products at www.magellangps.com.