Sunday, December 1, 2013

The Gadgeteer: GPS ~ APP'S vs Stand-alones

The Gadgeteer: GPS ~ APP'S vs Stand-alones: GPS ~ Smartphone APP’s vs Stand-alones © 2013 BOB SKIDMORE ALL RIGHTS RESERVED BOB SKIDMORE CORRESPONDENT ...

GPS ~ APP'S vs Stand-alones

Smartphone APP’s vs Stand-alones




GPS technology, although not always totally accurate, has become part of our everyday life. Since the advent of Smartphones, several apps have appeared affecting GPS sales. Sales of stand-alone models have plummeted some 15-20% and all indications are this decline will continue. So, what’s best for your needs? Here’s what my research reveals…

Smartphone apps are available by several suppliers. Cost ranges from totally FREE with payable options such as voice commands and downloadable maps to some pricy versions available from the large GPS stand-alone manufacturers who are looking to stay in the race and increase market share. In either case upgrades are generally free and immediate.

One of the most popular apps is SCOUT GPS, Maps, Voice, Navigation & Traffic. It’s very accurate and is totally FREE, so you can’t beat the price. Another app that ranks high on my list is GPS Navigation 2 – Skobbler. It comes in at 99¢ for the basic app and then offers voice commands at $3.99 and expanded worldwide navigation with single country to worldwide maps ranging from $2.99 each to all maps at $7.99. The downloadable map feature is nice in that it allows you to view specific addresses when not navigating and send a link to your computer via email thus allowing you to print a hard copy.

So what’s the downside to Smartphone apps even when you have one of the top ones? All apps operate by using the data side of your mobile provider’s service. Since many plans offer you unlimited data, this is not generally a problem when driving in the U. S. Where it does become an expensive issue is when your travels take you to Canada, Mexico, Europe or other continents. As discussed in a previous article,, data service in other countries should be avoided unless you are prepared to pay hundreds and perhaps thousands of dollars.

Stand-alone GPS models rely on direct satellite linkups that cost you nothing to access worldwide. Several manufacturers offer worldwide capable mapping devices. Some have the software built-in, while others provide slots for memory cards. I recently conducted an overseas test of the GARMIN NUVI 2577LT featuring built-in North American and European maps with additional maps available.

(TIP: The Apple App store features an app, COORD’ CONVERTER, that’s useful when the address is not found on the GPS. Simply take the coordinates shown and manually insert them into your device. If you’re using a computer go to

The GARMIN NUVI 2577LT features a 5” display, which is typically larger than most Smartphones and is only surpassed in size by an iPad. Suction mounts along with a car cord, which also serves as a built-in antenna, are included.

(TIP: Suction windshield mounts are quite often unreliable as they detach while driving. An optional folding dashboard friction mount is a handy option. )

The display shows the road ahead, but split screens to hazard info and screen shots of exits, except for round-a-bouts, which really would be very handy, a nice feature when traveling overseas. In addition, voice prompts alert you to upcoming congestion. Perhaps most interesting is a red bar that pops up on the screen indicating that you are entering an area of caution. This is a way of indicating a radar trap is ahead without violating any law that prohibits radar detectors. An ingenious feature!

(TIP: Sunshields for the 2577LT are available from third party vendors. Check on line for suppliers.)

In conclusion, Smartphone apps are great for occasional domestic use. If you travel outside the U. S. you may want to consider a stand-alone model. Yes, rental car companies do offer optional GPS units, but cost, learning its operation quickly and availability are facts to be considered. The GARMIN 2577LT is one of the best I’ve seen. It’s compact, as is the collapsible friction mount, making it easy to transport in carry-on luggage. Map updates are not included in the purchase price, but are available as a lifetime option (part # 010-D0131-00) for $114.00.


GPS Navigation 2 – Skobbler *****
GARMIN 2577LT: *****

MSRP: $229.99 • Portable friction mount 010-11280-02 $24.99

For more GARMIN information go to:

Bob Skidmore is a freelance writer, who may be contacted at, or followed at for the latest gadget industry news. He does not represent, or endorse any of the products he reviews and his opinions are solely his points of view and not those of the manufacturer. The manufacturer generally supplies products at no cost for the articles and no other compensation is received. THE GADGETEER is highly selective as to products he feels worthy of review so as not to waste the reader’s time, thus the reason for many superior ratings.