Are Standalone GPS Devices Still Useful? — I have always been a huge fan of my Garmin GPS device. It has been a travel companion for many years. The day I brought it home my wife gave me her standard “Oh, good more electronic crap we don’t need” look. The little magic box quickly won her over by giving her directions to wherever she wanted to go.

The question is this, with smartphone map apps and navigation getting better and more reliable is there still a market for a standalone GPS unit? Personally my Garmin collects dust in the center console of my vehicle. Dust aside, I do, however, believe that there is still a place for these devices in the age of Google Maps.

I’ve compiled a list of three groups of users who are ideal users of a standalone GPS device.

The No-Data-Plan Crowd

In my personal circles these users are my parents and in-laws. They have good old-fashioned feature phones and despite my recommendations they will most likely never have a smartphone that requires a data plan. These are the ideal customers for a GPS device because you simply pay for the device once and have no additional costs. It’s a very appealing concept for those who can’t justify the cost of a monthly data plan.

Road Trip People

Despite the marketing claims of cellular carriers, you won’t find coverage everywhere. When taking extended trips out of large metropolitan areas, coverage can get sparse. When there’s no coverage your smartphone is useless.

Using your smartphone for GPS on an extended road trip can really chew up a huge amount of your data plan. If your plan is limited it can be prohibitively expensive.


I live in Canada and for those who didn’t know, 94 percent of Canada’s population lives within 100 miles of the U.S. border. We travel to the U.S. quite frequently and are consistently robbed by our cellular carriers for roaming. Some carriers charge as much as $6.00/megabyte and if you are rolling down Interstate 5 en route to Disneyland, your data bill will cost more than your entire vacation. Whenever we load up the minivan for a trip south of the 49th parallel, we dust off our Garmin and return it to its place of honor on the dash. I use my Nexus for navigation when travelling around the city, but go to the Garmin as soon as I reach the U.S. border.  Regardless of which device I’m using, I make it my goal to beat the ETA the GPS calculates.

Based in Vancouver, British Columbia, Isaac Kendall is a wireless industry specialist and senior contributor at Email him at [email protected] and follow him @isaackendall. He is +Isaac Kendall on Google+.

Jeremy Lesniak
Based in Vermont, Jeremy Lesniak is managing editor at and founder of Vermont Computing, Inc. and Email him [email protected]
Jeremy Lesniak
Jeremy Lesniak
Tags: Downtime,Gadgets & Devices