Buyer’s guide

People have a variety of reasons for adding GPS to their lives. Some get lost easily, some enjoy traveling and others just like gadgets. Whatever the reason, there are plenty of GPS systems to choose from. Portable, or handheld, GPS devices are quickly becoming a part of normal life. In this guide, we’ll cover a few basics regarding portable GPS types and features.

Types of Portable GPS

Cell Phone
Some cell-phones do not have GPS automatically included internally. GPS can be added to this type of phone on a monthly or even daily basis. Having GPS on your cell phone gives you one less gadget to keep up with. There may be some loss of sound quality and screen size tends to be smaller.

Hikers and others who love the outdoors will find a wide assortment of tools on handheld hiking devices. Typical tools like a map, compass and altimeter are found side by side with programs that plot hiking routes and more. While they do carry maps, the maps aren’t as detailed as those on auto units. They don’t offer the hiker a turn-by-turn reference but they do help with coordinates for geocaching adventures.

Many smart phone companies have added GPS as an included part of the phone. Smartphones can function like any other portable GPS device. It may be necessary to subscribe to a navigation service or purchase an app.

Features of Portable GPS
All portable GPS devices available today come with pre-loaded maps and provide re-routing if a turn is missed. Additional features depend upon the type and model of device.

Screen Size
If you can’t see it (or read it) the best map in the world is not going to be of much use to you. Average screen sizes range from as small as 2.5 inches to as large as 7 inches. Smaller ones may be hard to read and the buttons on them may be so small as to make it difficult to use them. Large GPS devices take up more space and can be heavy as well as bulky. If you’ll be holding your GPS device in your hand, you’ll probably want to look at smaller ones. If you’ll be mounting it on the dash of your vehicle, you might want something a bit larger.

Street Smarts
So-called “generic” GPS devices often direct the user to “turn right ahead” instead of giving street/road names (turn right on Avery street) like better systems do. This feature helps auto users keep their eyes on the road instead of on the unit.

Real Time Reports
GPS devices featuring real time reports make it possible to know when traffic has been re-routed or otherwise obstructed. The availability of this feature depends upon location. Major cities and roads are more likely to have broadcasts.

When it comes to buying a GPS device, you must consider type and features in order to better find the unit that fits your lifestyle and needs. Consider where and how you’ll be using it. Will you be driving? Hiking? Once you’ve chosen the type, it’s time to consider features. If you’ll be carrying it, you’ll probably want to look at smaller screen sizes.