Smartphones offer the latest technology for everything we do at work and home, from exercise and shopping apps to work-related conference calls and more.
With every upgrade of an iPhone or Android phone, you’ll find that many items typically bought on their own, such as music and media players, are now integrated into your mobile device.
GPS is already a feature in your smartphone, so all you need to do is ensure that your battery has a full charge before you embark on your hike or to your camp.
Standalone GPS Vs. Smartphone: Weighing Your Options
Before deciding which product to purchase for your next hiking trip, it’s essential to research and establish the best handheld GPS devices and smartphones for navigation.
GPS handheld devices were the go-to option for professional hiking enthusiasts before smartphone GPS advanced to match many of their features. While standalone GPS units may seem on par with new smartphone navigation technology, there are essential differences to consider.
At first glance, today’s smartphones are typically the first choice we make for convenience. GPS for hikers has come a long way in recent years, and while some GPS cellular phones offer better options than others, there are some advantages and drawbacks to consider.
Pros of Smartphone GPS
- Smartphones are convenient and offer GPS navigation as an easy app built-in to one device, saving you space. Most people carry their smartphones wherever they go, so the GPS coordinates are easy to find and use from point A to B.
- Your smartphone’s integrated GPS aligns quickly with satellites, making it easy to pinpoint exact locations, even where online access isn’t available or strong enough for consistent use.
- If you use GPS maps often, you’ll find they save a lot of time and effort, as many previous locations are saved and pop up during a quick search.
Cons of Smartphone GPS
- A smartphone is only as good as its batter. Even the most advanced smartphones lack battery power, especially during a long hike or extended expedition. While portable chargers can help, they offer only a short extension to battery life that doesn’t compare to other GPS devices.
- If you trek in the rugged wilderness, you’ll need to be mindful of your smartphone’s delicate nature, as it’s not as durable in the outdoors. Changes in temperature, weather patterns, or unexpected damage to your personal belongings and supplies could result in irreparable damage to your smartphone’s capabilities.
In general, smartphones are an excellent option for short, half-day hiking or even on camping trips in urban areas where there is easy access to recharge your device’s batteries.
Handheld Portable GPS
A GPS device is the tried-and-true method for avid hikers, and there are solid reasons why many people prefer them to modern smartphone options.
Pros of Handheld GPS
- The battery life of GPS devices far exceeds the average smartphone. They are also interchangeable, so you can bring an extra set of batteries. If there is a risk, you can easily replace them.
- GPS devices are built to last and don’t break or damage easily when they fall or tumble from your grip on the trail.
- If you plan a hiking trip near any type of bodies of water like waterfalls or wetlands, you’ll find the water-resistant nature of a handheld GPS a significant benefit. They are durable and work well in many types of weather conditions.
Cons of Handheld GPS
- The maps on GPS devices are extensive, though they can be costly to update and don’t feature the options offered on smartphones.
Smartphone Vs. GPS for Hiking
Choosing a GPS device or smartphone that works for you depends on the type of hiking trips you take, the variety of terrain, and the length of your trek.
Suppose the extent of your hiking excursions is minimal and usually located within urban regions or areas close to home. In that case, you’ll often find smartphones are the best and most convenient choice.
They are also versatile for driving and touring around cities and towns, with seamless access and technology from one location to the next.
Smartphones Enter the Market
Portable GPS devices cornered the market for navigation with interactive mapping until the advancement of smartphones changed everything.
GPS Cellular Phones
Almost all smartphones feature GPS technology, whether it functions with a mapping app or provides further details and options. While most smartphones offer multiple apps for GPS and navigation features, it’s best to focus on the most reliable and high-quality cellular phones to achieve the most accurate results for location and GPS coordinates.
Choosing the Best Brands for Handheld GPS and Smartphone
Garmin is one of the leading brands in GPS devices and offers a wide range of handheld and car navigation products featuring cutting-edge technology. The company offers wearables, car navigations systems, fitness-focused tracking devices, and many other products for aviation and outdoor explorers.
Apple is an American-based company that designs and develops top-of-the-line electronics, including computers and smartphones. The company initially began in 1975 as a small start-up company and has grown into a thriving, high-tech international enterprise.
Samsung is a South Korean Company and one of the world’s top producers in electronics. They manufacture everything from memory chips and digital media to complex computers, smartphones, and appliances. The company began in the late 1930s and has expanded to include many other industries, including aerospace.
Google is an American-based company founded in 1998. Initially established as a search engine business, Google has expanded extensively to include a wide range of electronics, software, and products, including smartphones.
Top 3 List of Top-Rated Smartphones
The introduction of smartphone technology paved the way for integrated GPS systems in many phones. While many smartphones offer interactive maps that provide GPS capabilities, there are some top choices to consider for the best technology for your phone.
The Galaxy S21 is considered Samsung’s best phone and offers fantastic features to enhance GPS capabilities, including a sizable 6.8-inch AMOLED surface display, dual telephoto cameras, and 11 hours of battery life. It’s lightweight and easy to take on hiking trips. The fantastic photo quality gives you the ability to take beautiful scenery shots during your excursions.
Apple continuously produces top smartphones, and the iPhone 12 Pro is currently one of the best options on the market. One of the top reasons to pick up this phone, like the Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra, is the high quality of cameras. The 6.1-inch OLED display offers excellent views for GPS and mapping technology.
If you’re looking to balance exceptional quality with a budget-friendly smartphone, this Google option is ideal. This smartphone features excellent apps, a 12-megapixel camera with Night Sight, and Super Res Zoom technology.
One of the top reasons for using the Google Pixel 4a for GPS navigation is its long-lasting battery, which can last up to 24 hours, or twice as long with the Extreme Battery Saver.
All top smartphone choices offer a wide range of software and apps for navigation, either through Google Maps, Apple Maps, and comparable options that integrate well into your phone’s features.
Top 3 List of Top-Rated Handheld GPS
Handheld GPS for hiking technology is constantly improving to provide the best in detailed maps, satellite access, and mapping apps that give you many advantages. The top portable GPS devices are excellent in terms of quality, versatility, and durability.
This Garmin portable GPS device offers some top-quality features that you’ll find helpful during your outdoor adventures, including preloaded TopoActive Maps, Altimeter, and Compass. This phone is the perfect combination of wireless technology with Bluetooth options.
It’s rugged, water-resistance, and durable. The battery life is also impressive, featuring up to 16 hours when in GPS mode. Topo Active Maps are preloaded and offer the best options for hiking and cycling routes.
This handheld, rugged GPS navigator is the ideal choice for budget hikers. The price is around $200, making this product easy to afford, which is excellent for beginners. Many expensive GPS devices provide numerous features that are of little use if you’re looking for a good quality product that’s durable and performs well.
This model offers up to 25 hours of battery life, a 3-axis compass, and an Altimeter. While there are no touchscreen capabilities, the device is rugged and can handle harsh weather with water resistance and durable construction. It’s one of the best Garmin hiking GPS models for budget-friendly hikers who don’t require any frills with their portable devices.
One of the best overall portable GPS options is the Garmin GPSMAP 64sx, which is less expensive than the high-end products while offering some excellent features for a well-balanced device.
The buttons are large enough to operate efficiently with gloves on, with a relatively large 2.6-inch screen and more satellite access than the 66i model. Upgrades to this standalone GPS are easy to add on, such as 64csx, which offers an eight-megapixel camera for your excursions.
It’s a reliable GPS product with an accurate tracking system and the option to include more features. The GPSMAP 64sx includes a preloaded Topo Active maps application and wireless connectivity for Bluetooth capabilities.
Notable Features of Standalone GPS and Smartphone Technology
When you choose the best option for hiking, screen size and visual quality are key deciding factors. A large screen will give you better surface coverage and allow for detailed displays.
The best smartphone for navigation is any high-grade product that offers the best technology in GPS accuracy and cell tower connectivity. You’ll want a smartphone that operates well consistently, where multiple satellites are an option, especially where internet access is unavailable.
Other Helpful Tips and Tricks
Choosing between a GPS and a phone with navigation capabilities depends on your hiking style and the locations you explore. For example, if you trek into remote areas with little or no internet reception, your smartphone will likely work with nearby satellites. However, you’ll benefit from a durable GPS device that’s built for rough, long-distance hikes and unpredictable weather and terrain.
If you hike close to home or plan a day trip that combines urban and countryside locations, the GPS device on your smartphone will likely suffice for your hiking goals. Portable GPS units are a good investment if your hiking expeditions are long-term and frequently require exact locations.
If you tend to venture into unfamiliar territory or rugged wilderness, a handheld GPS will give you better battery life and tools for your trip.
Smartphones and GPS units both offer numerous options for hiking and cycling, though the type of product you purchase should depend on your style and the duration of your trip. You’ll find many great options that fit a wide range of needs, from smaller, easily stored devices to large screens and multiple app options.
GPS technology is continuously improving and more accessible on many devices. From a simple, inexpensive smartphone to a state-of-the-art GPS device, you’ll find many uses for navigation technology in your quest for pinpointing accurate locations and directions.
What is the best GPS app for hiking?
There are too many choices to focus on just one option. The variety of high-quality portable GPS devices and smartphone technology is fortunate because they all offer navigational assistance.
Hiking for multiple days or unfamiliar regions calls for a high-grade GPS device built for expeditions. You’ll want the power of durable batteries with wear-resistance and water-proof options if your trip is extended. Shorter trips and hikes are easy to follow with an easy smartphone map or app.
What is the easiest GPS to use?
If you’re familiar with an app on your smartphone to locate a specific store or restaurant on your map, this is similar to how your GPS navigation works when you hike.
Many hiking trails are mapped on smartphone apps and may include trails and landmarks, making them easy to navigate. Unless you use advanced settings and features on your phone or GPS device, you’ll find the overall process effortless and straightforward to use.
How accurate is cell phone GPS location?
GPS technology and speed accuracy vary based on several factors.
Overall, GPS is very accurate, with smartphones pinpointing a location within a 16-foot radius, though this can vary with nearby structures that may impact the results. Bridges, buildings, construction, and heavily forested areas, among other reasons, will cause the GPS readings to be less accurate.
High-end GPS readers offer real-time positioning that finds a spot within a few inches. For most people, smartphone technology is more than adequate for finding specific locations with little or no difficulty.
How many people can use GPS at once?
There are no limits to the number of people or devices accessing GPS. An infinite number of devices can access satellites. Anyone with a GPS receiver can access a satellite or multiple satellites that transmit signals. They provide the most accurate readings consistently, depending on your device, and are undeterred by weather or location.
What types of devices use GPS?
You’ll find many items, from watches to smartphones and vehicles, contain GPS technology. Tracking and locating shipments, surveying, mining, and construction projects are examples of why GPS is an essential tool that continues to expand and provides valuable information for commercial and personal purposes.