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Ask Arthur: Is GPS still a thing?

A reader asks whether there is still a use for personal navigation devices, now that GPS is built into smartphones. ARTHUR GOLDSTUCK points out several benefits.

Q: Are GPS devices still a thing?

A: You will rarely see a standalone GPS device nowadays but, believe it or not, they still have a role to play. 

Here we are talking about what are called personal navigation devices (PND) from brands like TomTom and Garmin. They are hard to find in South Africa because their role has mostly been replaced by GPS built into smartphones. This means that most people are carrying a GPS device around with them, built into their phones. For the same reason, devices like point-and-click cameras and MP3 players have also disappeared. However, someone who is serious about photography will probably also use a digital SLR or mirrorless camera. The same applies if one is serious about accurate positioning, which cannot be guaranteed by most smartphones.

There is one further very good reason to use a PND, and that is the fact that most cars don’t have integrated navigation, and phones usually need an internet connection for full navigation. PNDs don’t. Other benefits include the fact that your navigation does not override your phone calls or music, and vice versa. 

Possibly the biggest benefit of all is that you are not subjected to the biggest battery drainer of a phone during a trip, namely live mapping.

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