If you’re looking for GPS for your big trip this holiday season, you will first need to decide on whether you want a standalone device or you want to use a smartphone app.
Getting a GPS app for your smartphone is a great way to easily add a way-finding tool to your life. The apps are often cheap or free, and can be updated with the latest information using the smartphone’s broadband connection. On the downside, you need to remember to keep your phone charged before setting out on a trip. (The last thing you want when you are travelling is to be stuck on the side of the road with a phone that has a drained battery.)
There are plenty of reasons you may want to get a standalone GPS unit. An advantage of the standalone unit is that it carries its maps in memory built into the device. Onboard maps are handy if your holiday trip includes long stretches along country highways where the cell phone signals can be weak or non-existent.
Some smartphone apps will allow you to pre-download maps in case you lose your mobile signal during your trip. So if you go with a GPS app, it would be a good idea to download the all the maps you made need before you hit the road. Maybe you could do it at the same time you charge up the device.
When deciding on a standalone GPS unit, you will want to make sure the device comes with “lifetime” maps and traffic. Lifetime maps means the GPS manufacturer will make periodic updates of the maps on the device available for download. The “lifetime” part means you will be able to download updates for the life of the unit. That’s great for making sure you don’t get stuck when that bridge you always use to get to Aunt Petunia’s house is suddenly closed for construction.
“Lifetime” traffic means that your GPS unit has a receiver built-in to receive traffic and construction alerts and will warn you of temporary delays. Most units with this feature can be configured to automatically route you around severe delays, saving you time and gas.
No matter which GPS device you choose, you want to make sure it is running the latest firmware for that unit. (Check out this video from Geek Squad for more background what firmware is.) Updates are usually available at the manufacturer’s website. Instructions on connecting your device to a computer should be in the owner’s manual.
If you decide to go with a smartphone app, make sure to check your smartphone’s online app for any software updates available for your app.
For more on updating firmware, take a look at this ‘Two Minute Miracle” video on our YouTube channel: