How to Buy a GPS Device, Things You Should Know
Car GPS devices are one of the most popular high tech products of this age. They can be pricey and the high expectations you have pre purchase could frustrate you. Here is some information on the advantages and
disadvantages of navigation systems
Paper maps and analog computers have their share of strengths and can be very useful, but they are becoming out-dated as new and better technology enters the market place. Currently, GPS devices can do
some unbelievable things you could never get from a paper map. Whether it be exact step by step instructions on how to travel from place to place, show you where you are exactly on the globe, warnings telling of traffic problems and suggest alternative route,
or directing you to the nearest gasoline station or convenience store it is easy to see how this far surpasses anything you can get from a paper map!
With these basic function of a car GPS, it can give you a greater sense of security and confidence than a paper map. You will especially find these features valuable when venturing in a new place.
GPS are included in some products like cell phones and even iPods. Buying these products that already includes a GPS is less expensive that buying a standalone GPS device. Stand alone navigation systems (GPS) however,
are especially designed to provide GPS capabilities particularly those designed for your cars dashboard and those for outdoor and hiking activities.
We recommend that you read the guide first to help you choose the type of car navigation device that best suits your needs. However, if you have already a particular Navman product or model in mind, you can see a list of
outstanding car navigation products here.
Before Buying Here's What You Need to Know
Cost of a car navigation varies. It depends on its features and screen size. The cheapest comes at NZ$200. This have basic features and comes with 3.5-inch screens. Navman units with advance features such as multi-media
facilities, Bluetooth connectivity, internet connection with wider screen 4.3 and above, can cost around NZ$400 to 600.
Questions you should ask yourself before buying one.
How far and frequent will I travel?
If you are traveling only a short, similar route every day and only need directions seldomly, then just buy a basic GPS device, one that is around NZ$200 will be perfect for you. As thrilling as the idea of having a GPS
is, you should buy according to what you need it for, not because you want all those fancy features which you wont use. If however, your job entails you to go an frequent travels to new and unfamiliar locations, then a more advance GPS would be suitable for you.
Where do I place it in my car?
In New Zealand placing a car GPS navigation device is still allowed (unlike in some States in the US where it is illegal to mount it in the windshield because it could obstruct drivers view). There are GPS accessories such
as a mounting bracket with a suction cup made to firmly place the device on your windshield or any flat surface on your dashboard. Some dashboards are not flat and have uneven surface that does not allow suction cups to stick. That is why some car navigation kits include a flat
disc intended for the suction cup to adhere in any type of surface.
GPS navigation systems can also be mounted on your dashboards air vent grill. A problem of doing this is that some airflow from the vent is blocked. Though car navigation device are considerably light, they can be too
heavy for a vent mount to securely hold it up.
How Often Do I need to Update Maps?
As often as possible, having updated maps will allow you to know new restaurants, stores, and other establishments and will provide you with directions on how to get there that otherwise you wont know when having an outdated
map in your GPS.
Functions of a GPS
The Global Positioning System which is composed of several orbiting satellites around the earth, is the technological foundation of the all GPS devices. The GPS satellites transmit position and time signals to the GPS device
here on earth, which calculates its present place on the map based on the satellites data. This works round the clock, wherever you are in the globe.
Signals from your car GPS travels from line of sight to at least three satellites orbiting around the earth. So if you are traveling through concrete tunnels, or hiking deep in the canyon of rocks you can lose the signals or it
can give you a wrong location. The more satellites it can get its signals from, the more accurate your GPS readings.
GPS began as an advance technology for the US military. Using its capabilities to determine exact locations gave them an edge over their enemies and allies. It was only released in 1980 for commercial use, it turned out to be
indispensable to sea voyagers which had been for 300 hundreds years depending on the sextant technology.
In the early 1990s personal and portable GPS units were manufactured. The GPS device was reduced to one or two chips, and memory was miniaturized so that both receiver and map could be placed inside a box that can fit a human
The most common GPS device are handheld and car GPS units. Some car GPS can also be used as handheld because they have a pedestrian mode that lets you use it when walking down the street. There are however many types of GPS
device. Todays phone have GPS feature. GPS manufacturers also customized GPS for motorcycles, boats, bicycles, runners, and hikers. Then there is the GPS walkie-talkie, sport watches, and units attached to hunting dogs.
Map coverage: GPS contains preloaded street maps of New Zealand and Australia . If you want to upload maps of other countries you can buy it as well. Mainly there are two or three major sources of maps and these are
similar regardless of your GPS model. A handheld model are more varied as some do not have maps display but only show your latitude and longitude, and records a trail of your track. Some handheld can be uploaded with topographic and streets, while a few can display satellite images that has
been downloaded. Models with smaller screens make it difficult to view displayed maps.
Turn-by-turn directions: This refers to displayed directions with voice instructions telling the driver when to turn left, right, get on or off a freeway, starting and arriving to a destination. Nowadays, car GPS navigation device offers a text-to-speech features. This means that
instead of just a voice instruction telling to turn right in 300 feet, it will say the exact name of the street for example, turn in 300 feet onto Oak Street. It used to be a high-end feature now text-to-speech feature is very common in GPS.
GPS have a Touch Screen feature: It allows you to type in the address of where you are going as it automatically fills the text so that all you need to do is press the Go button. A word of caution though; never attempt
to do this while you are driving, program the GPS before you turn on the ignition. Units with voice-recognition features can input your destination by just listening to your voice instruction. This allows you to make some changes to your route while on the road but can be erroneous sometimes,
so dont totally depend on it. Instead, If there are changes to your route, take time to input it in your car GPS as the device may take some time to determine the new route and give you directions to it.
3D Map view: Most car models have a 3D map view also called a birds eye view. Unlike a 2D view that is similar to a paper map giving you just a straight down view, 3D view shows your present location and
surrounding terrain. The display is an elevated graphical view outside of your windshield somewhere between two hundred feet or a low-altitude flight simulator. 3D maps are thus faster and easier to understand when you are heading in the right direction!
Screen size and type: Screen size range from 3.5 to 7 inches. Units with smaller screens are cheaper compared to their units with larger screens but they work just fine. Large screens have obvious advantages such as
bigger map display, larger data storage capacity, more travel data displayed on screen (direction, street names, speed), and spacious virtual keyboards that just justifies its added costs. Handheld GPS are smaller they dont have touch screen features because it would be difficult to do that on
small screens consequently, it has more complex controls.
POI'S: or points-of-interest are data about the services and locations of POIs in a given area, these are restaurants, hotels, shops, malls, etc, that you want to visit in your trips. Car GPS contains millions of POIs
listed in their data base, however, you need to keep them updated because business can change faster than do roads. Good POI lists have contact numbers as well as the names and addresses of services or businesses.
Real-Time traffic reports: Some GPS devices can receive real time traffic updates through wireless data signal or FM transmission. It has built-in receiver for traffic updates. You may need to pay a subscription fee
in order to receive continuous traffic updates. Construction delays and traffic tie-ups will also be displayed on your GPS map, allowing you to avoid traffic congestions while providing you with alternative routes or it will automatically reroute you based on traffic updates.
Lane Assistance/realistic road views: If you are driving in an new and unfamiliar place, spoken directions can be quite confusing. That is why manufacturers of GPS came with lane assistance feature. This feature tells
you which lane you should be in approaching exits or turns. Some models can even display real images of roads and imitations of actual street signs.
Waypoints: are precise geographic spots depicted by latitude and longitude that you have previously recorded in your GPS. Press your waypoint on your GPS and you can always find your way back to it. It is not common with
car GPS as it is with handheld models. Cheap units allow you to only store a few waypoints, but with high-end and expensive models you can store hundreds of waypoints and you can even put labels on it.
Tracks: This feature allows you to record your trail from your starting point to where you are currently. It displays the way you have been so it would be easy for you to retrace your route going back. Your track is
displayed on your GPS screen or you can download it to your pc to view your trip on a topographic map and you can print it for filing. Aside from tracking your trail, you can add or store custom names to where you have been.
Other Important Features of a GPS
Accuracy: Todays GPS model can display your location with amazing precision. Streets and business may change though, so it is important that you keep your maps up to date as recent changes can affect the accuracy of
your GPS. Navigation device shops offer regular updates at a cost, however be sure that these shops provide accurate and up to date POI updates. GPS units have access to the internet sites and communities where there is sharing of mapping information which you can download to your unit.
Usability: GPS display should be very clear with high-quality graphics and with minimum non-functional information to make it readable for drivers at a quick look. Touch screen should also be well organized and
Reflective screens: Bright and direct sunlight can make your GPS screen unreadable. Ask GPS vendors if a particular GPS has reflective coating behind the screen so that sunlight can even brighten its display to allow
drivers to see the maps on their GPS display.
Mounting bracket kits: Look for mounting brackets in your GPS kit that goes with your GPS unit and also the AC and power adapters. In New Zealand mounting the unit on your windshield is allowed. You may also ask for an
air-vent mount or beanbag mount.
Power supply: GPS devices come with an adapter designed to fit into a cars 12-vold power port. If you will go on a hike for several days then a GPS with batteries will be useful. Depending on your GPS size, it can
hold AA or AAA batteries. Smaller units use AAA cells that last up to 4 or 5 hours. Larger handheld GPS use AA cells that can last up to 12 hours per set.
Internet connectivity: This is now common with GPS units and is very convenient as it lets you send address information to your GPS that allows you to find helpful info relevant to your where you are.
Music and video players: GPS units allows you to play music while driving and you can even store photos or images on it. Just dont watch movies or pictures in your GPS while driving.
FM transmitter: GPS also includes an FM transmitter. This allows you to redirect the spoken directions, audio, and music to your cars audio system.
Weight: If you will bring your GPS with you often outside of your car then choose a lighter unit. For a car GPS then its weight is not an issue. Handheld navigation units differs in weight from a few ounces to almost a
pound, excluding the weight of batteries.
Bluetooth: GPS comes with Bluetooth to allow you to pair it with a compatible cell phone wherein you could make hands free calls using the speakers of your cars GPS.
Dead reckoning: this feature makes use of interpolation to fill in the gaps when you dont have GPS signals especially when driving through tall buildings. It involves calculating your direction and speed while updating
the map correspondingly. Just dont be surprised if it is not accurate though.
XM Radio support: this is a subscription service that is found in most high-end GPS. Although not crucial for navigation but it is good to have it when your are driving for many hours or days.
The Future of GPS
GPS devices are becoming common as more units are produced daily. There is no stopping to the continuous upgrading and addition of new features to the delight of its users. Increased competition for a navigation
device benefits the customers as its cost are gradually decreasing. Features that can only be found in high-end and expensive models will not be seen in the most basic GPS. So expect available GPS devices to continually become better each year.