Do we still need a standalone GPS device?

I'm a directionally challenged individual. As a result, I've been using a GPS since it was first offered.
Written by Joel Evans, Contributor

I'm a directionally challenged individual. As a result, I've been using a GPS since it was first offered. Throughout the years, though, I've graduated to using my mobile phone more for my GPS-related activities, including using the iPhone to find my car on a rainy night.

It used to be that a standalone GPS was still more full-featured than its phone-based competitor, but thanks to recent offerings from Google, Nokia and others, there isn't much of a differentiator left.

First off, let's take a look at price. You can pick up a pretty full featured GPS for under $100 these days. With that comes the ability to get the latest maps downloaded to your device, and in some cases traffic alerts. Compare that with what's being offered by Nokia in its Ovi Maps and navigation, which offers turn-by-turn directions, weather, traffic, pedestrian walking mode, and more, even in offline mode. More features and best of all, Nokia's offering is now free on approximately 12 smartphones.

Of course, the iPhone also ships with free Google Maps, which can do turn-by-turn and some other features, but it doesn't speak aloud to you, whereas Google's Android does and is offered on a number of Droid phones today for free.

If you want to pay a little bit of money, there are plenty of Apps on the iPhone, Android and other smartphones to choose from, including my favorite, AT&T Navigator, which can be yours for $9.95 a month on the iPhone.

For me, the biggest benefit to any GPS program is the ability to get the latest maps and traffic alerts with ease. With constantly connected devices like mobile phones, it's a no-brainer to use that as a primary GPS navigation tool.

Many years ago, before Bluetooth was common in cars, I was treated to a demo at Microsoft where the car was using the user's mobile phone to grab the latest information from the web and speak it aloud to the driver. This included turn-by-turn directions, weather, and more. At the time it was definitely a glimpse into the future, but now it's commonplace on a mobile phone. However, most built-in GPS devices inside of the car are still disconnected from the world.

How long before we can all enjoy full featured GPS navigation for free? I think we're less than a year away on the mobile phone front, but it's going to take a bit longer to completely replace the standalone GPS in the car. For example, recently I was sent an offer to update the GPS in my wife's car. It was a bit under $200 and I debated about the need to get the update, given the reasons I stated above. In the end, though, since the device is already in the car, and is something that my wife uses on a regular basis, it paid to upgrade.

In the future will we no longer have a dedicated GPS in our car and instead have a choice of docking stations for our phone of choice? Or will we see in-car GPS systems start offering things that its mobile phone competitors can't? Share your thoughts below.

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