You don’t have to think back very far to remember when GPS navigators for use in cars were brand new, very expensive, and not even very accurate. Today, we are used to expecting pinpoint accuracy and pleasant voices from these devices. Some of us, though, are taking our navigators back out of our cars to replace them with something new—before they’ve even had a chance to collect dust on the dashboard!
The explosion of GPS enabled smartphones opened up a gigantic new market for companies like Google that were already developing detailed map networks. It was an easy step to give these maps directional capabilities, in effect converting an iPhone or smartphone into a GPS navigator. This raises a question in the minds of many tech-savvy drivers: Why have two devices in the car that can both give reliable directions to their destinations?
Smartphone owners who quickly learn to use their phones in connection with nearly every facet of their lives don’t have any problem figuring out how to navigate with them. It’s especially easy with the iPhone, whose famously useful “Siri” voice-recognition technology ties in with many GPS applications. A completely hands-free experience makes it difficult for traditional GPS navigators to compete.
Of course, there are a few limitations with smartphones that have some users hanging on to their good, old-fashioned GPS devices. For one thing, what if you have to use your phone to actually have a conversation with someone else? Driving a car, looking at a map, and talking on the phone at the same time might push even the best multitaskers over the edge. Another concern is battery life. A GPS app in constant use puts a huge drain on the average battery, and if you don’t have a car charger handy you could end up losing all your smartphone’s capabilities at once.
Technological research will probably only move faster in the years to come, but GPS navigators may have set a record for time elapsed between “state-of-the-art” and “quickly becoming irrelevant.” It’s only a matter of time before smartphone developers enhance their navigation apps to overcome the few obstacles that still make stand-alone GPS devices the better choice in some situations. When that happens, there will be nothing left of navigators but circular marks on our windshields where they used to be suctioned on.