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Dedicated Handheld Device (Garmin, DeLorme, Magellen, Bushnell, etc)
PROS:

  • 16-25+ hour battery life.
  • Batteries are easy to replace.
  • Rugged and durable — will stand up to harsh conditions.
  • Better for long trips in remote areas.
  • Better location accuracy.
  • Frees up your phone for taking photos, making phone calls, texting, etc.


CONS:

  • Can be expensive depending on features ($50 and up).
  • Manually update maps (unless you’re a wiz).


CONSIDERATIONS:

  • Screen Size.
  • Touch Screen vs Toggle buttons for maneuvering access to functions.
  • More features = more $$
  • More expensive units offer more robust features, for example: barometer, electronic compass, wireless transmission, etc.


SmartPhone App (MotionX, EasyTrails, ViewRanger, Maverick, Runkeeper, SportsTracker, Endomondo, MapMyTrack, MapMyRide, MapMyRun, etc)
PROS:

  • One less gadget to carry and manage.
  • Easy to use.
  • Maps update automatically when app auto updates.
  • Save $$: Many are FREE with the option to upgrade for a small fee (Endomondo, MapMyTrack, MapMyRun, MapMyRide, SportsTracker, RunKeeper, for example).
  • Inexpensive compared to handheld GPS devices (Gaia in the Google Play Store $19.99, EasyTrails $3.99, MotionX $1.99, View Ranger FREE, for example
  • In-app purchases offered can enhance the experience.
  • Maps are much less expensive and oftentimes are included with the app.
  • Great for snapping and even geo-tagging photos on the trail.
  • Great for shorter rides or when battery usage isn’t a concern.


CONS:

  • Phone crashes and you might be up a creek.
  • Can be a battery hog and tie up your phone if you’re worried about battery consumption.
  • If you’re wearing normal gloves, you can’t swipe your phone.
  • The screen can be difficult to read in direct sunlight.
  • Bring sunglasses if that’s a problem.
  • Run the risk of damage to your phone if you have a wreck.


CONSIDERATIONS:

  • What do you want it to do for you?
  • Do you want to be part of a community like Top Trail, Endomondo, MapMyTrack, MapMyRun, MapMyRide, SportsTracker, RunKeeper, for example?
  • Primarily for your own information then go for MotionX, ViewRanger, Maverick, for example.
  • Check reviews in the App Store or Google Play Store
  • Is the app getting good reviews from people who have downloaded and used it?
  • Does it have a lot of  “stars”?
  • Is it easy to use, according to the reviews?
  • Get recommendations from friends
  • What features do you want: good maps, link to community, GPX export, voice coaching, easy on the battery, run in the background while riding, share to social media, compass
  • Many choices for both Android and iPhone alike!

Pros and Cons: Handheld Device vs Smartphone App

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TOP TRAIL