Pros and Cons: Handheld Device vs Smartphone App
Dedicated Handheld Device (Garmin, DeLorme, Magellen, Bushnell, etc)
- 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.
- Can be expensive depending on features ($50 and up).
- Manually update maps (unless you’re a wiz).
- Screen Size.
- Touch Screen vs Toggle buttons for maneuvering access to functions.
- More features = more $$
- More expensive units offer more robust features, for example: barometer, electronic compass, wireless transmission, etc.
SmartPhone App (MotionX, EasyTrails, ViewRanger, Maverick, Runkeeper, SportsTracker, Endomondo, MapMyTrack, MapMyRide, MapMyRun, etc)
- One less gadget to carry and manage.
- Easy to use.
- Maps update automatically when app auto updates.
- Save $$: 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.
- 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.
- 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!