Is there a GPS device for me?
November 16, 2009 9:42 AM   Subscribe

Is there a GPS device for me?

I have an old Garmin unit in my car that I love and is great for navigating unfamiliar cities and towns. I am in the market for a new unit and I'd love to get a device that I can use both in my car and to take with me walking around. I think it'd be really useful when walking around an unfamiliar city for the same reasons that it is useful in the car. However, the car units aren't really marketed as "pedestrian-friendly" so I'm not sure if any of them can be used for this purpose, and if so, which ones are good for this.

Or...would it be better to buy a "trail" GPS (like this). It looks like there are accessories that can adapt this for auto usage, but again, it's hard to tell how good it would be for this purpose.

Ideally, I'd get a smartphone with GPS and then I'd have it for both driving and walking, but I don't want to have to buy a data plan, which it looks like is a necessity to activate GPS capability on smartphones. Another option would be to buy an iTouch, which, from googling, looks like it has some apps for GPS, but I can't figure out how this would work since I don't think that the iTouch has a GPS chip that tracks location.

Are there any solutions for my needs? I'd like to spend $200 or less, although I could go above that with the iTouch if it is an option.

posted by btkuhn to Technology (11 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
I just got the Droid, which runs abut $200 with a 2yr contract. It does indeed require a data plan, which is $30 more a month than just a voice account, so with Verizon for me I now pay $70 instead of $40 or so. Can do all the stuff you want, though, has a free turn-by-turn GPS app, and also has google maps and updates to where you are using GPS as well.

You can even navigate by the stars if you'd like (even in the daytime) using google skymaps!
posted by Grither at 9:55 AM on November 16, 2009

The iPod touch doesn't have GPS; the iPhone 3G and 3GS do.
posted by mcwetboy at 10:02 AM on November 16, 2009

The iPod Touch doesn't have built-in GPS. It can sort of fake it using WiFi, but you need to be near WiFi hotspots for that to work, which makes it not very useful. You can get a GPS add-on cradle, but that's expensive and bulky.

You can use GPS on an iPhone without a data plan. The issue here is that without a data plan, you can't download maps, so Google Maps and the like will have limited functionality. You could buy a GPS program like Navigon that downloads all the maps onto the iPhone at installation, and that would work without a data plan. This software does cost real money (Navigon was around $80 last I checked).
posted by brain_drain at 10:03 AM on November 16, 2009

Have you considered the Garmin nuvi series, like this one? We have the lowest-level one, and it's slightly larger than a deck of cards, but easily carried by hand.
posted by cabingirl at 10:04 AM on November 16, 2009

I do use my Garmin, a nuvi 660, when I walk around a new city. It has a lot of other features too. That model is probably available for not much money as Garmin has discontinued it.

Despite the continuing utility of my nuvi, I'm also drooling over Garmin's latest models, which definitely are designed to be used for walking/biking etc. as well as driving. The link up with Google maps is really amazing. Check out Those are pricier though.
posted by bearwife at 10:05 AM on November 16, 2009

There's also this.
posted by brain_drain at 10:07 AM on November 16, 2009

I have a Garmin Nuvi too (I forget the model number, but it's a 3 year old mid-level model), and it has a dedicated pedestrian mode (which lets you go down 1-way streets the wrong way and keeps you off the highway). And I love it as my car model.
posted by brainmouse at 10:12 AM on November 16, 2009

I have the Garmin 260w, and it has a pedestrian and bicycle mode.

It's a little bigger than an iPhone, and about twice as thick, but it's pretty lightweight. I haven't used it in pedestrian mode, but I've been very happy with it in my car, having used it in numerous cities around the country.
posted by The Deej at 10:19 AM on November 16, 2009

I just got one of the Garmin Nuvis (700 series, though I can't recall which, exactly), and it was advertised as being suitable for walking around. As a poster above notes, as well, the units are small and really convenient to carry.

Some good deals here.
posted by Admiral Haddock at 10:19 AM on November 16, 2009

I've got an old Aviton GPS i bought at a pawn shop for $40. It takes an SD card, supports upgradeable maps [I installed central Europe maps on mine for a trip], does turn-by-turn, and charges via USB. It worked fine for walking around over there. It's maybe a little bit bigger than a deck of cards.

Here it is on the Kohl's website, of all places.

My local PawnAmerica has about a dozen of these sitting in the case, though the price seems to have gone up to $70.

I see now that the Aviton website has gone away, so I guess support might be a problem, but mine works great and you can't beat the price if you can find one in a similar place.

Reuse! Recycle! ;)
posted by chazlarson at 11:40 AM on November 16, 2009

DeLorme's GPS receivers start under $200, and they come with all the maps for North America -- no hidden $100 cost. They are a handheld style that's good for hiking/geocaching but also do car routing and pretty basic dirving directions (that is, they beep but can't talk).

Great warranty service, too, regardless of where you bought it.

(No connection, just a happy owner of a PN-20.)
posted by wenestvedt at 5:59 AM on November 17, 2009

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