Why choose a GPS vs Phone?

Published on the 26th of April, 2018 by wheelsofkarma.com

Why choose a GPS vs Phone?

Why bother getting a GPS head unit like the Garmin Edge 25, Edge 520 or Edge 1000 when you have a phone with similar functions in apps like Strava or mapmyride. Apps provide a good entry into recording data from rides and are easily accessible since we all carry a phone. However, most regular cyclists will agree that a specific piece of GPS technology such as a Suunto watch or a Wahoo computer is far superior, here are some convincing reasons to make the switch.




Phones today are not very resilient to weather, moisture, heat, cold, pressure, falling, a light breeze, or anything that isn't just sitting on a table looking nice. Phones have developed more features (such as the GPS) but just can't compete in terms of ruggedness with the simple Nokia’s of the past. Dedicated GPS units, however, are more capable in the outdoors than antique Nokia phones were. The Garmin 500 unit which I have been using for 5 years has been used in  Middle Eastern dust storms, freezing alpine temperature, heavy British rain, and boiling 45-degree heat. None of these extremes have managed to damage the unit or the data it records. Use your expensive iPhone and eventually the moisture will creep in or a slight balance miscalculation will damage the delicate Faberge phone. The GPS ride data will be lost and you will be faced with a stressful week without your Apple pocket brain.




A GPS unit is designed to complete its specific job. The battery will last anywhere up to fifteen hours which is likely a lot longer than you will be riding. The phone, with its plethora of services such as wifi, 4G, calls, photos, and Bluetooth alongside the GPS and mapping software in your app, will be likely to last anywhere from one to three hours. If it dies then the lifeline which it supplies in an emergency is also gone.




I have tried most of the available ride recording apps and know from experience that a phone GPS signal and therefore its GPX file (the track created on a map that you see after a ride) can be inaccurate. I have even had instances where a whole ride has become just a straight line with a maximum speed of 300+ mph. This was very frustrating as I'm sure that was the ride when I got ten KOM’s but if it's not recorded, no-one will believe you. When you begin to look at the data in terms of training or route planning you notice that sections of your winding ride appear straight. The phone loses its signal and fills in the gaps with straight lines. A dedicated GPS unit records an accurate route including accurate speed, rarely if ever has my Garmin produced an inaccurate GPX file.

Mount a dedicated GPS on your bars (with ease) and don't worry about the weather or the battery life or crashing, just get on and ride. The way it was meant to be, but with data to back up how awesome you did.