The Third Option?In-dash navigators, built into the car's dashboard, have features like radio tuner, DVD player, built-in Bluetooth capabilities, in addition to navigation features!
The comparison is a bit flawed, because the devices are completely different from one another. However, in this apples and oranges comparison, we have put forth our point of view. Let's find out by weighing the pros and cons of both devices.
Connectivity: Smartphones have the advantage of being continuously connected to the Internet or a cellular network, which means, the navigator is always active. Besides different cell phone internet plans are available that suit an individual's varied needs.
Latest Information: Being continuously connected to the Internet, the GPS on smartphones have updated maps and data. Thus, you are able to locate the newly opened shopping store in your neighborhood faster on a smartphone GPS app than on the standalone unit.
Touchscreen: All smartphones are touchscreen devices, thus, operating them while driving is relatively easy. In case of iPhones, you simply need to talk (give out commands) to your phone, and the tracker can be switched on. Thus, fidgeting with the phone while driving is minimized.
Walking Tour Guide: Apart from in-car navigation (or in-vehicle navigation), smartphones also have an excellent navigation system while traveling on foot. This will ensure that you don't get lost while exploring places. This feature is unique to smartphones.
The smartphone battery dies too fast during road trips, due to the use of 3G and GPS. It is necessary to invest in car chargers.
You cannot use the smartphone to attend/make calls, message, email, and chat, because it is being used as a navigator. You will need to buy wireless headsets for the same, but you will still lose the navigator screen (and may miss a turn) each time you call. Another money spending alternative!
Small screens of smartphones (with navigator screen open) can make it difficult to follow the screen while driving.
Smartphones store maps on cloud, which means, the device needs to fetch them every time you need to view them.
Your maps won't be accessible if the data connectivity is weak, and this may leave you stranded! Personally, I have faced this situation with my smartphone navigator!
Battery Life: The biggest advantage of standalone units is their batteries. In case of battery drain, you can replace them, (spare batteries must be carried along) and keep using the device.
Enhanced Screen: The 4-5-inch screen of the standalone GPS unit is a boon. A slight glance at the unit's screen is enough to alert the driver about the route, rather than zooming in on the smartphones. And with a dashboard or windshield mounting, a GPS navigator is very driver-friendly.
Price: Low-end GPS units are not too expensive, and are equipped with basic features like turn-by-turn directions and traffic reporting (limited). Higher versions, affordable ones, have live traffic reports, alternate routes, and other premium features.
The biggest drawback of standalone GPS units is their use of pre-loaded offline maps that are not frequently updated. The updates take place once in two (one, in some cases) years. By this time, urban or landscape development and changes make the old data obsolete.
The standalone units do not use Internet connectivity for displaying routes. Hence you might miss out on new, short, alternate paths.
You will need to carry the standalone unit along with your phones. This adds to your luggage!