I need a mobile phone and a GPS navigator. Seems like the perfect combination. Wondering if any cyclists could give me their impression on it? This would be especially relevant to me if you've used it in another country. Thanks.
(Also posting this on Touring thread)
Formerly Known as Newbie
I thought about this myself. A couple of things:
If you intend to strap the device on the handlebar where it's easily visible, you'll need something waterproof (or water resistant, if you settle for that). Not many such GPS enabled phones out there. There are ways around this of course, but you may or may not be happy with the device in a clear plastic bag/cover or inside handlebar bag.
It would be a good idea if the device was rugged too. Even if you didn't do off roading, it will get its share of vibration and the occasional crashes. As far as mobile phones go, ruggedness and waterproofing tend to come in same package - at the cost of screen size. IMO, an iPhone-sized color screen is about the minimum for mapping GPS. If you settle for numerical coordinates only, you can get by even with a largish wristwatch GPS unit.
Battery life. Many of the features required for this package are power hungry. GPS, GSM, digital compass (if any), relatively large color screen for example. If you can switch off functions when they're not needed, that would be good. Odds are, you can only switch off the GPS and compass feature. I haven't found much comparable data on battery life with various options, but maybe users can share their experiences. I doubt one can squeeze out a full touring day's worth of use, with GPS constantly on while riding.
Map costs.Some GPS phones download maps on the fly as needed. Even if the map service itself didn't cost anything, data transfer will, depending on your provider package. Data transfer costs can be really high when roaming outside of your local cell phone network.
As you can probably tell, I chose separate devices, but I also needed them for other purposes than purely biking/touring. Most offerings failed most noticeably in ruggedness and waterproofing, and like I said, no easily comparable data was available on battery life.
I can't find the URLs to reference, but Garmin is reportedly seriously considering exiting the cell phone market because they're so far behind the iPhone and Android, with lackluster prospects of making headway. Consider whether you want to end up with an orphaned product.
(Non-phone) Garmin GPSes currently have way better battery life than iPhones and Android phones being used as navigation devices. This advantage could narrow significantly with successive generations of smartphones.
Thank you for the replies.
Juha, I was thinking of unlocking the phone and using local sim cards but regarding some of the issues that you raise: I figured since there is a way to mount it on the bike, that it would be at least water resistant and rugged enough but maybe not like their Edge line. I also do wonder about the crashes though. That's how I killed my last head light.
Dorkypants, I saw the article you mention. (RT @smartfone: INTERVIEW-Garmin mulls future of smartphone unit http://bit.ly/coFHoD). I guess, competing with Apple, etc is no easy task. Let's hope for better smartphones soon.
It seems to me from what you both say that my biggest concern should be the battery life. Thank you for bringing this to my attention as I hadn't considered that. There was one day when I'd arrived in a town as the sun was setting, having had a few problems along the way and if I hadn't had my phone to get directions to my final destination, in the dark too, I would not have been too pleased.
I guess I was hoping to get the confirmation I needed to justify the purchase. It just seemed so ideal to have both devices in one not just in terms of saving some cash but for the convenience of dealing with one device (weight, charging it, looking for it, etc.) Maybe just too good to be true. I might give it a try if I find it quite cheaply (EBay etc) at least until until something better comes up.
I'll keep you updated on my findings.