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Android GPS vs. Handheld Outdoor GPS

GPS units are being used now both as dedicated handhelds and in Android and other smartphones.

Handheld GPS devices are traditionally used by hikers, hunters, and other outdoor people. There are specific models of handheld GPS units, often known as Outdoor GPS, that are used in these outdoor activities. 

Increasingly, the GPS in an Android phone is being used for navigation. The Android GPS can get its location from the GPS Satellites without depending on cell towers.  It can also store maps for outdoor activities on a storage card. By using an Android GPS app, users are able to choose what style of navigation is appropriate for their activities.

GPS devices use the Global Navigation Satellite System. This system is operated by the United States Department of Defense. The satellite locations are to triangulate a user's positions Handheld GPS devices, sometimes known as "receivers," give users accurate coordinates of their current location to help them navigate to trails and custom waypoints.

Here are some of the tradeoffs between the Android GPS and more traditional handheld units. 

Handheld Outdoor GPS units
•    Are more likely to be designed for durability.
•    Typically have a longer battery life and use standard batteries.
•    Are weather resistant and/or waterproof.
•    May have color screens with up to 240×400 pixels. .
•    May have an antenna for enhanced signal from the satellites.
•    Cost from $400-600 for mapping units.
•    Come with a base map and preloaded software.
•    Can use more detailed maps from desktop software at additional cost.
•    Often have an electronic compass

Android Phones with GPS
•    Are priced similar to GPS devices if you don’t already have the phone.
•    May have a small fee, $1-10, for the appropriate app
•    Are more flexible in map source and software
•    Use maps that are free or paid for as digital downloads.
•    Have better screen resolution, up to 480×800 pixels.   
•    Have the phone and messaging capabilities that ordinary GPS devices lack.
•    Are often even more compact than a comparable handheld GPS unit so they 
     are great for hiking and related activities.
•    Typically need a protective case to be waterproof and durable.
•    May need extra batteries or special care to extend their battery life
•    Have an electronic compass.

In short, using an Android GPS has a lot of appeal due to its more advanced screen, plus its versatility in both map source and software. If you pay special attention to weather protection and battery life, it can be a great replacement for an outdoor handheld GPS.