If there is any single thing that makes the life of any motorist easier, it is definitely the Global Positioning System. Once a motorist is equipped with a GPS receiver and current maps, he will be able to navigate without even thinking of his route and in most cases, the GPS system will calculate the best and most economical way of getting him to his destination.
People who can benefit immensely from having a GPS receiver are cab drivers, transport drivers, salesmen and especially entertainers, who find themselves going to engagements at different venues every night. There is nothing more dangerous than a driver juggling a street directory at night to try and find his way to an address, whereas a GPS will lead the driver unerringly to his destination with visual indicators on a screen, as well as spoken directions. The GPS has certainly revolutionised my life, making it so easy to get to my gigs and working out better and quicker routes. After having a GPS receiver for a while, I honestly cannot live without it any more. I merely add the following week's gig locations to my list of favourites, then just call each of them up when I am driving out of my garage. These favourites stay in the database for further use. Of course, when going to completely unfamiliar places, the GPS receiver is an invaluable tool.
One of the best things about GPS receivers is that the good models also include a database of those revenue-raising devices euphemistically called safety cameras. Unfortunately motorists get caught by speed cameras, because despite the fact that there are warning signs preceding the location of speed cameras, motorists often switch off and do not notice them, thus paying a very high price in the form of speeding tickets and loss of demerit points.
A good GPS receiver will give visual and audible warnings when approaching speed cameras, giving motorists more than adequate opportunity to slow down so as not to be booked. This can save motorists a lot of money and grief, making the GPS receiver a very good proposition, not just for navigation, but for financial reasons. It is therefore important to ensure that the speed camera database is kept right up to date.
The one thing of which GPS owners have to be very aware is the risk of having their GPS receivers stolen from their cars and expensive damage caused by a break-in. Most standalone GPS receivers are attached to the windscreen of a car by a bracket with a suction cup. This is a dead giveaway that there may be a GPS unit in the car, even if it is not in the bracket, but hidden in the glovebox.
Apart from the deterrence of a good car alarm and alarm stickers on the windows, the best way to protect against a break-in is to remove the mounting bracket from the windscreen when parking, because experienced thieves will recognise the brand of GPS receiver by the bracket that comes with it. This risk can be somewhat negated by obtaining a small GPS antenna and mounting it in a very unobtrusive spot and then mounting the GPS receiver somewhere convenient but out of sight to passing people, rather than have the bracket stuck on the windscreen.
Instead of purchasing a standalone GPS receiver, there is a much better way to take advantage of this amazing technology that offers more portability, convenience and security. These days, most people have smartphones with built-in GPS receivers. The most important thing when acquiring a GPS-equipped smartphone is to choose one that will offer the best GPS solution and use the best software.
Many Android PDA smartphones with inbuilt GPS come with Google Maps installed as the de-facto GPS mapping software. Apple iPhones come with Apple Maps. These applications can be interesting and useful, but they are not the best tools for GPS navigation for the following reasons:
For full turn-by turn voice navigation and instant traffic camera warnings, as well as a huge database of editable Points Of Interest (POI) the best solution for smartphones is to install top-class GPS software such as TomTom or MetroView, which offer literally all the features of its best standalone GPS receivers and map updates are inexpensive or free.
A PDA smartphone is literally an office in the pocket, but smartphones with built-in GPS receivers are more useful because they allow users to have GPS wherever they go, without having to carry a multitude of gadgets. With fantastic GPS mapping software, these smartphones can do everything as well, if not better than the most expensive standalone GPS receivers. The beauty of having GPS on a PDA smartphone is that whenever the user exits his car, the phone obviously goes with him, so it cannot be stolen like GPS receivers that are left in vehicles.
For instance, the TomTom or MetroView Australia Map literally gives the user the entire street directory of Australia in the palm of his hand. Even without the GPS receiver switched on, the user can browse maps of every street in the entire nation, plan and store multi-stage trips, find points of interest, store favourite destinations and many other useful functions. Paper street directories are now completely obsolete.
There are mobile brackets available for using GPS-equipped PDA smartphones in cars, just like standalone GPS receivers. However, unlike the window mount bracket for a GPS receiver that advertise to thieves that there is probably a GPS receiver hidden somewhere in the parked car, a mobile phone bracket does not tempt thieves, because they obviously can see what it is and realise that the owner would take his phone with him at all times.
So there are many advantages to getting a GPS-equipped PDA smartphone over a standalone GPS receiver - more features, convenience, size, portability and far less chance of one's car being broken into and ransacked.
A GPS-equipped PDA smartphone is terrific for finding addresses when walking. This is extremely useful in places such as unfamiliar city centres. For instance, most people have been in the situation where they have been in a large capital city CBD and were looking for a particular place without a map, bumbling around and asking passers-by who also didn't know. Having a GPS in one's pocket solves that problem anywhere in Australia or indeed anywhere in the world if the relevant maps are loaded into the PDA smartphone. The user merely inputs the address or even just the street and the GPS will unerringly guide him there by the quickest and best way.
GPS maps are available for Europe, Asia, North and South America, Australia, New Zealand, parts of Africa and many other locations, literally most places where people would go as tourists or on business. If a map is not available for a particular place, such as a wilderness area in a third-world country, the GPS can still be used to store coordinates at each location and navigate from point to point in that fashion.
GPS receivers are already fairly inexpensive and getting cheaper by the day, although the best ones still cost over $500. Nevertheless, for reasons of convenience, safety and saving money by avoiding being booked by speed cameras, using a good GPS receiver while driving will prove most valuable. There is no way that I would live without a GPS receiver, especially in my profession, where this wonderful technology has made getting to gigs or navigating around unfamiliar cities a seamless and effortless experience.