Is this pushy SmartGPS smarter than a smartphone?

smartgps“PND or GPS devices that’s so 2007,” I thought. Then, I saw information about the latest SmartGPS from Magellan that claimed I “could enjoy the connected car experience today, in any vehicle a fraction of the price of premium in-dash infotainment systems.” It appealed to both my tech sweet tooth and taste for bargains.

Magellan launched its first SmartGPS the “5295”, last year and is coming out with a new sleeker SmartGPS 5390 is now available. The MSRP price for both devices is $229 but you can the new model on Amazon for $155.39 and the 5295 for as low as $135.99.

So why would I need a SmartGPS when my smartphone already has maps, apps and navigation on it?

“It’s not about the battle between the SmartGPS and the smartphone but choosing the best tool for each job and linking them together through the cloud,” said Bill Strand, Associate Director of Product Marketing at Magellan for Auto-Navigation. Magellan’s SmartGPS is designed for in-car use and to make things easy to do while driving

The SmartGPS pushes information to you, you don’t have to ask it.

“I discovered the cheapest gas prices and some great restaurants without searching for them,” said Strand.

Strand was surprised to discover that cheapest gas prices were not at his home or work but somewhere in between to tune of ten-cents a gallon.  A co-worker found gas twenty cents cheaper per gallon through the gas price data.

The SmartGPS not only has traditional mapping/directions but content such as Gas Prices, Points of Interest (restaurants etc), PhantomALERT(radar speed traps), Weather, Traffic, Yelp and Foursquare in non-distracting squares on the 5” touchscreen. You can show two or four squares with Foursquare as one of the squares that you pull down window shade look or a full eight squares of content, covering the whole screen. You decide the squares you want that can show that there’s well-reviewed restaurant nearby, gas prices, or special discounts from Yelp or Foursquare then information is “pushed” to you from the data in the SmartGPS.

The SmartGPS can sync addresses with your smartphone, get planned trip routes from a tablet or computer via a web portal and download updates in the middle night via Wi-Fi (if it reaches your garage). While sitting in the office looking at your smartphone if you find a place you want to go, you can send it to your SmartGPS through the SmartGPS app.

Once the SmartGPS has its content downloaded, you don’t have to be connected for it to work.

There are other advantages to the SmartGPS. It comes with a mount for the top of the dash or the windshield. If you have a late model car, if you were to replace the radio CD player with a new system, it could be down to low to see easily. You charge the SmartGPS through the 12-Volt port in the car.

There are no fees and data plans needed, the only function that requires a renewal fee is the PhantomALERT service that is free for the first year, then $29.99 for one year or $49.99 for three years.

The SmartGPS is portable, you can take on a trip in rental car or share it with family members in other vehicles.  If you lose your phone and are near Wi-Fi, it also has a web browser running on Cortex A8 1GHz processor with 4GB of memory. There’s also an microSD card slot for storing additional maps, and a microUSB connector for charging and or updates. You can can also use Bluetooth with your smartphone to make and receive calls with the SmartGPS.

SmartGPS has a stronger GPS chip that is more accurate than smartphones that use GPS, Wi-Fi and cell towers to figure your location which in most cases is accurate, enough. However, most smartphone navigation apps require a connection to a wireless network to give you directions. You could be lost in the middle of nowhere without a data connection and need to get home. Some mapping  apps such as Google, let you save your maps, when you plan ahead.

“Being lost is often a surprise, not a plan,” said Strand.

Is the Magellan SmartGPS 5390 as full featured as a brand new iPhone or Samsung Galaxy S5 smartphone which runs $60 or so a month and hundreds of dollars upfront that you have to fiddle with while driving? Does it do everything a new car navigation package does to the tune of $1500?  No, but if I were lost at 4:00 am without a smartphone or wireless signal with a near-empty gas tank, it would be worth a million bucks to me.