What's the difference between Google Maps and Sat Nav?


This article looks at the differences between Google Maps (and other in-built navigation apps on phones), and dedicated Sat Navs.


Most smartphones come with a 'sat nav' or 'satellite navigation' built in. For Android there's 'Google Maps', and iPhone have Apple Maps. We're going to look at home these navigation systems compare to a sat nav, to see if there's any reason you might want to use one instead of the other.

Recently, Google added 'full offline navigation', meaning you can download routes and maps that you use quite often, so you don't have to use your data. They expire after 30 days, which means you'll always have the latest version.

Needing directions quickly


Most of the time, you won't leave home without your phone. Your sat nav, however, could easily be forgotten and left behind. That means if you realise you need to use it when you're out and about, but you've left it at home, you might be a bit stuck. With your phone, you can just nip into Maps and find where you want to go.

On the phone, there's also a built-in search option. This lets you type in business names or addresses, and will show you the results on a map so you can choose which one is best for you (if there's more than one, like McDonalds). This is easier than having to go away and find the address you're looking for, so that you can then put it in the sat nav.

Another advantage of Google Maps is that, because it's connected to the internet, it should be mostly up to date. That means that any roadworks or traffic will usually be picked up and highlighed on your route. If there's a quicker way, Google will suggest it too. All this means you've got the convenience of a sat nav, without having to carry around another device and charger.

Going the wrong way


Something else that Google maps can do is send anonymous information about speed and location to build up a 'live traffic map'. This helps with more accurate predictions for traffic and the journey time. This doesn't just apply to cars though, it can also do it when you're cycling and if you're walking, as long as you choose that option on maps.

If you choose the 'public transport' option, Google will let you know where and what time you need to be there, and any connections you need as well. This can be handy in big metropolitan areas.


Wrong turns and low signal


There's still some areas that need improvement on Google Maps. The GPS, for example, can be a little bit patchy in low signal areas. When this happens, Google Maps can tell you that you're in a slightly different place, and that can be confusing if you don't know where you're going. If you know that the place you're travelling to has low signal areas, it might be best to download the route at home. The sat nav, however, seems to keep its full signal in these areas.

Another issue we've noticed is the battery life. Using Google Maps with data and location turned on will drain your battery faster than normal. It's fine if you're only making a short journey, or if you've got a charger with you, but without one you might find your battery runs out before you make it to where you're going.

One of the downsides to Google Maps is that most of the features need an internet connection. Things like traffic updates, bike/pedestrian routes and public transport directions all need an internet connection to be used.


The conclusion


It seems that having a sat nav that's kept in the car could be handy for times when your phone battery is low or you can't get a signal, but overall Google Maps works just as well as a sat nav and has the added bonus of being able to be updated. That means you don't have to buy the latest map packs to keep things up to date.

There's still a place for the sat nav at the moment, but the mobile apps are getting better all the time, so it probably won't be long before they overtake their dashboard counterparts.


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