Motorcycle GPS vs. Phone Navigation Apps: Which is Right for You?

GPS navigation on a motorcycle is not only convenient on long rides or when travelling on unfamiliar routes but phones and GPS navigators also have additional features to allow you to keep in touch, trigger emergency calls and display upcoming road condition and safety information. While both motorcycle GPS devices and phone navigation apps offer guidance, there are key differences that can make one option a better fit for your needs.

Motorcycle GPS Devices: Built for the Open Road

Motorcycle GPS devices are specifically designed for two-wheeled travel, offering several advantages:

  • Durability: These devices are built to withstand the vibrations, weather conditions, and bumps that come with motorcycle riding. They often feature ruggedized housings and waterproof designs.
  • Glove Friendly Screens: The touch screens can be used with or with out gloves and even when wet. They don't require special patches to be sewn on the tips of your glove index fingers to operate the screen.
  • Dedicated Navigation: Motorcycle GPS devices focus solely on navigation, eliminating distractions from calls, texts, or other apps you might find on your phone.
  • Voice Guidance: Clear and loud voice prompts ensure you can hear directions even with your helmet on and the wind rushing past your ears.
  • Wireless Integration: GPS navigators such as the Garmin zumo series devices allow for Bluetooth integration between your phone and helmet headset as well as triggering ANT devices in an emergency such as Garmin's InReach Mini 2 Satellite Communicator.
  • Motorcycle-Specific Features: Some devices offer features tailored to bikers, such as turn-by-turn directions, points of interest (POI) specifically for motorcycle-friendly stops, and route planning optimised for curvy roads.

However, motorcycle GPS devices also have some drawbacks:

  • Cost: They tend to be more expensive than using a phone navigation app.
  • Limited Functionality: Some devices lack the versatility of smartphone apps, which offer features like music streaming, weather updates, and even social media integration.
  • Updates: Map updates may require additional costs or be less frequent than phone app updates.

Phone Navigation Apps: Convenience and Versatility

Phone navigation apps offer a convenient and cost-effective alternative to dedicated GPS devices. Here's what they bring to the table:

  • Accessibility: You likely already have a smartphone, eliminating the need for an additional purchase.
  • Crash Detection: Newer smartphones have built in crash detection technology and automatic emergency services dialling which could be a lifesaver (assuming the phone is not damaged in an accident).
  • Affordability: Most navigation apps are free or offer affordable subscriptions.
  • Versatility: Smartphones offer a wealth of features beyond navigation, including music, communication, and entertainment.
  • Real-Time Traffic: Apps like Waze provide live alerts on road conditions as well as updating routes in real-time to avoid traffic jams and delays.

But phone navigation apps have their limitations too:

  • Distraction: Checking the screen while riding is extremely dangerous and illegal in many areas.
  • Battery Life: Using GPS and other apps can quickly drain your phone's battery.
  • Weather Concerns: Phones are susceptible to rain, dust, and other elements, requiring protective cases for safe use.
  • Limited Motorcycle-Specific Features: While some apps offer motorcycle-friendly settings, they might not be as robust as dedicated GPS devices.

Choosing the Right Option for You

The best choice between a motorcycle GPS device and a phone navigation app depends on your individual needs and preferences. Here's a guide to help you decide:

Motorcycle GPS Device is ideal if you:

  • Prioritise safety and focus on navigation.
  • Ride frequently or for long distances.
  • Seek dedicated motorcycle-specific features.
  • Don't mind the extra cost.

Phone Navigation App is a good option if you:

  • Value convenience and affordability.
  • Need access to a wide range of features.
  • Ride shorter distances or in familiar areas.
  • Are willing to invest in a protective case and a charging solution.

Additional Tips for Safe Navigation

Regardless of whether you choose a motorcycle GPS device or a phone navigation app, remember these safety tips:

  • Plan Your Route in Advance: Before setting off, study your route, especially for long rides.
  • Minimize Distractions: Avoid checking your phone screen while riding. Use voice commands or a helmet-mounted display if necessary.
  • Use Navigation Cautiously: Don't solely rely on technology. Be aware of your surroundings and follow traffic laws.
  • Consider a Motorcycle-Specific Mount: Invest in a sturdy and secure mount to keep your device safe and visible.

Ultimately, the most important factor is to choose a navigation method that keeps you safe and allows you to enjoy your motorcycle journeys to the fullest.