You may believe that GPS units are just a glorified map for those who can t remember which direction West is without reciting a line about soggy waffles. But GPS units are so much more than just a map that says, You are here. They have a lot of great features that you may not even know about, making them more useful, easier to use or just plain fun.
GPS Translates Text-to-Speech
Many of the navigation GPS units you see in cars come with text-to-speech capabilities. This means that the device tries to use actual street names when giving audio directions instead of just saying the distance in feet. For example, the pretty voice in your GPS unit will tell you, Turn left on Main Street, instead of the more common, Turn left in 600 feet. Text-to-speech can make it much easier to follow directions because most people are accustomed to reading street signs rather than estimating how far 600 feet is when traveling 34.7 miles per hour.
Bluetooth Technology for Your GPS
Like many mobile devices, GPS units can come with Bluetooth technology that allows them to connect wirelessly with other mobile devices. The most common use for Bluetooth is to send information from a GPS unit to a cell phone or PDA. This allows you to use the information with other programs on your PDA or simply compile the GPS data into one mobile device.
GPS POI (Points of Interest)
Most GPS manufacturers also keep lists of POI, or points of interest. These are preprogrammed locations of common destinations, like restaurants, entertainment venues and famous landmarks. Some GPS manufacturers maintain databases or POI that can be accessed remotely, while others require you to buy CD-ROMs and upload the POI information into your GPS unit at home. POI lists make it much faster to find common destinations and get directions than inputting your own addresses or coordinates manually.
Many companies are also creating POI loaders, or programs that allow you to create your own POI. This means that you can create a list of all the places you want to have on record so that you can bring up directions to them quickly. The POI loader allows you to turn these locations into POI that are compatible with the GPS unit and can be stored with other POI.
GPS Traffic Updates on the Road
One of the greatest boons to GPS technology has been the introduction of traffic updates. Many people who use GPS to get to work already know all the different routes and detours they can take. The GPS unit is useful, instead, for listening to traffic reports and calculating the fastest route based on reports of accidents or traffic jams. Most GPS services use traffic updates from ClearChannel or XM satellite sources to update the information on a route.
GPS Does Double Duty: MP3 Player/Games
GPS units have started to include a lot of little extras that are normally associated with cell phones or other entertainment media. It s common for handheld units to be able to play MP3 files, and some manufacturers have also started to include games on their devices. The games won t necessarily help with navigation, but it might be useful for killing time if you get lost. However, if you get lost with a GPS unit, you might be better off sticking with gaming at home. The MP3 capability is useful for hiking or geocaching though because you can listen to music or even an audiobook as you walk.
See the Top Ranked GPS Units with All Their Features
These features and others in development make GPS units useful for more than knowing which direction your soggy waffles are in. In fact, these extra features have helped GPS units expand into new industries and forms of recreation, benefiting people everywhere. To see which GPS units can help you the most, check out our review of Navigation GPS and Recreation GPS units, including expert and user reviews from across the Internet.