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Using a Garmin GPS in 2021


I decided to go big in 2021. Somewhat.

I recently acquired my first 6-inch screen size GPS, an older model Garmin DriveSmart 60LMT. The current model at the time I write this is the Garmin DriveSmart 65, which for all intents and purposes is a 7-inch as its screen is 6.95-inch diagonal.

Not-so long ago, it was thought insane to have any electronic screen in your car larger than 5-inch. Times have changed, every new car has a screen in it now, and the "basic" screen size is 7-inch. For example, a new base model Chevrolet Trailblazer SUV does come with a 7-inch screen as standard equipment, as does a base model Nissan Versa, as does just about any new car you can think of.

In addition, most people carry around phones that have 6 to 6.5-inch display screen. Using a 6-inch GPS in the car basically looks the same as if I were using a smartphone as a navigator.

The reasons why I'm still using a Garmin GPS in 2021

I could use my phone right now to do the same thing my Garmin DriveSmart does, but I don't. I use the GPS instead, and this is why:

Does not change

Phone navigation apps get updated, and sometimes features get moved around or outright eliminated entirely with no warning whatsoever.

Garmins thankfully don't do this. The interface stays the same. The menus stay the same. Stuff does not get shuffled around. If something new gets added in with an update, it doesn't overtake something else.

I genuinely get nervous whenever there is an update for a navigation app on the phone, but not with Garmin GPSes.

Better favorites management

I mark a lot of locations as favorites on my GPS. Favorites and be easily sorted, renamed, edited, and so on. I can search any of them easily at any time. No problem.

Using favorites on the phone is not fun. With several navigation apps, you can't sort the list, can't rename, certainly can't edit, can't assign categories... it's just one big unmanageable list that you have to hunt through manually just to find what you want.

As crazy as this sounds, when you use the phone for navigation, you are literally better off writing down your favorite locations on a piece of paper, as that is actually faster than using the in-app favorites list. It's that bad.

Fewer steps required to enable a detour

On most Garmin GPSes, you can enable a basic detour of a route with just 2 or 3 taps. (Advanced detours obviously require a little more effort.)

On the phone, if a detour function is even offered within the app, too many confirmations are required just to make it work. That's just bad design.

Better GPS signal lock

Garmin solved the problem of weak GPS signal lock way back in 2007. Better chipsets were introduced along with some software prediction magic for where GPS satellites are, and ta-da, problem solved.

A very common problem with smartphone navigation is when the GPS signal drops. "Searching for GPS" is an on-screen message phone navigation users unfortunately know very well.

A screen I can actually read

I can actually get along with a 5-inch Garmin GPS just fine, but with the 6-inch model I get a bump up with screen resolution which results in easier-reading fonts.

However, even way back in the late 2000's with 3.5-inch screen models, Garmin knew they had to make the fonts big and bold and the direction arrows and instructions thick for easy viewing while driving. And they still design the modern DriveSmart like that even today.

Phone navigation apps bounce all over the place with their interfaces.

An example that really happens with some of these apps: "Let's put text stuff in a box with a border that's WAY too thick, blocks the map and other stuff you need to see, while at the same time making the font big but really thin so you can't read it even though it's larger."

Another example: "Let's make the road lines on the map separated by color so you can see them easier, but then make the roads ridiculously thin so all the lines just look like a jumble of garbage while driving, completely defeating the point of having different color road lines in the first place."

And another: "Let's take away the compass on the map. Who needs that, anyway?"

And yet another: "When arrows are shown on-screen instructing which direction to turn, let's make the arrows skinny and the arrow tips tiny so it just looks like a stick with a blob on top, because that looks cool."

You get the idea.

What Garmin does with their interface - and this makes total sense - is they actually make their UI look similar to actual road signs. This is a fantastic idea and it absolutely works. Yes, it has an industrial vibe to it, but so do road signs. The signs aren't made to be pretty but rather to give drivers information. Garmin followed suit with this, and that was a very good decision.

I'm glad Garmin still makes car GPSes

Great interface, great navigation, very readable, works anywhere, no internet/data connection required.

That's why I keep using these things, keep buying them and will continue to for as long as Garmin makes them.


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