Magellan SmartGPS - Another Evidence Proves That Smartphone Is The Only Navigator You Need (Part 2)

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Routing and navigating

Despite the bad UI, I am still using SmartGPS to look for directions of many national parks, hotels or restaurants. As in a navigating device, it performs really well. You need to stretch your arm and push the “zoom out” button on the screen to get a better view about your destination (there is no voice command here), but I have to admit that the included speed limit warning is surely a gift from god. It is so easy to ignore any speed warning signs when you are entering a new town, and so the “beep” sound from the device keep me driving safely.

Another impressive feature is that its ability to search for the desire destinations by using the included mobile application, then sharing with the SmartGPS. This allows the drivers to type in their destinations on their phones then transfer the data to SmartGPS. I have to say that this feature is working so well whereas the search and discovery methods just feel entirely antiquated. The POI database is as robust as you'll find, but it's just not robust (nor personal) enough. Allow me to explain.

Routing and navigating interface

Routing and navigating interface

SmartGPS allows users to search Foursquare and Yelp destinations, as well as those pre-loaded onto the device. But if you put in half of a hotel's name that is some 380 miles away, you will probably get nothing in return. Let’s make a quick comparison with Google Maps on iPhone – while I am in South California, I start typing in “Hampton inn Montrose co.” I get to "ham" before Google senses that I probably want to look for a hotel I tagged last week while using my laptop to scope things out ahead of time. And there it is - the second option from the drop-down menu. Bang-done. You definitely can save that hotel into the Micloud’s list and let the SmartGPS redoes the same process, but that is a service that I have never tried. Also, by looking at the number of user using Google Maps, I am pretty sure that many people reading this article would have the same opinion as me.

The Challenge

I really appreciate the fact that Magallen is trying to hawk a $250 GPS extension to a smartphone app, when the reality is that the phone itself is an infinitely superior navigator. My setup involves an iPhone 4S, an $11 Arkon universal vent mount and a $12 cigarette adapter for USB charging. The Google Maps app is free, and if you're in Magellan's target market, you probably already own a smartphone. Considering that as a required cost, you can have a far more powerful, far more personal navigation experience for less than $25 in accessories - recall that those help you to travel more easily than the SmartGPS, and won't block your view.

The Google Maps app is free, and if you're in Magellan's target market, you probably already own a smartphone.

The Google Maps app is free, and if you're in Magellan's target market, you probably already own a smartphone.

On top of that, using smartphone as a navigator would give you a better experience. Far more than that, nowadays, many car manufacturers also provide you with the Audio Bluetooth support, allowing you to low down the music volume while making any commands; and this means that you're already set up for hands-free calling should someone ring you. The only advantage that the PNDs still have today is that you can look up for your destinations independently of the appearance of internet connection, or finding POI in a place where there's no cellular service. Increasingly, that's not a big deal anymore, but even if you're concerned about such a thing -- how can you beat a $50 Garmin app that enables you to download offline maps of the entire United States?


The $250 SmartGPS wasn't built for bad reason, but it's simply not worth the price. The massive size of it obstructs the driver's view, and although it is able to display a lot of information at once, attempting to analyze all of that while driving just feels not a smart idea. Beyond all of that, the graphical elements are too old, and the interplay between the device itself and the accompanying app is not stable.

The Magellan SmartGPS

The Magellan SmartGPS

To maximize its performance, you need to pair it with a smartphone. And if you already own a smartphone, you are provided with the best navigator on the market. Using your phone along with the Arkon stand and a simple USB charger mentioned above, there is no reason to look elsewhere.


·         Price: $250


·         Built-in Foursquare and Yelp


·         Massive size

·         Complicated user interface

·         Not useful


·         SmartGPS 250 was not built for a bad reason, but it is just simply not worth the money.



·         Dimensions (Metric) 160 mm x 90 mm x 14 mm

·         Weight (Metric): 355 g

·         Battery Type: 1100 mAh Li-ion rechargeable

·         Battery Life: 30 minutes

·         Microphone: Yes

·         Speaker: Yes

·         CPU: Texas Instruments Cortex A8

·         Expandable Memory: microSD

·         Temperature Range (F): 14F to 158F

·         Temperature Range (C): -10C to 70C

·         Audio/Video Input: Yes

·         SD Slot: Yes

·         Package Contents: SmartGPS Unit with Battery, Windshield Mount, Vehicle Power Adapter, Micro USB Cord, USB AC Adapter, Quick Start Guide, SmartGPS Apps Download Card


·         Display Resolution, WxH 800 x 480 WVGA

·         Screen Size: 5.0"

·         Display Type: Capacitive

·         Touch Screen: Yes

GPS & Sensors

·         GPS Accuracy: 3-5 Meters

·         High-Sensitivity GPS: Yes

·         Antenna Type: Multidirectional Patch

Mapping & Navigation

·         Preloaded Maps: US, Canada, Puerto Rico

·         Points of Interest: 7M

·         Turn-by-Turn Routing: Yes

·         AAA TourBook: Yes

·         Lifetime Traffic Alerts: Yes

·         Highway Lane Assist: Yes

·         Map Updates: Lifetime

·         Multi-Destination Routing: Yes

·         OneTouch Favorites Menu: Yes

·         Speed Limits: Yes

·         Spoken Street Names: Yes

·         Branded POIs: Yes

·         POIs Along Route: Yes

·         Smart City Search: Yes

·         Smart Detour: Yes

·         Landmark Guidance: Yes

·         Bluetooth Safe Texting: Yes

·         Junction view: Yes

·         Best Parking: Yes

·         Traffic Camera Alerts by PhantomALERT: Yes

·         Yelp Integration: Yes

·         Foursquare Integration: Yes

·         Gas Prices: Yes

·         Weather: Yes

·         User Generated Content

·         Waypoints: 20

Interface & Communications

·         USB Port USB: 2.0 (micro)

·         PC Compatible: Yes

·         MAC Compatible: Yes

·         Bluetooth: Yes

·         Wi-Fi: Yes

·         Cellular: Yes


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