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Navigation/GPS units for International Travel

Navigation/GPS units for International Travel

Old Jul 28, 19, 12:06 pm
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Navigation/GPS units for International Travel

So for the last few trips to Europe I have been using my phone for navigation while driving - however there have been malfunctions at inappropriate times that I don't see locally such as hanging up or taking forever to geographically locate me. Of course this is very unhelpful when one is trying to navigate unfamiliar roads. My phone is an Android Note 4 so it is getting rather old at this point and occasionally now even hangs up while navigating or doing other things here in the US.

I was seriously considering purchasing a dedicated GPS unit especially for international travel - something that will seamlessly kick in upon landing and help me navigate without hanging up. So it would have to be something with world maps and where applicable routing based on traffic. Right now Google maps works well on the phone. Do dedicated GPS units come with this capability?

Any insights into models worth looking at would be helpful.
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Old Jul 28, 19, 12:50 pm
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I'd be very happy to be contradicted on this, but I don't believe what you're looking for currently exists. It appears that the major GPS makers/map suppliers have the world divvied up into separate regions with separate licenses for map use. Years ago, I bought a Garmin NUVI unit and bought a lifetime map subscription for the UK/Ireland/Europe, but there was no subscription that would have allowed worldwide use. I left that unit behind when Google Maps got so good.

I bought a Fiat 124 last year with a built-in navigation unit but no maps. I bought an SD card with the maps available on Amazon (by the way, fully working GPS on the 124 was an $800 option while the card cost $89 and installation required that I put the card into an easily reachable slot in the dash--so much for factory installation), but it was only for North America. There's a separate card for Europe for the models sold there, and no card that combines both. My Toyota Camry operates with a DVD and only covers NA.

I know that there can be issues with Google Maps on a phone because of gaps in signal strength--I've had that issue in the Scottish Highlands and in far northwest Donegal in Ireland--but that is likely to start easing with the advent of 5G. In addition, the problem I have with solutions such as those found in my Fiat and Toyota and what would be found in the kind of dedicated unit you're looking at, is that the maps tend to be out of date quickly. The old NUVI updated only occasionally, my Toyota updates weren't even annually, and the Fiat updates a couple of times per year. Google Map updates occur more frequently, and of course, their information about traffic is as good or better as any standalone unit. And accurate, current traffic information requires access either to cell phone or radio signals which are subject to the same limitations as a cell phone using Google Maps.

I think you might be able to cobble together a solution through the purchase of a unit with the features you seek plus multiple subscriptions. As I said, though, I'd be happy to be contradicted.
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Old Jul 28, 19, 2:49 pm
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your note 4 is pretty old, the newer devices get GPS fixes a lot quicker and support more GPS systems

standalone GPS units are very uncommon now, most people either use their phones or have built-in navigation in their cars



if you were to look at android apps, they all have free trials

Here Maps: its free, has offline download for multiple countries, traffic info (very basic though)

Copilot: payment for worldwide maps, and traffic. i like the lane/highway info, have this installed as a backup on my android car unit
https://copilotgps.com/en-us/compare-features/#pricing

sygic: payment for worldwide maps, traffic, maps update 2-4 times a year?
https://eshop.sygic.com/en/
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Old Jul 28, 19, 3:15 pm
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If you want to try an app (I know, not what you're asking), give Maps.me a try. It works very well offline. You need to download the maps of where you will be ahead of time though. I found it pretty useful in Cuba lately.
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Old Jul 28, 19, 5:20 pm
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Originally Posted by lwildernorva View Post
I'd be very happy to be contradicted on this, but I don't believe what you're looking for currently exists. It appears that the major GPS makers/map suppliers have the world divvied up into separate regions with separate licenses for map use.
Sure they do. Tomtom Go 620, for instance.
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Old Jul 28, 19, 5:23 pm
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See here: https://www.tomtom.com/en_us/lifetime-services/#maps

Maps > Lifetime World Maps

The GO 51, GO 61, GO 510, GO 610, GO 5100, GO 6100, GO 520, GO 620, GO 5200 and GO 6200 have access to Lifetime World Maps. These devices come with a pre-installed regional map and the option to download additional maps from around the world at no extra cost through MyDrive Connect.
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Old Jul 28, 19, 8:41 pm
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Originally Posted by javabytes View Post


Sure they do. Tomtom Go 620, for instance.
Works for me:
https://www.amazon.com/TomTom-Navigation-WiFi-Connectivity-Smartphone-Hands-Free/dp/B07211YHRD/ref=sr_1_1?keywords=tomtom+go+620&qid=1564367686&s=gateway&sr=8-1 https://www.amazon.com/TomTom-Navigation-WiFi-Connectivity-Smartphone-Hands-Free/dp/B07211YHRD/ref=sr_1_1?keywords=tomtom+go+620&qid=1564367686&s=gateway&sr=8-1
. That's a reasonable price for what's it's delivering. But you've still got to provide the wifi connectivity which is a similar issue (if not almost the same) in some of the more remote areas when you have a cell phone with poor reception. I'd still probably upgrade the phone, go with a local data SIM, and stick with Google Maps, but I would have jumped all over this instead of that NUVI.
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Old Jul 29, 19, 9:21 am
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Originally Posted by lwildernorva View Post
But you've still got to provide the wifi connectivity which is a similar issue (if not almost the same) in some of the more remote areas when you have a cell phone with poor reception.
Wifi is only needed to update maps, which can be done before leaving home. It can also be done via a computer if you'd prefer.

The only thing that needs data connectivity is the traffic, which will only work in some areas anyway. That uses bluetooth to your phone and an App installed on that phone. Without cellphone coverage the device itself will work perfectly, other than traffic.

As others have said, Google Maps - preferably with offline maps downloaded in advance - is frequently going to be a better option, especially if the car you're driving has Android Auto. If Google doesn't support offline maps for the place you're travelling, have a look at HERE maps which often does even if Google doesn't.
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Old Jul 29, 19, 9:39 am
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Thanks everyone for the input. It sounds like the best option is to stick with the phone and Google maps. Yes I learnt about downloading relevant sections of Google maps to use in places where cell coverage is spotty and you cannot rely on real-time downloads of maps while on the move. I started doing this again after issues while on travel. Traffic info is nice but not critical. It seems like the voice turn by turn indications is also downloaded while on the move using the cell network so I believe I simply kept getting pinging noises instead of the voice when the cell coverage was not good.

I have used Here maps in the past and did not have a good experience. I kept getting lost in North London UK late at night and then realized there was a major issue when I stopped the car and the dot on the map just kept moving. At that point I had no idea where I was. I finally managed to find the exit to the motorway I was looking for. This was in 2015 so maybe they have worked out whatever bug was causing that issue.

I have a Garmin Streetpilot which I purchased in 2006 but not used in many years. The main issue there as a I recall for international travel was the cost of the maps. I did get the maps and they did work but with out of date info like gas stations that had long since shut down. The relevant section of the maps had to be loaded onto the device using a PC app due to the limited storage on the device. The nice thing about Google maps is that they are relatively current.
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Old Jul 29, 19, 6:30 pm
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Originally Posted by blue_can View Post
realized there was a major issue when I stopped the car and the dot on the map just kept moving. At that point I had no idea where I was. I finally managed to find the exit to the motorway I was looking for. This was in 2015 so maybe they have worked out whatever bug was causing that issue.
that's generally an issue with your gps sensor/data, not the map app. happens even with new devices where line-of-sight to satellite is blocked (eg canyon, major city like nyc with tall buildings)

google maps doesn't allow offline in every country (japan is blocked, not sure if any european country is blocked)
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Old Jul 29, 19, 6:34 pm
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Was there an upgrade in the GPS chips that are in new phones compared to older GPS units ?

I would not mind an older GPS if it had the same GPS chipset , and these days no one would steal one from your dash anymore !
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Old Jul 29, 19, 7:21 pm
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Originally Posted by LAXlocal View Post
Was there an upgrade in the GPS chips that are in new phones compared to older GPS units ?
Yes, chips introduced in 2018 are more accurate, detect signals on more frequencies and are less susceptible to location tracking confusion due to reflections from tall buildings in built up areas. Some are also compatible with the Russian, European and Chinese satellite location networks in addition to the US GPS. (IEEE Spectrum)
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Old Jul 29, 19, 8:19 pm
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Originally Posted by TWA884 View Post
Yes, chips introduced in 2018 are more accurate, detect signals on more frequencies and are less susceptible to location tracking confusion due to reflections from tall buildings in built up areas. Some are also compatible with the Russian, European and Chinese satellite location networks in addition to the US GPS. (IEEE Spectrum)
is there anyway to tell which phones have the new chips ?
it seems that would be the best solution ,

Thanks
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Old Jul 29, 19, 9:35 pm
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Originally Posted by paperwastage View Post
that's generally an issue with your gps sensor/data, not the map app. happens even with new devices where line-of-sight to satellite is blocked (eg canyon, major city like nyc with tall buildings)
Yes that's certainly a possibility although there are other possibilities as well. There was enough open sky for the GPS to at least pick up sufficient number of satellites in order to get a fix. I've used Google maps in that general area since without issues. Shortly after the event with Here maps I checked the GPS performance on the chip and did not see any issues.

Obstruction could have played a part but also an app not written appropriately can cause something like this. For example certain tasks at the physical layer should be decoupled from the main UI thread and run on a different thread to prevent hang-ups. If parts of the thread communicating with the GPS chips were on the foreground thread that could cause hangups or for things to continue like movement on a map when a GPS signal has ceased or there is a timeout. Sometimes the interaction between the software and the hardware can be complex and if the phone at the time had a newer chip that had not been thoroughly tested with the Here app there could have been uncovered corner cases.
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Old Jul 29, 19, 10:39 pm
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Originally Posted by LAXlocal View Post
is there anyway to tell which phones have the new chips ?
it seems that would be the best solution ,

Thanks
This site has a partial list:
Dual-frequency GNSS on Android Table of devices
Better yet, just Google the model of the phone that you are considering +GNSS+L5.
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