GPS devices provide latitude and longitude information

A GPS navigation device is any device that receives Global Positioning System (GPS) signals for the purpose of determining the device’s current location on Earth.

GPS devices may also have additional capabilities such as:

  • containing maps, which may be displayed in human readable format via text or in a graphical format
  • providing suggested directions to a human in charge of a vehicle or vessel via text or speech
  • providing directions directly to an autonomous vehicle such as a robotic probe
  • providing information on traffic conditions (either via historical or real time data) and suggesting alternative directions
  • providing information on nearby amenities such as restaurants, fueling stations, etc.

In other words, all GPS devices can answer the question “Where am I?”, and may also be able to answer:

  • which roads or paths are available to me now?
  • which roads or paths should I take in order to get to my desired destination?
  • if some roads are usually busy at this time or are busy right now, what would be a better route to take?
  • where can I get something to eat nearby or where can I get fuel for my vehicle?

Consumer applications – Consumer GPS navigation devices include:

  • Dedicated GPS navigation devices
  • GPS modules that need to be connected to a computer to be used.
  • GPS loggers that record trip information for download. Such GPS tracking is useful for trailblazing, mapping by hikers and cyclists, and the production of geocoded photographs.
  • Converged devices, including GPS Phones and GPS cameras, in which GPS is a feature rather than the main purpose of the device. Those devices are the majority, and may use assisted GPS or standalone (not network dependent) or both.

Dedicated GPS navigation devices – Dedicated devices have various degrees of mobility. Hand-held, outdoor, or sport receivers have replaceable batteries that can run them for several hours, making them suitable for hiking, bicycle touring and other activities far from an electric power source. Their screens are small, and some do not show color, in part to save power. Cases are rugged and some are water resistant.

Other receivers, often called mobile are intended primarily for use in a car, but have a small rechargeable internal battery that can power them for an hour or two away from the car. Special purpose devices for use in a car may be permanently installed and depend entirely on the automotive electrical system. The pre-installed embedded software of early receivers did not display maps; 21st century ones commonly show interactive street maps (of certain regions) that may also show points of interest, route information and step-by-step routing directions, often in spoken form with a feature called “text to speech”.

Mobile phones with GPS capability – The majority of GPS receivers are built into mobile telephones, with varying degrees of coverage and user accessibility. Commercial navigation software is available for most 21st century smartphones as well as some Java-enabled phones that allows them to use an internal or external GPS receiver (in the latter case, connecting via serial or Bluetooth). Some phones with GPS capability work by assisted GPS (A-GPS) only, and do not function when out of range of their carrier’s cell towers. Others can navigate worldwide with satellite GPS signals as a dedicated portable GPS receiver does, upgrading their operation to A-GPS mode when in range. Still others have a hybrid positioning system that can use other signals when GPS signals are inadequate. GPS navigation applications for mobile phones include Waze and Google Maps Navigation.