New smartphone app from Garmin could replace GPS


Smarphones have been featuring GPS navigation software for a while now, but they’re getting closer and closer to replacing handheld navigation units, with Garmin getting on board with their new Viago app.

In the past, several developers have released apps that function as GPS units, relying on your phone’s built-in GPS chip for navigation, instead of cell tower triangulation (NavFree and MapFactor are good examples; Google Maps and Apple Maps are also useful, but usually require a data connection).

Dual Sport Maps had an interesting Android app that was particularly useful for off-roaders (they seem to be defunct now), and a quick search of Google Play or the iTunes store revealed many others doing something similar. Trouble is, most of these units were based around some variation of the OSM map set, which is generally reliable, but some users prefer to stick with Garmin for their excellent software and solid reputation.

Garmin provided apps to link their GPS units to smartphones, but resisted combining the two. Now, they’ve released the Viago app (for Android and iOS) that will allow you to use their map sets on your phone, essentially replacing your handheld GPS, and the price is right: right now, the app costs $0.99, although the price is going up soon.

But wait, there’s more! More cost, that is. There are some free map sets, but others will cost users to download. The Viago app offers plenty of functionality, but with a price tag. Want your GPS to read street names to you out loud? That’ll cost you. Want automatic re-routing? That’ll cost you too. So will 3D terrain views, and real-time traffic, and speed limit warnings, etc., etc. Obviously, Garmin’s planning on making their money from in-app purchases.

Will it be successful? Time will tell, but initial users have given the app plenty of poor ratings in the store. And for motorcyclists, who need a waterproof GPS unit, the app might not be as useful, if you’re worried about getting your phone wet, or losing it. Handheld GPS units are trusted for reliability by explorers, adventurers, military personnel and scientific researchers globally, and cell phones just don’t generally have that level of trust yet.

Also, if the public decides they’d rather stick with other, pre-existing apps that are free, Garmin’s uphill battle is going to be even tougher.


  1. I downloaded Garmin’s maps through an app a few years ago that downloaded all of the maps onto my phone. It cost about $60 but I appreciate that it doesn’t cost me data use on my phone when I do trips. Is this new app for $0.99 eating my data when I ride or are the maps stored on the phone? If it eats data, I’ll stick with my setup. I also get all the bells and whistles with my purchase.

    One other thing, I use a waterproof case for my iPhone with a Ram mount and have no water or visual issues when I ride.

  2. Givi makes two GPS bags which can be mounted to a bike’s handlebars. The bags are padded, water resistant and come with a waterproof cover and accept most automotive style GPS. Total cost of the Givi product and one of most auto style GPS units is less than $200. Considerably less than a motorcycle specific unit priced at $600+. If by chance someone does steal the less expensive GPS you can still afford to go buy another.

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