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Handheld GPS

Find out about the handheld GPS.

A handheld GPS triangulates with multiple satellites to pinpoint a user's location. [©Jupiter Images, 2010]
©Jupiter Images, 2010
A handheld GPS triangulates with multiple satellites to pinpoint a user's location.

 

Handheld GPS

A handheld GPS (global positioning system) device is an invaluable tool for drivers frequently traveling to unknown locations within a specific city or to unfamiliar cities. It can dramatically reduce the number of wrong turns, streamline traveling time and take the stress out of finding nearby amenities. It is small enough to carry and a user has the option of moving it from one vehicle to another, including rental cars. After the user enters any address using the touch keypad, the GPS shows colorful, step-by-step driving directions, gives audio prompts for each turn and estimates arrival time. It provides directions to nearby restaurants, lodging, gas stations, ATMs and more. When GPS is connected to MSN Direct or other subscription services, the user has access to real-time traffic reports, news and local information.

How GPS Works

According to the U.S. governments Mission and Spacecraft Library, GPS is a mapping method pioneered by the U.S. Department of Defense. With a network of 24 satellites in continual orbit, the GPS works 24 hours a day and is not affected by weather. The government planned to use it only for military applications, but made it accessible to the general public in the 1980s. It is a free network and available to anyone with a handheld GPS. The GPS satellites, powered by solar energy, orbit the world twice each day. The GPS device triangulates with more than one satellite to determine the precise location on Earth.

Handheld GPS Features

Handheld GPS devices can either mount to the windshield with a suction cup or directly on the dashboard of a vehicle. The antenna must be able to get the satellite signal, so GPS does not work indoors or in a covered area. All newer devices have a color, touch screen that is easy to use. The display size is approximately 4 inches wide on average. The devices operate by plugging into the vehicle's lighter port and have a rechargeable battery. The battery life varies between models. Some devices come with voice command recognition so drivers can get hands-free information, such as direction home or the nearest gas station. Many models also have Bluetooth technology to integrate with a Bluetooth phone for hands-free talking.

Getting Driving Directions

When comparing GPS devices, make sure it has the necessary street maps. Some have street maps for 48 states, Hawaii and Puerto Rico, while others have maps for all of North America. To find driving directions using a handheld GPS, the user selects the state; then, types in the city using the touch-screen keypad. Next, the street number and name are inputted. Once the GPS device acquires the satellite, it will display the street map and how to proceed to the desired destination.

Handheld GPS devices store a certain number of recently entered addresses that can be selected from a list. GPS devices have a programmable capabilities that automatically gives the driving directions to home or other frequent destinations.

Finding Amenities

Most GPS units come with a database of restaurants, lodging, gas stations, points of interest, banks, ATMs, shopping, parking and entertainment (e.g., nightclubs, live theater and movie theaters). When the Lodging or Fuel button is pressed, for example, a list of possible choices are displayed by name, beginning with the closest location. By selecting one from the list, the GPS unit will display driving directions to the newly selected destination.

Some categories allow the user to further narrow the choices. For example, after pressing the Food button, the GPS unit might list fast food, Italian, Mexican and other categories. When the Shopping button is selected, grocery and pharmacy are some of the category selections. Once a category is selected, a list of the nearest locations are displayed and the user can select one to see driving directions.

Using Subscription Services

Subscription services such as MSN Direct are available with compatible GPS units. When using handheld GPS for driving directions, MSN Direct automatically reroutes the traveler around traffic and construction. Instead of merely locating nearby gas stations, the user has access to the gas prices at those locations. MSN Direct provides other useful information, such as weather reports, airport delays, local events, movie times, stock quotes and breaking news. Not all MSN Direct services are available with all compatible GPS models.

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