Written by Annika

Navigating: navigation system vs smartphone

When do you choose a car navigation system and when do you choose a smartphone to show you the way? Both options navigate and both options have advantages and disadvantages. In this article you can read the most important functions of a navigation system compared to the 2 most popular navigation apps for your smartphone: Google Maps and Waze.

In short

Navigation system Smartphone
Map coverage Regular updates are necessary for up-to-date maps. Updates aren't necessary and apps such as Google Maps are often already pre-installed.
Route Clear and large display of your route. Smaller and less elaborate display of your route.
Traffic updates Very comprehensive and up-to-date. Less detailed.
Extras Anti-reflecting screen and hands-free calls without interrupting navigation. Voice control that may be set for bike or pedestrian routes.

Traffic information

Car navigation system

Traffic updates on your navigation system

There are different ways to receive traffic information on your navigation system. One of the best and fastest options is via a car navigation system with built-in SIM card. Your device will then receive information via 3- or 4G. The coverage of this technique is large and the information is refreshed quickly. For example, you know immediately when the traffic is fixed on the Coolsingel in Rotterdam. Receiving traffic information via sim is free of charge in most cases - even abroad.

Mobile phone

Traffic updates on your smartphone

The navigation apps on your smartphone are more limited than your navigation system. Google Maps colors roads red when it is busy, but you don't get detailed information. Through Waze you get more information, only the traffic information on this app depends on users. The information is accurate, but information may be missing if no one has yet reported the situation. Waze does provide information about the maximum speed.


Car navigation with WiFi

Your navigation system's user-friendliness

You must regularly update the map material on your car navigation system for current information. With more luxurious devices this can increasingly be done via WiFi. Then you no longer need a cable and computer, but you update wirelessly. Depending on the map material on the device, a car navigation system also navigates abroad, without additional costs. With many navigation systems you can easily expand the map material.

Navigate phone

Your smartphone's user-friendliness

If you own a smartphone, Google Maps is often already installed and you can get started right away. The apps determine your location with the GPS of your phone and keep the maps up-to-date. You use the mobile apps in the car, but on cycling and walking routes. The apps do use data. This means that it does not always work outside of Europe, or entails high costs. Without internet, the device does not have traffic information.

Extra features

Car navigation system

Your navigation system's features

The screen of the average navigation system is the same size as that of an average smartphone (around 5 inches). Nevertheless, the display of your route on a navigation system is much clearer. For example, when you opt for a 3D view, you orient yourself even more easily in large cities. Many navigation systems allow you to make hands-free calls, operate the system with your voice, and connect your phone to receive notifications.

Phone with navigation

Your smartphone's features

With voice search via Google or Siri it is possible to navigate. For example, you say "navigate to Stadhuisplein in Rotterdam" and your phone searches for the route. You won't find other useful features of navigation systems on smartphones. Points of interest in your area are not indicated while driving, the sun reflects on the screen of your phone and the layout of the screen is less clear.


Navigation systems and smartphones both have their advantages and disadvantages. Your choice mainly depends on what you think is important and in which situation you want to navigate. Navigation systems are our preference in the car. These devices are made to make navigation in the car as easy as possible for you. Smartphones excel in convenience: you have the device already in your possession, maps are automatically updated and you also navigate with them on the bike or on foot.

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