GPS Basic Characteristics Tutorial

by Lou Martin
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Global Position Systems come with an assortment of characteristics and features that help users effectively find their way from point A to point B. GPS devices are produced for a variety of purposes, such as driving, hiking, biking and boating. These types of GPS units offer features that are designed specifically for these different types of activities.

Auto GPS

Portable GPS devices are compact and lightweight, making them easy to take with you and to fit in most vehicles using included accessories, such as shoulder straps and windshield mount devices. For example, the TomTom GO LIVE 740 is 5 inches wide, 3.4 inches tall and 0.9 inches deep, and comes with these types of accessories. Common navigational characteristics for auto GPS units include basic navigational voice directions, such as "Turn left in 500 feet," and verbal instructions which include street names, such as "Turn left on Century Boulevard in 500 feet." These features are included with the unit and are activated when the machine is in navigational mode. High-sensitivity receivers enable auto GPS units to maintain satellite signal reception, even when the device is in difficult-to-reach locations, such as under heavy foliage or indoors. This function is automatic and requires no special equipment.

Outdoor GPS

Portable outdoor GPS systems, such as those used for hiking, come with characteristics that are ideal for navigating the rugged terrains of the great outdoors. For instance, the Garmin Montana 650t is equipped with a rechargeable lithium-ion battery that provides up to 16 hours of battery life and has the option of using two AA batteries for up to 22 hours of power. Outdoor GPS units commonly are waterproof and, like some auto GPS, come with a high-sensitivity receiver. Some outdoor navigational devices are equipped with a built-in digital camera that provides geotagging capability. Geotagging is a process that embeds GPS coordinate data into each photo taken by the device. This characteristic is especially useful if you are unsure of your location or want to find the precise location of a previously taken picture. Geotagging functionality is employed when you use the GPS as you would a camera.

Biking GPS

Biking GPS units have characteristics that enhance cyclists' training and navigational needs. The Garmin Edge 500, for instance, is able to track your heart rate and calculate caloric consumption as you ride. Biking GPS units also keep track of temperature and humidity readings while providing you with directions of where to turn. You can also set a pace for the device to keep track of as you ride, informing you of when you are behind or ahead of the pre-set pace. These characteristics are easily set using the device's controls and following the onscreen instructions.


Basic GPS characteristics give users a wide range of capabilities designed to make planning a trip or navigating highways and roadways more simple. Some auto GPS units, such as the Magellan RoadMate 2145T-LM, provide onscreen lane assistance features that guide you to the proper lane for safe and effective highway interchanges. Using this GPS characteristic requires you to activate it on the device's touch screen.


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About the Author

Lou Martin has been writing professionally since 1992. His work has appeared in the "Los Angeles Times," the "Long Beach Press-Telegram" and the "Deseret Morning News." Martin holds a Bachelor of Science in history and communication.

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