Marine GPS iPhone Apps vs. Handhelds

Are new iPhone, iPad and iPod Touch boating applications for marine GPS navigation a good alternative to handhelds?

These days everything has an app. And we are starting to see the boating industry “catch up” with applications specifically for boating.

There has been a lot of news in the marine industry lately about iPhone apps for boating – specifically for marine GPS navigation. Some even suggest that these new marine GPS applications can be a replacement for handheld GPS devices on boats.

It made me wonder… how many boaters are willing to adopt these new GPS marine applications for their iPhones and completely abandon a handheld GPS device on their boats?

Advantages of GPS Marine Navigation iPhone Apps

There are a lot of advantages to choosing iPhone apps for GPS marine navigation for boaters to consider.

For one, the cost of downloading an app is much cheaper than buying a handheld navigation device. Once you download the application it can typically be used on your iPhone, iPad or iPod Touch. If you already own an iPhone, iPad or iPod Touch then the additional cost of the application is minimal.

An iPhone app for GPS marine navigation also eliminates the need for carrying multiple devices, and therefore can be space-saving (an important thing on a boat!). As more & more iPhone boating applications become available on the market, the iPhone becomes a valuable multi-use device for boaters.

Finally, the portability of an iPhone means you can easily take your GPS navigation device with you wherever you may be boating. If you leave the handheld GPS device on your boat, you always have your iPhone or iPad with you to use.

Consider getting a rugged case, such as an OtterBox Defender Case for iPhone, this will help to protect your iPhone while using it on your boat.

(read more about choosing an iPhone app for GPS navigation)

iPhone App vs. Handheld for Marine GPS Navigation

As the technology for GPS navigation for iPhones is still evolving, it makes sense for boaters that want to adopt this new technology to continue to use a handheld GPS device as a back-up.

Although iPhone marine navigation apps are charting software programs that function similar to GPS handhelds, the functionality may take some time to get used to with the iPhone. There may be some features that may be better on a handheld GPS – such as the durability or larger easy to use buttons.

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Diane Seltzer

Founder & Editor at My Boat Life
Diane is the founder of as well as the boating lifestyle site for kids Active in the boating industry, Diane is a marine marketing consultant with Seltzer Communications and founder of Marine Marketing Tools, a collaborative site for sharing marine marketing best practices. Diane is also the author of the children's book The Amazing Adventures of Boat Girl.


  1. I do not use an iPhone for GPS navigation yet – but looking into it because I think it would be convenient. Thanks for the info.

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