These days everyone has a GPS with them at all times – it’s called a smartphone. Thanks to Google, Microsoft and Apple everyone has the power to the get places with absolute ease without having to pay an extra cent for a separate GPS system or the maps to go along with it. So, why then would anyone in their right mind spend money on a free-standing GPS in this day and age? Well, believe it or not, the GPS is still quite relevant in the South African market. Don’t believe me? I tested TomTom’s latest flagship device, the TomTom Go 5000, and found out just why having a GPS navigation system in this country is still pretty damn useful.

Now, before you throw stuff at me for saying something silly, let me paint you a picture. I often have to find my way to weird and wonderful places on my own steam and while I would say I have a relatively good sense of direction I am constantly getting lost … and I hate getting lost! So why is this happening to me? Well, the first reason is that my smartphone hates me. Perhaps it’s my smartphone’s inability to get a good GPS signal or perhaps it’s my chosen network’s terrible lack of coverage, but my smartphone GPS just cannot hold a good signal. I cannot tell you how many times I have started off my journey as happy as a clam only to be told by the little annoying women inside my phone that my GPS signal has been lost half way to my destination. I’d rather not repeat the words that come out of my mouth when this happens but let’s just say it’s rather frustrating.

That situation alone is enough for me to want to invest in a stand-alone GPS for my car. When I was testing out the TomTom Go5000, the annoying woman inside the GPS only spoke to me to tell me that I needed to turn left in 300 meters or to berate me for missing my turn whilst I was daydreaming about what I was going to have for lunch that day. With the TomTom Go 5000 you don’t lose signal – especially not in crazy remote places where you need it most. I found that my smartphone loses GPS signal in both the city and in more ‘remote’ places like Stellenbosch and the Magaliesburg. As a woman who often travels for business, having a reliable GPS is super important to me and I can’t begin to explain how great it felt to have peace of mind when using the TomTom Go 5000.

TomTom Go 5000

And there’s the data costs. I don’t know if you know this but using the GPS on your smartphone isn’t exactly free. Nope, your network is actually taking valuable data from you every time you switch it on so just think about that the next time you need to use your smartphone GPS to show you how to get somewhere that’s say 3 hours away (gulp!). With the TomTom Go 5000 GPS system you get the Africa map pack included with purchase and you don’t have to worry about connecting the internet to access them every time you travel somewhere. This is great when you’re travelling through the rest of Africa as your SIM card pretty much becomes useless once you leave South African borders (unless you want to pay a fortune in data roaming fees).

But what if you like being connected? If you love using apps like Waze for traffic updates on the go then you will be thrilled to know that the TomTom Go 5000 also has built-in connectivity that allows you to receive the latest traffic information straight to your GPS. This new system called ‘Always Connected’ is free to use but is limited to providing updated data to the device. I also love that TomTom has arranged roaming agreements with a number of countries so users can have access to the system when travelling through the rest of Africa and abroad with having to worry about incurring additional data costs. Having said that, if you’re going somewhere other than Africa then keep in mind that you will have to install the maps for the country you are travelling to before arrival.

Of course, there are some downsides to using a GPS rather than your smartphone. The screen resolution on most devices, including the Go 5000 is significantly less crisp and clear than on your smartphone and the touchscreen isn’t as responsive as you may be used to but can you honestly say that having a super crisp screen resolution for your GPS is necessary? TomTom has done a great job at improving the look and feel of the interface on the Go 5000 but it’s obviously not going to measure up to your smartphone navigation software.

TomTom Go 5000

But looks aren’t everything and the new interface on the Go 5000 has been greatly improved with all the info you need being made available to you in just a few clicks. Finding saved places, petrol stations, public parking lots and other points of interest is just three clicks or less away which is a vast improvement from older navigation systems. And, if clicking isn’t your thing then you can also try your hand at the new voice command system which allows you to control the Go 5000 while you drive. You go use this system to navigate to saved places in your GPS and even report speed cameras without having to take your hands off the wheel or your eyes off the road.

If you travel often and hate mucking about with the small screen on your smartphone then investing in a GPS system like the TomTom Go 5000 is definitely not a waste! I know that after using it for 2 weeks in my car I’m lusting after one in a big way!

The TomTom Go 5000 will set you back about R4,199 once-off and is available from most leading retailers such Game and Makro as well as from online stores.