Smartphone GPS Tracking
Justin blog author

Author: Justin Schmid

Content Marketing Specialist

GPS Insight Forward IconSmartphone GPS Tracking Versus GPS Devices

What’s better, GPS tracking with a smartphone or a vehicle-installed GPS Device? It depends on what you want to accomplish. Keep in mind that smartphone GPS tracking can only track the phone itself, while installed devices are always able to track the vehicle.

Smartphone GPS tracking has some benefits for organizations that:

    1. Are on a Tight Budget
    2. Need Simplicity
    3. Want to Start Tracking Quickly
    4. Don’t Want Contracts

GPS Tracking Devices have these advantages:

    1. Much broader list of capabilities
    2. More extensive customer support

Smartphone GPS Tracking Versus GPS Devices.

With smartphone GPS tracking, is there any place left for separate GPS devices?

In commercial and government vehicles, the answer is a definite Yes.

Fleet tracking via smartphone and GPS devices both have their place and time. With either of them, you can get useful data on vehicle location and speed. Dedicated devices go far beyond finding your vehicles and knowing how fast they’re going, though.

It’s up to you to decide what information you really need to benefit your organization, though.

Here’s some information to help you decide which option fits your organization and goals.

Key Differences Between Smartphone GPS Tracking and GPS Devices

What They Actually Track

First off, using smartphone GPS tracking means you’re tracking the device – which a person usually carries with them.

So if your vehicle is stolen, you have no data to recover it. If your employee leaves their phone at a job site, then you have no idea what’s happening with your vehicle. An employee can also leave you in the dark by turning their phone off.

On the other hand, a hardwired device is extremely difficult to remove from a vehicle. That ensures a steady stream of data. If the vehicle goes out of range of a cellular network, it even continues to store information that it transmits when it’s back in range.

Devices that plug into an OBD-II port, which are often called Plug-and-Play devices, can be removed more easily.

GPS Devices = More Capabilities

Any type of GPS tracker is handy for knowing the location of your vehicle. In the early days of GPS fleet tracking, that was good enough.

Today, that’s not even the bare minimum for most organizations. Even businesses with just a few vehicles use GPS to monitor productivity, reduce fuel usage, optimize miles driven, improve maintenance scheduling, and increase safety.

Also, many fleet vehicles often have extra equipment that helps them perform tasks. Booms, plows, and light bars are just a few examples. Some fleets even use their GPS devices to track seatbelt use. With the right wiring and sensors, a GPS tracking device can monitor the use of this equipment. That’s just not possible with smartphone GPS tracking.

Smartphone GPS Tracking

A Higher Level of Support

In most cases, GPS providers will offer a higher level of support to organizations that opt for vehicle-installed hardware. That sort of expertise can help you get a better return on investment. You’ll get more data, you’ll get more help understanding what to do with it, and that will turn into better results.

Here’s Where Smartphone GPS Tracking Can Help

A Budget-Friendly Option

According to a Bobit Business Media report on the adoption of GPS tracking and usage within the light- and medium-duty fleet market, almost 30% of commercial fleets surveyed stated that they have not implemented GPS tracking due to budgetary constraints.

Since you won’t have to buy devices, you can get your fleet up-and-running with GPS tracking at a substantial savings. Your only expense will be the monthly monitoring fees for each device.

A Simple First Step Into Fleet Management

If you’re not using any form of tracking, that first step into fleet management can seem intimidating. What are you going to do with your information? How much will it add to your workload?

can answer a few of those questions. Since there are no devices to install, it’s an easy way to pilot solutions from any provider that offers smartphone tracking.

You’ll get a taste of how GPS tracking can improve any accountability, efficiency, and safety issues for your organization – without having to install any hardware in your vehicles.

The simplicity of using a smartphone-based tracker might make it easier to score some easy wins, such as cutting your fuel spending by addressing speeding. After some success with a streamlined solution, you might be ready to scale up to a more robust solution – and that transition will likely be easier for you since you now have some practical experience.

Smartphone GPS Tracking

Get Going in a Hurry

Installing vehicle GPS devices can be complicated. We have an experienced implementation team that often travels to client sites to handle dash-mounted solutions. That takes time.

Using a smartphone-based GPS tracking solution or a Plug-and-Play device in the OBD-II port is far faster.

The smartphone-based solution takes first place for speed, though, since clients don’t have to wait for a device to ship. It’s also extremely simple for employees to use. It’s just a matter of turning it on from their phone.

Skip the Long-Term Commitments

Here’s another benefit of skipping the devices: You don’t have to commit.

Some providers offer month-to-month deals. That means no complicated contracts.

This is also a good way to see how a provider’s customer service will perform. If they give you the support you expect, you can tell they’re invested in your success.

A Few Final Thoughts About Cell Phone Vs. Vehicle-Installed 

If budget is the reason you have not implemented a system into your operations, you may be looking into mobile app-based GPS tracking systems in hopes to receive the same type of fleet intelligence at a lower cost.

As things stand today, though, it’s just not possible to get the same depth of insights from using a smartphone for tracking.

Still, it’s better to have at least some form of tracking than none at all. The location data can at least make sure your employees are on the job and help you prevent them from speeding. And you might come away with knowledge that will make the transition to a more-complete GPS tracking solution far easier.

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