Finding Your Way Around GPS Devices

If you own a smart phone or tablet you never need get lost again.

Both smart phones and tablets come with Global Positioning Systems (GPS) built in, a space age technology which provides information relevant to your location so long as there is an unobstructed line of site to four or more GPS satellites.

The latest version of Apple's mobile operating system, iOS 7, which runs on the Apple iPhone as well as the Apple iPad and Apple iPod, includes the Apple Maps application which taps into GPS technology.

It gives the user turn by turn spoken directions and interactive 3D views in a vector based interface that scales and zooms with ease.

You also get real-time traffic information to calculate your estimated time of arrival. Maps details what's causing a backup, so and if traffic's a mess, Maps offers alternative routes.

The Flyover feature in Maps lets you view metro areas from the air with photo-realistic, interactive 3D views.

Explore cities in high resolution as you zoom, pan, tilt, and rotate around the city and its landmarks.

Android based smart phones and tablets, such as the Samsung Galaxy series, usually come with Google Maps pre-installed. If not it's a free download from the Google Play app store.

Through the app Google boasts comprehensive, and accurate maps in 220 countries and territories around the world.

The app delivers voice-guided GPS navigation for driving, cycling and walking.

There's also public transport directions and maps for more than 15,000 towns and cities around the globe.

Live traffic conditions, incident reports and automatic rerouting occur when the app is running to find the best route.

Google Maps has detailed information on more than 100 million places as well as Street View and indoor imagery for restaurants, museums and other attractions.

Nokia Drive comes preinstalled on Nokia's Lumia range of phones and does much the same as Apple Maps and Google Maps.

It too provides turn-by-turn voice-guided navigation with a dedicated in-car user interface.

You can search for addresses and places, and save them to your phone.

You can get real-time information on traffic flow and incidents on your regular routes using My Commute. My Commute is available for selected phones and regions. More regions are constantly being added.

You don't have to be online to use Nokia Drive, which makes it free to use.

It provides speed limit warnings even when you're not navigating, finds routes that avoid toll roads, ferries, or unpaved roads.

Microsoft Windows 8.1 also includes a GPS app, simply called Bing Maps, bringing the world to your fingertips. With stunning aerial and satellite imagery, comprehensive road coverage, and extensive local listings, the Maps app makes it easier than ever to find and get directions to locations, businesses, and events across the globe.

The catch is your Windows 8.1 tablet will need either a telephone network connection or the internet for the Maps app to work.

Smart phone and tablet apps are great when you find yourself in a spot of bother, but they do drain the charge of your battery if you use them for hours, so you need a mount and a car charger if you want to use them continuously on a long journey. You don't want your smart phone to be dead the moment you arrive for your important appointment.

There are still several makers of purpose built GPS systems, all offering comparable functions to the smart phone and tablet apps. Garmin, Navman and TomTom all make dedicated GPS devices, none of which are as versatile as their app based cousins.