Current Issue
This Month's Print Issue

Follow Fast Company

We’ll come to you.

3 minute read

Location, Location, Location

Lost in the woods? In the burbs? A raft of new GPS devices can help.

  • Is there a LoJack for my dog?
    As many as one in three dogs get lost at some point in their lives, so dog people have long dreamed of a radio collar that could track their best friends just as scientists trail meerkats. Finally, it's here: the Globalpetfinder ($290, $35 activation fee, $18—$20 monthly fees). Your dog wears a GPS receiver on his collar; our dog, Jolly, didn't seem to mind wearing what looked like a circa-1998 cell phone. You instruct the Web site how you want to be informed—on the Web site, by email, or cell phone. The device didn't find Jolly consistently, and alerts were spotty. But it did let us track him on an online map.

  • What about something that works both in my car and on the trail?
    Try the Magellan CrossoverGPS ($550; originally the RoadMate 2500T Traveler). This device is stronger in the car, where it announces directions aloud and offers an easy-to-read map (though it did tell us the nearest Home Depot—our standard query—was an implausible 99 miles away). Plus, you can upgrade to an option that highlights heavy traffic. The trail features are trickier—it's harder to mark the path you've taken and see the names of points you've added—but they still make the device stand out over strictly in-car options. The CrossoverGPS boasts a 2.1-inch-by-2.8-inch screen, and the menu and touch-screen buttons are simple to learn and use. You really don't even need a manual—as long as you can figure out the essential restart button.

  • I'm not really woodsy. Does GPS make sense for a person who lives in the city?
    The Helio Drift ($225, plus service starting at $65 a month) is basically a cell phone with mapping. Its GPS not only finds you but also your Helio-loving friends and anything on Google Maps. The screen is too small to safely use solo in a car, but it did give on-target directions to an array of nearby Home Depot stores and (more important) Chinese restaurants. In fact, the Helio offers faster, more accurate GPS than many straight GPS products, locating us even inside a building in notoriously GPS-unfriendly Manhattan. And the Helio was the only GPS device we tried that worked right out of the box (which was welcome indeed, after we spent three tedious hours trying to connect ALK Technology's CoPilot with a smartphone). The catch: You have to use Helio's service.

  • Is there a GPS for someone who can't read maps?
    Bushnell, maker of night-vision binoculars and outdoor equipment, gives us a handheld GPS that displays either the usual topographical depiction or an aerial satellite photo that reveals building shapes, small ponds, and all sorts of details that won't show up on a map. Its Onix 200 ($250) cradles perfectly in your palm, but it has just one tiny button for both power and light; unless you have elfin fingers, expect awkwardness. To get new maps, you have to download them from Bushnell's still-rough Web site—where you're bombarded with the annoying voice-over, "This is your hunting ground. This is your hunting ground on your GPS." Also annoying: the device's GI Joe—toy look.

  • Is there anything better than a pedometer to tell me how far I've run?
    Everyone complains about the accuracy of pedometers. The Timex Ironman Triathlon Bodylink System ($300) easily tells you how fast you're going and how far you've gone. We couldn't find any flaws with its measurements—except when it lost the signal while we were hiking the face of a mountain. (Stupid satellite!) The Bodylink also includes a chest-strap heart-rate monitor and lets you set alarms when you've hit targets you set—6 miles, say, or 144 beats per minute. Setup is relatively simple, though you do have to negotiate three manuals to do the job.

A version of this article appeared in the March 2007 issue of Fast Company magazine.