I read that the new 3G iPhone has GPS built-in and it got me thinking: Could the iPhone challenge the Edge 705 as a high end GPS for mountain biking? Let’s see how the two compare:


Both the iPhone and Edge 705 have color screens but the iPhone’s screen is much larger: 3.5 in (480×320) vs. the puny Edge 705 screen at 2.2 in (176×220). To get detailed street maps for the Edge 705 you’ll need to pony up an extra $100, no updates included. The iPhone gives you access to Google Maps for free and they’re constantly updated. Winner: iPhone.

Navigation / Directions

From what I understand the iPhone cannot provide real time navigation, a feat the Edge 705 accomplishes reasonably well. TomTom is said to be working on a navigation app for the iPhone but this will certainly be a paid software upgrade. Winner: Edge 705.

Speedometer / Odometer / Elevation

The iPhone doesn’t track these things for you but the Edge 705 does (and it does it very well I must say). Unfortunately Garmin’s lead may not last for long since iPhone app developers are sure to throw together a simple (and I predict free) application to do just this. Winner (for now): Edge 705.

Route sharing

Garmin introduced a new feature with the Edge 705 to allow riders to wirelessly “beam” previously ridden routes to one another and the iPhone doesn’t have this. The iPhone does, however, have access to the INTERNET which holds tens of thousands of shared rides on sites like this one and even Garmin’s own Motionbased site (ouch). Winner: iPhone.

Wireless accessories

The Garmin Edge 705 is compatible with all kinds of wireless accessories including heart rate, cadence, and power monitors. I don’t know of any cycling devices made for the iPhone but Apple has included a secret weapon: Bluetooth. Ok, so Bluetooth isn’t a secret and I’ve said from the beginning that Garmin was foolish to develop their own wireless standard (ANT) instead of latching onto the industry favorite. Could we see Bluetooth heart rate monitors in the future? Probably. Winner (for now): Edge 705.

Communication / Music
This isn’t really a fair fight but face it – the iPhone is a phone, an MP3 player, and an internet device while the Edge 705 is a dumb brick. Today I’m carrying my phone and my GPS on the trail, perhaps tomorrow I’ll have a single device that can manage both functions while serving as an iPod as well. Winner: iPhone.


I’m pretty skeptical about the durability of the iPhone on the trail but there are already some bike mounts on the market for the device. The Edge 705, on the other hand, is clearly built to take a pounding on the trail with a tough housing and flexible screen. Winner: Edge 705.


It’s tough to compare pricing of the iPhone and Edge 705 because they’re both, er, different. The Edge 705 (without accessories) retails for $499 but you’ll need to pay another $100 or so for detailed maps. The iPhone retails for $199 but you’ll end up paying at least $69.99 a month for the service (no service fee for the Edge 705). Of course most of us are already paying for a cell phone plan so it’s all about the margin. Look at it this way: If you’re currently paying $50 a month for your cell phone the iPhone really costs you just $19.99 a month extra 😉 Winner: Tie.

Although the iPhone 3G is brand new it appears that it may be a good contender for taking on the Edge 705 for the title of “super fancy bike GPS” (though the iPhone may ultimately be better suited to road cycling rather than trail riding). Who knows, maybe we’ll be seeing iPhone apps and accessories at Interbike this year…

# Comments

  • gltenturbo

    I do not have either of these devices, but I think I can help. Buy the GPS. The GPS is made to do all the things you want it to do. The iPhone is made to do all kinds of things. If you need a GPS that can play music, look at porn and make phone calls go, with the iPhone. If you need a GPS, buy a GPS. I owned a really sweet Suunto X9i. It is the watch that has a GPS built in to it. It was really awesome… for a watch. I bought a Garmin eTrex Vista CX and immediately sold the watch on eBay. There was no comparison. When you are in the woods (under tree canopy) any unit made to be a GPS is going to lock on to more satellites with a stronger signal. You will not be able to call your buddy to tell him about the sweet trail you are riding, but you will be able to show him seamless data. Two options: look good at the bar while you are talking about it or look good on the trail while you are doing it!

  • outside2344

    If you want to put this to a test I just found a really cool application on the iPhone App Store called Trailguru that let’s you capture your ride and then upload it to view it on Google Earth/Google Maps and more. Its in the Health and Fitness section — really cool, check it out …

  • mquinn6

    I just got an iPhone (for other needs) – I love it! I downloaded an app called RunKeeper (www.runkeeper.com) and have played around with it a couple times. Very cool (free after you buy the iPhone). Saves maps, elevation, speeds (at that elevation – sweet diagram) as well as after the trip you can “save” it and it can be seen on the internet – exported to Google Earth (or GPX) and you can replay your trip! Has different activity types, Running, Cylcing, Walking, Hiking, Skiiing, Other (but not certain what they do – maybe granularity).

    Now to search for the bluetooth interface for cadence, heartbeat, and impact velocity when I flop.

    It might be neat (have not tired it) if you could look up on the internet as to where someone was (lost friend or concerned love one) – sort of like “Spot”…


  • Drawthemoral

    I’m using Motion X GPS on my iPhone 3G and it’s great! It tracks all of the stats that you would want, and you can export them to facebook and Google earth.

    The only negative is the battery life. I keep it in my camelback, so I lock the screen. But now, I’ve found several Solar Powered USB chargers that can extend the battery life. If every ride you do is 4+ hours, then maybe go with a GPS unit. But if your average rides are shorter, I don’t see any reason to buy a separate GPS unit. And as battery life improves with the newer iPhones, this will be less and less of an issue.

  • 49637

    I bought Motion X GPS formy iphone 3G and where I live it is completely useless. The phone never picks up a GPS signal at any of the places I routinely ride. Also with the new iphone software update the program rarely even opens without crashing. The one in 10 times it does open and not immediately crash, it drains the battery in under 2 hours. Before the iphone software update motion X was moderately useful and my battery would last well over 2 hours. with the new software update Comletely useless. I’m getting the Garmin and a Droid! Not a fan of apple’s forced upgrades every 2 years

  • trek7k

    Yep, Motion X certainly isn’t perfect but remember, it only costs a few bucks (compared to a dedicated GPS which is a much bigger investment). Dedicated GPS devices will always be the better choice because they’re made for biking. Apple and Google [Android] aren’t really designing for off road and remote usage.

Leave a Reply

You must be logged in to post a comment.