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.
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.
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…