Whether your business relies on a fleet of two or 200 vehicles, there’s no denying the importance of being able to account for your drivers and vehicles while they’re in the field. Tracking your fleet in real-time equips you with the up-to-date information you need to properly manage your business and make decisions that set you up for more efficient operations and more satisfied customers. When you have a last-minute change of plans or an emergency stop to add, knowing the current whereabouts of your assets can make all the difference in keeping your customers happy.

If you’ve started doing research on the best way to track your fleet, then chances are that you’ve come across information pertaining to two different methods: cell phone tracking apps and dedicated GPS tracking tools. While they may initially seem fairly similar, the reality is that they are distinct tools that perform very differently. It’s important to understand these differences so that you can make the right decision when choosing GPS vs phone and which one is a better fit for your business.

Smartphone Tracking Apps

In this day and age, you’ve probably used the smartphone GPS tracking feature on your cell phone to pull up turn-by-turn directions on plenty of occasions. A quick search will bring up a number of different cell phone apps that are designed to keep tabs on the user’s position using this same GPS tracking for cellphone technology. Many of these apps are also pretty affordable, so it can be tempting to simply have your team install one of them and call it a done deal on using mobile GPS tracking on your fleet.

Unfortunately, the vast majority of these apps are designed to suit more social or personal needs. Many cell phone tracking apps are intended for sharing your location with friends, adding locations to photos, or monitoring young drivers or other family members—not for keeping up with the needs and demands of a bustling business.

GPS Tracking

With a GPS tracking unit, a dedicated device is installed in the vehicle itself to monitor its location and relay that information back to the owner. Along with relaying the vehicle’s location in real-time, most GPS trackers can also monitor key information like speed, idle time, and whether or not a vehicle has left a predefined area that you’ve established.

When it comes to the effectiveness between GPS vs cell phone, unlike cell phone tracking apps, GPS tracking devices are intended to provide accurate real-time tracking data that’s updated every few seconds. When your business’s demands change unexpectedly, GPS tracking can provide the real-time accuracy you need to adjust accordingly and ensure you’re prepared to adapt efficiently.

The Pros and Cons

When deciding which option might help your business to operate as efficiently as possible, when comparing a phone vs GPS device, it’s important to consider the factors that will impact the day-to-day usability of the tracker and the productivity of your team.

Consistent Tracking

The fundamentally different technology that is used for cell phone tracking apps and GPS tracking devices—cell towers and GPS satellites, respectively—can play a huge role in how reliable the tracking technology is. Since GPS trackers on cell phones rely on cell towers to determine their location, cell phone tracking apps will have large gaps in their location history if your drivers find themselves in an area with poor cell coverage.

Using the cell phone for other purposes can inadvertently cause gaps in coverage if different apps or functions create conflicts. Cell tower positioning is also less accurate than GPS satellite positioning.

GPS tracking devices, on the other hand, use GPS satellites to determine the tracker’s location. This enables more consistent and more accurate tracking, even when the vehicle is out of cell range. GPS tracking devices can also store forward, enabling them to continue tracking even when they don’t have a connection to share that information. When the device connects again, all of the accurate GPS data will be sent to fill in any gaps.

Battery Life

Another cause of an outage in tracking can be a dead battery. Cell phones aren’t designed to constantly run location services, so active tracking apps put intense demand on mobile device batteries and cause them to drain more quickly. If this weren’t bad enough on its own, a dead battery becomes even worse if your employees are relying on their cell phone tracking device for other tasks like taking photos of completed jobs or accessing customer information while in the field.

A GPS tracking device, however, is designed with constant use in mind and is built to run constantly. Many trackers are even hardwired into the vehicle’s electrical system, ensuring that battery problems are never an issue.


Installing a dedicated GPS tracking device in your vehicles makes the device virtually impossible to tamper with. It’s always on and always tracking, so you always have up-to-date information on where your assets are. A cell phone tracking app, on the other hand, is easy for your employees to turn off on a whim if it suits them. Your drivers can choose to turn off their phone or deactivate location services whenever they like, making it easy to create blind spots in their location history. Even if they aren’t intentionally interfering with tracking, your employees can still forget their device or turn it off accidentally and prevent you from getting the tracking information you need.

Customer Support

As you continue to run your business, you need to know that you have a reliable team in your corner should you ever encounter a problem with your tracking solution. While there are always exceptions to the rule when it comes to GPS vs smartphones, cell phone tracking apps tend to lack dedicated support teams. GPS tracking devices, on the other hand, tend to be tied to established companies that are invested in your success. This not only equates to better customer support, but also means that the tracking software is more likely to be consistently maintained and updated.

Additional Data

Cell phone tracking apps, generally speaking, are only designed to track the user’s location. While this information can be helpful on its own, it provides you with much more insight into your operations when paired with additional information. GPS tracking devices are capable of capturing and transmitting additional information like driving habits, speed, idle time, fuel use, and mileage.

Armed with this added information, you find yourself in a position to work on safer driving habits and more efficient processes with your employees; this added benefit to your team’s safety alone is a strong argument in favor of GPS tracking devices.

Monitoring mileage remotely also lets you stay on top of vehicle maintenance for your fleet more efficiently, eliminating the need to waste time climbing into each individual vehicle to check the odometer or pestering your employees to track their mileage. Better vehicle maintenance also helps you to save on more costly repairs in the long run.

Integration With Your Software

While many cell phone tracking apps allow you to connect with other phones equipped with the same app, they lack a central interface for you to view a comprehensive analysis of where your vehicles are and how you can make improvements in the future. When you opt to utilize GPS tracking devices that work alongside your route planning software, though, you can put the wealth of information at your disposal to good use. Seeing how long your drivers are spending on the road and how long they spend at each stop can be the key to streamlining your operations and ensuring that your future routes are more efficient than ever.

To learn more about the benefits of fleet tracking, as well as true route optimization, be sure to explore WorkWave Route Manager GPS today.

Start Using RouteManager!

RouteManager’s last-mile delivery software helps you cut fuel costs, increase revenue, and improve operations.

Brett is a Content Specialist at WorkWave with over a decade of professional writing experience. When he's not glued to his keyboard, he enjoys playing music, reading, playing video games, and just about anything that takes him outdoors.