First, anybody who thinks an iPhone can replace a high quality GPS bike computer like the Garmin Edge 510 is just plain wrong. I’m not going to sugar coat it, just present the truth and the facts. There is no way, unless iPhone decides to add a barometric altimeter and more accurate GPS hardware that they will ever create as accurate maps as the Garmin Edge 510.
Here are the 9 big reasons why an iPhone, either connected to a Bluetooth Smart head unit, like the Wahoo RFLKT, or used separately, will never be as good as a Garmin Edge 510:
1.) Size – Plain and simple an Edge 510 on it’s own is much smaller than any iPhone and head unit combination, including the new Wahoo RFLKT.
2.) Mounting – iPhone mounted as a bike computer on the handlebars is just too big. Yes, the new RFLKT is not so big but you still have to put the iPhone some where.
3.) Barometric Altimeter – A barometric altimeter calculates much more accurate on-board altitudes. This allows GPS to calculate much more accurate maps too, so it sort of goes hand-in-glove with the next item.
4.) Accuracy (Mapping) – in side by side tests the maps produced by the iPhone are much less accurate than anything produced by Garmin Edge 510, or any Garmin GPS product for that matter.
5.) IPX7 Waterproof and Weather Resistance – While the new Wahoo RFLKT head unit is IPX7 your iPhone is not and it doesn’t like high heat or other radical weather changes either. This begs the question, “Where are you going to put it and what are you going to put it in?”.
6.) Touchscreen Navigation – The touchscreen navigation on the Garmin Edge 510 and Edge 810 is far more preferable to the button driven navigation of the Wahoo RFLKT.
7.) Battery Life – Put your iPhone in GPS mode and its battery is toast within under 2 hours. Auxiliary batteries and lots of spare batteries are expensive and heavy. Compare this to Garmin Edge 510 and 810 going 16 plus hour in GPS mode and there is no comparison. “Bottom line if Apple wanted to get into the GPS business they wouldn’t have built a phone, they would have built a GPS and a maps data base”, says Rusty.
8.) Screen Display Quality – The screen display quality of the Garmin Edge 510 and Edge 810 is vastly superior and labels the values. I much prefer word driven labeling saying “heart rate” as opposed to a little symbol I can barely recognize.
9.) Level of Software Quality – While there are some excellent third party softwares out there, like Strava, very few, if any apps, come within a country mile of the quality of Garmin Connect. It’s just a fact, because multi-billion corporations generally have more money to invest than some guy working out of his garage. Don’t get us wrong we love Steve Jobs and are all for the guys who start out of their garages – its the American way.
Now we don’t want to just tell you want we don’t like about Wahoo RFLKT without being objective by telling you what we do like, which is the price of $129 when compared to the Garmin Edge 510 at $329. $200 bucks is serious “clam action”, so the level of improvements have to add up to value in the eyes of the buyer.
What each person will need to determine is whether they withstand the level of compromise highlighted above just to save money. It’s a lot of compromise and we don’t know many serious cyclists that would make it but 90% of the cycling population are not serious cyclists. For this reason we still think there will be a big market for the Wahoo RFLKT.
We mention all this because the level of compromise is serious if you start looking at things like battery life in GPS mode. If you never need maps and can withstand sensor driven bike computers that offer up heart rate, speed and distance from sensors and can forgo using GPS mode on your iPhone then the Wahoo RFLKT can much more easily be rationalized because all the other short comings on the list above can more easily be rationalized away.
–Rusty Squire, firstname.lastname@example.org