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Bike Computer vs. Smartphone: A Comparison

Difference between cycling computer and smartphones

Bike or cycling computers have come a long way since I first started riding. The days of massive wires tangled around your bike frame are long gone. Instead, we now have Gorilla Glass advanced GPS routing and extremely long battery life. However, smartphones have also advanced significantly. Gone are the days when we used to play snake into the early hours of the morning or when we used to use our phone as a bicep-weight kind of apparatus.

In this article, I will examine of both options and see which one may look best for your riding.

Ease of Use

We are used to the workings of our phones, which are often very user-friendly and simple to use. This means that people who are less tech-savvy can get started right away. They can use their phones to track some simple metrics while riding without much background reading. Apps like Komoot provide simple platforms for recording, planning, and navigating routes on your phone. So you won’t have to overcome any super-technical obstacles while riding your bike. You’re looking for directions to your destination.

It’s simple to use a phone mount to convert your phone into a bike computer. Simply attach it to your handlebars, download the app, and go. There are numerous mounts available for purchase that are reasonably priced. When compared to the cost of a bike computer, the TOPEAK RIDECASE provides a sturdy mount and is compatible with a wide variety of phones. It quickly transforms your phone into a bike computer.

Using a phone as a bike computer can be a great way to get more involved in the sport, either by navigating new roads or by using a simple app to track your progress. As you progress in the sport, you may want to consider purchasing a dedicated cycling computer.


We’re all used to using our phones’ mapping functions to get around in our daily lives. Purchasing a bike mount for your phone allows you to continue this hands-free while cycling. I think it’s a great way to navigate, especially if you’re in a city and making multiple trips. Bike computers on the market today have excellent navigation features such as off-road calculations, turn-by-turn directions, and back-to-the-start routing. For example, the Wahoo Roam Bike Computer makes it very simple to follow the route because it is purpose-built.

Battery Life

Battery life is an important consideration for me. I enjoy having a phone because it eliminates the need to think about another device. There will be one less device to charge in the evening. It is, however, a major inconvenience when your phone runs out of battery, especially when you are out on a ride. If you have a lot of background apps running on your phone, the battery will drain even faster.

So that’s something to think about if you’re planning a longer ride. Your phone is not designed to have its screen turned on all the time, nor is it designed to have GPS navigation turned on all the time. If you use these functions, your battery will drain faster and you may run out of battery halfway through your ride. It is something you do not want to happen.

These days, bike computers have extremely long battery lives. It is intended for a single purpose: focusing on your riding. The Wahoo Roam, for example, has a 17-hour ride time. So, if you go on a lot of long bike rides, a bike computer might be a good investment. However, if you live in a city or do a lot of smaller loops throughout the week, a phone is a good option to consider.


Cycling in the rain is unavoidable. It is quite common to encounter rain while riding your bike. However, bike computers are built for a specific purpose. With simple buttons that won’t let all that moisture into your computer. Phones are less durable here, and when the weather turns bad, I prefer not to use my phone while riding. I like to wrap it in a sandwich bag or a plastic bag and put it in my pocket to keep it safe.

However, if you must use your phone while riding in the rain, there are numerous options available to protect your phone while riding in the rain. A bike computer, on the other hand, is aerodynamically designed. It’s designed to withstand rain, and many are made of Gorilla Glass, which can withstand a variety of impacts. If you don’t like taking your phone out in the rain, a bike computer might be a good option.

GPS Reliability

Phones’ accuracy can be jeopardized by relying on third-party data to calculate things like elevation and speed. This has an impact on calculations after the ride has been completed. Your phone has not been thoroughly tested to function as a bike computer. It could have unreliable GPS tracking. Phones are only accurate to approximately 6 feet. In ideal conditions, bike computers can provide accuracy of up to 2 feet.


When you’re riding your bike, phones create a lot more distractions. Notifications from things like texts, phone calls, and apps running in the background can all distract you. Bike computers are far less likely to distract you and take your attention away from the road. Instead of hitting you with notifications from every background app on your phone, a bike computer will only send you the ones you need. It’s worth noting that the display on a phone can be difficult to read in direct sunlight, whereas a dedicated bike computer has a screen brightness that makes it much easier to read outside.


One consideration is compatibility. Bike computers are head units that work with a wide range of accessories such as heart rate monitors, power meters, and static bike trainers. It can also communicate wirelessly with these devices. It may be impossible to connect on a phone. This, however, is changing. FSA PowerBOX and Wahoo TICKR heart rate monitors now include Bluetooth connectivity, which is the wireless system of choice for many of our phones. Bluetooth, on the other hand, has yet to permeate all of these devices. If you want to use your device with a variety of sensors and gear, a bike computer might be the one for you.


Bike computers start at £45 for something with very basic functionality. My Wahoo Roam, for example, costs around £350 and has excellent advanced functionality and route navigation. If you want to get a bike computer, it will be an investment. At the same time, a high-end phone these days can cost close to a grand if it’s an iPhone. So I guess it’s a trade-off between whether you want to take your really expensive phone out on your bike and possibly risk it forward enough, or whether you’ve invested so much in your phone that you prefer to use it as that device that you use for everything.

Bike Computer vs. Smartphone: A Comparison