December 30, 2009
As the year comes to a close, I thought I would wrap it up with the most popular stories that you clicked on in the last year. The year was driven by a lot of deals, and interest in some of the well built, lower priced GPS units that graced the store shelves - virtual or not.
- Garmin Nuvi 780 - this Nuvi was on special a lot this year, giving the user access to traffic reports, gas prices, local events, weather and more through the MSN service. The unit is solid, but the MSN service is scheduled to go away Jan 1, 2012 - still a while to go. See my full review of the Nuvi 780
- Garmin Nuvi 755T - the traffic enabled Nuvi 755T is a next generation device offering free subscription to NAVTEQ traffic through an ad supported model. Concerned with intrusive ads? Don't be, the ads are really minor and area a small trade-off for the free service. The Nuvi 755T offers a lot with an improved interface, faster route calculations, Nuvi-optimized multi-destination routing (say that 10 time fast!), and a speed limit indicator right on the screen. See my full review of the Nuvi 755T
- Garmin Nuvi 205W/255W - a strong contender throughout the year as these units bring solid features to the market at a reasonable price. Widescreen and for the 255W, test to speech capabilities make this a very broadly appealing feature set for the market. I bought a couple of these this year for myself and for presents. See my full review of the Garmin Nuvi 205W/255W
- TomTom 330/330S - the Holiday rainmaker GPS - plenty of sales made this a strong contender at the end of the year. The widescreen units offered users a great set of features at some unbelievable prices. Still a solid choice, especially if you pick the "S" model which has text to speech. See my full review of the TomTom 330/330S
- Garmin Nuvi 205/255 - the standard sized screen entry level units that get user to their location with ease and confidence. The Nuvi 255 adds maps of Canada and Hawaii/Puerto Rico. See my full review of the Nuvi 205/255
In retrospect, 2009 was also the year when a few other major trends hit the navigation market. While they weren't the top news stories by page view counts, I think these really are the top items that hit the market this year and will continue to affect the market as we move forward.
- iPhone Navigation Applications - Becoming some of the top grossing Apps in the App Store, the iPhone/iPod Touch navigation apps are really very usable and great to have along with you when you travel. There is a value in having navigation capability with you all of the time. I have pulled out the iPhone and navigated several times when riding with others; always wows the audience and always performs well. I have reviewed the TomTom App, and am in the middle of reviewing the Navigon App right now. With a half dozen of these on the market, and more coming, they are coming faster than I can keep up with.
- Google Navigation - the Free application for Android is sure to change the market. Google usually goes big, and is not afraid to take on big markets. To me, Google appears to be headed in the direction of helping you search for anything in your life. The application offers a lot of cool capabilities that only Google can offer at this point. They are buying Yelp - the search for all kinds of Points of Interest, especially through their augmented reality browser. Google gets into Navigation on the Mobile Phone
- Connected GPS - So, finally Garmin launched theirs, Dash left the market/got sold, Telenav launched their Shotgun connected GPS, and TomTom launched a follow-up to their original 740 Live. If the recession didn't come, and unemployment didn't hit 10% in the US, maybe these would have had a better reception. The problem is that things like the iPhone have set the bar pretty high for connectedness and capabilities, so getting movie times through the GPS isn't all that awesome anymore. Can you please make this ad supported to make it a free service? What these need to do is nail traffic for users; I mean really nail it with surface road traffic integration and smart forecasting. Maybe for 2010, please?
It's not a surprise that all of these biggie ideas are connected ideas; it's where the world is going and it's where the GPS needs to go to be more useful.
With CES 2010 right around the corner, I have to think that there are a few innovations that are going to find their way to the mainstream, and features that make navigating a lot easier.
December 29, 2009
Dual has announced a new cradle that enables GPS navigation on the iPod touch through their own navigation application. The cradle offers an amplified speaker, and a battery for extended use - a plus since the iPhone battery only offers a few hours of dedicated GPS use which totally kills the battery with no hope of phone use when you get to your destination. The featureset must be pretty good because the device received the CES 2010 Innovation Award also.
The navigation app features a fair number of capabilities that make it sounds pretty reasonable. Text to speech, 3D views of buildings, play music while navigating, and a few others that make the app seem like a reasonable entrant. The app is free with the cradle, so we'll see how it looks when it hits the iTunes store.
Don't plan on using your iPhone - Dual says that it will break the cradle.
See more in their video below.
December 29, 2009
Rand McNally is a household name that most will associate with maps and few with a GPS. So while their GPS Page still has Garmin units for sale, they have been awarded an innovation award at the CES 2010 show for their Intelliroute TND (Truck Navigation Device) - designed by truckers for truckers. The list of truck specific features seems well thought out, and include:
- Truck Specific routing where you input your truck dimensions, its weight and get out shortest time, distance and avoiding tolls.
- Truck Specific Info - like truck speed limits and restrictions. They claim superior coverage and data to make a better more informed route.
- Louder Speakers to overcome cab noise
- Large 5-inch screen for easy viewing
More information at Rand McNally on the IntelliRoute TND
December 29, 2009
Garmin announced the most recent addition to the Oregon Line of the Oregon 450 and 450T handheld GPS units. The lower end Oregon units still offer the touchscreen interface that is quickly becoming mainline technology, with a 3-axis electronic compass, photo navigation and enhanced track navigation - offering an elevation view of the track ahead of you and behind you to help better judge your trail runs or bike rides. See the image below - this looks very col, and might make me add yet another handheld to the family.
The 450T adds 100K TOPO maps of the US offering major trails, urban and rural roads, interstates, highways, coastlines, rivers and lakes as well as national, state and local parks, forests and wilderness areas. In addition, you can search for points of interest by name or proximity to your location and view descriptive details for terrain contours, topo elevations, summits and geographical points.
Full press release below.....
Continue reading: "Garmin Oregon 450 and 450T Announced"
December 21, 2009
I recently reviewed the TomTom iPhone Navigation App, and called it, "a solid first step platform onto which TomTom can build a world-class navigation product. I do want to see further enhancements for the product, including Text to Speech, lane guidance and live traffic feeds, but I anticipate that this is right around the corner, and can successfully be build on top of the existing platform."
Well, we appear to be just around the corner, and TomTom has offered us the version 1.2 to their application for free with a nice list of additional features that make their Navigation app a very respectable player in the space including:
- Text to Speech
- Updated Maps and Points of Interest
- IQ Routes - a way for the TomTom to benefit from actual drive times collected by users anonymously reporting back their speed along roads.
- Advanced Lane Guidance - shows you what lane to be in while approaching complex highway intersections
- Added iPod player support - some limited support for the iPod within the App itself
To some extent this closes the gap with competition that TomTom has with the navigation App, but I give them credit for getting out there with an App early and then iterating quickly to build on success. It's already one of the top grossing Apps in the iTunes App store. I would expect that they will add a for an incremental fee, traffic service onto the App sometime soon. No insider info here, but it's the next logical step in the development pipeline, and they already have the capability to sign people up for live traffic feeds through their standalone platform.
So, the improvements are helpful and certainly worth the free upgrade price. While there have been some issues installing the upgrade, I simply ended up deleting my ver 1.1 on my phone and installing my 1.2 on the iPhone. It just made things easier as I am maxing out the memory with apps, and other junk on there.
Text to Speech
I did not have an issue hearing the iPhone, even at highway speeds, and the text to speech is a nice addition. I have always recommended text to speech if you can afford it as it makes navigating in urban and suburban areas a lot easier when you can hear the road name and then look for the street sign. It inspires a lot more confidence and the added feature performs well. There are all kinds of recorded voices in different languages, but only one "Computer" voice that offers text to speech in the North American version - it's "Samantha"
The IQ Routes system with your permission, collected actual travel time as stand alone GPS units traveled the highways and byways of the land, in effect correcting their assumptions on travel times on specific roadways. It's a sort of historical average speed across a road with thousands of trips in the database. They might originally think that a road can be traveled at its speed limit, but in fact with two lights and a lot of people turning, the effective time to travel on a road might be 10% slower. You are able to shut off the IQ route capability to test the difference in predicted travel times. In my use, I could see a difference in planning routes, but the difference was minimal in a lot of instances.
Advanced Lane Guidance
I like lane guidance images and use them when available on my GPS navigators. The TomTom App gives you the opportunity to turn it off if you want - Settings--> Advanced--> Lane Images. Often times this feature is reserved for some of the higher end devices, but is finding its way down the product line. It's something I would expect to see in an iPhone App which should be able to support higher end features.
the iPod support can be had by tapping the bottom boarder of the map, and a slider comes up showing a music note and a voice icon. Tap the music note and a Rewind, Play, Fast Forward bar slides out to offer you the opportunity to play whatever is queued up in your iPod function. You are able to start a song or album before launching the TomTom App, and continue to control it from inside the App. You don't have full browse capability or album picking but it's a good start. The image below shows you the bottom of the (portrait layout) screen with the iPod controls.
Net, I think that these additions are a good next step for TomTom, and they offer a quality set of features built on top of a quality navigation product. I do expect to see traffic enabled soon, and continued development of the navigation capabilities and maps.
December 20, 2009
As the holiday season goes on I continue to get questions about which GPS to buy and what features are important. So while there are a lot of buyers out there who are looking for something very inexpensive, and a lot who want the best, I wanted to pass along two great choices that are a very good buy for the money and have the features that I think are important. The prices are in the $120 range for these, and for most people, these will be great gifts, satisfying their needs for high quality, ease of use and a great user experience. They are in stock at this writing and still available for delivery before Christmas.
Both of these are from top quality makers of GPS, are wide screens for easy viewing of the details and data, and have text to speech so they say the road names that you need to turn on. For more details on why I think these features are important, see my feature guide for automotive GPS units.
For more models that hit other price points with other features, take a look at my Holiday Buying Guide to Top Rated GPS units
December 12, 2009
TomTom has released a US only navigation App in the iTunes store that is bargain priced at $49 through 12/28. The application brings the upgrade features that were recently released, including text to speech and lane guidance in tough highway intersections. I reviewed the earlier version and liked it a lot, calling for improvements that were delivered in the recent upgrade. So far using the latest version I have been impressed.
TomTom for iPhone - US Only - $49
December 9, 2009
Amazon has another GPS Deal of the Day - this time a TomTom XL 325, a widescreen unit (4.3-inch) with US maps, MapShare, millions of Points of Interest, EasyPort mounting, easy and quick re-touring if you miss your turn, and no it does not have Text to Speech. I highly recommend Text to Speech, but if you want a good solid entry level, this is a great price and the widescreen is a nice bonus. The units comes with the "Latest Map Guarantee" which means that if they upgrade maps within 30-days of you getting your GPS, they will give you a free upgrade.
While they last at Amazon - TomTom XL 325 - $89
December 8, 2009
Sure you lost the GPS because you left it on the windshield and someone broke in to steal it, but then you notice, "Hey the remote control garage door opener is gone too?!"
Well apparently the thieves would take both, use the "Home" button on the GPS and then the garage door opener to break into the houses. Not a bad gig until you get caught, which they did and are being held.
More at Freep.com
December 4, 2009
TomTom is setting a foundation for its traffic expertise with some news out that it has been collecting traffic speeds for the last couple of years (not new news), and is starting to explain back a few facts about this compiled knowledge for our enjoyment. They are collecting information from mobile phones that are running their software and their GPS units that collect speeds and with your permission send that compiled information back to TomTom when the units are connected to your computer.
They defined congestion by looking at overall average speed within a city, not just looking at highways, but looking at all roads measured for congestion levels giving what they call a more accurate picture of the situation due to the more complete picture. What they found was:
- Seattle, Washington is the city with the worst traffic in the United States, with an average of 43% of its roads showing heavy delays. Rounding out the top five cities after Seattle are Los Angeles (38%), Chicago (37%), San Francisco (35%) and New York (31%).
- The "Bay Area" of California has the most cities in the top 30, with San Francisco, San Jose (29%) and Oakland (28%).
- The most congested "corridor" is between Baltimore and Washington, D.C. About 36% of that area's roads, largely in Montgomery County, are congested.
- While New York has many pockets of heavy congestion, the area also contains many major arteries for alternative routes. In fact, cities with fewer options for alternative roads were higher on the list.
- The least congested of the top 30? Minneapolis, Minnesota. Only 17% of the roads in that city are congested.
Full Press Release is below....
Continue reading: "Most Traffic Jammed Cities from TeleAtlas and TomTom"
December 1, 2009
Like the ads? Now there's the game. A quick little flash game to help Santa along. At the end you get a chance to enter your name to win a Garmin GPS. I like the bike the best and have to warn you to watch out for those turkeys who are still pissed off from Thanksgiving.
Navigon announced that they are updating their iPhone App with a new version 1.4 that will be a free update to owners of the previous version. They just recently released the update that offers in-app purchase of traffic services fed by Inrix, and now are adding several cool enhancements.
Google Local Search - adds the ability to find local businesses and great new places to spend money and time.
Coordinate Navigation - Plug in your Lat/Lon coordinates and navigate there. Seems basic - a GPS system navigating to a latitude and longitude, but not all do. I like this feature to drive to a trailhead or campsite.
Pedestrian Navigation - You can now navigate as a "Pedestrian" in an enhanced mode to help you find your way along busy one way streets or through pedestrian only areas. If you have the iPhone 3GS, it will use the built in electronic compass.
In the cool department you will be able to email your own current location to others.
Look for approval in a week or so from Apple and then it will be available in the App store.