The TomTom Ease, announced at CES, is now shipping from Amazon, available in a Red bezel. The Ease offers a redesigned interface to put a lot of information at your fingertips, with a quick Plan Route and Browse Map pair of icons to make the decision process pretty easy. I mean how many people start up the GPS and right away think, "Hey, I want to change the map color scheme?" Not many - almost everyone wants to see where they are or program in where to go.
There are other smart icons at the bottom, including flipping to a night view (or back to day view) and an options button where you can play with settings.
The TomTom ONE 130 is a pretty basic GPS navigator with the guts of a TomTom, and a limited but very functional feature set. Offering maps of the US and Canada, solid routing, and a set of TomTom branded features like Help Me! - the quick way to see critical location information in an emergency, MapShare - their way of sharing crowdsourced map fixes, and the EasyPort mount - a foldable mount that makes sticking the GPS into a purse, briefcase or gove compartment a lot easier.
SkyCaddie announced a new Golf GPS, the SkyCaddie SGX, with a pretty cool new feature that allows you to embed a wireless chip in the butt end of your club so that Sky Caddie knows when you remove a club from your bag - giving it total awareness well ahead of your deathbed (required reference to CaddyShack).
With the SkyCaddie GPS tracking, awareness of what club you are playing, the SkyCaddie will be able to help profile each club to give you stats on how well you hit each club, allowing you to again choose the right club for the job. Sure you might know how far you are to the front of the green with a Golf GPS, but you might be lying to yourself about how far you can hit that 7-iron. This automated feature allows you to play the round, undistracted, getting a better dataset, and therefore offering you better results.
The SmartClub capability is expected to roll out later this year. SkyCaddie SGX will be available at most golf shops nationwide in April 2010. SmartClub Technology with SGX SmartClub Tags is expected to be available by June 2010. Suggested retail price for the SkyCaddie SGX is $399.95. Pricing for SmartClub Technology with SGX SmartClub Tags will be released at a later date.
OK, so I missed on the name - iPad not iTablet, but yes I was excited to see that the new Apple iPad will be running the Navigation Apps that are in the App store. The NYT Blog is asking the question if the iPad - at $800 will be the final nail in the GPS coffin....um, have you checked the weather outside? We're fresh off a recession with the forecast for a slow recovery. Not too many people are going to be buying these things at that price compared with a $100 GPS that works really well. Engaging headline? Yes. Intelligent assertion? No.
Is the standalone GPS future solid for certain or will mobile smart phones take over? Not really sure, but I am pretty certain that an $800 Apple product isn't going to kill the GPS market overnight, or even in a few years; there will be other factors at work that will make the GPS market change dramatically without the influence of the iPad.
It's no secret that Apple is going to announce some form of an iTablet today, that will, according to Steve Job's hopes, revolutionize the media market. With a 10-inch screen and the fact that it will buy and use Apps from the iTunes Apps store to run on its version of the iPhone OS, one has to wonder if it will in fact run a navigation program.
With Location Based services all the rage these days, you would hope that Apple has the foresight to add a GPS chip to the thing, so why wouldn't TomTom, Navigon, Co-Pilot Live, and others run on the iTablet device? I am sure there are a lot of reasons, but I want to see it happen.
Quick post - TomTom CEO was quoted recently indicating that margins are still reasonably strong and that the TeleAtlas investment is starting to payoff, as margins for standalone units are about 40% while the mapping licenses are at about 50%. You have to be relieved at this last part - it wasn't long ago that a lot of people thought that TomTom was dead in the water and barely squeaking by under the burden of debt that the TeleAtlas deal brought.
Nokia announced on Thursday that they will be offering free navigation capabilities on their smart phones too after the same announcement rocked the GPS standalone world when Google offered their innovative navigation App on Android phones.
"So, What?" you ask. Nokia isn't in the US, Navigation on smart phones stink anyway? this might just be the tipping point for the mobile phone and stand alone GPS world.
Big Share Player Goes to Free Navigation - Nokia has a huge share of the mobile phone market globally, especially in Europe, maybe someone can dig that up and post it below. Google has a reasonable share in the US of the smart phone market and growing fast. Between the two, they will start to rival Apple and the iPhone's share. While Apple isn't known for following, they might just fold in a Navigation program for free to blunt competition's point of differentiation.
Free Navigation? - It costs money to get maps, but you could crowdsource them like WAZE does, or pay for services with ads on the GPS like Garmin does.
Phone Based Navigation Comes of Age - I was impressed and continue to be impressed by the navigation capabilities that can be crammed onto my iPhone. The screen is passable for its size, and the program features surpass entry level devices. With the buildt-in internet connection advanced features can be more easily created. Advanced search, traffic flow data, pre-loaded maps, easy connection to my address book, text to speech? Yes, they are all in there. these aren't the basic days of the early version Verizon VZ Navigator; this is advanced stuff.
Apple Buys a GPS Player? - Maybe this user experience needs to be owned by Apple in order to create a more innovative capability? There are a dozen reasons to think not, but as Apple and Google start to square off, the move might make more and more sense. TomTom? - if the stand alone market is going to die, do you really want a to buy a leader in the space? They might have a lock on a lot of the technologies that are helping build a better GPS: Map provider TeleAtlas, a large installed base of units for historical speed collection, and more importantly the technology to deal with the data. Companies are already collecting GPS probe data from iPhones like Inrix to help create their ever more detailed maps of traffic situations. Apple could buy a well known phone navigation provider that can dovetail well into their system, like TeleNav who also displays the complex innovative technology to fold a lot of into into cars- like on the new Ford Sync platform.
Death of the Stand Alone GPS? - I think not, at least for now. While people are predicting the dire end of the stand alone GPS, I don't see it for a while. So while everyone might jump on the smart phone navigation bandwagon, smart phones still have a low market share in the US; hovering in the 20 - 30% range. So, for about 60+ million US households they aren't even a player. So while smart phone owners may have been early adopters of the $1,000 Nuvi when it was introduced, they have moved on but with the advent of $100 GPS units, a whole new market has developed. Until the smartphone plans are affordable by a majority of the population, the standalone GPS will be around. Now that may only be the next major market shift away, but I expect it's still a ways off from here.
Trimble continues to keep the product cycle moving with recent upgrades on the Android platform with their Outdoors product (Press release below), while continuing to iterate on the iPhone App too. The idea of being able to track your training can be of great value that in my opinion deserves more widespread use. I know a lot of runners who travel a lot on business and die for that insight into where to run and what to do when in a different city each week.
Trimble not only tracks your progress with a set of dashboards and uploads them to your account wirelessly. not only can you keep track on your phone, but if you need to you can also turn to them for inspiration on where to workout - hundreds of thousands of saved routes for you to choose from helping you to keep in shape.
The latest capabilities include
Best-of-class out-of-network GPS capability - Users can now count on having a digital guidebook of their content, including maps, photos, trip directions and other information, almost anywhere and even out of network. Trimble Outdoors helps users navigate their way on new excursions and gives superior tools to stay on track.
Multi-media capability - User can journal activities by capturing pictures, videos, and voice recordings. Share the adventure with friends and family or with all users on the Trimble Outdoors Web site or using the Trimble Outdoors Facebook application.
Easy user interface - From the weekend hiker to the avid backpacker, Trimble Outdoors on the Android platform is extremely easy to use. All activities and functionalities are activity-centric and designed to help users get started quickly.
Online content - Users can directly access content from the trimbleoutdoors.com Web site right from the phone. Powerful search functions provide direct access to thousands of professionally edited adventures in the user's area or wherever their travels take them.
Garmin announced that they are launching the Nuvi 1490TV, a widescreen GPS with built in DVB-T television receiver to grab over the air signals in countries other than the US.... like most of Europe. The idea of jamming a TV receiver into a GPS isn't new, but it's news for Garmin who is adding the capability to a unit that has a lot going for it already. With the 5.0-inch widescreen, text to speech, and Bluetooth handsfree capabilities it starts to feel high end.
Watching TV while Driving down the motorway? Not quite - Garmin staved off those plans by configuring the unit to not show TV while moving. Hey, it's a GPS, it should know this type of stuff.
It goes on sale in the Spring and will cost 299 Euro or about $425.
Garmin has been feeling the impact of the recession and they recognize that they need to move to more affordable position for their products (compared to the bigger Zumo 660), and the motorcycle market is not left out in the cold. The new Zumo 220 is a slimmed down unit with a few features shaved off, but still a motorcycle GPS through and through. The glove friendly has features like being IPX7 water proof, special motorcycle dashboards, and the ability to load up cruiser routes on the back roads and follow them. You don't get the widescreen, Bluetooth capabilities that the Zumo 660 offers, but maybe you don't need it.
Available in March - just in time for warmer weather. Grab one for the street price of $599.
DeLorme is offering a helping hand to anyone needing map and navigation help on their way to Haiti. The need is there and it sounds like not only is the company kicking in but the employees worked overtime to get the data ready to ship out to users on their way to do their best to help out where it is really needed. The Maps will work on their PN Series units.
DeLorme Offers Map Data of Haiti for use with XMap® Software and Earthmate® GPS to Assist in Earthquake Relief Efforts
Company Provides Free Dataset for Use with XMap Software and DeLorme Earthmate PN-40 Handheld GPS DeLorme, the leading digital mapping, software, and GPS provider, has developed a free GPS-accurate dataset to assist in the Haitian relief efforts.
The company was contacted by numerous aid groups following the earthquake. A team of employees worked through the past weekend preparing a custom dataset utilizing the GPS-accurate DeLorme World Base Map along with aerial imagery, all of which can be displayed within the company's XMap software and on Earthmate PN-Series handheld GPS units.
"We are eager to spread the word to anyone who is involved with relief efforts in Haiti that we have this GPS-accurate dataset available for their use," says Jim Skillings, DeLorme Vice President. "Time is of the essence as we believe that GPS-accurate map data can help save lives."
The DeLorme map data provides GPS-accurate transportation infrastructure down to the street level, as well as accurate coastline and hydrographic details. Used in tandem with DeLorme PN-Series GPS and XMap software, search-and-rescue responders will have an invaluable tool on the ground.
Anyone with an interest or looking for more information should go to www.delorme.com
DeLorme representatives will provide immediate follow-up to inquiries from federal agencies and volunteers assisting in the relief efforts.
Garmin announced that it will begin offering BirdsEye Satellite and Aerial Imagery, an annual subscription service that gives users the option of loading highly-detailed photo-based maps to select Garmin handheld navigators. Compatible with the Dakota, Colorado and Oregon series, the subscription costs $29 per year. Not a bad price and offers Garmin a bit more of a diversified income stream while capitalizing on its large base of handheld users.
“Without a doubt, BirdsEye Satellite Imagery reinforces Garmin as the leader in outdoor cartography,” said Dan Bartel, Garmin’s vice president of worldwide sales. “Whatever the occasion, outdoor explorers can find the ideal Garmin handheld and accompanying maps to complement their specific requirements.”
BirdsEye Imagery is raster-based, meaning it is compiled using actual aerial photos and images that are scanned, geo-referenced and overlaid onto the handheld GPS receiver’s display. Unlike vector cartography, the resulting images depict actual buildings, vehicles, roads, trails, and land features found nearby – giving explorers a unique understanding of their surroundings.
The images are among the most highly-detailed available – offering 0.5 meter per pixel resolution in many areas of the United States. Users can also view imagery at every zoom level – from 12 miles to 20 feet – unlike other offerings that force users to stay at pre-determined zoom levels. BirdsEye Satellite Imagery also lets users overlay vector maps, to get a better idea of terrain contours and points of interest. The data is collected by DigitalGlobe, a leading global provider of commercial high-resolution world-imagery products and services.
It appears that Rogers of Canada has worked themselves into a pickle with a few software glitches that is making their phones unable to dial 91 emergency services with the GPS on. Of course the original intent for the GPS in the phone was to help get emergency responders to the location of the phone (and person in need of help).
The issue is specifically with an Android based phone that for now needs to have its GPS shut off in order to avoid any potentially nightmare-like scenarios.
The TomTom XL 330S is a solid unit that packs great features - widescreen and text to speech to start, and is currently a great deal at Amazon.
Why do I need a new GPS?
Yea, I have a few of them, but bear with me. I like to have models around from many manufacturers to reference as I do reviews, and the time has come to upgrade the TomTom ONE XL's maps. So while TomTom is running discount of 40% on their map upgrades right now, the roughly $50 price seemed steep compared to a whole new unit that is slimmer and comes with the EasyPort mount. At about $100, the new one seemed like a decent step, and it would save me the small but distinct hassle of upgrading the maps. I was considering buying one through TomTom.com with a trade-in through their trade in program, but at $199 list, minus a $35 trade (roughly), I was a lot higher than the Amazon price.
The TomTom XL 330S is a good solid navigator with a decent feature set that will satisfy most users. I think it's a great buy at $107. Anyway, welcome to the stable of GPS units here at the GPSLodge; see my Full Review of the TomTom XL 330S
Want a more accurate GPS? You might already have it in your hand. The Air force, and specifically the STRATCOM group who has responsibility for administering the GPS satellite constellation has decided to start to rearrange the constellation to improve coverage over Afghanistan while also giving "enhanced capability to all GPS users".
The existing new satellites are positioned near the old satellites to provide better redundancy, but instead the plan is to spread those satellites out to make the overall enhancements. The plan should take about 24 months to execute and will factor in the overall health of each satellite. But over the coming 24 months, you should be able to "see" more satellites from wherever you are, meaning your receiver should get better accuracy, and potentially a shorter time to first fix if you've been having trouble grabbing multiple satellite signals to date.
TomTom announced that they will include lifetime map updates on a range of GPS models that are coming in 2010. That's the good news; we'll see what the price is, or which models it is incorporated into. I expect these models to be announced as a part of CeBit.
Map updates are consistently one of the things that I hear frustrates readers, and it's not surprising that TomTom is seeking to address the pain. Of course people want their maps magically updated while the unit sits in the glove compartment, but that technology hasn't been invented quite yet; you will have to connect to TomTom Home from your computer to download the updates if you want them. The updates are from TomTom's mapping company, TeleAtlas, and is a sure sign of them leveraging their own map company. The updates are officially released quarterly.
TomTom announced that they plan to offer Lifetime Traffic updates in 2010 on their devices through a traffic receiver that is designed into the cord; nice to have it a part of the cord instead of a separate set of cables.
"Traffic is one of the most common inconveniences every driver experiences," said Jocelyn Vigreux, president of TomTom Inc. "Now, using Lifetime Traffic Updates, TomTom users can always travel confidently knowing they will be alerted to the most current traffic information."
"Users will receive traffic updates through a traffic receiver that is innovatively designed into the device's power cord. By simply connecting the TomTom device to the power cord, users will be automatically alerted to traffic situations en route, such as traffic jams or accident delays."
I would expect a new set of units to be announced as a part of CeBit in March, and this traffic feature will most likely an optional add-on for "T" models with Traffic; no I certainly don't expect this premium service to be free.
TomTom announced the TomTom Ease entry level GPS at CES, with a reasonable set of features, keeping it very competitive in its class. The TomTom Ease will have:
MapShare - TomTom's system for user fixes to maps
Easy Port - a compact and quick mounting system
Text to Speech - it says street names
Help Me Menu - quick access to information that you may need in an emergency
Standard size 3.5-inch screen and maps of the US
"The TomTom EASE combines quality, simplicity and style into one compact device," said Jocelyn Vigreux, president of TomTom Inc. "It's an obvious choice for drivers who want an affordable, easy to use portable navigation device with the most innovative map and routing technologies available."
Inrix upped their game again as they continue to power the new Ford Sync platform with their improved traffic flow coverage and accuracy. The big news here is that the coverage now accurately hits secondary roads with flow data, giving you the coverage you need on alternate routes when the highways are clogged.
"While other companies treat arterials and city streets just like stretches of uninterrupted highway, we factor in the impact traffic lights, stop signs, curb cuts and other traffic control tools have on traffic speeds to provide a significantly more accurate snapshot of real-time traffic conditions and congestion on these roads," said Senior Director of Product Management Ken Kranseler.
The cool techno-nerdy news here is that they continue to expand their capabilities through realtime reporting via GPS probes; sure they have trucks and fleet vehicles that got it all started, but increasingly the use of their iPhone Based Inrix Traffic App turns your phone into an anonymous probe for the greater good of reporting more accurate road conditions. they are claiming over 1.5million GPS enabled vehicles and devices as their feed into their Smart Driver Network, which is up dramatically from the 625,000 Vehicles that they were claiming just a short 2+ years ago.
Inrix announced that they are powering the connected traffic systems on the new Ford Sync platform with an improved system of roadways and realtime traffic capabilities. Reported separately, the improvement adds over 100,000 miles of flow data to the available roadways; giving Inrix and Ford a powerhouse of over 260,000 miles of flow data - not just incident data. So that means that they can paint the roadways Red, Yellow, Green to indicate how fast the roadway is flowing. The higher degree of accuracy, and the broader coverage means that users of the Ford system will not only know how things are doing on the highways but also on more and more secondary roadways; yea, the ones you want to use when the highways are clogged.
Ford announced along with TeleNav that the familiar mobile phone navigation provider is going to power the new Ford Sync navigation system - an impressive win for the company. The sync system has received loads of accolades for its voice command system that allows users to answer their phones and pull up music. The system will now also include GPS navigation on an 8-inch screen. The Sync navigation system will have on-board maps and off-board connected capabilities including traffic updates from Inrix (see the separate announcement on this), as well as POI updates. The maps are SD card-based, and are therefore easily updated. Check out the detail on the POI screen below - loads of information potentially too much, but you have to appreciate the restaurant reviews and hours of operation along with the phone number. Good thing it's on the huge 8-inch screen.
"With SYNC at the forefront of in-vehicle technology, Ford has redefined the automotive industry once again," said HP Jin, president, CEO and co-founder of TeleNav. "Whether customers are looking for a nearby Italian restaurant or directions to a friend's house, MyFord Touch and SYNC provide an in-vehicle system that has the benefits of a traditional navigation system but with the added feature of access to the latest and most updated information via a wireless connection."
Navigon, an early mover on the iPhone App platform, and the market share leader for on-board persistent navigation Apss, has announced that they are going to be launching a Navigation App for the Android and Windows Mobile platform. The very full featured program will include a lot of the key attributes to make up a serious offering in the product including: Pre-loaded on, board maps, text to speech (says road names), Reality View and Lane Assist to help in navigating complex intersections, 2D and 3D views, automatic Day to Night brightness settings, auto Portrait/Landscape switch, and more.
I have to say that just as Navigon exited the US market for stand alone GPS devices, their interface was starting to roll, eliminating some of the real rough spots. While they still maintain an overseas business for standalone navigation devices, their approach to the iPhone App market has been ferocious with upgrade after upgrade, and strong price moves to keep them well positioned in the market. Should be interesting to see how they move in the up and coming Android market. The Android product will be available this Spring, while the Windows product is available now at a special $69 price at PocketGear.
Inrix announced a major iPhone App innovation today at CES, allowing users to see when the optimum time is to leave in order to arrive at their destination as expected and on time. The App brings together their knowhow and ability to predict traffic based on historical information, expected events today (i.e. sports game or concert, or bad weather), and your route options to predict in 15 minute increments what your drive time will be. By saving popular routes, you will have the opportunity to see expected road conditions with just a few taps. Got a favorite route? Drive it, record it and keep it in the Inrix Traffic Pro program for future use.
The application will be available for $9.99 as a single year subscription and $25 for a lifetime subscription to the services. If I am not mistaken, this is the first direct to consumer product for Inrix where there is a revenue stream for them.
You probably already know about the Garmin Zumo series of motorcycle GPS units that are designed from the ground up to work for motorcyclists; waterproof, glove friendly, and loaded with features like advanced routing capabilities and text to speech.
Garmin announced a new Zumo 665 that comes with the GXM 40 XM antenna, giving you access to XM radio (your own subscription is needed), and XM Nav Weather - with up to the minute NAXRAD radar on the unit. Very cool overlay that we've been hoping for since Garmin launched a Marine GPS with similar capabilities back in 2006. The XM NavTraffic is also available, but you might not need it while cruising the back roads and cruisers that keep you the heck out of traffic.
The List Price is a steep $999, and should be available in Q1 2010.
Garmin has launched a PC program to allow users to record your voice through the computer, then load the files onto your compatible Nuvi. Sorry no Mac version (hopefully soon), but the program will allow you to create a fun set of commands to make the Nuvi truly yours. Um, TomTom did this type of thing a while ago, and honestly, it was a lot of fun to have a custom set of voice commands. I had a few kids in the family record the commands and it's still fun to hear the voice tracks years later.
The program will allow non-text to speech commands; there are only a finite set of commands, making the whole task about 30 minutes long.
Garmin must have had a decent reception to the ecoRoute, and already laid plans for the implementation of a more powerful, accurate system that plugs into your car to read its onboard computer. The ecoRoute HD plugs into your car's data port (betchya didn't know that most newer cars have them) then wirelessly transmits the data stream to compatible Garmin Nuvi units to give you insight into your green driving habits, engine loads, and engine error codes.
The cost is $149, but I am not sure the average guy is going to save that much gas by changing your driving habits. The whole thing has to appeal to the inner data geek (like me), to compile reams of information that is casually interesting to pretty much any other data geek.
Garmin announced the Garmin Approach G3, a less expensive, very capable golf GPS that comes pre-loaded with over 12,000 golf courses - see a list of US courses. The Approach G3 smaller unit (2.6-inch screen) than its sibling the Approach G5, which has a 3.0-inch screen. The courses come pre-loaded, and don't require a subscription. the detailed course maps give you a read on the hole, and distance to hazards, greens and holes.
So DeLorme has teamed up with SPOT to offer a combination product that will allow you to do all the cool GPS stuff wherever you are and then transmit SMS messages from that location through the satellite network. Impressive capabilities and love the remote messaging no mater where you are - yes even out of cellphone range; it doesn't work on a mobile phone network. So when your Droid or iPhone doesn't have a signal and that cool App doesn't work, nor does the call for help, this product can.
"The revolutionary SPOT Satellite Communicator, designed exclusively for the new PN-60w, merges SPOT satellite message functionality and DeLorme state-of-the-art GPS mapping via wireless. Together, this product pairing offers broader messaging capabilities. Users can send freeform text messages using the PN-60w's keyboard to select individuals or groups from the field even from remote areas world-wide. "
Established SPOT technology allows real-time location updates and the ability to summon help in an emergency. Custom messages and waypoints can easily be shared with social networking sites like SPOTadventures.com, Geo-caching.com, Twitter, and Facebook. As an emergency back-up, the SPOT Satellite Communicator has stand-alone capability to send location-based SOS notification to an emergency response center.
"Today's announcement combines the latest in sophisticated handheld GPS with SPOT satellite communications providing one-of-a-kind, custom messaging and sharing of geo-location information with others in real-time," said Peter Dalton, President of Spot LLC and CEO of Globalstar Inc. "We are excited to partner with DeLorme in bringing to market a new wireless GPS solution to consumers."
Amazon started their frustration free packaging endeavor a while ago to of course reduce frustration but also green-up the packaging that they sell. This means, no plastic clam shells, no wire ties, just a simple recyclable cardboard box. Not bad.
The Garmin Portable Friction Mountis a popular item and is now available in the simpler packaging at about $5 less than the regular packaging. Sounds like a good idea to me.