Nice intro to the ability to send text messages via satellite from the SPOT transmitter in the NYT today. The capability helps you keep in contact with the outside world when you are beyond the reach of cellphone towers. So while the walk in the park might keep you in contact with even an AT&T network tower, a walk in a National Forest might get you so far out that you need something like the SPOT.
We've talked about the DeLorme PN-60W GPS receiver that gets you out there and pairs with the SPOT transmitter to send SMS messages and location statuses via the SPOT transmitter. In the first quarter, SPOT is also going to release a smartphone App that will pair with a special "SPOT Connect" transmitter to send messages. The video below describes the service that is supposed to launch imminently.
Inrix has added to the stable of automakers it is serving; this one adds Audi to the Ford Sync and Toyota Entune telematics products. The Audi MMI system is their version of a smarter car, with Inrix powering the traffic solution. The Audi MMI system claims to consumer the Inrix data, account for the detailed traffic information and offers users the best route to their destination. Traffic changes mid-trip? the MMI system will of course take this into account and alter the route if a better one is available. While this seems basic, the payout is in the fact that Inrix is tracking the highways and the secondary roadways so that it knows the secondary roads aren't a better choice just because they are out of overage like other systems. Inrix is claiming 4 million traffic probes; simply a huge number up from under a million just a few years ago.
The new Inrix HD data will be flowing across a new traffic standard delivery format (aligned to by the Transport Protocol Experts Group - TPEG) allowing more data in a smaller footprint, consuming less bandwidth and pumping more detail down to the navigation system.
The Inrix powered services will be available on models starting mid-year.
TeleNav is a key supplier of mobile phone based navigation and was founded by one of the original engineers on the US GPS satellite system. Bob Rennard is currently their CTO.
I had a Q&A with Bob Rennard in 2009, where he relayed a few details of the early work on the GPS systems, and now Telenav has put together this video of another interview, giving insight into what life was like in the early years and what his point of view is on the GPS system. I like his "Wow Moments" in the development of the GPS field.
Check it out:
More information on products and services at Telenav
Garmin's new Nuvi 295 is 40+% off a $63 today only at Amazon, and probably only for a limited time. The new Nuvi gives you a Mobile Phone-like form factor with both portrait and landscape navigation views along with a good set of features including the basics like text to speech and millions of Points of interest to get you around the US or Canada, but also a 3MP camera and WiFi to enable features like checking email, getting attachments in MS Word, Excel, Powerpoint and in PDF's. This also allows you to have one-touch navigation from addresses in your email.
So this caught my eye this morning as I was flipping through the Staples circular for GPS Deals. The TomTom XL 340TM is on sale for $149 - a pretty steep price for a 4.3-inch screen TomTom with lifetime maps and traffic. (Amazon has the TomTom XL 340TM for $110 at this writing.)
The problem is that they showed a Garmin Nuvi 1350 image along with the promotion. Click on the Nuvi 1350 link to go to Amazon and see the very same promotional image used there.
Wow, that was the fastest App upgrade I have ever seen; Garmin released a new version of their StreetPilot App for the iPhone addressing two large concerns that I surfaced in my review of the StreetPilot App and numerous other consumers voiced as feedback for the App.
The Voice is now clearer and a lot less garbled when giving directions on my iPhone 4; seems like a quick adjustment and things are a lot better.
The Map Downloads are to be faster too, and a lot less blotchy. I panned the map tonight looking at the area around Boston and noticed that Garmin now downloads maps more quickly, and in bigger blocks. See the images below; on the left is the original Version launched last week with smaller map segments, and what can't be shown here is the overall slowness of the download. On the right, the map for the same Target store is downloaded much more quickly, but in larger map block sizes.
Garmin claims that the "Map Storage [is] increased - Browse even more maps offline you've previously downloaded" on the App store indicating to me that there were some adjustments made to help remedy the situation. The App size is now 8.4MB (still tiny), versus <8MB for the last version.
Finally, Garmin also added a volume control to the iPod playback capability. Now the iPod volume controls are offered through the Navigation menu that comes up through the "Page Curl" on the map page. Nice addition.
The move to 5-inch screens across 2010 has yielded a few great deals on the new standard for widescreened units, offering some deals that offer great value and functionality in the new bigger real estate versions.
The TomTom XXL 540S is a text to speech unit that offers some nice features at $99. Complete with advanced lane guidance, a fold flat mount and their advanced IQ routes to help create more accurate routing times the XXL540S also comes with maps of the US, Canada and Mexico.
Similarly the Garmin Nuvi 1450 offers text to speech, lane assistance with junction view and multipoint routing (think a set of errands). The Garmin comes in a little higher at $129, and comes with North American Maps.
Garmin announced their StreetPilot App for the iPhone this week at CES, and I wanted to take the opportunity to gather some first impressions of their initial App effort.
It's well known that they are late to the iPhone game given their drive into the Nuvifone strategy that didn't receive the market welcome that they had originally thought it would. Given that failed attempt, it was prudent to get a hold in the marketplace in Smartphones as they continue to be the go-to personal device. I read this morning that Smart Phones are expected to surpass computers in overall numbers in the US within a year or two; simply amazing. With that portable and very personal computing power, people are going to rely on and want to rely on that device for more and more integrated capabilities. It is imperative to play in this area.
Garmin StreetPilot already a Contender
Overall, the Garmin StreetPilot App is a reasonable choice, with some strengths and a few weaknesses that while good enough, represent areas of vulnerability for Garmin. They will need to jump on these to 1) Keep any momentum coming out of their CES launch announcement and 2) Build a superior product. For years, Garmin has had an easy to use interface that continues to grow and evolve; it makes its way to the StreetPilot App. Navigation continues to be solid, with some features that make the StreetPilot App more full-featured than other navigation Apps when they were launched well over a year ago. It of course melds well with the iPhone capabilities - navigating from portrait and landscape modes and navigating to contacts from within the App. So while the weaknesses don't make it superior in the market the $39 price point and the expectation for improvements make it a contender in the App world.
SPOT has announced that they are now compatible with the Android platform and can offer you a quick way to SMS the world from beyond the cell towers in most far flung corners of the earth. The App allows you to use your smartphone to send a text message out to the world via satellite communications, leaving behind the cell phone towers and almost eliminating the issue of not being in touch. I say almost, because while SPOT covers everywhere in the world I would need to go, they don't fully cover the globe.
SPOT Connect will retail for $169.99 MSRP plus a required annual subscription service starting at $99.99 per year and is scheduled to begin shipping this January to retail locations and online sites specializing in GPS, outdoor recreation and personal electronics.1 For more information on SPOT Connect and other SPOT products and location-based satellite service offerings like SPOT Assist Roadside and BoatUS Towing Services, visit www.findmespot.com
For this cool innovation, SPOT won an Innovation award at CES this year. Recall that you can also access this cool text your friends from (nearly) anywhere capability with the DeLorme PN-60W with SPOT handheld GPS also.
Celestron, maker of telescopes and optical products has announced that they are entering into the GPS fray with a couple of new products; the CoursePro and CoursePro Elite GPS handhelds. The inexpensive units ($99 and $149 respectively), are able to tell distances to the front and back of the green while the Elite adds on scorecard data functions and hazard mapping.
Looks like they have access to 20,000 golf courses, but not sure if that is at an extra cost or if that is included in the purchase price. We'll try to find out and get back to you.
Pioneer has announced a new SmartCradle for the iPhone that will help turbocharge your GPS based App on the iPhone. The SmartCradle includes a GPS chip for higher accuracy, and a gyroscope and accelerometer for helping determine your location when the GPS read is failing in those urban canyons. The cradle will of course charge the iPhone while in the dock, because anyone who has used the GPS on an iPhone knows it sucks battery power like a leach.
To add to the coolness, the cradle will help boost the volume with an automatic sound leveling feature - more cabin noise, higher volume on the turn by turn directions.
Magellan announced the RoadMate 9055, a 7-inch navigation wonder that will support a new proprietary back-up camera that will be released this spring. The extra large screen is perfect for drivers living large in teh RV-class of things, where a remote back-up camera is a perfect addition and a large screen helps when the GPS is more than an arm's length away.
It's not just large, it's smart, with a lifetime traffic subscription, and comes with a built-in AAA TourBook of hotels, restaurants, local merchants and attractions. On top of that, lane assist, text to speech and the ability to access most used functions through a one-touch button all make this a feature packed device.
Nike and TomTom have collaborated to bring the Nike+ Sportwatch that is GPS enabled; giving fans of the Nike+ franchise new way to train and document their workouts. Nike has worked to enable training for pros and weekend warriors alike, and htis watch comes with some innovations that may just help users train more and achieve their goals. on top of that; it looks prety cool.
So not only will the NIKE+ Sportwatch with GPS track the details of your run, but it will upload them automatically to the NIKEPLUS.com database for you automatically logging your run in any of the challenges or programs that you are participating in. The watch will give you some attaboys for personal bests and also nag you if you haven't logged a run in the last five days - ouch!
It already won a CES award for innovation as the screen serves as a "button" where you can tap it to activate the backlight and get more information.
I like the readout on the map showing where you pace was best and worst when you view the data in your post-workout analysis (See the video). It's a feature that they also have in their iPhone App - NIKE+ GPS App
The watch will be available in the US & UK by April 1, with a broader global rollout for later in the year. No word currently on Price.
Some may think that map making is boring work, but NAVTEQ has something up their sleeve that could revolutionize and humanize the navigation industry in ways that we hadn't imagined. Not since text to speech has a feature offered so much potential for helping people recognize the directions they get from their navigator.
NAVTEQ has teamed with NNG (formerly Nav n Go) on the iGO My Way app using data from around Las Vegas to give attendees of CES a way to experience the new navigation method. The Natural Guidance system offers directions like, "turn right before the tall white tower," or "turn left before the Circle K," which is a significant improvement to the "turn left in 300 feet" commands provided by current navigation systems.
The only hesitation I have is that you will still had the same graphics on the screen of the GPS, and not a full color representation of the road ahead. Will the audio be enough as you are looking forward out of your car to cognitively recognize your turn better than today's navigation systems? I think 20 minutes using one of these will answer this question.
TomTom announced their new super slim Via line that gives solid new navigation in a great package, offering an updated software platform and advanced features like voice recognition and Bluetooth Handsfree calling. The 1400 series are 4.3-inch screen size models while the 1500 series are a 5-inch screen models; making a strong departure from the all-but-dead 3.5-inch screen sized models that we used to call "standard". A combination of factors made 2010 the last year that we should see significant numbers of new models in the smaller harder to use screen size.
All models come with the TomTom EasyPort mount, but split the lines with two finishes; a black for the lower end 1405 and 1505, while adding an aluminum finish to the higher end 1435 and 1505.
TomTom indicates that these will be available with Lifetime map upgrades and lifetime traffic as upgrades.
Available by mid-2011 and at prices starting at $169. I would expect the line to top out at about the low to mid-$200's.
Magellan announced the addition of the eXplorist 310 to their handheld GPS line-up. The little brother of the other eXplorists will add affordable features to the Magellan handheld line-up with a 2.2-inch hard screen (non-touchscreen), and the ability to support paperless geocaching, as well as a world basemap. The high sensitivity GPS receiver will track your every move, and easily connect to your computer to download the outing and be able to share the tracks with others. The Magellan eXplorist 310 will be available in time for Spring (March delivery) and will retail for a $199 list price.
In their press release (below), Magellan mentions that they will be adding more handheld products through 2011; good news.
TomTom announced the new TomTom GO 2505 M LIVE device today that includes for the first time in the US their HD Traffic capability. The LIVE services require a subscription and will be delivered over the AT&T data network. They include the HD Traffic, weather, Fuel Prices and Local Search by Google. The GO 2505 will include Voice Recognition for easy use while driving, and handsfree Bluetooth capabilities. The Multi-touch screen offers an easy to use, iPhone-like experience that is starting to become more and more common with computing devices.
The TomTom GO 2505 M LIVE will be available with its lifetime Map upgrades included by mid-2011 and will list for $349.
Escort has mashed up the RADAR detector and the GPS for their latest product, the Passport iQ. not only will it get you from here to there, but it will also detect radar and laser speed traps. The Passport iQ also comes equipped with a trial subscription to their Defender database of known speed traps and speed cameras here in the US.
The 5-inch screen is a nice size with some good basic GPS features like NAVTEQ maps and turn by turn voice guided directions and a lane assist feature. I am pretty sure that the radar and laser detection is the best available; not sure the GPS is though...
Coming in at $649 list, this one will set you back more than that first speeding ticket, but will hopefully prevent you from getting any in the future.
Garmin has announced the new StreeetPilot App for Android and iPhone today. While a latecomer to the App Party, Garmin is here to fight, with a $39 list price in the iPhone App store, and a list of features that took others several upgrades to achieve.
In their recent earnings announcement (November 3, 2010) when they told of the Nuvifone discontinuation, they mentioned that those developers would be moving into smartphone App development. It appears that they were already working hard on these Apps at the time, and that they are in for the long fight with upgrades and new features coming.
At a high level, the Garmin StreetPilot App has Text to Speech (says Street Names), Lane Assist, iPod controls inside the App, Google Local Search, Local Weather and Traffic Alerts. The traffic appears to be provided by NAVTEQ and their Nokia owners, which is configured to alert you on traffic around you or on your Route. You are also able to set the StreetPilot App for pedestrian use which changes how it navigates you - which includes walking you through pedestrian only areas and up One Way streets the "wrong" way.
Finally, in an interesting move, the Maps are not resident on your smartphone, but are streamed to the phone over the air. This has stirred up loads of debate relating to the data download demands for those on a limited data plan and folks who may venture out of coverage areas where this could pose an issue. On the plus side, I was able to download the <8MB App over the air and start cruising with it in about a minute. Also, upgrades won't come in the form of a 1+GB file that takes 30+ minutes to load onto the phone every time a new feature shows up.
First Impressions - Garmin StreetPilot App
I have used the App on my iPhone 4 for running around town today and like the interface - native Garmin layout. The App did crash once, but when I restarted it, it remembered where I was navigating to. The StreetPilot App has a nice little Page Curl at the bottom of the map that offers you easy access to several important functions while navigating: Route Overview, Directions. Walking Mode, Stop Navigating and Cancel (Return to the Map Screen).
The lone text to speech voice is OK, but a little quick in its pronunciation rendering a few road names a little less distinguishable than normal. I like the ability to navigate to a contact's address - the format of the data entry screen is a little odd with the data parsed out into different fields: Number, Street, City, etc, versus the Google web standard of all in one blank.
Gone are the days of using a consumer GPS for your truck - we've all seen the stories of trucks stuck under a low clearance bridge because they were using a regular GPS. Garmin announced the Garmin Dezl - a large format GPS that has several features for the Over-the-road trucking industry. The dēzl boasts a large five-inch display, a built-in loudspeaker, and offers a number of additional user-friendly features including truck-specific points of interest (POIs) with The National Truck & Trailer Services (NTTS) Breakdown Directory, hours, fuel and mileage logging, truck speed limits and advanced navigation and route planning and calculation with Garmin's nüRoute™ technology."
Garmin has announced a new series of Navigators, the Nuvi 2400 series. This marks their entrance into a new line of 5-inch screened navigators where the feature set is mid- to upper-tier offering value in this ever more popular screen size. The street prices of these overlap with the Garmin 1490, also a 5-inch model. Not typical Garmin to eliminate a model so soon after launching it, but the 2400 series seems to eliminate the need for it.
The Nuvi 2400 series offers the features that are becoming more standard on numerous models, like lane and junction views, and routes based on historical traffic patterns. There are several nice features like voice command (I used and like this feature on the Nuvi 3790T), and Bluetooth Handsfree on some models.
Nuvi 2450 - US/ Canada/Mex maps, and Traffic Ready (Optional upgrade) - $209 List
Nuvi 2450LM - Adds Lifetime Map Updates - $249 List
Nuvi 2460LT - Same Maps, Handsfree calling, Voice Activated Navigation - $259 list
Inrix has announced that they are going to also provide traffic information to the new Toyota onboard computer system dubbed "Entune". Inrix in their usual role will be supplying unsurpassed coverage and traffic alerts to the Toyota drivers to unexpected traffic incidents.
Just today I was sitting in a shop in the center of our small suburban town, only to overhear a person come in the shop and tell a friend about an accident that just happened down the road, snarling traffic. A few minutes later as I jumped in my car (Not a toyota), I checked the Inrix Traffic! iPhone App to see that they had a bead on the tie-up, which Inrix showed ending exactly at the accident scene. This road was a tertiary state road that was not heavily traveled in the middle of the afternoon, but Inrix captured the back-up accurately and quickly.
Full Press release below on the new Inrix Partnership with Toyota.....
Garmin has teamed up with Chrysler to deliver the navigation aspects of the new Chrysler, Dodge, and Jeep Uconnect system- an OEM product that brings Garmin's Nuvi-like interface and features to the in-dash navigation system. It includes high end features like lane assist, junction view, speed limit indicators and text to speech capabilities rolled into garmin's easy to use interface.
As a nice touch, the Navigation Screen will also have customized vehicle icon that looks like the vehicle that you are driving; cool!
Happy New Year - here's looking ahead to a great 2011. As the new year calendar gets hung, and the page turns, you may be considering a new navigation device for the new year. Some didn't get exactly what they wanted for the holidays, and it's time to look for what you really want.
Garmin Nuvi 3790T/3790 LMT - This is the best stand alone PND/GPS that I have ever used. The high resolution multi-touch display is impressive and changes for the better, the navigation experience. For an extra $50 you get the Lifetime Map and Traffic version (LMT); given that new maps cost at least $50 annually, this is a pretty good upgrade. See my full Review of the Nuvi 3790T/3790 LMT.
TomTom Navigator for the iPhone - TomTom continues to upgrade the iPhone Application with no up-charge for the continuously increasing set of features. It's feature set has grown to include Lane Guidance, Text to Speech, Navigation to your contact addresses, Google Search for addresses, and most recently they added MapShare to help keep your maps updated. Easy to use and always right on your phone. Keep a car charger handy because the GPS use and screen always on status drains the battery over a couple of hours. Read a recent post about their recent upgrade to version 1.6 and my original review of the TomTom Navigation App. Fairly inexpensive - Available at TomTom iTunes App Store
Inrix Traffic App for the iPhone - This is free for the basic version and only $20 annually for the Pro version with added features. While there is traffic enabled on many GPS devices, none can rival the quality and ease of use of the Inrix Traffic App. It doesn't navigate, but it can tell you a lot of detail about traffic in your area right down to surface roads in major urban areas. Their network is vast and the data is easily digested. For the iPhone or iPad - Inrix at iTunes App Store
Getting in shape this new year?
Fisica Sensor for the iPhone - This little sensor enables your iPhone to capture any ANT+ sensor output meaning it can grab and show you your heart rate, cadence or power meter output if they are on the ANT+ technology standard. I use MapMyRide (Part of the MapMy Fitness family which has several versions for your exercise type) which has been improved several ways recently to better incorporate the new data feeds. You can get voice prompts from the application on workout progress while the MapMyRide+ version for a few dollars adds iPod listening support from inside the App. See my Review of the Fisica Sensor and MapMyRide
Garmin Edge 800 - The uber-cycle computer offers navigation and wireless data capture over the ANT+ wireless spectrum that runs through this touchscreen bike computer. The information leaves data hounds awash in data feeds during and after the ride to keep you happy in the analysis. I like the fact that I can easily add on a few miles and not get lost on rides; I just navigate back to a landmark or home if needed. More information on the Garmin Edge 800.