There are a lot of iPods, iPhones and iPads that were gifted this year; I saw the iTunes servers slow down on Christmas day, did you? There are a lot of navigation and associated Apps out there these days, here are a few to consider:
Start with a free/almost free navigation App (iTunes App Store Links):
Waze - They used to bill themselves as a crowdsourced mapping program, but now talk of themselves as a traffic app "Outsmarting Traffic. Together." Good navigator, not great, but worth a try if you are looking for free.
GPS by TeleNav - A free navigation App that is a little hobbled as a free version - but you can try it out and if you like it, you can upgrade for just $10 in the first year. Good little App from a company that knows navigation - they make the navigation for the Ford Sync system.
MotionX GPS Drive - OK - this one is $0.99, but packs a lot in. It's an award winning App that delivers a lot for a low price. The interface is new and different, but well worth checking out.
All of the above require that you have a connection to your network so you can download the maps. The Apps do not come with maps, which means the App is only a few MB, whereas the Apps with US maps are over a GB.
If you want to move up, there are a few very good navigation Apps you can consider:
Garmin StreetPilot - on Sale at $39 - this is a very good App with a lot of the best features from their standalone personal navigation devices: Junction View showing you details of which lane to be in when you come up to difficult interchanges, Trip Computer, Google Search for points of interest, and more.
TomTom - Also $39, and a pioneer in the iPhone Navigation space. Still a fantastic application with a lot of features. A big plus is that you can add their HD Traffic on for a few dollars more through in in-app purchase allowing you to route around the worst traffic issues.
Navigon - various prices - Navigon was a German company, but they are now a subsidiary of Garmin. What I like about them is that they offer lower priced regional Apps where you can get the Eastern US, Central or west for just $19. The navigation is good, with lots of options for customization - a plus if you want it, a downside if you want simple.
One more App for you to consider is another freebie that lets you see some of the best traffic coverage out there:
Inrix Traffic has potentially the best traffic coverage out there and is the engine that feeds a lot of the navigation traffic information that you see on a regular basis (TV Stations, etc). With millions of miles of coverage, down to secondary roads, it can give you a great picture of what's happening in a traffic-jam situation. Award winning and well worth the price.... it's Free.
I don't know about you, but the Allstate Ad campaign has been a joy to watch; it's creative, and while not all versions are great, a vast majority of them are. Actor Dean Winters (Johnny Gavin for you Rescue Me fans) stars in the ads and plays the very believable character "Mayhem" who brings chaos to your life as an insurance customer. They've put together a bunch of these, and this is one of my favorites - a GPS based ad.
If you're new to GPS, the scenrio isn't all that foreign. Here are a few tips to being safe with your GPS:
Don't type and drive - take your eyes off the road for only 15 seconds and you've gone about a quarter of a mile at highway speeds. Do you really want to do that?
Pre-plan the route and look at the route overview - This always grounds me in what the GPS is going to do so it doesn't surprise me with a random turn.
Pay Attention to the "Turn Right in X Miles" line or icon on your GPS - this lets you keep track in the back of your mind where you are and when you need to turn. The GPS' pre-turn prompt a mile or two ahead of time will clue you into your upcoming turn. Start looking for it in the real world.
The Garmin Nuvi 1350LMT is a good step up from the more basic Garmin Nuvi 1300 and offers lifetime maps and traffic for a few dollars more; a bargain price for something that used to cost well over $50 a few years ago when sold separately.
The Nuvi 1350LMT is a 4.3-inch widescreen unit with good navigation, maps of the 48 states + Hawaii and Puerto Rico and about six million points of interest. The unit also offers solid navigation, a good interface and Lane Assist, a feature that I think should be on all units (it's not on the lower priced Nuvi 1300 line). The feature gives you a quick view of which lane you should be in as you approach different turns.
At a little over $100 - its a pretty good value for a pretty good navigator.
If you have an outdoor enthusiast on the list, this is a pretty good choice for a great gift. Garmin has a large line of handheld navigators, but this is one that offers a lot of features at a very reasonable price. It's a little more expensive than the base Garmin eTrex 10 that only offers a monochrome display and lacks the ability to add more advanced Topo maps that the eTrex 20 does, but I think the upgraded features are worth it.
The eTrex has a long list of features that pack its small form factor, and on top of the color display and the ability to addTopographical maps, marine charts, it comes in a tough IPX7 water resistant housing and runs about 25 hours on a pair of "AA" batteries. The unit is great for paperless geocaching, making hunting for, finding and documenting your geocache hunts fun and easy. the compact size, (2.1" x 4.0" x 1.3") makes it pocketable.
Have a runner on your shopping list? Garmin virtually created the GPS enabled fitness watch category and once you start using one, the routine can start to be addicting.
The Forerunner 110 when used with a heart rate monitor can track a lot more than just your heart rate; it can track your distance, pace, location, and more. The data is easily synced with Garmin Connect, a website that allows you to upload your training data, see it on a map, analyze it and view a summary of your overall regimen. The community features help you discover training routes that other users have shared publicly. The community is bog, having logged over 1.4 billion miles since it started.
Wahoo Fitness is coming out with a Bluetooth-based Heart Rate Monitor (HRM) strap that will work over the Bluetooth 4.0 protocol which allows for very low power consumption on the strap side, and a direct connection to the iPhone 4S without a dongle. Cost is going to be about $80. The new protocol and its lower power consumption should allow a lot more fitness devices to use the bluetooth standard, while maintaining their small size. Wahoo Fitness has a set of products for connecting your fitness regimen to your iPhone - what else is in the wings waiting after the HRM strap? Wireless Speed and Cadence Sensor for cycling and a stride sensor for running maybe?
I like my Fisica ANT+ key dongle that allows me to connect my iPhone to a Garmin-standard HRM strap, but this direct connecting technology looks great.
MapMyRide just released a new version of their App which is compatible with the coming Wahoo Fitness Blue HR strap; so things look like they are falling into place.
Amazon's Deal of the Day offers the Garmin Nuvi 2350 LMT today - a widescreen unit that offers a lot of features plus free lifetime updates on maps and traffic. The price, only $129, is about $50 off their regular price. The lane assist features help to get you in the right lane at major intersections. This model comes with MyTrends and Traffic Trends, a system of intelligent routing that monitors where you like to drive and offers you those roads on routes it suggests. The GPS starts to emulate that old codger who knows all of the shortcuts.
Interesting article in the WSJ this morning about driver distraction, and how auto manufacturers are trying to combat distraction while making their vehicles more feature laden at the same time. The struggle is tough; in an age of connectedness, people demand more, but the costs can be high, as thousands of people die each year in the US due to driver distraction.
This past summer, David Strickland, of the Department of transportation clarified his role when speaking to a group at a Telematics conference, "I am not here to help you Tweet better, I am not here to help people post on Facebook better. It's not my job." He went on to explain how the Department of Transportation will be clarifying the rule making process that is moving through its paces.
15 Seconds.... How long is That?
Auto makers have adopted a guideline that it should take no more than 15 seconds to accomplish a task while driving. With the advent of in-dash systems, especially navigation, it might take at least 15 seconds to accomplish a destination entry. Natural voice recognition systems are on their way to most vehicles to help solve the issue. While 15 seconds might not seem like a lot of time normally, that's over a quarter of a mile at highway speeds.
Ford learned recently with their rollout of the My ford Touch system that not only is distraction an issue, but so is quality and customer satisfaction. If people can't use the system, they won't rate you high for satisfaction, and the perception might be that the system is broken, leading to lower quality scores. They said in the article that they are moving their touchscreen radio system from 5 font sizes to two in an attempt to be easier to see and use.
Chrysler came out on top for JD Power ratings of navigation systems on its Dodge Charger. Why? It's familiar, well laid out, well tested, and it's powered by Garmin. The interface is simple, well known and familiar.
Take a read, and see what you think. Will voice recognition systems at the quality level of Siri help reduce the issue, or are we damned to a world where the ever expanding list of features runs faster than the ease of use quality can go?
DeLorme's InReach was just given the Gear of the Year honors by Mens Journal who reportedly scours the globe for "the coolest gadgets, the most tech savvy active wear and the all-around best gear out there for the active, accomplished man." Not sure If I search for things for the accomplished man, but it's pretty plain to anyone that the InReach has some distinctive capabilities that are pretty useful.
How about being able to send messages back and forth via SMS from anywhere in the world? Automatic updates from far afield to keep your loyal following updated? Yea, the InReach, when paired with a Delorme GPS can do that because it communicates over the Iridium satellite network.
The inReach has received numerous other prestigious accolades, including a 2011 Popular Science Best of What's New selection, 2012 CES Innovations honors, a National Geographic Adventure Gear of the Year award, and Outside Magazine Gear of the Show and GearJunkie.com Best of Show awards from the industry-leading Outdoor Retailer Summer Market trade show.
Inrix recently updated its App (version 3.5.1), and they have a new version out for the holidays - with their newly updated App, you can get more road miles of coverage, and you can now get pop-up alerts that will warn you when you have issues around you or according to your personal preferences. Some were not happy with the 3.5 update for battery issues, which Inrix claims are fixed with this update.
One recent addition is that they can offer you a read on how long an incident might take to clear - giving you time for another piece of pie to let things cool off before heading out. The new features include:
See More Traffic for More Roads: With INRIX’s expanded traffic on arterials, travelers can see at-a-glance if it’s faster to take side streets or stay on the highway with traffic information that extends beyond highways and interstates covering more than 500K miles of arterials and city streets now available nationwide. With the ability to see more traffic on more local roads, INRIX Traffic gives travelers with door-to-door coverage that makes getting to Grandma’s house a snap.
Live Traffic Alerts: Up to the minute, location specific pop-up alerts similar to live sports scores and weather updates available on the iPhone today. Drivers receive live traffic alerts based on their location and personal preferences. INRIX Traffic owners can now customize alerts based on proximity and incident type to ensure traffic alerts are specific to their route. Better details on incidents including severity and time to clear help drivers make smarter decisions.
The TomTom XXL 540TM is a great buy right now for a 5-inch GPS for under $100. This TomTom navigator comes withe the Lifetime Map option to keep you up to date on a regular basis. So in past, manufacturers would either 1) sell you individual updates yearly for about $75, or 2) sell you a subscription for traffic updates; but that was yesterday, and now many models come with the lifetime traffic updates included. Well worth it when you can get it for a reasonable amount. Here, you get it for free compared to the base product without traffic and map subscriptions.
The TomTom XXL 540 has some solid features, including maps of the US, Canada and Mexico, advanced lane guidance, over 7 million Points of interest, and IQ Routes which is a system that checks what historical average travel times might be and gives you a better estimate of actual travel time. THe IQ Routes is a half step to having a fully connected GPS system (like a smart phone), but it's a good addition. Finally, the 5-inch screen will make typing in the address and seeing the directions all that much easier.
To those in the GPS community, Lightsquared and their potential interference with GPS receivers is pretty well understood, but for many, the story is just starting to gain some momentum. There is new information out on the proposed Lightsquared wireless internet service that operates in a spectrum close to the GPS frequency that shows that 75% of GPS receivers tested are affected by the Lightsquared system. That's bad news for people who use a GPS in their phone for location services, and in their navigation device for directions. With the GPS receiver becoming ubiquitous as smartphones take over the world, the Lightsquared service looks like it could cause broadscale issues.
This testing, conducted by the US Government, was done at a higher power, and Lightsquared expects that the propsed lower power operating protocol will "only" harm 10% of GPS receivers within 100 yards of a Lightsquared base station. With 40,000 base stations planned, that's a lot of area; about 100 square miles of affected area where 10% of you will lose the ability to operate your GPS correctly. Ouch.