May 6, 2008

Top 5 Rated GPS - Consumer Reports

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The Garmin Nuvi 760 came out on top of Consumer Reports' latest GPS rating, with TomTom and Magellan also rounding out the top 5. It's not a big surprise that these three occupy the top 5, I have always said, it's easy to design a GPS, but it's hard to design a good one. The big guys have been designing their units for years, and the difference is a solid understanding of the basics, with a very good interface. I am still not as impressed with the Magellan interface still as the Garmin and TomTom interfaces.

The Top 5 were:

  • Garmin Nuvi 760 (See my Garmin Nuvi 760 Full Review),
  • Garmin Nuvi 660 (See my Garmin Nuvi 660 Full Review),
  • TomTom Go 920T, (See my TomTom GO 920T Full Review),
  • Garmin Nuvi 350, and
  • Magellan Maestro 4250 .

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  • April 29, 2008

    TomTom ONE 130, 130S and the ONE XL 330/330S

    tomtomONE130.jpg
    TomTom has announced their newest addition to the TomTom ONE line for 2008 slimming down the model adding a new foldable mount that makes the entire package more portable. The TomTom one 130 and 130S bring a lot to the entry level end of the TomTom line with Maps of North America, MapShare - the ability to make corrections of your own to maps and then elect to share and receive other updates from community members and in the case of the TomTom 130S you get Text to Speech.

    The EasyPort mount looks like an interesting development replacing the push on/pull off mount that TomTom uses previously on the ONE and GO lines. (As an aside you have to wonder what's in store for the GO line on the next iteration if the EasyPort is successful). When folded the whole unit is only about an inch and a half thick, easily stowed and carried. When folded out, the suction cup is pushed to the windshield and with the turn of a bezel the unit sticks tight. I'll look forward to checking it out when I review it.

    One other feature that is worth mentioning is the optional ability to add TMC Traffic to the ONE line which makes for a nicely expandable entry level product line.

    At the same time TomTom is announcing the TomTom ONE XL 330 and 330S which are the widescreen versions in the launch.

    The TomTom ONE 130 will list for $199 and the TomTom ONE 130S for $249.

    The 4.3-inch widescreen versions, the TomTom ONE XL 330 will list for $249 and the TomTom ONE XL330 S for $299.

    With the launch of the GO 730 and GO 930 this makes for a pretty well rounded line.

    The TomTom ONE 130/130S is 6.1 ounces, has a 3 hour battery life and is 3.8"x3.2"x1.0".

    TomTomONEMount.jpg

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    April 28, 2008

    Mapping out the details - TeleAtlas Details the Mapping Process

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    The Boston Globe had a nice article explaining a little bit more about how the TeleAtlas folks create maps and get them from their Road Vans to you on your GPS units. They also mentioned that TeleAtlas is working on 3-D maps:

    "Atlas is also moving ahead on its 3-D strategy, showing off maps of New York City, Los Angeles, and Toronto at the Consumer Electronics Show in January. Imagery collected by its fleet of camera vans has been transformed into a scrolling street map that resembles a video game - think "Grand Theft Auto" without the theft."

    They also talked about the 4 times per year updates moving towards real-time updates where you'll be getting changes as they are confirmed. Not hard to do if the map company is owned by the GPS maker (i.e. TomTom and TeleAtlas).

    ReadMore at Boston Globe

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    April 23, 2008

    TomTom Earnings Off

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    TomTom reported earnings for the first quarter of 2008, and it was not as good a quarter this year due to significant price pressure on the well known GPS maker. So, apparently TomTom didn't grow revenue this past quarter like they have in the past. Tough competition and the tough economy has to be impacting sales of consumer electronics like this, with discretionary spending under pressure. I guess if you can't afford a tank of gas, let alone a new widescreen GPS.

    Overall revenue was 264M Euros vs. 296M Euros last year, while US revenue was up 133% to 85 Million Euros.

    "Retailers in Europe slashed personal navigation device inventory during the first quarter," said Dresdner Kleinwort analyst Ulrich Rathe, "leading to a massive 30% decline in sales in that geography." For the company as a whole, sales fell 10.8% in the first quarter.

    TomTom's average retail price was down 42.6% to about $185, from $324 a year earlier. A quick check back in my archives had the TomTom ONE selling for $290 in March 2007, while it is frequently seen for $139 - $149 these days, and the TomTom GO 910 was at $439, while the TomTom GO 920 is selling in the mid-to upper $300's today. The price drops are dramatic, and the effect is that the big guys aren't making as much money, but they are keeping the low cost competition at bay as they are having a tough time achieving critical mass.

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    April 22, 2008

    TomTom MapShare - Keeping Maps Up to Date

    MapShareBanner.jpg

    You've probably heard of MapShare by now from TomTom; if you haven't, it's how you can make corrections on your TomTom device to minor map and POI issues, then share them with the community of TomTom users. The community has uploaded over a million map changes since it went live last year.

    Some people may not know that this doesn't make map upgrades a thing of the past. In order to use MapShare, you need to have maps that are no more than 12 months old.
    MapShareOutofDate.jpg
    If you don't have the last map upgrade, you will get this funny box on the main screen of your TomTom HOME computer application that will warn you that you are missing out on thousands of Map Updates because your maps are too old. It gets to a point that TomTom needs to update the whole package, and then it can supplement the most recent upgrade with MapShare fixes.

    So, if you are fanatical about keeping your maps up to date, there are a few easy steps:

    1) Load up and use TomTom HOME on a regular basis; there are Windows and Mac versions. You'll need to set a login account for the application using your email and your device.
    2) Subscribe to MapShare - On your GPS, Hit the Map Corrections Icon, and explore that area, signing up to share your corrections and receive them from others (with the level of security you are comfortable with available under Correction Preferences).
    3) Connect your device to TomTom HOME and "join" MapShare by going to "Tools", "MapShare"
    4) Check for updates and install any MapShare correction updates.... your Red Light (shown above) will turn to green and tell you how many Map Updates you are using.

    Always good to have the latest maps...... Map Share is available on TomTom ONE, TomTom ONE XL, TomTom ONE XL S, TomTom GO 720, TomTom GO 920, and the TomTom GO 920T.

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    April 20, 2008

    Text to Speech - Only $21

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    I happen to believe that Text-to-Speech is one of those options on a GPS that is worth paying for. Instead of saying "Turn Right in 400 yards", it will say "Turn Right on Maple St in 400 yards." Big difference when you are traveling in a suburban or urban area where the streets are close together and the name of the road helps you to decide which turn to actually take.

    I don't think the upgrade has been easier to make than right now. If you are considering a TomTom ONE XL, spend the extra $21 (at this writing) and buy the TomTom ONE XL S, that adds the text-to-speech capability.


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    April 15, 2008

    TomTom GO 720 vs TomTom GO 920

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    Prices are a bit insane these days ahead of the coming launch of the new TomTom 730, 930 units with IQ routes and pre-loaded historical average speed data that they collected from other TomTom users submitting their travel data anonymously.

    So, for instance, do you want the TomTom GO 920 for about the same price as the TomTom GO 720? Recent prices on Amazon put the prices within $10 of each other, I would say that the TomTom GO 920 is well worth the extra money.

    When you buy the TomTom GO 920, you get 4GB of memory, not just 2GB - store more pictures or songs. Not a big deal, but how about Voice Command, a remote control and maps of Europe? Not bad, eh?


    For More Information - See My Full Review of the TomTom 920/920T


    At Amazon - TomTom GO 920

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    April 8, 2008

    TomTom Profit Warning - Weaker Q1 Than Expected

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    The sky isn't falling, but it is confirmation that the GPS wars have been boiling for some time with some dire consequences. Stiff competition drove TomTom to drop prices, apparently leading to lower margins than they expected, both in the US and in Europe. Moving units on deal in a tough economy appears to be the issue as the big guys battle to keep market share when other makers like Mio and Navigon come into the market discounting to gain market share.

    TomTom said yesterday that they expect 2.0 billion Euros for the year instead of 2.2 billion Euros. The big news is that sales in the first quarter will be around 270-280 million Euros, less than the 296 million Euro it reported in the same quarter a year ago. With the sales and the slow movement, TomTom indicated that operating margins will be in the "low single digits," down from double digits it normally reports.

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    March 26, 2008

    Interview: TomTom US President Jocelyn Vigreux

    There's a quick news segment with the US President of TomTom, Jocelyn Vigreux, available for viewing. The recent interview covers a bit about TomTom's rapid ascent into one of the leadership positions of the GPS market in the US. It also covers a bit about MapShare, the crowdsourcing of TomTom's map fixes. While the million changes submitted so far by users pales in comparison to the millions a month that TeleAtlas finds and fixes, it's a big start. MapShare allows users to enter changes and change requests into their TomTom GPS and then upload those changes so that others can benefit from the common knowledge. Why not capture these changes and broaden your ability to capture the information? "Fraud", you say? They've got a handle on that already.

    Interestingly, Mr. Vigreux indicates that there are a fair amount of people naming their streets after themselves, which is caught and not pushed back out to other users by the system protections that are put in place to avoid fraud. Either way this is a big turnaround from where they were a couple of years ago, when they suffered from map quality concerns. What was once a general market concern is now being played as a marketing strength; witness the launch of TomTom's new site Live Changing Maps which talks through the various aspects of their Map Program from guaranteed latest maps on your unit when you buy it, to the MapShare program.


    Via ClubTomTom

    Scott Martin at Permalink | Comments (2) | social bookmarking

    March 21, 2008

    TomTom - TeleAtlas Deal Looks More Certain

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    Reports are coming out that despite EU regulator concerns about the TeleAtlas/TomTom deal, that it is set to go through. Clearly TomTom will need to make some concessions to reduce the concern about the deal negatively affecting the market. With Nokia in a deal to buy NAVTEQ, it appears that the market is going to need assurances about access to data from the two new owners of the world's mapping data.

    Either way, TomTom is acting to get their mapping needs in order, and that started in earnest last year when they announced MapShare which crowdsources map fixes. The deal with TeleAtlas only makes it more obvious that they are interested in making map quality a competitive advantage instead of a competitive disadvantage.

    Scott Martin at Permalink | Comments (0) | social bookmarking

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