GPS changing directions
CONSUMERS once bought a camera to take snaps, a portable music player for tunes, and a GPS navigator to get them from A to B.
For an increasingly number of people, their smartphone performs all of those jobs.
You need only walk into an electronics store to see that while the portable navigation device market has not disappeared, it has certainly dwindled.
Dawn Iddings, Garmin’s business development vice- president, recently told MIT Technology Review: “It’s not a mystery that the personal navigation market is in a period of decline. Mobile has permeated each one of our markets.”
The dedicated GPS market is responding to the push from smartphones in two ways: By dropping prices and increasing features.
Five years ago, a top- of- therange navigation unit for your car would set you back $ 700. Now, the top units are about $ 250.
A smartphone can do the job, but there are key areas where a dedicated device has advantages.
Using your phone as your digital map can drain battery life ( assuming you’re not charging as you drive), your map can be interrupted by phone calls, and downloading directions can add to your data costs.
TomTom Asia Pacific managing director Chris Kearney says the new TomTom Go is an example of how the smartphone and tablet explosion is impacting portable navigation devices.
Instead of using a menu to input details of your journey, the TomTom Go’s opening screen is a map where you can locate an address by zooming, pinching and tapping in the same way you’d use a tablet.
“People get frustrated if they can’t use a new device in the way they use a tablet or a phone,” he says.
Mr Kearney says research shows people who use a map on a smartphone to navigate a car journey want to step up.
“They get a taste of digital navigation from a phone and then they want to go to a digital device,” he says.
Magellan Australia marketing manager Noeleen Lechner says the key advantages dedicated units have over smartphones includes traffic updates and regular map updates.
The new My450LMT by Navman introduces monthly map updates which the company calls “rapid map refresh”.
Map updates are a feature in the GPS industry that have gone from annual to quarterly and now monthly, reflecting the mapping industry’s efforts to keep up to date with constantly changing infrastructure.
Changes to the Australian maps by Navman’s map provider Here, formerly known as Nokia Maps, last year included 42,000km of new roads, changes to more than 7500 street names, 10,000 turn restrictions, and the addition of 1800 one- way streets.
Ms Lechner sums up the choice of smartphone versus dedicated device as “different strokes for different folks”.
“The experience that people have with navigation on their smartphone is incredibly different to the experience people have with a dedicated device,” she says.
“We’re not denying that smartphones have had an effect on the portable navigation device market but the numbers in Australia say there is still a very solid market.
“We’re not stupid. We’re acknowledging that people are using [ smartphones] more often but what we’re doing is designing the right product for the right time.”