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Standalone GPS Receivers Going the Way of the Dodo 422

Posted by CmdrTaco
from the why-did-you-program-me-to-feel-pain dept.
Hugh Pickens writes "The NY Times reports that more than 40 percent of all smartphone owners and 80 percent of iPhone users use their mobile devices to get turn-by-turn directions driving down sales of traditional standalone GPS units from companies like TomTom, Garmin and Magellan. During the first quarter, TomTom said it shipped 29 percent fewer GPS units compared with the period in 2008 while Garmin's unit sales fell 13 percent from the previous year. While smartphones are susceptible to interruptions from incoming phone calls and using the mapping features for a long time can chew through battery power, the list of the smartphone's shortcomings is dwindling as some of the latest navigation applications offer voice navigation and take advantage of the phone's always-connected state to offer real-time traffic updates, directions to contacts in the phone's address book and more. 'I've not stopped using a GPS because I never bought one in the first place — they are expensive and inconvenient,' says Steve Weller. 'Now with the iPhone, I will actually use GPS — and the 10 other functions it replaces.' The traditional GPS device companies are trying to adapt, seeking to expand their reach into the smartphone market. TomTom recently announced that it would introduce a portable navigation application for the iPhone that would feature turn-by-turn directions and audio prompts. 'The simplicity of having one device and not needing to pull the Garmin out of my glove compartment is enough,' says Andrew DiMarcangelo. 'I want to get into my car and do as few things as possible.'"
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Standalone GPS Receivers Going the Way of the Dodo

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  • not surprising.. (Score:1, Interesting)

    by sykoboy (1220026) on Thursday July 09, 2009 @10:24AM (#28636191)
    was really just a matter of time i suppose.. the only advantage the gps units had over smartphones is the fact they still worked on trips that take out them out of signal range.
  • Re:not surprising.. (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Foktip (736679) on Thursday July 09, 2009 @10:29AM (#28636299)
    Also, they dont use data, and some carriers still charge per month for a "GPS Package add-on".
    The Garmin Nuviphone G60 looks interesting though...
  • I Use Both (Score:2, Interesting)

    by therpham (953844) on Thursday July 09, 2009 @10:31AM (#28636357)
    I have an iPhone and a dedicated GPS unit because I don't want my phone triple-tasking as a phone, music player, and GPS unit while I'm driving. I don't trust it to do that many things at once without them tripping over each other at some point.
  • Legalities (Score:2, Interesting)

    by JediTrainer (314273) on Thursday July 09, 2009 @10:51AM (#28636713)
    In some places (like Ontario, Canada where I live) they are outlawing the use of hand-held devices by drivers. I don't think the standalone GPS is going away here, because if it can be mounted on the dash then it's ok.
  • Re:not surprising.. (Score:4, Interesting)

    by dyefade (735994) on Thursday July 09, 2009 @10:51AM (#28636719) Homepage Journal

    Most phones I've seen, except the iPhone, stores it's maps locally. They should even work with no GPS _or_ data reception (if you just want to use the map for setting up favourites, plan routes etc.)

    This is Europe, as usual with mobile stories there are likely wild differences between EU and the US on this.

  • by gothamboy (699451) on Thursday July 09, 2009 @11:02AM (#28636903)
    This is another example how statistics lie. I have a blackberry with GPS and yes, I have USED IT ONCE OR TWICE as a GPS so I qualify as far as the article is concerned. I do not use it as my primary GPS by a long shot and just bought an upgraded Garmin for my car. Smart phone GPS's have a long way to go before they displace stand alone GPS's for speed of route calculation, accuracy, readability and speed of satellite signal acquisition.
  • by ArhcAngel (247594) on Thursday July 09, 2009 @11:14AM (#28637089)

    I was very much like you until I decided to Give Google Maps a try on my BB 8800. You know what I discovered? I didn't know squat about some very cool places in my own city (Houston, TX) I always stayed on the big highways and known paths unless someone I knew told me about a new restaurant, club, etc. I started using the Search function in Google Maps and going places in the city I had avoided for years for fear of getting lost in the maze of back streets. The GPS in my BB removes that obstacle and now I have discovered so much more to like about living here. Give one a try and you might even find there is life outside of the basement!

  • by Lumpy (12016) on Thursday July 09, 2009 @11:19AM (#28637191) Homepage

    Sure they can -- put them in aeroplane mode and use the GPS chip as normal.

    oh really? there is an rs232 NEMA stream coming out the the butt of the iphone?

    Note: most GPS is used for aircraft, navigation and outdoors use. Hell the military alone has more units than people in cars that cant read maps do.

  • Re:Already there (Score:4, Interesting)

    by rthille (8526) <.web-slashdot. .at. .rangat.org.> on Thursday July 09, 2009 @11:19AM (#28637193) Homepage Journal

    Garmin will still sell lots of GPS units. They may not be the ones which compete with the iPhone and others, but in CA, it's illegal to use a 'nav system' in a car without it being permanently mounted (IIRC). Also, I've got 2 Garmin GPS units, one for my bike and one for my wrist when running. A friend took his iPhone on a mtn bike ride and was trying to use it for navigation, but was screwed by the fact that he needed internet for the app to work and he was out in the middle of no where.

  • by afidel (530433) on Thursday July 09, 2009 @11:26AM (#28637277)
    I wish I could use a GPS for serious hiking but the fact is no one carries topo maps at max USGS resolution for a GPS unit so I still pay for the weatherproof maps from USGS when I actually need a topo map. They are also lighter and don't require batteries. I'm the exact opposite of a Luddite but I recognize the value in using the right tool for the job, and for serious offtrail hiking in rough terrain that means max resolution USGS maps.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday July 09, 2009 @11:29AM (#28637333)

    First of all, motorcycle riders are a minority, so this is pretty much a non-issue. Most people drive cars.

    I'll bet you $1000.00 on that that you are completely wrong.

    In china, India and other countries motorcycles and scooters outnumber cars 20 to 1.

    Or are you one of those that ignore the rest of the planet as a figment of someone else's imagination?

    Lumpy is spot on, you have your head in the sand.

  • by Tillmann (859300) on Thursday July 09, 2009 @11:38AM (#28637441)

    Hi,

    on the motorcycle I usually put the smartphone in the tank bag, which is waterproof. Even through this bag the display can be read alright in direct sunlight. I'm not saying it's the perfect solution, but it does the job - I've ridden hundreds of kilometers through Europe that way, and it works fine (Nokia N82 with Route66 mobile).
    Certainly a dedicated motorcycle unit like the TomTom Rider or similar unit might be somewhat better, but for me it's really not worth the extra cost.

    All the best,
    Tillmann

  • by jayme0227 (1558821) on Thursday July 09, 2009 @11:40AM (#28637477) Journal

    Another important consideration right now is the economy. With a declining economy, people are cutting back on luxury items, which a GPS certainly is. Also, a GPS unit is relatively durable, so if I bought one last year, I have no need to buy one again this year. Combine these two, and it's easy to see a significant decline in sales, even without considering smart phones.

    Now, like the Swiss Army knife, the smart phone's capabilities are not near what a standalone tool does. You want a camera that gets more than 2 megapixels? Sorry, the iPhone doesn't do that. You want an mp3 player with amazing sound quality and a long battery life? Looks like you'll have to purchase a standalone. With the economy the way it is, however, people are willing to pass on having really good products and are taking the lower quality versions in the cost-saving "bundle" of the smart phone. As consumer confidence grows, I think the increase in sales of said standalone products will increase at a rate greater than the growth of the rest of the economy.

  • by grahamsz (150076) on Thursday July 09, 2009 @11:50AM (#28637613) Homepage Journal

    I think you have a point about incar GPS but that's been a relatively transitory product. I actually worked with an early system in the 90s but didn't know anyone that had one until 3 or 4 years ago.

    However GPS was widely used before then for outdoor sports and marine applications, and for me that's often in areas that have little cellphone coverage.

    My garmin probably gives me 2 solid days hiking on 2 AA batteries and I can easily carry a couple of sets of replacements just in case. It's splash proof and hardened to the point that i've never managed to break one. I've broken various cellphones.

    The real killer for the standalone car GPS will surely be in-dash nav which is bound to become a standard factory option on lots of cars in the very near future.

  • by grahamsz (150076) on Thursday July 09, 2009 @12:01PM (#28637755) Homepage Journal

    I fell in love with the TomTom when i was back at my parents house.

    It knows the locations of all the fixed speed cameras and knows the speed limit in each area. If you approach a camera too fast then it starts screaming at you and flashing a giant speed limit on the screen.

  • by GlobalMind (597374) on Thursday July 09, 2009 @12:06PM (#28637817)

    What's idiocy is thinking how you like to use a device is how everyone else will want to use one. GPS on my phone might be nice but so is my Garmin. It has a much larger screen, doesn't depend on a cell network to function and I can easily mount it forward in the vehicle to see while driving.

    I just love it when some fool reporter tries to push an agenda or tell me how I'm supposed to use a product.

  • by swb (14022) on Thursday July 09, 2009 @12:10PM (#28637863)

    It's funny, but before I got my iPhone I was about to pull the string on a super compact digital camera to keep in the car/laptop bag for those times where I want to take a photo. I already have a decent digital camera for camera purposes, but its too big to lug around and my wife also uses it as well, meaning I can't hang onto it 24/7.

    The photos on my iPhone were so much better than my old phone and once I got a 3GS I've largely given up on another camera. I miss zoom and the quality of a real camera, but for incidental pictures the iPhone does "good enough" for me.

  • by ILongForDarkness (1134931) on Thursday July 09, 2009 @12:15PM (#28637917)
    It's also a matter of it being good enough. Sure you can have a standalone camera and carry it with you all the time. Sure you can have a standalone GPS and carry that too. But most people would rather just bring their phone and if they want to take a picture they can, if they want directions they can get them etc. As my boss says you never know when you might need a pic. He can be in the data centre and I can ask him which machine he meant, take a pic email it to me right there. Also there are much better 3G phones than the iPhone for some features. My boss' phone has a 8 megapixel camera on it and a pull out qwerty keyboard and is still smaller than an iPhone (less long and wide, probably twice as thick).
  • by klausboop (322537) on Thursday July 09, 2009 @12:16PM (#28637935)

    I can't argue with their sales data, but I concur with the "hogwash" tag. There was a time when I carried a PIM, a Cell Phone and an MP3 player, and rejoiced when I could finally afford a single converged device. It makes sense both from a technological and a practical point of view that we've achieved further convergence to the point that one device can additionally have GPS and games and a camera and video and internet browsing and more. However, there is a ceiling on the eyeballs-to-interfaces ratio that you're going to hit at some point: there's only so many things you can do at once.

    On a recent long car trip my "phone" was monopolized as I had it playing music for the whole ride, and my wife frequently used it to surf the net. Occasionally we even took a phone call. In short, because we were already using multiple other features on the "phone," the GPS functions could not be in front of my eyes when I wanted them.

    So count me in as someone who does have a mobile convergence device but was nonetheless very happy to have purchased a standalone GPS (my first, a TomTom One XL), earlier this year (ironically right in the middle of their 1st quarter sales downturn).

  • buggy whips (Score:3, Interesting)

    by roc97007 (608802) on Thursday July 09, 2009 @12:46PM (#28638345) Journal

    It's been a bizarre progression. A few years ago I got a new stereo for the car which included (amongst other things) a navigator with turn-by-turn instructions. It was really expensive. Map updates for this beast are available every two years for a street price of about $150. (List price $270.)

    A short time later, I could buy a Garmin (with free map updates) for the cost of just the map updates for my current, car-bound GPS. (You'd think the manufacturer of my unit would respond to this market reality by lowering the price of their updates. Nope.)

    But I don't have to buy a Garmin, because a few months ago I acquired a free application on my Blackberry that gives turn-by-turn instructions and also has free updates.

    I can see the appliance manufacturers moving to software solutions to survive. I hope they realize that ease of use is paramount. I've rejected a few apps because they were too annoying to program.

    But I suspect there will always be specialist applications for GPS that require an appliance. For when you need a screen bigger than 3 inches wide, or you're away from cellular service.

  • by DrgnDancer (137700) on Thursday July 09, 2009 @12:58PM (#28638537) Homepage

    The military and commercial aircraft and boat manufacturers don't buy little consumer grade GPSes. Duh, the built in GPS on a 737 is not going to be replaced with a plug in slot for an iPhone. it's not going to be replaced by a plug in slot for a Tom-Tom Navigator 7 either. Military use is something else altogether. A military "Hand held" GPS using is about 10 inches long, by 3 inches wide, has a giant antenna on the side, weights about 10 pound and goes through its specialized and expensive batteries in about 6 hours of use. If you have a vehicle mount kit you can save on the batteries though. The screen is text only and is maybe 2"x3". It takes about an hour and half to program a reasonably simple route. Most of the guys in my unit bought Garmins before we went overseas. If it had been an option at teh time, we'd probably have used phones just as happily.

  • by adaviel (1189751) on Thursday July 09, 2009 @01:11PM (#28638697) Homepage
    A phone is not going to replace my Garmin, because there are no charts (or NMEA). For a boater, that could be life-and-death (MV Queen of the North, no-one checking GPS), or thousands of dollars damage, or maybe just being stuck for 8 hours waiting for the tide (been there, done that, mostly pre-GPS or without the right chart). Google terrain won't cut it because it doesn't show enough detail underwater. Granted, Garmin/Magellan etc. could licence their charts to the phone makers, and the best GPS (or camera) is the one you have with you. On the other hand, for wandering around the city or just breadcrumbing a hike, a smartphone can replace a pocket GPS, plus it's networked. I use my Nokia tablet with (cached) Google Maps in Maemo Mapper, and push routes to it from my PC. A big-screen set would be safer in the car, though (less need to take eyes off the road and fiddle with tiny buttons) and a waterproof/vibration-proof set would be better on my motorcycle (where a GPS sure beats messing with paper maps!)
  • by gstoddart (321705) on Thursday July 09, 2009 @01:21PM (#28638853) Homepage

    The real killer for the standalone car GPS will surely be in-dash nav which is bound to become a standard factory option on lots of cars in the very near future.

    Actually, I question that.

    My girlfriend has a car with an in-dash navigation system (Pontiac Vibe). At the time (model year '03 I think) it was a $2600 option on the vehicle. It runs off a DVD, which we suspect would cost several hundred dollars to buy a new one from GM (we haven't looked into it).

    Given that you can buy an external unit for fairly cheap now, I wonder if in-car systems won't end up being comparatively more expensive, with fewer features, and less upgrade capability.

    Some kinds of technology when built into a car can fall behind what's readily available at Best Buy. Technology changes quickly, building it into your car might just leave you with dead-end technology.

    Me, I'll stick with my Tom Tom.

    Cheers

  • Umm, excuse me? (Score:3, Interesting)

    by sean.peters (568334) on Thursday July 09, 2009 @01:44PM (#28639245) Homepage

    Secondly, good luck trying to drive in a city like Boston without a GPS

    Right, because no one ever drove in Boston before they invented GPS. Look, I agree that GPS units are really, really handy, but even way back at the dawn of time, in the eternal mists of the past, even before... the Internet (cue trumpet blast)... people still managed to drive with these things called maps. Which you bought pre-printed on a substance called "paper". Even in Boston.

    I'll agree that a standalone unit is probably going to be better than a phone GPS, for much the same reason that a standalone camera is better than a phone camera. But that doesn't mean the phone-based versions of these things aren't pretty damn handy.

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