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Will Google and Android Kill Standalone GPS? 439

Posted by kdawson
from the wall-street-is-not-main-street dept.
xchg passes along a WiseAndroid piece on the drop in value of Garmin and TomTom shares following Google's announcement yesterday of Google Maps Navigation. "Shares of GPS device makers Garmin and TomTom plummeted... through a combination of their quarterly results and the launch of Google Maps Navigation. Following both low guidance for Garmin's next quarter as well as poor results from TomTom, shares for the two fell 16.4 percent and 20.8 percent respectively and remained low through the entire trading day after news of Google's free, turn-by-turn mapping service became public." Today Lauren Weinstein posted a number of reasons why standalone GPS won't go away any time soon.
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Will Google and Android Kill Standalone GPS?

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  • No (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Friday October 30, 2009 @10:25AM (#29924315)

    Some of us don't want or need cellphones.

    They still make standalone mp3 players and pdas and cameras.

    They still even make standalone cell phones.

    For Android to kill GPS, they would have to offer it cheaper than a standalone and provide a working GPS function that did not require a cell phone service contract for it to work.

  • by npcole (251514) on Friday October 30, 2009 @10:27AM (#29924361)

    ...when there is good, reliable, 3g coverage or better everywhere, and when data charges (especially when roaming abroad) are negligible. But frankly, the places I most need GPS are where coverage is poor and roaming charges are high.

  • by sarahbau (692647) on Friday October 30, 2009 @10:28AM (#29924375)

    It sounds like the maps will still only be hosted by Google, rather than stored on the device as with standalone GPSs. As long as that's the case, there will probably still be standalone units.

  • by rxan (1424721) on Friday October 30, 2009 @10:30AM (#29924393)
    GPS is a free service. It's no wonder that it would become hard to make money off of it after awhile. At least Tom Tom and Garmin aren't crying for a bailout.
  • No. (Score:5, Insightful)

    by 0100010001010011 (652467) on Friday October 30, 2009 @10:32AM (#29924441)

    1) It doesn't work EVERYWHERE. I'm not talking about everywhere with a wireless signal. I'm talking about EVERYWHERE.
    2) I'm not going to pay a monthly fee to use something. I paid Microsoft $X for Streets & Trips. It's one of the rare programs that I will spend the time to virtualize. It's gotten me east coast to west coast with only 1 problem, and that was user error (Grand Canyon Park is NOT the same as "Grand Canyon", the geographic center. Though it was an interesting drive into nothing).
    3) AT&T is choking hard with a ton of people browsing the web. Imagine if everyone on the road suddenly was streaming a few K/s. It would bring the network to its knees. I somehow doubt that AT&T is going to pull through and upgrade.

  • Missing Factor... (Score:3, Insightful)

    by swanzilla (1458281) on Friday October 30, 2009 @10:32AM (#29924445) Homepage

    Will Google and Android Kill Standalone GPS?

    Will Google and Android and Verizon Kill Standalone GPS?

  • by Lemming Mark (849014) on Friday October 30, 2009 @10:33AM (#29924455) Homepage

    I'll personally replace my outdoors-oriented Garmin when I can get a bicycle-mountable, rucksack-clippable, fully waterproof (i.e. submerge for a significant length of time, not just splashproof), robust and accurate GPS device. That doesn't cost more than I paid for the Garmin in the first place. And can run on AA batteries for long periods of time, so I can swap batteries when they run down.

    In fact, I probably still won't replace my Garmin even if they match those features. If I'm trekking around outdoors with the thing, it's nice to know that losing or smashing it won't result in the loss of my phone, address book, PDA, MP3 and video player, camera ... I like the idea of having everything available in one device but for some applications it's nicer not to have all my eggs in one valuable (in monetary, information and functionality terms) device.

    For stuff like car satnav devices I can see GPS-enabled phones making more of a dent, since the top of a car dashboard is a much friendlier environment for a phone. Moreover it's somewhere you'd probably want a phone anyhow, so you can use it handsfree, listen to music, etc. The really slick car satnav designs are integrated into the dash, though. Given we've already seen ipod docks built into cars, maybe in the future we're looking at a much more full-featured dock that'll connect the phone to audio, dash display, GPS antenna, etc. On the other hand, given computers are cheap and get cheaper, maybe that'll be unnecessary as the car will have bucketloads of integrated computers already.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday October 30, 2009 @10:33AM (#29924477)

    Phones are relatively fragile, and their batteries are relatively feeble; by comparison my hiking GPS takes two easy-swapped AA's and gives 12-16 hours of use from them, and it takes all the abuse I can think to give it.

    I wouldn't want to risk my phone-GPS running down my phone-phone: that's a safety fail just waiting to happen.

    These arguments don't apply to driving GPS, where there's power available, or mooching-round-town GPS, where trips are short and safety non-critical. So smartphone GPS won't kill the dedicated device, but it'll reduce it back to a niche item for outdoorsy types.

  • Re:UH? (Score:4, Insightful)

    by TheLink (130905) on Friday October 30, 2009 @10:34AM (#29924491) Journal
    If lots of people start using Google's free stuff, there'd be fewer people visiting: https://buy.garmin.com/shop/buymaps.do

    And giving Garmin lots of $$$.

    Garmin making an android device just shows that the Garmin bosses aren't in denial of what's going to happen to Garmin. It doesn't mean they have nothing to worry about.
  • by ramunas (771197) on Friday October 30, 2009 @10:35AM (#29924503) Homepage
    Here's my problem with the android GPS, and for that matter with cell phone google maps - it all works perfectly when you live in a huge country, and where the possibility that you might need to use the navigation features offered by GPS without ever leaving the country is fairly large - hence you are not really worried about the data charges, since you are using the same operator.

    BUT. If like me, you live in a small European country, where within the country there is practically no need for the GPS because you know most of the country by heart. Thus the only reason for using a car GPS navigation is when you leave the country. But that's exactly the moment the huge roaming data charges begin to apply. Therefore the only practically viable option unless you don't care how much you spend on your phone costs is by using an offline solution like a Tom-tom or Garmin device.
  • by HockeyPuck (141947) on Friday October 30, 2009 @10:37AM (#29924531)

    Maybe Garmin/TomTom will replace their current OS with Android. However, I don't see any outdoorsman/athlete tossing their Garmin device for a GPS enabled cell phone. Why? Garmin devices are purpose built, they can be strapped to my wrist, my arm, they are waterproof, I can easily mount it to the handlebars of my mountain/road bike, they have heart rate monitors built in, I can attach a secondary transponder to my dogs when they are out herding so I know where they are.

    I also love the fact that they can download maps from the National Geographic Topographic Map Series [natgeomaps.com]. Now there's nothing that would stop someone from writing a android app to interface with these maps. But currently google maps doesn't help me out on the trail.

    Garmin is a brand and people buy their products for the features, nobody buys Garmin b/c of the underlying OS.

  • Not a chance (Score:5, Insightful)

    by schnikies79 (788746) on Friday October 30, 2009 @10:39AM (#29924563)

    I go hiking/camping nearly every-other weekend during the summer and even some in winter. Cell signals are poor to non-existent (when they do exist, it's never 3g) and I might have not have access to a power source for a couple days up to a week.

    Good luck with finding a cell-phone that can fit that bill.

  • by sumbry (644145) on Friday October 30, 2009 @10:48AM (#29924673) Homepage

    In the same way that Walmart comes into a town and destroys local businesses, Google can enter into an industry/sector and destroy most of the competition overnight by giving an application away for free. Who is going to pay $100 for a Maps Application now (or more for a hardware device) when they can just download one for free.

    Isn't this the same type of stuff we accused Microsoft of doing years ago? Yup, Walmart, I mean Google strikes again. Pray whatever industry you're in Google doesn't decide to suddenly release a free product.

  • Re:UH? (Score:4, Insightful)

    by ToasterMonkey (467067) on Friday October 30, 2009 @10:50AM (#29924711) Homepage

    uh huh.. like Apple has any interest in nautical or aviation GPS hardware, or any of the other dozens of things Garmin does besides tell you how to get to the nearest McDonalds.

  • Re:No (Score:1, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Friday October 30, 2009 @10:51AM (#29924723)
    hey, you can aways make a living on the other bigger market, the homeless.
  • by drumcat (1659893) on Friday October 30, 2009 @10:53AM (#29924757)
    No one is saying GPS units are obsolete. What this does say is that there will be a lot less margin in devices that are now one-trick ponies.
  • Sharing? (Score:4, Insightful)

    by edmicman (830206) on Friday October 30, 2009 @11:06AM (#29924971) Homepage Journal

    My wife can take our Garmin in her car if she needs it or I could let a friend borrow it; I'm not going to lend my phone to someone to use as a GPS. Sure, I'll find it useful to have a working GPS on my phone, for like most things (camera, gps) I'm gonna go with the dedicated device for when I really need quality.

  • Re:No (Score:5, Insightful)

    by captjc (453680) on Friday October 30, 2009 @11:09AM (#29925013)

    The few curmudgeons who refuse to use functional smartphones are a negligible market. Unintegrated commuter GPS units are going to fall by the wayside in a couple years

    I have to disagree. Smartphones are not as universally accepted as you would think. Everyone out there does not have a blackberry, iPhone, or Treo. Millions of people still are satisfied with the "free with plan" basic Motorolla/Nokia with calls, text, and a few crappy games built in. The smartphone is still a fraction of overall market sales, a sizeable fraction, but still not the end-all be-all of sales. You may be happy with your smartphone, but Joe Sixpack and Ma and Pa Kettle just want to make calls and send the occasional text message. Besides, not everyone wants to shell out hundreds of dollars when they can just pay ~$30 for a phone from the Verizon kiosk at the mall.

    On another note, most people with GPS devices that I know don't want to use their phones for two reasons: a GPS stays mounted on the Dashboard of the car and because of the screen size. Try glancing at a map on a 1 inch cellphone screen while driving.

  • Re:No (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Andy Dodd (701) <atd7@cCOWornell.edu minus herbivore> on Friday October 30, 2009 @11:10AM (#29925047) Homepage

    This is why even with "Standalone" map software (e.g. software where all maps are stored on the device, thus not requiring any cellular coverage to work) for my AT&T Tilt 2 (which has a relatively large screen as PDA-phones go), I still use my standalone GPS - while the screen is lower resolution, it's larger. Actually TomTom's PDA software gets hard to use on high-res screens.

    I would never use anything that required cellular coverage for basic navigation functions, even though the new Google solution supposedly caches your entire route, that doesn't help you if you miss a turn and go offroute and need a re-calc.

  • Screen size (Score:3, Insightful)

    by MikeURL (890801) on Friday October 30, 2009 @11:16AM (#29925129) Journal
    Two things are going on here. First, the availability of "free" navigation hardware/software will inevitably cut into the profit margins of Garmin and Tomtom (perhaps less in the "driving directions" market and more in the "walking around" market). Second, there is no way that cell phones can completely replace standalone GPS devices purely due to screen size issues.

    My Garman Nuvi has a screen that is a lot larger than my Blackberry Storm. I would NOT want my storm to have a screen as large as my Nuvi because I want my smartphone to fit in my pocket. However, where smartphones really do threaten a company like Garmin is in the GPS device market that covers outdoors enthusiasts. For waypoint tracking, navigation, etc while hiking I've been able to get my Storm to work really well with Trekbuddy. It isn't an idea solution because my Storm isn't waterproof or dustproof. But I put it in a plastic baggie and that works just fine...no need to buy a $350 device from Garmin to do the same thing.

    Overall it is true that this isn't good for standalone GPS makers because the competition is increasing. The demand for GPS enabled devices is increasing but the problem for Garmin is that every smartphone now has a GPS receiver built in. That offers a lot of flexibility to developers that isn't there on the standalone devices. Google is showing us the implications of this by developing an app that, almost overnight, offers a "free" alternative to a standalone.
  • Re:No (Score:3, Insightful)

    by LoverOfJoy (820058) on Friday October 30, 2009 @11:21AM (#29925217) Homepage
    Here's a question: are standalone GPS significantly better than a cell phone GPS?

    Because in the examples you gave, the standalones are miles ahead of the phone equivalent (at least in the majority of phones).

    While cameras in phones are getting better, they still generally aren't the kind you'll want to print and put up on the wall.

    MP3 players in phones tend to be nowhere near as usable as an ipod (or many other mp3 players).

    PDAs I'm least familiar with (at least current ones) but I suspect the same still holds true there. Certainly a few years back the PDA I owned didn't have an affordable equivalent built into a phone and my PDA wasn't anywhere near top of the line at the time.

    I have never used a GPS and wouldn't know the difference between what comes standard in a GPS phone versus what comes standard in a stand-alone unit. Is it enough for most people who already have the former to also pick up the latter?
  • by rolfwind (528248) on Friday October 30, 2009 @11:21AM (#29925219)

    I utterly and completely agree with you - particularly in rural areas, GPS needing 3G or Edge connection isn't going to cut it.

    But, this will impact sales. I don't know about TomTom, but my experience with Garmin is that it's routing is shit. I have several units and there are a ton of spots where it will consistently take you via a route that takes much longer, it wants to exit from the fast highway usually one exit too early in order to go the roads beridden with stop signs and lights, and in some cases, it would take nonsensical detours from an otherwise straight road as if Garmin wanted you in a sight-seeing tour of the countryside, doubling not only time of a short trip, but the distance. Garmin has some seriously fucked up routing that even a non-native with just a map would ever pick, and I ran into this in Pennsylvania, Kentucky, Washington State, and even in Europe. It's not a localized issue. I love my Garmins in areas I don't know, but that is about it.

    OTOH, Google Maps has some of the best routing I have seen, consistently, and in my native areas which I know well, it takes the routes I usually would as well. So, with the limitations in mind, it's perfect for urban/suburban dwellers. I only wish Google would make a standale GPS unit with no internet connection required and cheap updates - I would snap it up in a heartbeat.

  • Re:No (Score:2, Insightful)

    by ajs (35943) <ajs AT ajs DOT com> on Friday October 30, 2009 @11:21AM (#29925235) Homepage Journal

    Some of us don't want or need cellphones.

    "Don't want," I can buy (though it smells of being a Luddite just for the sake of it, at this point... I had relatives who insisted they didn't need a household phone until the mid-50s, but they eventually had to admit that it was just too useful). "Don't need?" That's not fundamentally a personal call. You need a cell phone if and when you're in a situation where having one would provide for some other need (rodeside help, calling emergency services when you see an accident, etc.)

    They still make standalone mp3 players and pdas and cameras.

    You're posting from a (presumably somewhat modern) computer. I don't think you really have the moral high-ground to complain about consolidation of technology.

    They still even make standalone cell phones.

    I'm not aware of any. I believe that the only "standalone" cell phones these days are phones where the features that scare off individuals such as yourselves are turned off at the factory.

    For Android to kill GPS, they would have to offer it cheaper than a standalone and provide a working GPS function that did not require a cell phone service contract for it to work.

    Define "kill." For Android to kill stand-alone GPS units (and I'm not sure it will be Android that does it), it would merely have to become financially impractical for existing GPS makers to stay in business. Garmin just lost over a billion dollars in market share in a day... on the announcement, before anyone had this thing in their hands. Why? Because the people who buy cool tech gadgets already have data plans by and large, and the people who don't will probably settle with in-dash units which will probably go Android or a similar system with access to Google Navigation over the long run for pretty much exactly the same reasons that cell phones will (reduction in overhead and faster time-to-market with the features that the people making the hardware actually differentiate themselves on).

    Heck, you might even see a big GPS maker get in bad with Google and produce an Android stand-alone unit.

  • by Dare nMc (468959) on Friday October 30, 2009 @11:46AM (#29925567)

    Not really about when are we going to throw away our Garmins. It's about garming charging for maps, road construction, safety camera info, updates. I was debating about paying the $150 for lifetime maps for my Nuvi. But it's locked to a single device, not editable in anyway and pricey (on top of the $180 single use device.) All thoughts of purchasing that are now gone for this phone. I will keep my garmin Vista (or replace with similar) for riding the quads/motorcycles/mountain bikes where there are no roads (sand dunes, changing trails.)
    So knocking 15%+ off of garmin stock price seams correct, their overall growth in GPS is very unlikely (but lower volume/higher priced boating, fishing, offroad GPS growth is likely to stay.)

  • Re:No (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Duradin (1261418) on Friday October 30, 2009 @11:46AM (#29925577)

    If I was somewhere where I needed to use a GPS device I wouldn't want its battery being drained by cell phone functions blasting out at full power trying to reach a non-existent tower.

    I have a cell phone. I have an mp3 player. My cell phone is not my mp3 player. I want the phone's battery to be ready for phone usage, not to be drained by playing music. Likewise I don't want my mp3 player's battery being drained by my cell phone. If I had a GPS device I wouldn't want it getting drained by cell phone use or playing music. Any GPS device I would buy would need to be much more durable and rugged than I would need for either my phone or mp3 player.

  • by DigitalSorceress (156609) on Friday October 30, 2009 @12:11PM (#29925885)

    I seriously doubt that stand alone gps can truly ever be replaced... not for gps apps/solutions that rely on connectivity.

    Perfect example: I recently finished a 6,000 mile road trip across Canada and back. Both my traveling companion and I had iPhones. We both turned off all data for the entire time we were in Canada... if we hadn't we'd have gotten multi-thousand dollar bills from Rogers Internet for data roaming. Think I'm kidding? last Canada road trip, my traveling companion didn't turn hers off. Got a call from AT&T halfway into the trip asking if she meant to be racking up $2000 in data roaming. Took us a couple days to get the pucker marks out of the passenger seat.

    (okay, I kid about the pucker marks, but not about the bill or the call from AT&T).

    Google Maps is great, but it relies on an active data connection... something you don't always have available whether due to low signal or STUPID high prices.

    Stand-alone units don't have this problem.

  • I'm a cheapskate (Score:3, Insightful)

    by ackthpt (218170) on Friday October 30, 2009 @12:57PM (#29926481) Homepage Journal

    I'm on my 4th mobile phone, since the 1980's. Mostly because of gaps here and there, because plans were expensive and I didn't really need a mobile too much.

    Now I'm on Pre-Paid and love it. Per month cost is 5 to 10 bucks, which leaves a _lot_ of money for things like buying a GPSr which will work more reliably in most places my mobile phone can't even score 1 bar (like much of Uvas Road, near Morgan Hill, California, where I witnessed an accident, but couldn't make a mobile phone call - nobody could! This, not far outside Silicon Valley!)

    For commuters in Chicago, Lost Angeles, New Yawk, Bahston, Houston, Atalanta, etc. I expect their mobile to do a fine job for them, but in the crags, hollers and gulches they will likely find themselves utterly lost ("Why does the arrow say I'm 500 ft off the road?" - because it's guessing, based upon rate of speed and direction, which doesn't work is mazes of twisty little passages - all alike.)

    I'll stick with a mobile for mobile stuff and a GPSr for GPSr stuff.

  • Re:No (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Dahamma (304068) on Friday October 30, 2009 @01:01PM (#29926545)

    So you want to carry three devices because you don't want each function to drain the other's batteries?

    Basically you are just carrying around three batteries along with the extra bulk of three sets of electronics, screens, etc. And the extra battery drain of the overhead of duplicate components in each.

    Just get a smartphone with a removable battery and two spares. You wouldn't even have to carry the spare batteries in your pocket everywhere to get the functionality of all three devices - just when you think you may need to switch batteries on the go.

    Remember, this is about whether smartphones WILL kill GPS, not whether they already HAVE. 20 years ago cell phones were huge bricks, GPS wasn't even available to consumers, and MPEG was still in development. It's amazingly naive to think technological improvements in power management, battery life, durability, coverage, etc will make most of the arguments in this thread moot in the near future.

  • Re:No (Score:2, Insightful)

    by alieneye (86920) on Friday October 30, 2009 @01:28PM (#29926927)
    Bring your phone and 2 extra batteries. Problem solved.
  • by AmericanInKiev (453362) on Friday October 30, 2009 @05:46PM (#29929785) Homepage

    The most Annoying flaw in my cellphone GPS, (with which I've driven across the country) Is when I'm late to an appointment, I need to phone ahead, but can't because I'd lose navigation.

    That said, real time traffic, and weather related road outages, along with reactive routing are necessary features for a congested metropolis.

    The unconnected GPS is dead.

  • Re:No (Score:3, Insightful)

    by LBt1st (709520) on Friday October 30, 2009 @05:51PM (#29929833)

    Maybe, just maybe tomtom etc won't be selling as much hardware. But they currently and I'm sure will continue making software for various devices. I use TomTom on a PDA. It sits on an SD Card with the entire US map data. As someone else replied, TomTom can also be installed on cell phones and other things.
    I assure you, when I'm riding my motorcycle in the middle of the desert (not unusual for me); I won't have any use for a cell based solution or an in-dash car device.

    People like me will keep that market alive. As will our boys overseas, pilots, sailors etc..

    Besides the whole "GPS will be in every car" idea is just plan bunk. Especially in the current economy. Cars are still made without power windows. GPS is a nice option for someone that wants it. Many people do not want that option and will not pay extra for it. Car manufactures are not going to install GPS in every car when they can barely sell cars at all. That is a fantasy based on nonsense.

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