The end of dedicated Sat Nav?

The other day my colleague showed me a new middle-range mobile phone that The Company would be releasing soon. The phone had sat nav (satellite navigation).

It had a GPS receiver and utilized a user-subscribable service called map-info to stream the map data, route, and driving instructions.

I was impressed. The map display was pretty good and comparable with off-the-shelf dedicated vehicle GPS navigation products. The voice guidance was clear and easy to follow.

Unlike conventional sat nav devices marketed by companies such as Navman, TomTom, and Garmin, this slim little phone fits into even the tightest of jeans pockets, and with a week-long battery, could also boast pedestrian navigation.

My guess is by Christmas this year all middle to top-end phones will offer this technology.

Conventional sat nav devices can’t compete with that. No longer will users have to:

  • Clumsily attach a device and suction cup to their vehicle’s dashboard and plug it into the cigarette lighter each time they start their car.
  • Rub off the windscreen suction marks, dismantle the device and cram it into their glove-box whenever they reach their destination so as not to alert would-be thieves.
  • Deal with expensive and complicated upgrades as their map-data becomes obsolete with the construction of new motorway junctions.
  • Buy additional memory to store new map-data in order to use it in another country.
  • Keep track of yet another complicated PDA-like device (which is inconveniently designed to only really work in a car).

Sat nav companies are vaguely aware of this, and in an attempt to stay in the race, have been desperately pumping out GPS navigation devices that come loaded with calculators, cameras, MP3 players, and all sorts of other crap the customer will never use.

They are competing against services that are now standard on any new mobile phone. They will not win.

The only real feature a conventional Navman-like product can boast over cellular satellite navigation is security. The men in black can’t track you.

With a GPS cell-phone they know exactly where you are, at what time, and in which direction you are heading whenever you turn on the phone.

Given the direction towards Big-Brother government in certain countries (such as the UK and US), this might just be the one saving feature that can keep dedicated sat nav products in business.

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2 Responses to The end of dedicated Sat Nav?

  1. Ian says:

    Actually, the main advantage navman-type units have over GPS enabled cellphones is that you don’t pay ongoing costs to the map data provider.

    As you point out, the downside is that the map data becomes outdated after a few years, but with NZ’s exorbitant cellular data charges, that may not be a major concern for buyers.

    The only real workaround is to preload map data downloaded via a ‘normal’ internet connection, but that’s not always practical.

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