Will BMW cause major change for SatNavs?

Friday, May 8th, 2015

BMW have this week announced that from later this year they will be providing free Satellite Navigation with all new cars. Not just will this be free to use, but BMW have said it will also include free traffic rerouting for drivers.

This is a very interesting way forward, and is likely to force other manufacturers (at least within the executive sector) to follow suit. I can, however, see a couple of caveats to the news…

Firstly, the standard screen will be 6.5inches, but you can upgrade to a larger (and easier to read) 8.8 inch screen (with a cost at least £900, with some models costing £1400, though that will also include Head Up Display). Secondly, whilst traffic rerouting will be free, I wonder if map updates will continue to attract a large price tag, at a time when many PNDs (Personal Navigation Devices; TomTom, Garmin etc.) provide free lifetime* map updates. I do note that some car manufacturers have joined the Here Maps free map update programme, where map updates will be available for download free for your car (either forever, or at least for the first few years of ownership) and whilst BMW do offer this, it’s not clear whether this will apply to all models, or just those where you pay extra for the Professional Navigation system with the larger screen.

However, hats off to BMW for being able to offer this. Some models will gain the free satnav within the next month or two, whereas others will not get this until September.

* – Normally the lifetime of the device, not the owner.


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Garmin announce portable Head Up Display

Tuesday, July 9th, 2013

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Today Garmin have launched a very interesting product, although before you get too excited there are a couple of issues; firstly, it’s not actually for sale yet, it’s likely to arrive in the UK around September October time, and although it’s not yet guaranteed to come to the UK, I think it is quite likely to arrive as even Garmin UK have been talking about it.

The Head Up Display is portable, although more on that later, and assuming you have the right SatNav software on your smartphone, will display turn information (lane assist), distance to the next turn, current speed and speed limit, and estimated time of arrival. It looks like it may also be able to warn you of upcoming speed cameras and traffic too.

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At something like £80 – £130 it won’t come cheap, but will offer two modes of operation; you can attach a reflective film to your windscreen for the best effect, but if you swap cars a lot, it will also come with a reflective lens panel (as above; there’s quite a large bezel to this, which is a shame, but a small price to pay). It appears to need constant power, but the power cord includes a USB port for connecting your phone charger to, allowing you to only need one power socket in the car. It connects via Bluetooth to your iPhone, Android device or even your Windows Phone, although your choice of SatNav software is limited; on iPhone you can use Garmin’s StreetPilot for iPhone or NAVIGON for iPhone whereas for Android and Windows Phone you are limited to only NAVIGON. Finally, it will auto adjust the brightness depending on the conditions.

I like this device. Given Garmin already have Bluetooth built into many of their hardware devices (for both handsfree calling and their Ecoroute HD product), I hope they are able to add support into their hardware devices for the HUD, but even so, this does look like an interesting product even if you can only use it with your smartphone.

We’ll provide more information closer to release time.


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Pure Highway 300Di now available

Thursday, January 5th, 2012

When launched back at the end of November, the Pure Highway 300Di car DAB adaptor was due to be available within a week or so.  Just to let you know, it’s now available at Halfords (and I’m not sure they have the Exclusive any more either, so you maybe able to find it elsewhere too).  It’s still £180 (plus £25 fitting if you need the service, and most will), but I think that’s good value for a fitted additional DAB radio that’s nicely styled, and will allow a level of future proofing existing cars (if the old FM radio signals are ever turned off, which still isn’t definite).

In my original article, I mentioned a free fitting offer during the “initial launch”; I can only conclude this period has already finished, as the free fitting doesn’t appear to be available anymore.


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Pure launch new Highway DAB Radio

Friday, November 25th, 2011

One of the first articles on the UK Gadgeteer website back in 2007 was around the PURE Highway, a portable DAB radio designed for car use.  This turned out to be a very popular device, although one small complaint about it was that it had to connect to the windscreen mount, and you had to have wires all over the dashboard (aerial & power).  Competitors, such as Revo, produced DAB addon car units which needed more permanent fitting in the car, however, Revo have now left the car market.

Well, Pure are addressing these issues and have launched a new Highway DAB radio, the Pure Highway 300Di.  This unit has a small control unit (removable, for when you want to hide the presence of the unit) using an OLED screen (and backlit buttons).  In fact, the simple display / buttons and control knob remind me of the very successful Parrot range of Bluetooth car kit control units).  This connects to a control box designed for placing behind the dash, or in the glovebox.  This needs permanent connections to the car (I suspect it’ll possible to DIY fit it, but it’s not designed for plugging into a cigaretter lighter, unlike the PURE Highway, which remains on sale for those who want a truely portable unit).

As well as providing DAB (via a DAB aerial which needs external fitting), the unit has a USB port allowing you to plug in USB memory sticks, USB devices, or you can use your Apple USB cable and the device will be able to fully control (and charge) your Apple iPod or iPhone.

Most DAB radios only have one tuner, whereas most car radios adopted the idea of dual tuners quite a few years ago; this allows the second tuner to go hunting for a stronger signal without impacting the radio playback, and in fact, the Pure Highway 300Di has a second tuner which will automatically keep the station list up to date with only the stations available as you travel around the country.

To connect it to your car, you can either use an AUX-IN type socket, or it can use an FM transmitter, either wireless using the car’s existing aerial, or it can be wired into the aerial circuit giving a crackle free experience.

In addition, Pure have added a couple of innovative new modes:

  • Forcourt mode, where the device will go into standby for up to 15 minutes, allowing you to return to your car, and the unit will already be ready for action with the same music.  In you are listening to the DAB radio, you can pause (for up to 8 minutes) and continue listening when you return to the car.
  • Picnic mode, where the device is able to continue playing the music for up to an hour after the car ignition is switched off.  The 1 hour limit is to prevent the car battery being drained, although some cars will limit you to only 15 minutes even though the unit could do longer.

For those wanting to add DAB to your existing car, and want something a little more permanent than the PURE Highway, this may well be the device for you.  Pricing will be £179.99, although it’s not yet available, it will be sold exclusively through Halfords for a period.

Having said it’s not available, I believe it should be on sale within the next week or two, and during the initial launch, Halfords will be offering free fitting (normally around £25).


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New Jaguar XJ and some of the tech onboard

Friday, July 10th, 2009

Jaguar XJ Front

This is the new 2010 Jaguar XJ, revealed today by Jaguar UK.  Although we don’t often feature whole cars, we’ve certainly featured some elements of the tech included before, so we thought we’d look to see how well it brings the tech together…

Jaguar XJ Rear

The styling reminds us of both the Jaguar C-XF Concept car, and the current Jaguar XF, with maybe a hint of the Citroen C6 in those vertical LED rear lights…

Like the Jaguar XF, the new Jaguar XJ features the JaguarDrive, a fly-by-wire rotary gear selector, but also features “JaguarSense reading lamp and glovebox switches” (basically the switches are touch sensitive); if you want to customise the interior beyond the normal choices of colour (14 choices), trim and wood veneer (11 choices), you can also replace the word “Jaguar” in the top-middle of the dashboard with another word of your choosing…

Jaguar XJ UK Dash

Laser thin phospur blue lines of light highlight the centre-console switches, and around the JaguarDrive gear selector, the handbrake, door handles, door mounted switches and even the door storage panniers, and to save you needing to even take the car key out of your pocket, it can be specified with Keyless Entry and Keyless Start.

The Steering wheel features lots of control buttons using thumb-operated switches and five-way pads, which will include controls for an iPod.  Oh, and if that’s not enough, you can specify an optional heated steering wheel!

The instruments in front of the driver is actually all virtual, with the ability to replace the tachometer with another warnings or information required by the driver and the display features a “spotlight” feature to highlight the most important information.  The large touchscreen for the SatNav also gives access to many of the cars functions (as have previous Jaguar touchscreens), and for some countries (including the UK, but not the US) the touchscreen is a dual-view screen, allowing the passenger to watch a film or TV whilst the driver cannot (he instead gets SatNav or controls, but never the film / TV, which is illegal here), with an additional set of wireless headphones for the passenger to allow them to hear the different source too.

That’s not all in terms of multimedia, you can specify a rear entertainment package, a Premium Sound system (600W) or even a 7.1 Bowes & Wilkins 1200W system.  Finally, there’s also a DAB radio option, which we would recommend everyone takes, with the UK Government suggesting that DAB should be standard in most cars in the next few years to allow a potential shutdown of FM signals in the future…

Of course, these options don’t come cheap…

  • DAB radio: £250
  • TV support: £500
  • Dual View screen £850
  • Rear entertainment £1500
  • B&W 1200W Sound System £2000

all of that, on top of the car instelf, which goes from £52,500 upto £88,000 (we should point out that many of those features above are actually standard on the higher spec cars (eg the 3.0litre £62,900 XJ Portfolio includes Dual View, B&W 1200W Sound System, a rear camera and even a panoramic roof with electric sun blinds).

For more information, head over to Jaguar UK’s website here.


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