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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Pioneer announce HUD for SatNavs too

Monday, September 16th, 2013

Pioneer Navgate HUD

After we covered the Garmin HUD a month or so back, it’s interesting to see Pioneer have now announced a very similar principle. However, these two devices can’t be directly compared; as well as offering a much better display, offering much more detail, it has a price to match… Whereas the Garmin unit will be around £150, this is going to sell nearer to £600!

For that though, you will get traffic, navigation instructions, points of interest, road hazards and more (clock, the current speed and speed limits, speed and red light camera warnings, the distance to the destination, as well as the estimated time of arrival) in full colour. The device attaches to the sun visor (meaning you will not be able to actually use it as a sun visor anymore), and for that, I do like it, as well folded up, it will not be as obvious to thieves.

Only just obvious from the picture above is the cable that’s needed to power the device, but the device also has a light sensor to vary the amount of light (and hence power) the device uses.

The Pioneer Navgate HUD will work with iGo Primo (iOS only) and CoPilot Live (both iOS and Android versions as best I can tell), so this does increase the range of options if you don’t want to change your existing navigation app of choice.

More information should be available next month when the device is available.


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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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Clever little device for displaying road speed

Friday, February 15th, 2013

This, the Snooper My Speed Aura, is a clever little device. Although it’s made by Snooper, a well established speed camera detector company, it actually has a more useful purpose than alerting you to speed camera locations (which it can also do…); it tells you the normal speed limit along a road. By utilising the Navteq road speed database and a GPS signal, it is able to tell you what it thinks is the normal speed for the road for your car (**), and that, to me, is a clever trick.

Actually, it can also detect speed cameras; it has access to the Snooper Aura speed camera database, so using the GPS can also alert you to whether there is a speed camera in the area, but the ability to tell you the speed limit of normal roads would give you confidence over whether you were speeding or not to being with.

Normally £130 (with lifetime updates to the Snooper speed camera database), it’s currently available from Halfords for only £90 (though they don’t keep it in stock, so you need to order it to be delivered to home or to a store which will take a few days, so this deal is not for those who want to buy it straight away.

It only comes with a windscreen suction mount, and I couldn’t find any third party mounts, though it might be possible to modify the mount to be able to mount directly onto the dash, and doesn’t seem to have a battery, so would need power at all times in the car, and the only other downside is that I haven’t tried the Snooper speed camera database to know how accurate it is (of course, you don’t really need to rely upon it with this particular device). In fact, you can buy it without the speed camera database (but the Halfords price with the camera support is still cheaper).

Even better, Snooper have recently updated the software inside the device, and any new devices bought this year have a new trick up their sleeve; you can specify what type of vehicle you have (car, truck, car towing) and it will adjust the speed to reflect your speed on the road, which I think makes the device even more useful, especially for those who occasionally tow, or have caravans, motorhomes etc.

On the screen above you can see it’s displaying a speed camera alert (you can turn off the smiley face if you want a more professional looking device!), when there are no speed cameras around that circle displays the current road speed instead.

** – sometimes it doesn’t know the exact speed for the road, so provides a suggested advisory speed. Also, when speed limits change the device may not know about the change, so you should always used devices like this as a secondary aide, and still pay attention to the road signs!

Although the device comes with lifetime speed camera updates, the updates for the road speed information does cost; it’s currently £10 per year, which seems not too bad, especially when you realise that covers the whole of Europe (where data is available), and not just the UK. I’ve no idea how often Snooper update their data though; their website says the £10 charge allows you to update “once per year”, which does sound a little infrequent to me.

Overall, a clever little device that concentrates on doing one thing, and seems to do it quite well. My only problem with it is the price; for the same price (actually slightly less), you could buy a device such as the Garmin Nuvi 30, with full European navigation as well as the facility for displaying the road speed limit (a function of most recent models from both Garmin and TomTom). In my mind, there are only two situations where the Snooper My Speed really shines; when you drive a truck or tow, so the ability to select vehicle type is important (satnavs that offer that facility are normally much more money), or where you have a built in satnav in your car already, and don’t need a second device, but would like to benefit from knowing the road speed limit at all times.


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Will 2013 bring more integration in gadgets?

Monday, January 7th, 2013

Above is the new Canon Powershot-N camera, an interesting camera as it’s designed as an any-way-up camera, due to the square nature of the camera (although the screen only tilts upwards and technically it’s not quite square!). The any-way-up operation is achieved by two rings around the lens, one acting as the zoom ring, and the other the shutter button. Unless the information displayed on the screen also spins though, I suspect the majority of pictures will still be taken with the camera in the conventional position.

However, instead of including a GPS module within the camera (as Canon started to on their higher end models last year), they have used the WiFi link that you can establish between the camera and your smartphone or tablet (iOS and Android only supported) to feed the camera with the gps location information from the smartphone / tablet instead. This WiFi link also allows you to easily transfer the pictures to your device, and then onwards onto Social Media sites, and photo sharing sites (the Canon Image Gateway offers 10GB of personal storage, and the software has a direct upload to Facebook option, but I suspect once the picture is on the smartphone / tablet there will be plenty of ways of getting the picture onto other sites via the OS or specific applications for those sites). To top off the range of new features, the device can be charged via USB (historically Canon cameras have needed the battery to be removed and placed into a charger, so providing in camera charging is also something I’m glad to see).

With a 8x optical zoom, a 12.1MP CMOS sensor, and only measuring 78.6 x 60.2 x 29.3 mm (when lens retracted), yet still supporting Full HD video recording, this is an interesting new device which will be available in Black or White when it’s released in April around £270.

For completeness, I should mention that this same GPS integration is available on a range of other new Canon products announced this week (the Canon IXUS 140 and Canon PowerShot 3500IS in particular), in fact, what’s interesting is that you may not even need to maintain the link throughout the day whilst shooting your pictures, as Canon say “At the end of each day, Wi-Fi can be activated to pair the captured images on the camera with the location data recorded from the smartphone.”

Also announced today are two new Garmin EDGE cycling trip recorders, the Garmin EDGE 510 and Garmin EDGE 810 cycling devices. By utilising the Garmin Mobile Connect app, these devices are capable of additionally supporting live tracking, social media sharing and real-time weather updates as well as the more traditional functions of accurately track speed, distance, time, GPS position, elevation, calories burned, ascent and descent (and supporting heart rate monitors and other ANT+ sports devices such as speed / cadence sensors). The Garmin EDGE 810 would be my preferred device, as it additionally supports the ability to load maps onto the device, which can either be obtained from Garmin or by utilising data such as that produced by OpenStreetMap at no charge for personal use.

Again limited to iOS and Android only, Garmin Mobile Connect allows these devices (via Bluetooth) to

  • share all the details of their rides with friends, family and social media contacts
  • allow cyclists’ friends and family to follow their races and training rides in real-time
  • allow for wireless uploads of completed activities from the Edge 810/510 as soon as cyclists finish recording an activity to the Garmin Connect website

The Garmin EDGE 810 will be available in the next month or two in 3 UK versions, just the unit for £380, the unit plus a heart rate monitor and a speed / cadence sensor for £430, or the unit will the sensors and a data card loaded with European maps for £480.

Back to the original point; a couple of years ago we all wanted each and every device to come with a SIM card slot to allow us to connect it to the Internet, but unlike tablets, devices such as these aren’t going to be used every day of the year, or even every month, and suddenly the cost of the additional hardware support and maintaining a mobile phone contract for them does seem a burden, so by allowing them to connect to the internet via an existing mobile device suddenly makes a lot more sense, and with many of the UK mobile networks offering unlimited data offerings (whether or not these devices would fall foul of no-tethering clauses in contracts I’m not sure; for many of the functions, the devices are simply getting information to and from the smartphone, as opposed to direct onward internet access), then I can see devices like these becoming more common, and integration between different gadgets really taking off.

Having said that, with only iOS and Android support in both ranges of devices at launch, it is starting to look like other OSes (Windows Phone, BlackBerry 10 etc.) could potentially lose even more market share once people start buying other connected devices for use whilst out and about and need their smartphone to support those peripheral devices.


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ViewRanger updates Android app

Friday, January 28th, 2011

ViewRanger, who produce a very feature rich mapping application (which can use multiple map sources, such as OpenStreetMap and more importantly, 1:25000 and 1:50000 OS maps) has updated their Android application. Currently the new version (v1.4.1) is in beta, but available direct from ViewRanger here. Although originally a Symbian app, ViewRanger have expanded to cover the Apple iPhone as well as many Android devices, although some features are yet to arrive on these platforms.

The new features include:

  • Support for selected Android tablets
  • Local and online searches
  • UI improvements

The full feature list is here.  If you are somewhere who spends time in the countryside and don’t currently have a device such as a Garmin GPS or the SatMap Active 10, then you should look at ViewRanger for your smartphone.


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Map updates; who is cheaper?

Monday, November 22nd, 2010

Garmin announced this week they are reducing the price of their map updates, and in the same week, TomTom announced that their latest map updates had been released, so who is actually cheaper; TomTom or Garmin?

Of course, the two companies charge differently, which makes it difficult to make a straight comparison, so let’s look at the options:

TomTom:

  • TomTom Map Update Service: £19.80 for 1 year (4 quarterly updates)

Garmin:

  • Garmin nuMaps Onetime: costs up to £49.99 (but covers the whole of Europe)
  • Garmin nuMaps Lifetime: £74.99 for the lifetime of the SatNav (under your ownership)

So, although TomTom appears to be cheaper, if you were to own the same SatNav unit for more than 4 years, then the Garmin lifetime option seems cheaper (and offers better value within 2 years compared to buying individually).  The key thing is that both companies offer services that allow you to keep your SatNav up to date with quarterly updates, covering the new roads as they release them into their maps.

Of course, let’s not discount other options; Nokia provide free map updates (although I never feel they are quarterly) for their Ovi Maps, which is free for many phones.  Of course, other mobile phones have SatNav options too, although it’s more difficult to confirm the price of map updates for them.

Prices are based on viewing both companies websites (and marketing material), and although we believe these prices are accurate, they may not apply to your SatNav, or may change over time.  Also, the TomTom prices do not appear to apply to all devices, and especially not their mobile phone / PDA products.


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Garmin launch golfing GPS watch

Thursday, October 28th, 2010

Although Garmin have already launched their first golf gps unit (the Garmin Approach G5), they recently added another unit, the Garmin Approach G3, and have now added a third golfing device, but this time it’s a watch! The Garmin Approach S1 offers a great range of features, especially if you don’t want the hassle of carrying around an additional device like the G3 or the G5.  It works out where you are on the course using its inbuilt GPS receiver and displays precise distances to the front, back and middle of greens ensuring you keep to time, on track and on par. It also comes preloaded with nearly 5000 European golf courses across Austria, Denmark, France, Germany, Republic of Ireland, Italy, Portugal, Spain, Switzerland and the UK.

“Rugged and waterproof, Approach S1 weighs only 1.8 ounces, has an ultra-thin backlit display, and a rechargeable lithium-ion battery that lasts up to eight hours in GPS mode and up to three weeks in watch mode – making it perfect for the boardroom, the bunkers and all points in between. In addition to the wide range of preloaded courses, Approach S1 features an easy-to-set alarm and automatic time and time zone detection, making it the perfect companion for travellers.

Once in golf mode, Approach S1 quickly acquires satellites and displays a list of nearby courses. Once a course is selected, three distances to each hole will always be provided – front, middle and back of the green – with those details being updated automatically and adjusted depending on the angle of approach. During the course of play, Approach S1 displays the hole number and par, and it automatically transitions from one hole to the next.

Once golfers begin a round in golf mode, they can easily transition between time of day and distances to green, and they can access the menu to measure the distance of their last shot to improve their game or shore up bragging rights. Acting as a GPS-enabled odometer, Approach S1 helps golfers track the total ground they’ve covered on foot during each round (or even on a walk over lunch) so that they can see the true health benefits of leaving the cart in the clubhouse.

Golfers can go to www.garmin.co.uk/approach to check if their course is among those available for the Approach S1. At www.garmin.co.uk/approach, golfers can also learn more about Garmin’s Approach G5 and Approach G3 touchscreen handhelds that feature preloaded course coverage and detailed vector mapping unlike anything used before on a golf course.”

A very interesting device, which should sell for around £179, although there’s no word on availability, I’m hearing rumours it’ll be on sale in time for Christmas.


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Garmin expand their Forerunner range

Tuesday, October 5th, 2010

Garmin have released two additional Forerunner devices, the Garmin Forerunner 410 and the Garmin Forerunner 210.  These double the range (currently the Garmin Forerunner 110 and the Garmin Forerunner 310XT).

The Garmin Forerunner 410 takes the best parts of the previous Garmin Forerunner 405 and improves the design.  “In addition to the enhanced touch bezel that lets runners quickly scroll and select features on the run – in all types of weather – Forerunner 410 alerts runners before transitioning into power-save mode and allows users to manually shut down the power in preparation for long breaks in training. The new touch bezel provides unmatched reliability in sweaty, rainy conditions, and it processes information even faster than before. When your workout’s done, Forerunner 410 keeps working by wirelessly uploading data to the Garmin Connect™ online training community when in range of your computer. It works via ANT+™ wireless technology and the USB stick that comes with your watch. No wires, no manual uploads, no sweat.

Forerunner 410 lets you customize up to three training pages with more than 30 different types of data. You can even determine how many data fields are shown on each screen — whether you see one big field, two or three smaller fields. To get the most information during a run, you can set up your training pages to display and automatically scroll through the data you want, then lock the bezel before you take off. And when you set up advanced workouts on Forerunner 410, your running watch becomes your running coach by displaying detailed training plans and workouts while you’re on the run.”

The Garmin Forerunner 210 is a more budget device, but don’t let that deceive you.  “As easy to use as the popular Forerunner 110, Garmin’s new Forerunner 210 is ideal for runners who simply want to step outside, acquire satellites and start their workout. Forerunner 210 provides real-time data such as pace, distance and time by using a high-sensitivity GPS receiver with Garmin’s HotFix® technology to quickly acquire and sustain satellite reception. For runners who want more training capabilities, Forerunner 210 lets you create customized interval sessions and see your pace for each interval. You can also set up heart rate alerts to notify you when you are above or below your targets. If you’re using the 210 with Garmin’s featherweight foot pod (perfect for running indoors or out), you will later be able to see your running cadence, or steps per minute, when you upload your data to Garmin Connect. Available in a stylish glossy black-on-black design, Forerunner 210 looks fashionable on the run, in the office or out on the town.

Lasting up to 8 hours in GPS/training mode and up to three weeks in power-save mode, Forerunner 210 can be an everyday watch even on an off day of training. Users can save time by charging the battery and uploading workout data to Garmin Connect at the same time through an easy-to-use USB connection, which also is used to upload free software updates quickly from www.garmin.com.”

Both devices feature Garmin heart rate monitor allowing you access to lots of information over your training program.  Prices aren’t yet available, although I would expect the Garmin Forerunner 210 to be over £200, and the Garmin Forerunner 410 to be well over £300 (possibly £350).  The Garmin Forerunner 410 should be available pretty quickly, but the Garmin Forerunner 210 may not be available until Q4 2010.


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Free Garmin UK maps updated

Tuesday, August 10th, 2010

Although it’s been a while in coming, Mapomatic have updated their free UK OpenStreetmap based Garmin IMG files for use on Garmin GPS units.  Although they are still having some trouble with producing the canal map and cycle map versions, they have released an updated (July 2010) main map of the UK for general use (or for use in adding vital extra detail when you are out geocaching).  Importantly, with this release, they’ve also created a version with routing information (although that does make for a large download). I’ve been running Mapomatic files on my Garmin GPS for some while (since they started), and am grateful for the detail it gives; it seems a lot of the early OpenStreetMap footpaths were actually added by geocachers, so whilst last year you would often find the obvious footpath to a geocache on the map (and often stopping at the cache, as they turned round and went back the same way), this year a lot more footpaths (and roads in general) have been added; it’s still not complete (OpenStreetMap that is, the source of Mapomatic‘s data), but it’s a lot better than it was.

If you are interested in loading up UK OpenStreetMap files onto your Garmin then head over to Mapomatic to download the files, especially if you haven’t yet gone on holiday this year, and want to improve your GPS maps.


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