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.


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.


TomTom make Live HD Traffic data available on desktop

Monday, March 21st, 2011

TomTom are now providing access to their HD Traffic data via a browser, allowing users access to the data without being in the car, and allows potential new customers to see how effective their data is before becoming a customer.  The data is available here, although you’ll need to select your country, and then zoom in to see how accurate it is.  Certainly local to me something seem very accurate, with local rush hour hotspots being picked out (presumably via their link with Vodafone allowing them access to anonymised mobile speed records), although some things (like a 3 month road closure for roadworks) don’t appear.

In the face of stiff competition from the likes of Nokia’s Ovi Maps and Google Maps for Mobile, it’s nice to see TomTom trying new options to support and encourage users.


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


  • 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.


TomTom to provide lifetime traffic and map updates?

Friday, January 8th, 2010

TomTom Logo

A couple of short articles (from GPSReview.net here and here, who are reporting from CES), have stated that TomTom maybe bringing lifetime map and traffic updates to devices later this year.

In terms of map updates, it appears that some new devices launched in 2010 will feature lifetime map updates, although it’s not yet clear whether there are any real limits; it’s likely to be tied to the device, but even so, TomTom may limit the updates to a set number of years.  TomTom generally release quarterly updates, and have in the past offered an £80 offer for 2 years of updates, so although a great saving, it will still be helpful, and it will be interesting to see how the other manufacturers respond.  With Nokia and Google already providing free updates for their mobile offerings, it certainly looks like the cost of mapping data is getting cheaper…

For the traffic updates, things are less clear right now; TomTom have talked about a new traffic receiver with lifetime traffic.  It appears this maybe an RDS-TMC based receiver, and of course, this may be a US only offer.

Either way, it’s nice to see manufacturers like TomTom react positively to the likes of Nokia and Google, and to continue to try to differentiate their products with services that will make people continue to buy their solutions…

More information when we have it, and when we can confirm how this will affect new TomTom units and accessories sold in the UK.


Travelling abroad iPhone SatNav test

Thursday, December 3rd, 2009

TomTom iPhone app and car kit

When Mike Barrett (from Pocket GPS World) went to Florida recently, he took with him an iPhone loaded with a variety of SatNav applications.  He also took a TomTom with him, but wanted to see if he could survive without needing to resort to using it.  Did he succeed? Read his article here.


Garmin bring social networking to their SatNav range

Wednesday, September 9th, 2009

Garmin Nuvi 1690

This is the new Garmin nuvi 1690, which launched a few weeks back in the US, but has now been launched in the UK as well.  The important part of this device is the use of a built in mobile phone connection, allowing it to have a whole range of “connected” services, like those of the TomTom LIVE range.

Garmin are providing the following services over that connection:

  • Instant Traffic information
  • Speed Camera alerts (continually updated apparently)
  • Fuel prices
  • Ciao! Friend Finder (Garmin’s Social Networking application which also features on the nuviphone range)
  • Google Local Search and Telephone Directory
  • Flight Status
  • Weather Forecast
  • Currency Exchange
  • White Pages

There are also two other useful services in the range; Send To GPS allows you to “send” your route direct to your GPS, although we believe this will involve a direct connection between your PC and the SatNav unit.  The other is Panoramio, which will allow you to plan ahead and “conveniently go online to set your sat nav’s destination”.  Little detail exists about this function right now, and even on a UK specific page it mentions this service may not be available everywhere.

Garmin nuLink Traffic

As a device it features a whole raft of standard features; Bluetooth (for Hands Free phonecalls), Lane assistance, photo navigation, Where Am I?, ecoRoute fuel saving routes, and Park Position Recall.  Also, Garmin will preload the device with Pan European maps, and have stated that the online nuLink services will be available in 15 countries (not all services are available in all countries though), which is better than TomTom managed when they launched their LIVE services, which were limited to the country the device was obtained from.

For example, England (sic), France, Spain and Netherlands all offer all the services mentioned, whereas Italy and Belgium offer all but Fuel Prices, and Germany offers all except Fuel Prices, Safety Cameras and Ciao! location sharing.  Some services (although Garmin do not state which) are also available in Austria, Czech Republic, Denmark, Finland, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Sweden and Switzerland.

In terms of Ciao!, Garmin have stated “Ciao!, is a patentpending social network application that links multiple location-centric social networks onto one application, Ciao! currently aggregates information from GyPSii and uLocate’s Buddy beacon social network services. Ciao! is expandable and additional social network partners are expected in the future.”

The device ships with 12 months nuLink services, and will cost €79 per year to renew (no UK pricing released yet); unfortunately Garmin also failed to provide any indicative pricing for the unit either, but this unit is likely to be the first of many well connected devices from Garmin, and appears to be a good move for Garmin, especially in the run up to Christmas.


More iPhone SatNav updates

Wednesday, August 19th, 2009

TomTom iPhone app and car kit

Two big pieces of iPhone SatNav news have happened this week.  Firstly, the big news is the release of the TomTom iPhone application.  Costing £54.99 for the UK version, or £79.99 for Western Europe mapping, making it the most expensive iPhone SatNav solution, according to the Pocket GPS World iPhone SatNav Comparison page.

This app has features such as IQ Routing, but misses out on any LIVE Services, and no support for custom POIs, preventing the use of third party speed camera databases, such as the excellent one from Pocket GPS World, and there’s no news on the TomTom iPhone mount, except that TomTom have stated that their mount will work with other SatNav apps too.

Secondly, the other news is that Navigon have released an update to their application.  Some after the initial launch, Navigon have added support for multiple destinations, calling numbers included with POIs, and the ability to add them to your contacts.

Some content courtesy of Pocket GPS World.


iPhone SatNav comparison page

Thursday, August 13th, 2009

CoPilot on iPhone

With the launch of so many iPhone based SatNav applications right now, it’s difficult to find a single source which has reviewed them all, and compares the features of each.  Well, Pocket GPS World have done just that, and produced a comparison table showing a whole range of features, and even includes a “Quirks” section.  The only main navigation app missing so far is the TomTom one (which is yet to be released), but there is a placeholder for it.

Not just is there lots of information, it’s UK-centric (including providing the memory requirements for both UK and full European mapping where appropriate).

Head over to their comparison chart for more information.


More SatNav apps ready for the iPhone

Thursday, August 6th, 2009

TomTom iPhone app and car kit

On top of the TomTom SatNav solution we’ve already featured before, ALK have just released their iPhone SatNav to the UK iTunes App Store here.  Their CoPilot app features UK & Ireland data, turn-by-turn directions, a 3D Map display, and full UK postcode support.  It additionally includes ‘LiveLink’ location sharing and messaging, 5-day weather forecast, lane indicator and ‘clearturn’ displays.

It has been released at £25.99; the same price ALK have their Android version in the Android Marketplace, and if you are interested, there is a nice review of it over at PDA-247.

In terms of TomTom, it appears the package will cost around £114 for the software and the mount, and it’s already starting to get listed on some websites for pre-order, so we would expect stock to arrive soon, although possibly not in time for your summer holiday…

It also looks like iGO’s MyWay 2009 should be available soon too!

CoPilot content courtesy of Pocket GPS World.