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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Mobile World Congress roundup

Friday, March 2nd, 2012

It’s been a few days since the end of this year’s Mobile Web Congress, where many (but not all) device manufacturers announce their new products for the next few months. Of course, many are well into planning future products, but right now, there’s been a lot of products announced (ie launched, not yet actually available), and I thought I’d summarise the devices that caught my attention the most…

So, in no particular order…

Nokia PureView 808

This device can’t be ignored. Yes, it’s running Symbian (but the newest version of the OS, which makes it much closer to Android), yes, people still feel Symbian is past it’s best, but this device has a major selling feature; that 41MP camera!  One of the best features is to use all those megapixels not to produce a very hi res photo, but to reduce the resolution of the end picture.  This can either be because it’s a low light situation, and having much bigger groups of pixels collecting the light will make for a better picture. The other reason is to allow for a decent quality digital zoom without any interpolation going on. As the successor to the Nokia N8, I believe this phone will sell well. Nokia have indicated that this is not a one-off device, and we will see future devices with equally high megapixel counts. For some, this may be good enough to actually replace a low to mid range camera too…

New Nokia Lumia devices

On top of the Nokia Lumia 800 and the Nokia Lumia 710 launched last year, we now have the Nokia Lumia 900 and the base model, the Nokia Lumia 610. The Lumia 900 was expected (as the US version was already launched), but I suspect this will be popular as it’s the current top of the range model, with a slightly larger screen than the Lumia 800. Personally, I don’t feel WP7 needs such a large screen, and many people will cope much better with the rest of the range. The Lumia 900 should ship around May time.

The Nokia Lumia 610 is the new base model, and will need the slightly updated Tango version of WP7 to operate. With a slightly lower spec than current WP7 models, there may be the odd application which will need some tweaks between now and June to work fine on this device, but it’s going to allow the networks to sell an even cheaper WP7 device (this could be very popular on PAYG). Microsoft and Nokia’s aim is to get WP devices below £100, which I don’t quite think they’ll manage with the Lumia 610, but given in all other respects it’s got the same capabilities as devices like the Lumia 710, it should sell well.

Nokia Application Updates

Nokia Drive will be updated in the next few weeks to v2. This will add speed camera warnings and full offline searching and routing, functions critical to anyone who travels abroad and wants to minimise data roaming bills by turning off data completely. The current version allows you to download maps for multiple regions, but needs an online connection for routing, re-routing and searching. By allowing the data stored within the maps to be used, this nearly brings Nokia Drive inline with the functionality of the Symbian version. What’s missing? Traffic data and automatic re-routing, although I’ve heard this will be coming in v3, but I have no knowledge of a release date for that version.

Nokia Public Transport will also be released. Back at Nokia World last year, I was very impressed by this application (at that time running on Symbian, but as I reported at the time, it would come to WP7), and the new WP7 version does seem to be well thought out. Two minor issues with it; firstly, it’s an online application (which in the future will allow real time data to be included within the information presented), and currently I understand that although it includes Tubes, Busses, DLR and possibly even Trams, for some reason the various London train lines are still not included. Of course, within Central London, this is not a major problem, and the app in fact looks like it could shine in the suburbs when the train lines break, and only non-train options remain available!

Asus Padfone

Finally, a non-Nokia device; the Asus Padfone was first shown off last year, but is now ready for production. It’s an Android phone (ICS, 4.3″ screen) which can be placed inside a screen dock to create a tablet device. By only using one device it means you can have both a phone and a tablet, but only need one mobile phone contract, and you won’t suffer annoying sync issues between the devices (although Android is good at syncing contacts and calendar, most other apps have no sync capabilities). By placing the phone in the 10.1″ screen dock (Station), you’ll benefit from the battery within the dock to recharge and keep the two devices going for much longer than the phone would last on it’s own. There’s also a keyboard dock (very similar to the Asus Transformer tablet keyboard dock) which has another additional battery which will increase battery life even further.  The keyboard dock also adds a memory card slot and a USB port, which really does give the impression (like the Asus Transformer) that it could replace your laptop.

This is due to be made available in April, although prices are not yet available. I suspect the keyboard dock will be an optional accessory, but I suspect (and hope) most networks will offer the phone with the main Station dock as standard.

Overall, this was a good year for MWC, and I think we’re going to see some very nice devices released and available over the next few months. I’m putting together a separate post on the HTC devices that have been released this week.


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New Ovi Maps v3.08 (Beta)

Tuesday, July 12th, 2011

Keeping with the Maps theme, Nokia have released (through the Nokia Beta Labs programme) another beta update to Ovi Maps.  v3.08 brings a number of new features (over the earlier v3.07 beta):

Drive Enhancements:

  • Live traffic routing takes traffic information into account to avoid traffic jams automatically (available in Germany, France, US, UK and Russia).
  • Turn on “Avoid traffic” in your “Route settings” to take traffic conditions into account while you drive. Always get the best route for right now.
  • New Drive look & feel – home screen now has buttons for “Set destination,” “Drive home” and “Just drive.”
  • “Just drive” or Drive assistance shows your accurate speed, gives speed warnings, the distance driven and real time traffic.
  • New information bar on Drive navigation and Drive assistance screens.
  • Also easily toggle between Estimated Time of Arrival in minutes or distance to your destination – just tap the icon on the screen.
  • New option menus in Drive.
  • Set a contact as a destination.
  • Easily change your settings during Drive navigation. Changes in settings are immediate and can been seen instantly.

Additional improvements

  • Long tap is now available to give quick access to “Drive to,” “Walk to,” “Share” and various lists.
  • Settings reorganized to “General” “Maps & Walk” and “Drive.”

One key point; this is a Symbian^3 only product, so if you are a Symbian S60 5th Edition (aka Symbian^1) user, then you won’t be able to get this update.  We’ve already seen S60 v3 devices limited to v3.04 Ovi Maps, and now S60 v5 device are unlikely to progress beyond v3.06; what’s not so clear is whether and for how long we’ll see map updates for these elder clients.

I believe the latest maps available for v3.04 are from 2010, whereas the maps for v3.06 haven’t been updated since Feb 2011


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Nokia continue Symbian innovation

Tuesday, April 5th, 2011

A lot of people have been writing Nokia (and Symbian) off, but in my opinion they are slowly and surely still providing innovation on the Symbian platform.  As someone who now spends more time using Android, they still have a major problem around 3rd party app and 3rd party website support, but sometimes Nokia announce something that continues to progress; in this case it’s the Nokia Sleeping Screen. As with all innovation, it’s currently in beta with Nokia Beta Labs, but the Nokia Sleeping Screen allows you to see missed calls, unread text messages, and reminders presented in a clear way on the standby screen.  Better than that, Nokia have designed it to take advantage of the latest OLED screen such that it has as minimal effect on battery life as is possible.  As well as being kind on the battery, it has a Night Clock setting to dim the screen overnight, and if it notices the screen is covered (in a bag, case or pocket) it will turn off the screen completely.

It’ll only work on Symbian^3 phones, and needs either Qt v4.6.4 or v4.7.2, which is another area of concern to me in the short term; different Qt apps need different versions of Qt, and I’ve even seen one Qt app that after uninstallation managed to knock out a system application pre-installed on the phone by impacting the Qt subsystem.  Nokia need to settle Qt down, produce firmware updates for all devices to pre-install that version, and prevent the need for individual apps to be burdened with the Qt installation problems of late.

However, overall, the Nokia Sleeping Screen definitely seems to be a worthwhile new application; just like Qt, I would like to see current beta apps Nokia Situations and Nokia Sleeping Screen included as standard on updated firmwares; when that happens, it will really show Symbian is back on form.

As for my use of Symbian, there are still a few apps which draw me back to Symbian on a regular basis; Gravity, Ovi Maps (with the offline maps, decent traffic, support for walking modes, built in 3rd party mapping related information such as TripAdvisor and Qype); ViewRanger would be the other app, but as I also have iOS and Android versions of the app available to me, I simply run ViewRanger on every device I can!  I have to say going back to Symbian reminds me how limited the homescreen customisation is; with different sized widgets instead of just being able to select what each row represents (on Symbian), I hope the major UI refresh coming to Symbian in the Summer works on the homescreen, and I’ve heard it adds multi-sized widget support, so it may well bring Symbian back to the fore.

Oh, and if you’ve got a Symbian^3 phone, v2.5.1 of the Nokia Situations beta was released a week or so back and brought a whole range of greater options to the conditions used to select different profiles.  Equally, v1.3 of Nokia’s Social App was recently released too, though in my opinion, you’re better sticking to Gravity.


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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.


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Nokia release Ovi Maps 3.06 updated beta

Monday, December 6th, 2010

Another update to the v3.06 Ovi Maps beta has been released by Nokia Beta Labs, and although it features a few new features, the key one must be that it’s now (finally) possible to download whole countries directly on your phone (although you’ll need a Wi-Fi connection).  However, this isn’t perfect, when I tried it, it kept given a “Map download failed” error after about 187Mb through the 216Mb UK download, which resulted in me having to use the PC after all.  When you first install the v3.06 beta, it will wipe your existing maps, as it needs a v3.06+ specific map data downloaded.  Once you have done this one though, subsequent betas (and hopefully the final released version) will be able to use the maps already downloaded.

Having the facility to download directly on the phone, plus having a “check for map updates” option on the phone itself is very useful, and a good move (and something a lot of people have been asking Nokia for).

The other features of this beta include:

  • New! Download street maps directly to your device! A new feature called “Update” on the main menu which allows you download Street Maps directly (via WiFi) to your phone without a PC! Please note that phones without WiFi (e.g. Nokia 5230) will not work.
  • New! My Position and Search are now integrated (now called Map). When accessed, it will show your last map view
  • New! Back button in Favourites
  • New! Long tap functionality to delete & rename collections & routes
  • New! Pop up for first time use – to inform user to download new map data (when upgrading 3.04 > 3.06 for the first time)
  • New! Improved behaviours of transit lines settings in map toolbox (no more grey out)
  • New! Compass calibration hint
  • New! Refreshed place details information view
  • Pinch to zoom interaction (Only available on Symbian^3 devices)
  • Visually refreshed main menu and icons,
  • New maps with public transport lines (as a new map layer) for subways, trams and trains in 80+ cities around the world. Just click the map toolbox icon and select Transit lines,
  • Improved search experience – find places and addresses around you – or anywhere in the world – fast and easily. Browse places or enter a keyword in the search box. Now with suggestions and “did you mean?” functionality,
  • New place pages with description, reviews, pictures and places nearby. Interact with places in a whole new way – you can check in, contact, navigate, save, rate, share, report or see place on the map,
  • Share a place – send a place to your friends via SMS or Email. The SMS contains the address and a link to the place page with description, ratings, contact, URL and a mini map. The link opens up on the mobile browser (also on non-Nokia devices),
  • Check in – keep your friends up-to-date with where you are and what you’re up to. Check in to places and share it with your friends on Facebook and many more social networks. See places you’ve been to in your check in history,
  • New Drive assistance mode with live traffic flow – after clicking Drive, you’re instantly in drive assistance mode with live traffic flow and more. Once you start moving, get safety camera alerts and speed limit warnings,
  • More folder with many rich content services relevant to your location. Personalise your Ovi Maps by selecting the services you’d like to keep on your main menu for instant access.
  • Traffic flow: In Drive mode, a number of improvements to the traffic flow colour scheme and layout.

(The items marked New! are new in this update; the others were available in earlier v3.06 beta versions)

I like the new facilities, and the way the menus are being rearranged, and this bodes well for the final release.  One word of warning; one of the known issues is that occasionally it will keep the GPS subsystem open (with the eventual battery drain); when I’ve seen this, I’ve found starting Ovi Maps back up and shutting it down again seems to have fixed, but it’s something to watch out for.  I also really like hitting the Drive option and being able to see my location on the map with traffic updates immediately available even without a destination set; this is another key feature for me, as I often want to use my phone’s SatNav simply for traffic without a route calculated.

Although the Share (location) option now supports a whole range of social networking sites, I would still love to see sites such as BrightKite and FourSquare integrated directly into the interface, but hopefully that will come in time.


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Looking for an Android UK Traffic App?

Thursday, June 17th, 2010

This application (“UK Traffic Checker”) is now available in the Android Market for free. It’s been developed by Dale Lane, who has produced small programs which we’ve covered before, and this one is no exception.  It’s main job is to not just provide you with access to UK road traffic data, but it also allows you to enter details of a regularly performed journey (such as the daily commute to work), and you can then schedule the program to update, so you can see an accurate traffic picture before you set off sitting there ready for you.

This is a nice little application, and worthy of a look at.  Although other application provide traffic data (if only the well used Google Maps), the ability to have the data ready for immediate access seems worth it to me.  If you want to try the application, either search for “UK Traffic Checker” or “Dale Lane” in the Android Market.

Photo courtesy of Dale Lane on Flickr.


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Google now offering Navigation in the UK

Wednesday, April 21st, 2010

For many Android users, they are finding out today that Google have enabled Navigation within their Google Maps application on Android.  This adds:

  • Business search
  • Traffic alerts and auto re-routing around problem areas
  • Satellite and ‘Streetview’ views whilst navigating
  • Layers with ‘points of interest’
  • Voice activation
  • Low data use:  typically 200KB for a 20km route. Data is pre-cached and navigation continues if internet access is lost.

That last point is very interesting; one of my major issues with Google Maps (and why I often promote other solutions such as the free Ovi Maps on Symbian instead) is the need for a constant data connection, which simply isn’t always possible in the UK.  Now, it seems, Google agree, and can support navigation (at least) continuing without that data.  Of course, what would be even more interesting is if they offered these same facilities on Symbian and took on Ovi Maps directly.

As can be seen from the screenshot above, the software offers multiple choices when initially calculating the route, and clearly shows the traffic on each route (if available) with colour coding; this is a nice touch.

One downside though; this needs Android 1.6 or above, which rules out many devices, including the hugely popular HTC Hero, still stuck on Android 1.5 (it seems it’s not just Symbian phone that suffer firmware delays).  We’re hearing that this update will be available for the HTC Hero, but we’re hearing different dates; HTC have hinted at a firmware release within the month, whereas Google seemed to state this new navigation wouldn’t be available for the HTC Hero until June.  Equally, we’ve heard that the HTC Magic will not receive any OS updates at all, leaving them to potentially never have access to this new version.

Some content, including the new features courtesy of The Really Mobile Project, and the screenshot is courtesy of David Carrington on Flickr.


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