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.


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Google updates Maps on Android too

Wednesday, December 9th, 2009

GMaps Android What's nearby

Last week we covered the news of the new v3.3 for Symbian and Windows Mobile, and today Google has launched v3.3 for Android as well.  However, it’s not quite got the same feature set, with some additional features, and some missing features too.

Firstly, they now have the “What’s Nearby” feature, which lists nearby businesses, and can often provide useful information on cafes and restaurants nearby.  To access this, just long press on the map and tap on the bubble, and look for “What’s nearby?” in the menu.

Secondly, they have added a range of Labs features (in essence, Beta features that you may want to use to make the program a little better); these include:

  • A scale bar on the map
  • Showing a terrain layer which adds a level of height and the ability to see a shaded relief map
  • Search for popular categories
  • Turn the blue dot into a compass to show which way you are facing when stationary
  • Added Layers support to be able to see Traffic, Satellite mapping, Latitude users, and Transit lines (eg the London Underground)

There’s also a “Report errors in the map”, but that’s definitely US-only, so won’t be available in the UK.  It’s worth noting there is no mention of the star / favourites syncing that comes with the v3.3 on Symbian and Windows Mobile.  It’s not clear whether any other of the Labs features are US-only, but it’s nice to see Google still managing to innovate and provide new features into the products, even if it’s not consistent across their full platform range.


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O2 and PURE announce Internet Radio collaboration

Monday, November 16th, 2009

O2 Joggler

O2 have today announced a collaboration between themselves and PURE Digital, bringing PURE’s The Lounge Internet Radio streams to the O2 Joggler, and at the same time, reduced the price down to £99.99.  The O2 Joggler, if you remember, is a proprietary device offering access to a limited set of applications providing access to certain facilities (Weather, Road Traffic, News, Sports, local photo display, and messaging).  In fact, back in the March launch, O2 talked about Messaging and Internet Radio following in May, although only the Messaging support got added (and in June); so finally, they have added the Internet Radio support originally promised!

By working with PURE Digital, they are providing a “selection of the most popular UK BBC and commercial radio stations” (around 100 stations in total) out of the 12,000 or so available via PURE directly, although there’s no word as to whether the O2 Joggler also supports the listen again facilities of The Lounge.

O2 have also announced that the device will be upgraded from Flash 8 to Flash 10, and have announced an SDK will shortly be available to allow developers to create 3rd party application for this device, which will then be accessible to users via a dedicated App Store, which should be available before the end of the year (although based on pretty much all the timeframes so far being missed with this device, don’t hold your breath!)

Initially, the O2 Joggler App Store will only support free applications, which is probably a good move; and any developers interested in developing for this device should look at some of the UK specific widgets developed for the Chumby platform to understand what might work for the UK.  As a hint, Flickr photo display, Live UK train departure / arrival information, and BBC support would all help the device, not to mention apps such as instant messaging and Social Networking support, plus last.fm and/or Spotify support would help make this device sell better, and compete against the PURE Sensia and it’s own application support.

Of course, whether O2 would authorise all those applications is another story, but as the device does not use their 3G network (only the local broadband connection), there is little reason to limit the device, and support like this could in time make it a firm favourite with O2 customers…


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iPhone updates

Thursday, September 24th, 2009

iPhone 3GS

Since the release of the new OS, v3.1, a number of applications have had some “issues”.  Well, some of them are now fixed, so we thought we’d lay out some of the updates that application vendors have informed us of…

Skype have released v1.2, which has the following new features:

  • You can set up call forwarding from your iPhone – forward Skype calls to a phone number when you’re not signed in, so you can pick up calls even when the Skype app isn’t running on your device
  • Improved performance and better audio quality when making Skype-to-Skype calls
  • It’s even easier to send text messages (SMS) – you can now send SMSs from the Call tab

Devicescape have confirmed, that after their earlier problems, their Easy Wi-Fi client is now fully functional again, and have stated:

  • First of all, Apple’s special support only applies to the original Easy Wi-Fi multi-network application (the one with the white icon).  If you’re using any of the other Easy Wi-Fi apps, like the AT&T or T-Mobile version, you’ll need to install the original version too.  It’s free in the AppStore.  You don’t need to use it: just the act of installing it has the effect of telling the iPhone OS not to do “smart” stuff with your Wi-Fi connection in hotspots.
  • Previously, we recommended installing Boingo because we knew it had the same effect.  You don’t need Boingo anymore (unless of course you’re a user, and maybe you should think about becoming a user, it’s a great service!)
  • Finally, if you’re one of the many iPod touch users who never upgraded from 2.x firmware, ignore all of this.  You’re fine.  The issue only occurs with iPhone OS 3.0, and if you upgrade you’ll be jumping past that version from now on.

Navigon have updated their Navigation application too (although not specificially for the new OS).   As well as recently adding text-to-speech and iPod controls, they have now launched lifetime traffic (it needs a one time fee to activate).

TruPhone have addressed their problems with the latest OS, and they have confirmed that v3.0.3 of their iPhone client now works fully with the new OS.


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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.


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Free Internet from Vodafone

Thursday, August 27th, 2009

Vodafone square logo

Vodafone is supporting their customers by providing free internet mobile browsing tomorrow (Friday).  If you need to check the traffic conditions (Google Maps provides free traffic on many of the UK primary routes), check your reservations for the weekend away, check the weather, or just access your favourite mobile website, then there will no charges for your mobile on Friday (from 0:00am until 11:59pm Friday 28th August 2009).

We should point out that this is a mobile only offer, and most likely does not apply to Mobile Broadband connections.


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Nokia release final Ovi Maps beta

Friday, June 12th, 2009

Nokia Maps 3.0 with Ovi

Nokia have released what they are claiming should be the final beta version of the new Nokia Maps v3, AKA Maps 3.0 with Ovi Maps.  This new release has a number of new features, including:

  • Additional features such as weather information, safety spot warners in selected countries, extended country coverage for traffic info service and premium POI (Point of Interest) content for travel, selected events and cinema
  • New maps data version
  • Quicker zooming & panning
  • New “Shop & Licenses” format
  • Also, a number of fixes and enhancements onto both Maps Updater and Map Loader have also been implemented – with Maps Updater supporting 21 different languages
  • Last but not least, many bugs have been fixed!

This new version is also compatible with Symbian S60 5th Edition devices, so the list now includes:

S60 3rd Edition Feature Pack 1 (E63, E66, E71, E90 Communicator, N81, N81 8GB, N82, N95, N95 8GB)
S60 3rd Edition Feature Pack 2 (E55, E75, N78, N79, N85, N86 8MP, N96, 5320 XpressMusic, 5630 XpressMusic, 5730 XpressMusic, 6210 Navigator, 6220 Classic, 6650, 6710 Navigator, 6720 Classic)
S60 5th Edition (5800 XpressMusic & N97)

To use this, you’ll need to head off to Nokia Beta Labs and download and install the new Map Updater and Map Loader.  If you use SpeedCam on your Nokia to get alerts for speed cameras, the author tells us it should still be compatible with this version (on S60 3rd Edition FP1 and FP2 only; he is still looking into S60 5th Edition support).

Update: If you are a Mac user, then N97Geeks have managed to work out the Map Updater simply downloads a .SIS file and sends it to your phone, and they have intercepted this process and released the .SIS file for Mac users to download and directly send to their Symbian phones.


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VW and Garmin working together too

Tuesday, May 26th, 2009

VW Nuvi Mount

We’ve covered a number of car manufacturers working with Garmin and TomTom to provide custom mounts, and now Volkswagen have announced plans to provide a VW-specific Garmin Nuvi 7×5 mount.  The Volkswagen “Click&Ride” solution is custom made and “tailored for all models” and will provide power to the Nuvi.  It will also integrate into the car’s audio system so that all information is broadcast through the stereo.

The “Click&Ride” solution includes the Nuvi itself, and features all the normal functions you would expect of a Garmin Nuvi model; lane assist, traffic information warning of roadworks and accidents, and will sit in the bottom left hand corner (LHD) or bottom right hand corner (RHD).

This looks a nice solution for those looking for a more integrated feel, but still want the power and flexibility of a portable SatNav unit.


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TomTom broaden LIVE services, and alienate existing users

Wednesday, May 20th, 2009

TomTom XL LIVE

Pocket GPS World bring us news of the new TomTom XL LIVE, which brings the LIVE services (which we’ve covered before here and here) to the cheaper range of devices (previously, LIVE was only available on the expensive x40 range).  The TomTom XL LIVE will retail for £249.99 and the LIVE services will be £7.99 after the initial 3 month free trial.  Compare that to the TomTom 740 LIVE at £322, and you can see this may well be a very popular model.  It comes with mapping for 42 countries.

However, we understand that only 30% of existing LIVE users have chosen to renew their subscription, and do you know what; we think we know why (and so does TomTom).  You see, even if you bought the top of the range TomTom 940 LIVE, giving you full European (and North America) mapping, your LIVE services would only work in the UK, despite TomTom offering traffic across a number of popular destinations across Europe (France, Germany Switzerland and Holland).  So, as soon as you went abroad, even for a trip to France, you had absolutely no traffic information at all.

Well, TomTom have finally accepted this, and have resolved it!  To begin with, the TomTom XL LIVE will include roaming support and allow you to use the online services across Europe (where available).  However, it will take TomTom until “towards the end of 2009” to enable this functionality for existing users.

Although it’s good to here TomTom have finally realised the benefit of providing their LIVE services in all possible countries, it’s a shame it’s going to take until after the summer holidays for people to be able to benefit from this.


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Highways Agency improve mobile site access

Tuesday, April 21st, 2009

Highways Agency

The Highways Agency, who maintain many of the UK’s motorway and trunk roads, have improved their services with a mobile web site to provide a better experience.  The features available include:

  • Current Traffic Incidents – This lists the latest unplanned incidents on our network 24 hours a day, seven days a week. You can select incidents by region or road.
  • Planned Roadworks & Events – All of our current and future road maintenance and improvement schemes are listed and can be searched by region or road.
  • Traffic Radio – If your phone is compatible, you can stream our latest radio service by Mp3, with dedicated regional feeds.
  • Weather Watch – The Met Office provides Weather reports during the Autumn and Winter periods when adverse weather conditions affect road journeys across our road network.
  • News Headlines – Our latest headlines and top stories updated throughout the day.
  • About the HA – There are also details about the work we do, the roads we manage, our current vacancies and details of how to contact us.

These facilities are avilable by going to http://www.highways.gov.uk/mobile/ from your phone (or other device); it even works from most PCs, offering a nice low-bandwidth solution for use on Mobile Broadband.

Most of the traffic data is shared between the Highways Agency and iTIS Holdings, so another way of accessing the traffic is via the iTIS mobile application which we covered here.


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