Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Apple, Google Just Killed Portable GPS Devices

Apple, Google Just Killed Portable GPS Devices:

Image: Apple
If it wasn’t obvious before, it’s crystal clear today. The dedicated portable GPS device is dead, with Apple and Google playing pallbearer to Garmin, Magellan and TomTom’s hardware businesses.
Between last week’s hastily organized Google Maps event, where the search giant showed off a new interface, new features and — most importantly for Android users – offline map downloading, and Apple’s new Maps app announcement at WWDC, a dedicated device for mapping and navigation comes across as superfluous. Or even worse, incredibly low-tech.
Smartphone adoption continues unabated, and with it, built-in, carrier-installed and third-party mapping apps are flourishing.
Apple’s latest move with iOS 6 is a swift blow to portable GPS devices, third-party apps available in the App Store and automaker installed navigation systems – not to mention its tenuous relationship with Google.
The feature list of Maps covers nearly every must-have for iPhone users on the go, and according to Scott Forstall, Apple’s senior vice president of iOS, it’s a “new mapping solution built from the ground up.”
Soon after Apple’s Maps announcement, Garmin — one of the world’s largest GPS device providers — watched its stock drop nearly 10 percent for the day.
“We’ve been competing successfully with free navigation on Android phones, and through third party apps also on the iPhone, for a couple of years now,” Garmin told Wired in a statement. “We think that there is a market for smartphone navigation apps, PNDs [Personal Navigation Devices] and in-dash navigation systems as each of these solutions has their own advantages and use case limitations and ultimately it’s up to the consumer to decide what they prefer.”
While it’s true that Garmin and other PND manufacturers have years of experience in the navigation space, their marketshare is quickly eroding, with sales down 9 percent two years ago according to market research firm NPD, and figures expected to decline even further in 2012.
And the latest smartphones also pose a major problem for automakers.

Image: Garmin
With vehicle development cycles so far removed from the rapid pace of the consumer electronics industry, it’s getting more and more difficult for automakers to compete using their own built-in systems.
BMW and Ford have taken to integrating apps like Yelp and Pandora into their factory-installed navigation systems, but there are still some question about the efficacy of such costly vehicle upgrades when a smartphone, purchased on contract at a subsidized rate, can do more than a system costing 10 times as much.
A spokesman for BMW tells Wired that, “Both from a usability and aesthetic standpoint, a built-in system can be more desirable,” but admits that the rapid rate at which smartphones evolve can quickly outstrip OEM-supplied features.
While this is less of an issue for luxury vehicles from Audi, BMW and Mercedes-Benz — where consumers expect a high-end infotainment experience that’s artfully integrated into the dashboard — for more mass-market automakers selling built-in navigation systems for hundreds or thousands of dollars, it makes ticking the box on the vehicle options list even harder to justify.
Still, the smaller screen sizes of most smartphones means they’re not exactly optimal for in-car use. Even with dedicated car modes, the user interface and small touchpoints that normally work well while walking aren’t particularly perfect — or can simply be unsafe — while driving.

Image: Google
With Maps for iOS 6 — just like the Google Navigator that came before it — the new app leverages the data connection on the device, something dedicated GPS units aren’t always equipped with (RIP Dash). Apple listed off a range of features, including local point-of-interest search; Yelp integration with reviews and photos; over 100 million business listings; and traffic data all baked in.
“We’re using anonymous, crowd-sourced, real-time traffic data from our iOS users,” Forstall said during the keynote, noting that traffic incidents will be directly overlaid on roads and highways. However, Apple doesn’t indicate which swathes of tarmac will be included in the traffic data and how it will source specific accident information.
More importantly, this all-new Maps app includes something Android users have enjoyed for years: integrated turn-by-turn navigation.
Users input an address or POI, chose between a few route options, including a “quick route” selection, and are provided with voice-guided directions, complete with highlighted routes and turn indicators. Automatic traffic rerouting is also included, and Maps allows the guidance to be displayed on the lock screen, giving users one less reason to fiddle with their phone while behind the wheel.
Naturally, Siri integration is a major part of Maps, with natural voice commands (“Take me to Starbucks” or “Navigate to 123 Main Street, San Francisco CA”) available along the route, aping the latest systems from General Motors, Mercedes-Benz, BMW and Ford. And with photo integration, 3-D vector-based graphics, multi-touch control and Apple’s own hyper detailed satellite imagery, it’s hard for any iOS user to justify keeping a chunky piece of perpetually outdated hardware suction-cupped to the windshield.

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