Is TomTom Toast?

By  |  Thursday, October 29, 2009 at 11:30 am

Tom Tom GPSAmong the bevy of interesting things about Verizon’s Droid smartphone is Android 2.0’s new version of Google Maps, which includes full-blown turn-by-turn GPS navigation with spoken instructions–for free. Judging from the couple of trips around San Francisco it’s guided me on so far, it would be pretty darn appealing even if it wasn’t a freebie–the directions worked, it speaks the names of streets in a crisper voice than AT&T Navigator sports on the iPhone, and I like the way it switches to a Street View photo once you’ve arrived at your destination.

Google says it’s working on bringing the new version of Maps to other devices. If it does, for-pay navigation applications will have to be radically better to compete, which is bad news indeed for all the companies charging for smartphone navigation apps–and probably even worse news for those who sell stand-alone handheld navigation devices. People are already spreading doom and gloom about the future of navigation stalwarts such as TomTom and Garmin.

There’s at least one form of dedicated navigation hardware that I hope doesn’t vanish: built-in car systems, which have nice big screens and, in some cases, user interfaces better designed for on-the-go use. And pilots, sailors, and other specialists will still want their customized GPS devices. But if we all get navigation that’s 90 percent as good as the best stuff out there for 0 percent of the price, it’s hard to see how many folks will justify paying for another gadget–especially one that may carry a monthly service charge.

Your take on the fate of GPS hardware, please:


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7 Comments For This Post

  1. Drift Says:

    I’m not so eager to drop my trusty TomTom One for a turn-by-turn application running on a phone.

    First reason: the One is a dedicated device whose functionality is still unparalleled in power and flexibility, e.g. I can plan any detour following unforeseen events like traffic jams (and TT maps are smart at choosing another “best route” thanks to built-in, updated traffic data based on well known hourly traffic patterns) and fuel refills (“please TT drive me through the nearest service station of brand X”), not to mention the huge amount of custom, regularly updated POIs like speed cameras and average speed traps (these alone are a key feature in Italy and other EU countries).

    Second reason: wherever I may roam, my TomTom always has the complete map for my region of choice and doesn’t need any data link. This makes a huge difference as flatrate data plans are too expensive in EU and “Google Drive” will almost certainly need to pull down data chunks during navigation, which are boosting my phone bill.

  2. KevinF Says:

    Even setting aside the obvious fact that of the 200 million drivers in this country, very few will be owning an Android phone anytime soon, PND’s still have a future.

    If PND’s cost $1,000 they might be toast, but considering they can be had for $100, no doubt less in the future, they’ll still sell. People have no trouble spending that relatively small amount of money for an added convenience — just as many of us have multiple iPod models for slightly differences use cases and multiple pairs of shoes for different situations — and PNDs do have certain advantages. I for one had a dismal experience attempting to use my phone for serious car navigation, and since the problems had to do mainly with the network and battery, the Google app does nothing to improve that. Hence I had no hesitation buying a Garmin even though I supposedly had phone nav available.

    Nevermind also what happens when you get a text or call on your GPS phone at a critical moment of navigating on the roads, and suddenly lose your navigation.

    That said, Garmin and TT need to improve their software and user interfaces — that’s where they can really hose themselves. They need to bump up screen size too — a PND could really push the envelope, PNDs want to have as big a screen as is reasonable, while phones are not going to get any bigger anytime soon.

  3. l.m.orchard Says:

    It seems rarely mentioned, but FWIW: The Palm Pre on Sprint comes with free turn-by-turn GPS nav, too. I use it and Pandora (at the same time!) constantly in the car with a vent mount.

  4. Michael Warkentin Says:

    KevinF: Google is also working on this for the iPhone(and iPod) version of maps, which does have a pretty large install base.

  5. Tech Says:

    All navigation systems are toast.

  6. cf4blog Says:

    I still think there will always be a place for a sturdy, stand-alone navigation system that is permanently mounted safely in your car. It’s peace of mind knowing that you don’t have to share your gps with your cell phone. Think about it: People continue to use their calculators, watches and alarm clocks even though their phones can perform these functions. The good new is that the Droid will bring the price down on GPS units further. And that would be a great direction.

  7. TomTom GPS Says:

    Thanks for sharing that! Nice post. I just glanced through it. TomTom GPS – Reviews & Cheap Price, Buy Car Navigation