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MOUNTAIN VIEW, Calif. — GPS navigation devices were the latest must-have tech toys just two years ago, and shares of device makers like Garmin and TomTom were soaring.
That didn’t last long. In a turnabout that has been remarkably swift even for the fast-moving technology business, those companies have suffered as competition has pulled down prices — and as more people have turned to their cellphones for directions.
In the latest blow to the business, announced a free navigation service for mobile phones on Wednesday that will offer turn-by-turn directions, live traffic updates and the ability to recognize voice commands. The service will initially be available on only one phone, the new Motorola Droid, but will be expanded to more phones soon.
In a briefing on Tuesday in advance of its announcement, Google said that the service might be supported by advertisements in the future. That would make driving directions the latest form of information to shift from being a paid service to one that is ad-supported.
“This is consistent with a certain pattern of Google, where they are able to build volume and usage of a product and then subsidize it with advertising,” said Greg Sterling, principal of Sterling Market Intelligent, a research firm. The losers, he said, were companies like TomTom and Garmin, along with the cellphone carriers, which offer navigation services by subscription.Continue reading the main story
Eric E. Schmidt, Google’s chief executive, said that he didn’t view the new service as hurting an industry. Instead, he said, it is a boon to consumers, made possible by the increasing power of smartphones and the growing ubiquity of Internet access.
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“Obviously we like the price of free, because consumers like that as well,” he said.
But analysts say that if successful, Google’s service could chip away at sales of stand-alone GPS devices and the subscription services offered by cellphone carriers.
Sales growth for those devices is already slowing. In 2007, global shipments of stand-alone navigation devices grew a hefty 131 percent from the year before, according to data from the research firm In-Stat. But the firm predicts that shipments will grow just 19 percent this year from 2008, and a price war has hurt the industry’s profits.
“With a free alternative that is just as good, I don’t see much positive growth for the likes of TomTom, Navigon or Garmin,” said Dominique Bonte, director of navigation research at ABI Research. “If it’s free and a good service, why would you pay for something you can get for free?”
Google’s announcement also reflects a broader shift toward consolidation in the gadget world.
The smartphone is already the Swiss Army knife of the digital age, able to transform into a camera, music player or game machine at the swipe of a finger. Now it is increasingly a navigation device too.
Many people still prefer dedicated GPS devices, which tend to display maps faster since the data is typically stored in the device rather than downloaded over a wireless network. But the list of smartphone shortcomings is shrinking. Smartphone users can download applications that offer spoken directions and live traffic updates. And at $100 to $300 apiece, smartphones are competitively priced with GPS units, which average about $177, according to the research firm NPD Group.
By 2013, phone-based navigation systems, which are already more popular among younger smartphone owners, will dominate the market, according to a recent report from Forrester.
The makers of navigation devices have not ignored the spread of smartphones. But Google’s move could make it harder for them to adapt.
TomTom, based in Amsterdam, introduced a $100 navigation application for the in August. The company said the program had been downloaded close to 80,000 times. Garmin recently released the Nuvifone, a hybrid of a navigational device and a cellphone that has generally received poor reviews.
“Turn-by-turn navigation on a handset is what we’re been doing with the Nuvifone,” said Ted Gartner, a spokesman for Garmin, which declined to release sales figures for the phone. “Google’s announcement reaffirms that consumers want their smartphones to double as a navigation device.”
Julien Blin, principal analyst at JBB Research, called Garmin’s phone a “desperate move,” adding: “The Nuvifone is around $300, and you can get an iPhone for a comparable amount that can now do the same thing.”
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Shares of both TomTom and Garmin plummeted Wednesday after Google’s announcement. Garmin’s shares fell 16 percent to $31.45 on Nasdaq, while TomTom’s shares closed around 21 percent lower on the Amsterdam Stock Exchange.
Google’s navigation service, which for now works only in the United States, is part of a new version of Google Maps for Mobile, software that will work on the growing number of phones that run Google’s Android operating system. Google executives said they eventually hoped to offer the service on Apple’s iPhone and other mobile devices. But they said this would be up to those device makers. Apple and Google have clashed over Apple’s reluctance to approve an application that works with the Google Voice calling service.
As mobile services that involve location have become increasingly important, the underlying mapping data has become a valuable strategic asset. Google recently began creating its own digital maps in the United States, ending a contract with the map data provider TeleAtlas, which is owned by TomTom.
A year earlier, Google had chosen TeleAtlas to replace Navteq, a map data provider that Nokia acquired for $8.1 billion in 2007. Google and Nokia are rivals in mobile phone operating systems.Correction: October 30, 2009
An article on Thursday about a new GPS navigation service from Google misstated part of the name of the firm of Julien Blin, an analyst who commented on the GPS device industry. It is JBB Research, not JBB Industry.
SEE ALSO: Companies like and TomTom specialize in safe car travel and update their maps and traffic reports whenever changes occur on the road. GPS devices also offer the peace of mind that you'll never get lost, even when you're in a new location — including remote areas. They can also help you find the nearest restaurant, shopping mall, rest area, and other locations that might be considered off-the-beaten-path. These are the GPS units and dash devices you should turn to the next time you're planning or if your daily commute to work is riddled with construction sites and heavy traffic jams. They could very well help you get out of a sticky situation.
Here are 13 of the best GPS units for your car. — Best budget pick. Image: Magellan Equipped with a 5-inch touchscreen, the is the best GPS you can buy that won’t break the bank. For less than $65, the small, yet powerful device has the ability to display the latest full 3D maps available, including ever-changing landmarks in metro areas, with lifetime North America map updates. It even features “Traffic Camera Alerts by PhantomALERT,” Magellan's alert system that gives you up-to-the-minute traffic reports for red lights and speed cameras on your route. While the GPS is a bit hefty at 1.13 pounds, it’s still portable enough to take from car-to-car.
Many reviewers rave about this GPS unit, specifically calling out the great dash cam. Here's what had to say: 'I've had this unit for a couple years now and love it. The first year I had it, the lithium battery failed and expanded so much it cracked the screen and case. Magellan warranty replaced it quickly with no problems and the replacement unit has been great. I purchased this specifically because of the dash cam integrated with the gps.
As a heavy duty diesel mechanic, I'm constantly on the road for service calls or road tests. People are terrible drivers around semi trucks or my big tool truck, so I needed something to keep track of what happened on the road. 4 times it's saved me from people cutting me off in a semi and slamming on their brakes to make an off ramp and they're surprised when I cannot stop on a dime. It's very easy to review the video directly on the unit and send the video from the micro card. It makes proving that I did nothing wrong to the police very easy. It tracks speed, gps location and impact forces among other things, and in the event of an accident it will automatically save that video. Although, you do need to clear some of the saved videos often, or the card gets full.
The gps part is very nice too, I like that it displays speed, but my truck has larger tires and my speedo is isn't accurate, so I just go off the gps. The only thing I don't like is it's difficult to use the touch screen with my big fingers, but I got a rubber tipped stylus pin and that works great.'
Image: Garmin If you’re looking for a reliable GPS device that will get you from home to work day-in-and-day-out, then is the one for you. For less than $200, this handy device features a five-inch touchscreen that connects to your smartphone via Bluetooth to give you a hands-free option to place phone calls, read text messages, and get calendar reminders without taking your eyes off the road. The GPS also features Garmin’s very detailed travel and traffic maps that will show you when and where a traffic jam may occur in real-time. It also comes with free lifetime updates, so you’ll always feel good about getting to your final destination safe and sound. Image: Garmin is the best utility GPS device because it features a number of safety features, such as driver alerts for oncoming traffic and fatigue warnings, Garmin Drive for when you’re about to reach a school or hospital zone, and Up Ahead for milestones and landmarks during your journey.
It features detailed maps of the United States with lifetime free updates for current streets and current speed limits, so you’ll never get caught in a 'speed trap' again. The device also features locations of popular restaurants and stores thanks to FourSquare integration. If you just want a reliable, no nonsense GPS device, then this is the one for you.
There’s nothing fancy here, just great maps and quality turn-by-turn directions. Image: Garmin If you’re looking for a completely hands-free solution for getting directions and driving at the same time, the is a GPS device that incorporates the Amazon Alexa with the reliability of Garmin. It’s also really simple to use and pairs directly to your smartphone and the Garmin app via Bluetooth.
In fact, there is only a barebones display and no touchscreen, so it’s really all about using the power of speech. So if you need directions to Starbucks, just request 'Hey Alexa! Ask Garmin to get directions to the nearest Starbucks' and the assistant will give you turn-by-turn directions.
It’s basically like having an Echo Dot on your dashboard. And since it’s Alexa-enabled, it has the same functionality of any Amazon device, so you can pull up news and weather, your playlists, order items from Amazon directly, and information on just about anything on the internet. In addition, the GPS also has the option for a built-in dash cam that will record and save car footage with a simple voice command. Image: Garmin The Garmin Drive 50 USA LM is the for a reason. It’s easy to set up, reliable, has free lifetime map updates, and offers clear turn-by-turn directions at a reasonable price. The device features driver alerts that let you know when you’re in a school zone or if the speed limit suddenly changes, lane departure warning if you’re veering off the road, and a solid dash cam to record potential collisions.
It also features a five-inch touchscreen that’s as responsive as it is clear and bright. The GPS even features voice search and commands for easy hands-free navigation while driving. But don’t take our word for it, here’s what satisfied Amazon customer had to say about the device: 'We love this.
We got it after returning a Tom Tom that stopped working after less then 2 days. This is a great GPS.
It's very user friendly and has all the bells and whistles you could want. The controls are so easy to set. The routes are very clear and the little car shows you where you're going. Download film sorceress1995 full movie. The voice alerts are perfect also. They let you know what to do in plenty of time. We really like this and have recommend it to many of our friends. Those that have gotten it have also been pleased.'
The is regularly priced at $150 but we've seen it on sale for $104 on Amazon. Image: TomTom If Garmin is the Coca-Cola of global positioning systems, then is Pepsi.
Both companies are great for maps and directions, though there are minor differences when it comes to approach and services. For example: Garmin is an American company that focuses on GPS units for North America, while TomTom is based in Amsterdam and is the leading brand of GPS navigation in Europe. If you want something that’s a little different from Garmin, then the is the best non-Garmin GPS device you can buy.
With its lightweight, five-inch touchscreen display, the device from TomTom features interactive maps that come with free lifetime updates, up-to-the-minute traffic reports via smartphone tethering, and up to 99.9% map coverage of North America. It also features parking assist, so you’ll never aimlessly drive around looking for an empty parking spot again. Image: Garmin While the is the #1 best-seller, the is the best rated on Amazon. The GPS features real-time traffic updates, while it also has Garmin’s Direct Access option that gives you easy and simple directions to popular locations around you, such as shopping malls and airports, along with highly-rated restaurants and shops from the built-in FourSquare app.
It includes free lifetime map updates of all 50 states, along with maps of Canada and Mexico. Amazon customer writes: 'This unit is more than I expected. It warned us of an accident that took place on the road 20 miles ahead of us while driving at night and on the return trip it warned us of an interstate closure because of a severe accident, then directed us on an alternative route to not get stuck in traffic.
The retails for $199.99 and has a 5-star rating from more than 2,500 reviewers on Amazon. Image: garmin The is built for professional drivers and commercial use for long-haul semi-trucks and recreational vehicles (RVs) for families.
It’s reliable for navigating through less known areas and truck-related restrictions, like short bridge heights and weight limits. It’s also powered by FourSquare, so it’s good at locating truck stops, rest areas, weigh stations, and repair shops for bigger vehicles. The device also comes with lifetime maps and real-time traffic reports, while it’s a lifesaver for avoiding sharp curves and turns and narrow lanes. It even accounts for your own vehicle after you plug in its length and weight into the device itself, so the GPS can stay within your vehicle’s driving limits.
The is a bit pricy at $375.66, but packs in extra features for those going off the beaten path. Image: tomtom If you plan to travel outside of the United States, the is the perfect GPS for traveling around the world.
With its five-inch screen, the Go 520 delivers maps and real-time traffic information just like any other good GPS device, but it comes with the added bonus of lifetime updates and access to maps from around the world at no additional cost. World maps are ready for download whenever you need them, so you can rest assured that you’ll never get lost, even if you’re in a foreign country. The device is even compatible with Apple’s Siri or Google Now via Bluetooth, so you can have hands-free capabilities with ease. Image: Garmin You know that pick for the best GPS for ' from earlier in this list? Well, the Garmin DriveAssist 51 NA LMT-S is near identical to that model, but it also includes a built-in dash cam that continuously records footage of everything that happens in front of the car.
The device features 'DriveAssist' software that will automatically save and send video, as a text message or link, if it detects a crash. In addition, the software features forward-collision warnings and lane-departure alerts so you don’t lose control of the car.
The will not only help you get to your destination, it can also keep you safe. While many smartphones have voice assistants and voice commands baked in, they are still not as reliable as a GPS device that was built for navigation and safety. If you’re looking for a seamlessly hands-free GPS navigator, then the is the ideal solution. While it features real-time traffic updates and lane guidance, the GPS’s biggest selling point is its always-on voice-activated navigation system. It features natural language directions and voice commands, so you can keep your eyes on the road and not get distracted with robotic speech like you might find from others on the market.
The device also connects to your smartphone via Bluetooth, so you can also use your voice to control your phone while you drive safely to your destination. The six-inch model of the retails for $224.95 from Walmart. Image: Pioneer If you’re looking for something more high-end, the is the all-in-one GPS and entertainment device for your car. The seven-inch in-dash display requires some installation, but Pioneer makes it really easy to just plug-and-play your car’s inputs into the sophisticated GPS device. Not only can you use the device for navigation with world-class maps and precision turn-by-turn directions, it’s also an entertainment center with a built-in DVD player, Sirius XM radio, and Pandora streaming out of the box. It also features Apple Carplay when you plug in your iPhone.
This feature essentially turns the devices interface into Apple iOS with voice commands from Siri for hands-free navigation and controls. The Pioneer AVIC-8201NEX Flagship In-Dash Navigation AV features premium performance with a premium price tag of.