GPS devices have had a tough time of late, thanks in part to the rise of free mobile navigation applications and the steady drop of average selling prices. The recession didn’t help either, contributing to a 15 per cent decline in value of the personal navigation market last year*. However, the devices are back on the rise, with a whole host of features that are enticing customers to return to the sector.
As with most consumer electronics, one of the key trends for sat navs is connectivity. “A lot more people are looking for feature-led products that will enrich their journey, not only from A to B but also when they arrive there,” says Matt Wallis, UK country director for Mio. “You may not want to look up a particular brand but, for example with our products, you can pretty much say ‘coffee’ and it will give you all the local options.”
TomTom’s vice president of sales and marketing for the UK and Ireland, Damien Woodward says: “You can Google points of interest, so rather than relying on a set database of points you can just go in and use Google to find the nearest restaurant or whatever it is you’re trying to find.”
It’s not just consumers buying GPS devices; Navevo specialises in creating sat navs aimed at niche markets, including long-distance truckers. David Guiver, the firm’s sales and marketing director, tells PCR that connectivity is key to its ProNav range. “We’re launching the first PND for trucks that has online tracking built into it as well, so it’s an off-the-shelf tracking device,” he comments.
However, what Woodward sees as the “real golden egg” of personal navigation device features is traffic data. Wallis agrees, but with one caveat: “More and more people want these devices to avoid traffic hotspots, but in this economic climate consumers are very concerned about buying something and then having to continue to pay for services.”
According to Anthony Chmarny, public relations manager for Garmin Europe, some of the latest technologies include predictive routing, which learns the driver’s habits from each drive, and voice activation software. Garmin’s newest PND allows the user to name the device, simplifying voice activation. “You can call the device Bob, George, Jemima or whatever and it will do as you ask,” he suggests.
Sat nav screens have also seen a revamp of late. Chmarny comments that Garmin is moving towards capacitive screens over the traditional resistive technology that most GPS devices feature. Featured on devices such as the iPhone, capacitive screens detect the user’s finger without the need to physically press it. “The screen is a lot clearer, it’s a lot brighter – and the actual ability to go from one page to the next is made easier,” he notes.
“Screen sizes will go bigger,” adds Wallis. “Whereas mobile phones get smaller and smaller, in satellite navigation the quality of information is key, therefore the 3.5-inch market will slowly decline and the standard size will be a 4.3-inch screen.”
Mio is even going so far as to add an inbuilt digital TV tuner to its topend devices, allowing them to fully utilise the higher-end displays. “Once you hit 5km an hour, which is an average walking speed, it will disable the audio and visuals from the TV. Otherwise there would be instances where people try and watch while they’re driving,” he laughs.
For Navevo, there are other lifestyle factors to take into consideration. The firm’s BBNav device is aimed specifically at people with mobility issues. “For people with disabilities, they need to know a lot more about things like toilets and so on – the things that we take for granted everyday,” says Guiver. “We’re looking at the GNSS (global navigation satellite system) because it lets you navigate within one metre, which for people with disabilities is really crucial if you want to find a bench or wheelchair access.”
“BBNav also covers all types of parking, because different councils all have different rules on parking with a blue badge. For example, in Westminster you’re not allowed to park on any yellow line – you’d be towed away instantly.”
Navevo’s device is clearly targeted at the 2.1 million people in the UK who have a disabled parking badge. The more mainstream sat navs, however, have a much broader audience to please. “A wide range of people buy sat navs, from the younger people who have just started driving, to the older generation that want to have the comfort of a device in the car in case they get lost or there is an emergency,” notes Chmarny. “The great thing about any sat nav is that you can upgrade the maps and you can upgrade the speed cameras, so it has longevity. But we are now starting to see the repeat purchase.”
Both Wallis and Woodward estimate that around 40 per cent of the PND market is comprised of second-generation users. “These are the people who went and bought devices for an A to B route. And they’re now at the stage where they want to buy another newer product which is slimmer, lighter and more feature-rich,” says Wallis.
Woodward describes the situation as a polarisation of the market. At one end are the first-time users who are looking for simplicity and good value, and at the other are repeat customers who are “looking for the next stage in technology. What they spent around
£400 on four years ago, they’d probably get twice the technology for almost half the price.”
But what about the supposedly growing threat of mobile phones applications encroaching on the GPS space? All of the vendors are equally dismissive of the threat, claiming convergent devices would not become the mainstream any time soon. “There will be a certain market out there that wants to buy the application to put on their mobile device and have it all in one, but the majority of people will continue buying a dedicated device to do the job they want, and do it properly,” Wallis concludes.
*GfK figures, December 2009
Garmin Nuvi 3790T
They say: “Easily the thinnest portable navigator on the market – an irresistible design that begs to be turned on and shown off”
Specs: 4.3-inch capacitive multi-touch display, 2D or 3D view, screen lock, predicts the user’s destination based on frequent journeys, fuel saver mode, lane assistance, speed limit indicator, Connect Photos function associates images with saved locations, ‘wake up phrase’ initiates voice-activation
Tom Tom Start 2
Distributor: Widget, Ingram Micro, Total PDA
They say: “A smart new device that makes driving even more stress-free”
Specs: Maps of UK and Ireland, simplified menu with just two options – ‘plan route’ and ‘browse map’ IQ Routes, compact 3.5-inch screen, advanced lane guidance, Map Share, spoken street names, high quality speaker, help menu
Motorola Motonav TN760t
Distributor: Chameleon Direct
They say: “A standalone navigation device that can seamlessly integrate with existing mobile communication and music needs”
Specs: UK and Ireland maps, ultra-wide 5.1-inch screen, 3D landmark viewing map, multi-view display, 14mm thickness, up to two hour battery life, streaming traffic alerts available with subscription, compatible with Bluetooth-enabled phones for hands-free communication, professional installation can connect the device to MP3 players
Mio Navman Spirit V505 TV
They say: “Combines our cutting-edge navigation with the ability to watch hundreds of digital TV channels across Europe”
Specs: European map data, 4.7-inch widescreen, digital TV tuner (for use when stationary – cuts out above 5mph), 3D junction views and lane guidance, built-in traffic information, local search, spoken road names, speed limit data, walking mode, eco routing, photo navigation
They say: “The first dedicated blue badge sat nav solution specifically designed to support disabled drivers and those caring for the disabled”
Specs: UK maps, 4.3-inch touchscreen, bluetooth, details of over 10,000 blue badge and red route parking bays and over 3,500 disabled-accessible car parks, local council blue badge parking concessions, thousands of points of interest for disabled people including toilets, accessible accommodation and Shopmobility centres
TomTom XL IQ Routes 2
Distributor: Widget, Ingram Micro, Total PDA
They say: “Helps drivers navigate with the best quality map at all times”
Specs: UK and Ireland maps, extra large touchscreen, IQ Routes, advanced lane guidance tells the driver which lane to take, spoken street names, Map Share technology makes and downloads corrections to maps
Garmin Nuvi 1690
They say: “Real-time information you need at your fingertips, with roaming throughout Europe”
Specs: 4.3-inch touchscreen display, pedestrian navigation, fuel saver mode, lane assistance, text to speech function, maps for 33 European countries, speed camera warnings, bluetooth to pair with compatible mobile phones, can remember and direct the user back to where the car is parked
Mio Navman Spirit 475
They say: “Find and navigate to destinations more quickly and reliably than ever”
Specs: 4.3-inch widescreen, IQ Routes for optimised routing, built-in traffic information, 3D junction views and lane guidance, spoken street names, keyword search, speed limit information, rental maps, tunnel guidance, QuickSpell keyboard
They say: “Calculates the best route to ensure you are not confronted with roads or obstacles not suitable for your vehicle or your goods”
Specs: UK and Ireland maps, 4.3-inch touchscreen, navigation based on height, weight, width, length and hazmat, potential hazard warnings, HGV points of interest including truck stops and loading bays, bluetooth, can switch to regular car navigation
TomTom GO 550 Live
Distributor: Widget, Ingram Micro, Total PDA
They say: “More intuitive and easier to operate, giving drivers all the information they need about their journey before they set off”
Specs: Maps of UK and Ireland, IQ Routes technology to calculate the most efficient route, hands-free calling, voice command and control, eco routes, frequent destinations menu, Live services include real-time connection to HD Traffic, safety alerts, fuel price information and Google local search