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August 30, 2006

Feature Request to Garmin: 4 Things To Improve the StreetPilot c550

Garmin SP c550

I love my StreetPilot c550 - in fact, it's my current Editor's Choice GPS and the unit I have installed in my car right now. I've been using it for weeks now and can re-verify my initial findings that this is the GPS to beat right now. Garmin is an innovation company and commands a lot of respect in the industry, but there are a few things I really wish Garmin would add that would really make a great product even better: (and all three could be easily added via a firmware update) In order of importance:

  1. Faster re-routing when you are off course (or a manual button to force an immediate re-route if the unit is taking too long). Sometimes when you drive off course, the c550 takes too long to re-route you. This is especially true in urban environmnts, where you need to make the next turn quickly, or during highway interchanges.
  2. Cell phone signal strength indicator when using the phone via Bluetooth. It's nice to be able to see your cell phone signal strength while using the c550 as a speakerphone without having to look at your cell phone.
  3. GPS Signal strength indicator on the map and while navigating. I'm sure this is a deliberate choice by Garmin not to include the signal strength indicator on the map view or while navigating, but I think it's very useful to know if the unit is routing you accurately or not.
  4. A Bluetooth update that would allow you to answer an incoming call either on the c550's speakerphone OR your cell phone's handset. There are times when you don't want to use the speakerphone (i.e. when others are in the car), and it's annoying to have to answer on speakerphone and then activate the handset to talk in private. Perhaps adding a button so that when an incoming call starts to ring, you can tap on the screen "Answer - Speakerphone", "Answer-Handset", or "Ignore".

Add those 4 items, and the c550 will be even better.

August 29, 2006

Silicon Valley Startup Offers Glimpse of GPS Navigation Future?

Dash Networks

There's an interesting article today in the San Jose Mercury News about GPS Startup company Dash. Based in the SF Bay Area, the company has raised $16 million from some big names in venture capital. The startup had been operating in stealth mode for the past three years under the name "CircumNav". What makes Dash special? It's the first navigation device designed to be constantly connected to the internet. That will allow it to get real-time weather & traffic information, restaurant reviews, most current maps, and more.

The device will be tap into the internet via cellular and WiFi networks. If no connection is available, it will cache some navigation information. Dash says they will publicly demonstrate their first product on September 26th-27th at the DEMO conference in San Diego.

August 25, 2006

Garmin About to Release Nuvi 660

Garmin Nuvi 660

The FCC has just approved the Garmin Nuvi 660. According to the FCC's website, Garmin will release the 660 sometime between October and November (so as to cash in on the usual holiday spending frenzy). The FCC site only shows the back of the unit (thanks a lot!), so we'll have to speculate on design for now. Although we can already see that the 660 will have a single speaker, and a flip-type patch antenna. We can probably also safely assume the 660 will use the new SiRF Star III chipset. Other details that have emerged so far:

  • 4.3" screen at a resolution of 480 x 272 pixels (a nice upgrade compared to the Nuvi 360's 3.5-inch QVGA screen)
  • Bluetooth
  • Built-in FM Transmitter that lets you listen to voice prompts on your car stereo via FM
  • Ships bundled with either the Garm

Garmin Releases StreetPilot c550 Firmware Version 3.30

Garmin WebUpdater

Today Garmin posted version 3.30 firmware for the StreetPilot c550 to their website. Changes made from version 3.10 to 3.30:

* Added pre-recorded voice guidance support for Greek, Croatian, and Slovenian
* Added verification prompt for entering PIN on Garmin lock feature
* Fixed button row on main menu to operate on one touch
* Fixed error of missing cities in address search
* Resolved a low battery power down lock up situation

I've installed the updated firmware and so far all seems well. Installed the update? Let us know how it went and post a comment.

Grab the update here: http://www.garmin.com/support/collection.jsp?product=010-00522-00

August 17, 2006

TomTom Introduces TomTom ONE in North America

TomTom ONE

Just got off the phone with Jocelyn Vigreux, president of TomTom, and he gave me the deets on their newest product, the TomTom ONE. Should be available by the end of August, and will retail for $499. The TomTom ONE is aimed at individuals who want easy to use, simple navigation capabilities. Mr. Vigreux stated that the ONE is a continuation of the company's mission of bringing complex technology to the masses in an easy to use way. Here’s the specs on the TomTom ONE we know so far:

TomTom ONE Mounted In Car

  • TomTom ONE will use the SiRF StarIII receiver
  • 1 GB SD memory
  • Pre-loaded with TeleAtlas maps of U.S. and Canada (that's right, this is a North American model only)
  • 5.6 ounces
  • 3.8 inches x 3.2 inches x 1.0 inch
  • Touchscreen color display
  • New slim compact design
  • Bluetooth
  • Access to TomTom's Plus services (such as Traffic, Weather, etc.)
  • Will work with the TomTom HOME application
  • Thousands of pre-loaded Point of Interest (POI)
  • Spoken turn-by-turn voice prompts with more than 70 natural voices
  • MSRP $499
  • Available late August

So it looks like TomTom's entry-level all-in-one navigation device could be quite a compelling offering, especially given it's price point of $499. Traffic, weather, and Bluetooth for under $500? Sweet! I must say, the design looks pretty nice too. And the windshield mount looks like it's much more substantial than the now infamous GO 910 mount. Let's keep our fingers crossed this one turns out as nice as it looks. My only wish is that TomTom would use NAVTEQ mapping data, given that this is a U.S. only device. As I've commented before, NAVTEQ is (slightly) better in North America than European competitor TeleAtlas.

TomTom ONE Box

August 14, 2006

TomTom's Craptastic Windshield Mount: The Movie

TomTom 910 Mount

Well well well, look what we have here. After months of denying anything is actually wrong with the mounting hardware on the TomTom GO 910, and then sneaking a slightly modified new mount out the door, TomTom has gone and post photos and a video describing exactly how to use the mount without breaking it. According to TomTom's website: "It is very important to make sure that your TomTom GO 910/510 is docked correctly on the windshield mount. Otherwise...your GO will be loose and it may fall off while you are driving."

I'm not sure what it will take for TomTom to just own up to the fact that the mount is crap and breaks under normal usage, but someone over in the Netherlands needs to do a Google search for "TomTom 910 +mount problems" and end the denial once and for all. Step 2 is for TomTom to correct the mount, issue a recall, and exchange all the old mounts at no cost. Personally, I'm hoping the rumors Microsoft is looking to buy TomTom are true -- at least maybe then we'll get some real support.

Head on over to TomTom and view the whole article.


August 8, 2006

Lies TomTom Support Has Told Me

You know, I’ve made no secret of the fact that I feel TomTom’s US support is in need of some serious improvement. Over the past few months, I’ve been compiling a list of various ridiculous things the support reps over at TT have told me:

  • Your call is important to us
  • Someone will call you back today
  • You cannot save your current location, only a valid street address
  • No one else minds us emailing them an .exe file
  • No new windshield mount has been released, but we can send you a replacement original mount
  • TomTom's isn't selling the GO 910 yet because they're waiting until a new mount is developed
  • Blackberry is unsupported for use via Bluetooth
  • The GPS signal does not carry the time, you have to set the local time on the GPS unit itself. There’s “no way” to get the time just from the satellite signal.
  • The GO 910 isn’t “officially” released yet, which is why traffic, weather, and other PLUS services don’t work yet in North America

TomTom – customer service really needs to improve. It’s kind of a black eye for such an innovative company...

TomTom to users: Turns out 6.14 sux. Please upgrade to 6.15

Many of you may recall that within hours of posting software version 6.12 on July 3rd, TomTom pulled the update after user reports that the update was rendering unit unable to boot. A few weeks later TomTom released 6.14, saying it fixed the bugs in 6.12. Well, last week TomTom post 6.15, saying it fixes the bugs in version 6.14 (and 6.12, if you managed to download it before they pulled it)..

The update is only available via the TomTom HOME application, and apart from fixing various bugs versions 6.12 and 6.14 introduced, 6.15 also adds:

  • Support for SD cards larger than 1GB
  • Installed version 3 maps on the GO Classic are now recognised again by TomTom HOME
  • Remote control of the GO 500 and GO 700 now functions correctly.

So basically, there is no new functionality provided by this release, but it does fix a host of bugs. Overall users are reporting a relatively smooth upgrade process. This update has been available for over a week, and so far there have been no major smoking guns, so it’s probably pretty safe to upgrade (although given TT's track record, it's anyone's guess...).

August 3, 2006

How to Hack Your TomTom GO 910 (and seriously void your warranty)

Hacking the TomTom GO 910

Some intrepid folks over at PocketGPSworld.com have taken it upon themselves to do what none of us has the stones to do: dismantle the GO 910 and hack away at the operating system.

Like all TomTom navigation devices, the GO 910 is based on Linux, which allowed them to have all sorts of Linux fun and customize the GO 910 in interesting ways (including customizing menus and watching movies on the 910). They spend a fair amount of time detailing the design differences between the various TT devices and the GO 910, and talking about how crappy the suction mount is (now common knowledge to all GO 910 owners).

August 1, 2006

Deets Emerge on Lowrance iWay 600C: Where's the SiRF?

Lowrance iWay 600c

Lowrance has officially announced the iWay 600C. Lowrance's latest flagship navigation GPS combines street-level navigation capabilities with marine navigation (charting for inland and coastal waters with depth contours).

According to Lowrance's press release, here's how the 600C will stack up:

  • 5-inch high resolution color touch screen display (640 x 480 resolution)
  • 30GB internal hard drive (only 5GB will be available to store your mp3's / photos, with the rest used for internal mapping data)
  • NAVTEQ mapping data (U.S. and Canada)
  • 5.5 million POI database
  • 3,000 enhanced U.S. Lake Maps with depth contours for inland waters
  • NauticPath carts for lakes and coastal U.S. waters
  • Navaids, port services, tide/current data, etc.
  • MP3 and Ogg Vorbis (who the hell is listening to Ogg Vorbis in their car or boat?) support

The bad news? It looks like the iWay 600C will use outdated GPS technology, employing a 12-parallel channel GPS receiver. Why on earth Lowrance isn't using SiRF's StarIII chipset is a complete mystery to me. I'd say it's only a matter of time before they release a SiRF enabled device, so I'm recommending you hold off on the iWay 600C and wait until Lowrance gets with the program and gets on the SiRF train.

As a reminder, SiRF is the new high performance 20-channel GPS receiver that works so well you even gets reception indoors. It's the newest in GPS receiver technology, so there's absolutely no reason not to get a SiRF enabled device if you're buying a new GPS. You certainly don't want to buy technology that's already outdated!