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September 28, 2006

Rumor Mill: Ultra-small TomTom GPS coming soon

TomTom GPS units

Our friend YourNAV has an interesting write-up about a new, yet-to-be-announced, TomTom ultra-slim device. According to the article, TomTom will release the new, ultra-slim unit in March of 2007. According to the article, the unit will have a 2.7-inch touch screen display, and even slimmer than the (already small) TomTom ONE. Check out the full article on YourNAV

September 27, 2006

Rand McNally Getting on the GPS Bandwagon, Offers Pre-Planned Vacations

Rand McNally GPS

Need help planning your next vacation? The Rand McNally GPS Navigator may be the product for you.

Rand McNally is one of the oldest names in mapping -- over 150 years old! McNally is making its first forey into GPS navigation with the $499 priced "Rand McNally GPS Navigator". Apart from the uninspired name, the specs look pretty decent:

  • Unit dimensions: 4.5" W x 3.2" H x 1.4" D
  • Weight: 7 oz. (approximately 0.5 lb.)
  • Display: 3.5" color TFT LCD, LED backlight, 320 x 240 pixels, 65K colors, QVGA resolution, and landscape view
  • Hardware buttons: on/off, volume control, destination menu access
  • Battery: Lithium ion battery
  • GPS receiver: SiRF Star III with 20 channels
  • Antenna: Built-in patch
  • PC compatible: USB cable
  • Languages: English, French, and Spanish

Not surprisingly, the "Rand McNally GPS Navigator" uses Rand McNally maps. The unit includes coverage for the United States, Canada, Puerto Rico, and the US Virgin Islands, and ships with Rand McNally paper maps as well. The unit includes the Rand McNally Points of Interest (POI) database, and can suggest vacation itineraries, restaurants, tourist-friendly attractions, and shops selected by Rand McNally's editorial staff.

The Rand McNally GPS Navigator is available for purchase via Rand McNally's website.

Garmin StreetPilot c550 vs. TomTom GO 910 vs. Magellan RoadMate 6000T: Who's Cuisine Will Reign Supreme?

Verdict: Overall Winner: Garmin StreetPilot c550

TomTom 910 vs Garmin c550 vs Magellan 6000T

Comparison testing of Garmin StreetPilot C550, TomTom GO 910 and Magellan RoadMate 6000T

1. Intro

The purpose of this review is to compare the most popular GPS models currently available and perform side-by-side feature and performance comparisons to assist consumers in their purchasing decisions. We have selected the most popular three units from the top three GPS manufacturers: Magellan, TomTom, and Garmin. Pricing and features are similar for all three units, so this review will offer some answers many of you have been looking for.

We will also point out some basic system limitations, along with certain features that these systems offer that is not listed anywhere else on the Internet. This comparison report is not an endorsement of any kind, we only offer our test results for our readers to evaluate and choose which products would best suit their needs.

Continue reading "Garmin StreetPilot c550 vs. TomTom GO 910 vs. Magellan RoadMate 6000T: Who's Cuisine Will Reign Supreme?" »

Eight Questions with TomTom’s VP of Marketing, Anne Louise Hanstad


This week I had the opportunity to speak with TomTom VP of Marketing, Anne Louise Hanstad and ask her some of the most pressing questions I've received from GPS Magazine readers:

  1. Fletch: Why did it take so long for TomTom to address the issues with the GO 910 mount? GPS Magazine began hearing users complain of broken mounts as soon as the 910 launched.
    Anne Louise Hanstad: Actually it has only been a very small percentage of customers that have experienced issues with the mount. However, as soon as we began to hear there was an issue, we started working on an a corrected mount. We wanted to make sure that we addressed all the issues we were hearing about, to ensure that all the issues would be permanently solved with the new mount. Now that the new mount is ready, we’re offering a replacement mount to any customer that may have experienced a problem with the original mount. We want our customers to know that if there’s a problem, TomTom wants to hear about it, and will do the right thing to fix the issue.

  2. Fletch: Are there any plans to use NAVTEQ in your devices in North America? The use of Tele Atlas was the only reason the TomTom ONE didn’t get the GPS Magazine Editor’s Choice award.
    Anne Louise Hanstad: Map source data is something we care a great deal about. We fundamentally believe the quality of the [Tele Atlas] maps are good. Maps are always a sensitive issue; we use NAVTEQ maps in Rider, and we still hear complaints about mapping accuracy from those customers. I think the key question to ask here is what’s coming next from Tele Atlas. We are weeks away from their final integration with GDT. We expect that integration will produce an even better map quality experience than Tele Atlas’ competitors [NAVTEQ]. Before we make any decisions, we want to see what the GDT integration will bring.

    Continue reading "Eight Questions with TomTom’s VP of Marketing, Anne Louise Hanstad" »

September 26, 2006

Matchbook Sized Tracking Device Accurate to Within 1-Inch


Really, really want to keep track of your stuff? Or prevent your friends from "borrowing" you spanking new GPS without asking? British-based company Covert Asset Tracking Systems (CATSeye) believes it may have the answer. The company manufacturers matchbook sized transmitters that can be tracked via GPS, GSM, or radio frequency.

The company demonstrated the technology at CTIA last week in Los Angeles, and claimed to be able to track items down to 1-inch accuracy (hmmm...sounds suspect to me). The company says the devices will likely be used in electronics that are common targets for thieves, such as laptops, GPS units, and desktop computers. The transmitters are mainly tracked via GPS, but can fail over to GSM cellular service or radio if no GPS signal is available. Looks like you need to connect the device to a power source, so this may not be the product for those of you looking to snoop on a girlfriend's whereabouts (not that we'd ever advocate such a thing).

CATSeye transmitters can be located via a web browser, and location information stored for future reference. Using the web interface, you can locate the device down to a specific address. The company is also selling TomTom devices with the tracking device pre-installed (privacy advocates will just love this pairing of technologies)...

How Accurate are Online Street Maps?

I've written a fair amount on the differences between NAVTEQ and Tele Atlas recently, so I thought it only fair to take a look at the various online mapping tools and compare their accuracy. I stumbled across this interesting article that looks at Google Maps, Yahoo! Maps, MSN Maps, Map24, Rand McNally, and, of course, MapQuest.

What's most interesting is that even when 2 online services use the same mapping data, they may not render the map the same way. Read the article HERE

September 25, 2006

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TomTom Does the Right Thing: Offers FREE New, Improved Mount to All GO x10 Customers

TomTom Valencia Mount

Remember all that belly-aching I did about the problematic TomTom GO 910 windshield mount a few months ago? Well, looks like TomTom has heard the customer feedback, improved the mount, and is offering all GO 910 and 510 owners the new improved mount for free! (that's right, you don't even have to send in your existing mount). Takes a few weeks to get the new mount, one per registered device.

What's improved on the new mount?

TomTom's new x10 mount

  • The new mounts are designed to have a tighter ball and socket joint, which prevents the mount from drooping downward while driving (yup, my original 910 mount did this).
  • The power connection is now more secure, addressing customer complaints that the unit would occasionally power off/on while navigating.
  • New mount has a slight lip that locks the unit in place in a more intuitive way, making it easier to mount/unmount the unit from the dock.

TomTom says that even though a relatively small number of customers actually experienced issues with the original mount (I know I did), they're offering the new mount to all GO 910/510 customers for free because they want customers to know that TomTom takes any customer issues seriously, and wants to do the right thing as soon as they become aware of an issue.

An interesting side-note: according to TomTom, turns out that the failure rate of the original mount during the winter was relatively small, but the increased heat of summer caused the original mounts to fail in greater numbers, prompting TomTom to take corrective action.

TomTom gets points for stepping up and taking corrective action in relatively short order. Nice to see a company standing behind its products.

So head on over to TomTom's site (https://www.tomtom.com/newdock/) and pickup your FREE new mount!

MapQuest Navigator Now Available for Mobile Phones

MapQuest has released MapQuest Navigator for select Sprint / Nextel phones. MapQuest Navigator provides turn-by-turn, voice-guided directions for wireless subscribers. The application can be downloaded to your phone over the air, and provides many of the same features an in-car navigation system would provide, including a moving map display.

"Based on consumer feedback, there is strong interest in reasonably priced GPS navigation systems on mobile devices," said Jim Greiner, VP and GM of MapQuest.

The service uses Sprint's existing location based services and GPS enabled phones to acquire wireless device location information. Since the maps are downloaded from MapQuest to the phone at the start of each journey, you never have to update the mapping information. The mobility of a cell phone means users can use the service not just in the car, but on foot, bicycle, unicycle, roller-skate...you get the idea. What else do you get?

  • Audible turn-by-turn voice and visual directions, using GPS, straight from the phone handset
  • Users can enjoy a seamless navigation experience while receiving phone calls
  • Full pedestrian navigation mode that ignores vehicle turning and one-way driving restrictions
  • Optimized routing calculation to find the fastest or shortest route, avoiding toll roads, highways or other specific elements
  • High-quality dynamic color maps with zoom-in/out, pan and point on map functionality
  • Easy address input for mobile phones;
  • Intuitive location search for address, intersection or zip code, including unique "points of interest" category search capabilities
  • Automatic re-routing without the need to contact the mapping server; and
  • Front-loaded data retrieval within the cell coverage area allows for a seamless navigation experience within and outside of cell coverage areas

MapQuest Navigator uses mapping data provided by Telmap.

I'm currently in the process of reviewing a similar service from mobile GPS leader TeleNav, and will be able to compare the mobile phone based navigation experience to true in-car GPS navigation soon.

BMW Releases Dynamic Traffic System in US

BMW dynamic traffic system

First I see Acura's new TV ad promoting traffic aware navigation, and now this: BMW has announced that select 2007 models (the 3-series, 5-, and 6-series models, as well as the X5, M5, and M6) will include real-time traffic information in their navigation systems. More proof that GPS navigation and real-time traffic are showing up on consumers' radar.

Traffic data will be provided by Clear Channel's Total Traffic Network, with coverage in 44 major US cities. Already own a fancy-pants BMW ride with the navigation package (you extravagant bastard!)? The traffic service update will be free to you for the next four years.

More details available via ClearChannel's website