Thoughts on GPS…

Having had mobile GPS units for some years – coupled with experience using both an iPhone and a Nexus One – I thought I would chime in on a few thoughts I have been banging around. First off – mobile phones won’t replace real GPS units anytime soon for those who seriously get off the beaten track a bit. Not so much explorers per say but people who might be in foreign countries and need to try their best not to get lost. For this type of cruising around, especially on a motorcycle, stand alone or purpose GPS units have no equal.

First off let’s state that smart phones with maps are awesome – no doubt about it. For pre-planning, walking around a city or for searching for things, GPS units suck at this, I find my iPhone a critical mobile asset. My Google phone was cool as well but so far I tend to get more mileage out of my iPhone since my life is not played out in the Google cloud which makes an Android based phone less appealing. The convergence of wireless with maps – plus the ability to make calls is great and I am sure will get better. However strapping a phone to the handle bars of my bike while I explore Southeast Asia will never happen. Simple as that.

Given this though I am surprised the Garmins of the world, my chosen GPS company, don’t realize that convergence, ease of use and adaptability are key. So here is what I wish Garmin would do to make my exploring even better.

This is not listed by importance but just some thoughts:

  • Add Wi-Fi. How hard can it be? I don’t need the phone, I don’t need email but browsing might be handy in a pinch since exploring the maps on a GPS device is not easy. What I want the Wi-Fi for though is to be able to download new functionality, update the maps, buy new regions and maybe someday use the power of the Internet to enhance the experience. The idea that I have to hook up to a PC to update my maps totally bites.
  • Make browsing maps easier and make searching easier. Typos, hard to spell street names and the way regions work makes it hard to locate something you are trying to find. Simple universal search box would be cool.
  • Make saving trips with waypoints, not just destinations, much easier. If the Wi-Fi was there allow me to back up my device to the cloud.
  • Make it easy for me to get from point A to point A but highlight cool things along the way, plot a course to them but keep me heading to point B. It is all math right? Point is I need to get to where I am going but the device could do better at helping me to enjoy the ride and see things I did not know where there. The attractions function works but only when you stop and you can’t control the radius. Works but could be much better.
  • Allow me to ping the web somehow to finds things that are around me – I think tomtom does some of this but clearly much more could be done to use the Internet to find interesting things created by users. This could dovetail with users sharing routes – I would even pay for this.
  • If I had the Wi-Fi, browsing, and some way of sucking things in – let me grab a route and plot it on the GPS since the direction capabilities on purpose built devices are top notch.

These are some ideas that would allow guys like Garmin to prosper even in the face of smartphone competition!

Android versus iPhone

I won’t get into the nuances of Android OS versus iOS since this is not meant to be a technical dissertation. I remember an old buddy of mine constantly arguing with another buddy about PC versus Windoze. He used to say – everyone drives a Toyota does that mean I have to? I want to drive a Porsche – they make me feel good, they look cooler and they are expensive so less people have them. Status – does mean something to some people but not so much in a pretentious way but in a – well I work hard and I want to have what I want – what I can afford. Is it a crime? During this time Apple looked to be over and chumps like Michael Dell were saying Apple should close up and return money to shareholders. I think Apple could buy like 10 Dells now – not machines but the company.

So here we are again with the age old debates of the digerati telling you, the consumer, what you should buy. I carried a Nexus for like 6 months. It was okay. Nothing amazing really but then again I am not a big Google guy and the Android phones only excel if you are married to Google. My activesync hooks would die about every 4 weeks and I would lose email and contacts since the configs does not sync to the cloud – only the data does. I don’t use gMail and a lot of the other services only seem really relevant to the US.  Sure it was a smart phone and it killed my BB in every way but the battery life was deplorable and I honestly mostly used it a wi-fi hotspot. Which is a cool thing – I wish my iPhone did that.

I decided to get an iPhone 4, I have never had an iPhone, and I well – I can’t get enough of it. Better syncing, better battery, better camera and lots of wicked apps. Better app store and it syncs like a charm to iTunes. Yes – all of us know iTunes is the Trojan horse and I accepted that fate when I bought my first iPod 5gb – cause well it worked.

So now I am back to using my device to enhance my life more – rather than caring about openness, freedom and all the shit that honestly means very little to overall user experience. I reminds me back when I had to convince my friends that paying more for my Mac was worth every penny – yes Windoze was cheaper but overall it was more expensive cause it wasted too much of my precious time. I think the same with my iPhone. Maybe Android is more open, cheaper and so on – so? A Yamaha is cheaper than a BMW motorcycle – but ask me which one I would rather ride? A BMW. Any day of the week.

My point is – people buy what makes them feel good and what enhances their life. Android will appeal to some people but it won’t appeal to me. Is that such a big deal?

As usual DF sums it up well:

The differences between the iOS App Store and Android Market are a microcosm of the differences between Apple and Google. Apple is a retailer, a purveyor of well-crafted goods that people will line up to purchase. Google is an advertising company that builds popular services that command large audiences.

There’s a difference in culture — from the platform creators, from the developers writing software for the two platforms, and from what the users of these devices expect. For iOS, it’s about emotional appeal — art, design, the ineffable.