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Apple, Google Just Killed Portable GPS Devices (wired.com)
20 points by vmyy99 1991 days ago | hide | past | web | favorite | 33 comments

One big reason to keep using a dedicated GPS is offline support—as far as I know, both iOS and Android require an internet connection to calculate a route, so if you don't have cell service, you're out of luck. Since dedicated GPS devices have everything locally, they just do all that work without having to talk to a server.

The upcoming Maps update for Android will have offline support so you can pre-cache a selected area.


Will it support offline navigation? Map caching has been available as an experimental feature for quite a long time.

I can't imagine that navigation will work offline. Currently the directions and rerouting are calculated by Google's servers, not on the client device. Obviously trivial routing can be done on the device, but proper routing would need a lot more data to be present, and cover the whole route.

Exactly. Urban navigation, solid, universal navigation, no so much. What is worse is that navigation 'sketchyness' from the likes of signal drop outs. Trying to use my Nexus to navigate from Sacramento CA to San Jose, several complete blackouts along the way, map just goes blank.

And of course its a huge data consumer if its throwing map tiles at you constantly. Clearly local storage is so cheap and geo data changes so slowly that it seems ridiculous that the phone doesn't just keep a cache and save you the net charges but that doesn't seem to be in the plans.

Buy a dedicated navigation app. The Navigon and TomTom iOS apps are every bit as capable as a dedicated GPS, but cost $50.

I use the NDrive app for offline mode (pay-per-country-map). Never had a problem with it in several countries, and I go back to Google Navigation when I'm back where data access is. I couldn't imagine using a second GPS unit now after how well the Android is working for me.

Don't quote me on this but I believe Google Maps on Android has an offline mode where you can select a desired area to be cached for offline use.

EDIT: it is currently a "Labs" feature but it is being officially released soon along with the 3D mapping.

I've been using the lab feature, but I was hoping for a bit more.

I would like to be using a web browser on a desktop, perform a search, get directions, and then choose to have the entire route's tiles sent to my phone. (Along with hotel, gas, emergency responder, restaurant place information.)

I've also found that I am usually lost where there is poor cellular reception!

I'm surprised Google didn't announce offline support for Navigation as well. I wonder if it's a technical issue or they'd rather keep as much as possible online, so they can keep pushing ads.

Boats. Airplanes. Backpackers. Campers. Adventurers. People who need routes anywhere the network isn't real or good enough.

But mom? Yeah, she's not going to struggle with a Garmin or try to get the piece of shit in her car dash to work.

Thank you Google!

Convergence happens when an available device is good enough to replace a purpose-built specialized device.

"Good enough" being a compound factor. The best common smartphone (e.g. GS III / iPhone 4S) still pale compared to a decent P&S, but the convenience of being able to share/upload/utilize those photos overcomes the imaging deficiency.

Just thought it was worth mentioning that. I love my T2i, but most of the time I leave it sidelined simply because it's such a PITA -- relative to a smartphone -- dealing with the photos.

I think the smartphone has effectively killed the P&S for me and other folks in similar ages in my circles.

It used to be a) DSLR for events + b) P&S for hiking/casual/video. But now the (b) slot is completely replaced by my iPhone. I haven't replaced the DSLR since 2004 (O.G. rebel + nifty fifty), but will probably replace that before I ever consider getting another P&S camera.

And yet, standalone GPS systems are still absurdly expensive. I was looking at a handheld system with topological map support for hiking this summer, and the Garmin options basically start at $250 - and don't even include the maps, which are $100 on their own.

Motorcycle GPS? $700 please.

None of Garmin's standalone GPS products are remotely as capable as a free-on-contract Android smartphone, but they cost as much as an unsubsidized high-end handset. And you have to keep paying every year for updated maps.

I used this topographic map app for iOS while hiking the Appalachain Trail last year: http://itunes.apple.com/us/app/topo-maps/id306014271?mt=8

It's currently $7.99, and I felt like it was worth every penny. That $8 gets you unlimited downloads of USGS map squares, which are saved for offline use. Although the support for GPX "routes" is a little lacking, the support for "waypoints" is fine. My use case was mostly putting all of the AT shelters in as waypoints so I could answer the question "Oh my god how much farther do I have to go today?" when I took breaks. But it works very well for actual navigation too.

Also, the developer responded within a few hours when I was having trouble downloading a particular map square. It turned out to have more to do with my crappy Edge connection at the time, but still, he was quick to help, always a plus.

The big drawback to not having a dedicated device is battery life. I had to ration out use of my phone pretty strictly at times. Going 4 or more days between chargings doesn't actually let you do very much with it. If you only care about day hikes and overnights, it's not such a big deal, just remember to turn it off when not in use!

Note that motorbike GPS are ruggedized and waterproof - something that doesn't apply to the regular ones. They also have to work when being used with gloves not fingers, and are a smaller market. An Android phone isn't particularly comparable.

They do include lifetime maps with many car models these days (look for LMT after the model number for lifetime maps and traffic).

For some reason Garmin do have a perverse business model for the handheld units. I think they are trying to do the whole razor (gps) and blades (maps) model, but instead consumers are routing around this by just not buying their products. What Garmin should be doing is encouraging their customers to be doing as much mapping as possible rather than pricing them out of it.

It may be that they feel they can charge more due to offline capabilities of dedicated GPS devices.

Could be. It's definitely possible to do everything offline with a smartphone, but it isn't easy yet. I ended up buying a couple of topo map apps on my iPhone, and they did everything I needed.

I've got both an Android phone (Galaxy Nexus) and a Garmin in my car. The Android has a smaller screen and more up to date maps. The Garmin shows the maps better (spatial awareness) and its instructions are better, plus more complete when roads do things like fork. Additionally I can actually read the Garmin in sunshine while wearing sunglasses - something that is considerably harder for the Android.

But another generation or two of displays and they'll no longer be an issue. I don't hold out much hope for the friendliness of Google's map display and instructions, but suspect most people won't care, and certainly won't care enough to fork our for a PND.

It is interesting to see how companies are responding. Garmin are now letting their devices cooperate with your phone with SmartLink: http://gpstracklog.com/2012/06/garmin-smartphone-link-review...

Also interesting is the Parrot Asteroid. The concept is great - a head unit running Android - but the implementation is truly awful. http://www.parrot.com/usa/products/bluetooth-hands-free-car-...

Well... the article focuses on the car nav units. I've started using my phone with Waze for car navigation and it works great. So much better than the Nuvi I used prior. But "Portable GPS Devices" are used for more things than car nav. As much as I love my phone, it is no where near as rugged as my DeLorme GPS. When I'm out in the woods hiking or looking for a geocache, I'm not reaching for my phone.

I love the Navigation app on my Android, but I can use up my monthly data allotment in one day. Until I get unlimited data or Navigation stops overriding my low bandwidth settings, I'll continue to use my TomTom (terrible UI by comparison, but good enough directions).

I've only ever used a gps device in a rental car, and that hasn't changed since owning an android phone, so I imagine that as long as these gps manufacturers continue close ties with rental agencies they will continue to live on.

and nokia had killed the alarm clock in late 90s for me.

There are still GPS applications out there the phone isn't so great. Number one on the list is fitness. Number two I'd say is precision. My Garmin owns the phone in that regard, but really who cares except for mappers and cachers, and half the cachers will just use their phones anyway.

"Just killed" is a bit extreme. How about "have been killing for the past three years and are continuing to kill now"? But, yes, the standard GPS is going the way of the standard PnS camera.

No, they have killed them years ago but maybe this wasn't obvious up until now. It takes time to work out deficiencies and for the market to react. Remember this when the next time someone is arguing that even though Product X is looking less and less relevant, "it's far from being dead, in fact, it's selling more than ever."

Will ios6 support offline navigation? Thats one of the killer features currently missing on Android as well.

This will work fine in Europe as long as we stay in our own country. The prohibitive rooming costs make us all turn off data when we cross the border. Long life to GPS devices over here!

Android's Navigation app first came out a year or so ago and since them I've used it during travel in regions where a network is available. Odd that this is still considered news.

Funny, I just said the same thing here a few days ago. http://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=4079010

1) Offline support 2) Devices, maybe, but companies, no. In iOS 6, in very very small print, it says "data provided by TomTom"

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