Smartwatches and wearable computers are all the rage, although no one has nailed them yet, leaving the tech to languish in the (very) early-adopter phase. And while the manufacturers (and rumored manufacturers) include the usual suspects — Google, Apple, Samsung and others — it seems that the GPS industry may make a significant push too.
One advantage they have is that people already use their products and already have smartphones; getting you to upgrade an old device that you constantly use is a lot easier than selling you on a brand new product category. Let’s look at where the industry is now in terms of smartwatches…
Magellan is the first GPS manufacturer to hit the smartwatch market with their Magellan Echo. Designed to function as a sportwatch, it doesn’t even have a GPS chipset, so it’s almost a dumb terminal for your smartphone. But it displays your stats and integrates well with lots of fitness apps.
Garmin Approach S4
Meanwhile, the forthcoming Garmin Approach S4 golf sportwatch borrows more from the traditional smartwatch playbook in that it displays iPhone text and emails on it’s screen. Unfortunately there is no word yet on Android compatibility.
Looking to the future
These early iterations give the companies a toehold in the market, a chance to see what resonates with consumers, and gives their engineers a proving grounds. I suspect this is just the first volley, with new smartwatches and “smart GPS” models to be announced at the Consumer Electronics Show and/or Mobile World Congress. Maybe something like the Garmin venu.
Imagining a smart GPS
Not that one — I think it was DOA. No, I’m envisioning a backcountry smart GPS. Here’s one use case — I’m mountain biking, grooving on single track, when the phone in my pack chirps a notification. Do I stop, dig it out and check it? Is it something I can ignore or is it my wife with an urgent message. I would love to have notifications pop up on the GPS on my handlebars, letting me know. And how about uploading my track to Garmin Connect and Facebook at the end of the ride? Or controlling the phone’s radios, allowing me to take it out of airplane mode long enough to check for messages? And I bet many readers have wished they could download the nearest geocaches on the fly.
What do you want?
Your turn! What would you like to see in terms of features and the way a GPS could interact with your phone? What are the other use cases for this type of tech?