Sunday, March 18, 2012

Dash changes the GPS competitive landscape


The Dash Express, the hot new GPS featuring two-way connectivity, has caused a paradigm shift in the GPS industry. We have yet to see how broadly the Dash will be accepted, though they seem to have had a strong launch, with high initial shipments according to the sales rankings at Amazon (updated hourly).

There are a couple of key components to two-way connectivity:

  • Internet search – At least two other GPS companies are moving to integrate this into devices in the U.S., as discussed below
  • Crowd-sourced traffic – For now, Dash is the only manufacturer trying to bring us this feature, providing traffic updates via anonymized cell phone data relayed from other Dash users (though there are companies focusing on this technology that other GPS manufacturers could partner with)

While not a benefit of two-way connectivity, Dash’s built-in wifi will also give them the ability to push large map and firmware updates to the units.

Let’s look at the status of other GPS manufacturers as they move (or don’t move) to implement two-way connectivity:


Status: In process

Details: Magellan is getting ready to roll out the Magellan Maestro Elite 5340+GPRS for the ridiculous price of $1299. It will feature Google Local search, but besides big bucks you better have lots of patience if you want this one. Originally slated to appear in March, is now indicating a July ship date.


Status: Europe only

Details: Mio is releasing a connected device in Europe, but has no plans to bring it to the U.S.


Status: Rumored

Details: TomTom has played with cellular connectivity before, with their PLUS services, but their subscription rate must be very low. Dash got this right when they made connectivity the central feature of the Express and created an expectation that most users would pay the monthly fee. TomTom appears to, for now at least, be pushing Map Share as a way to give users updated maps and POIs, though this has to happen at your PC and not over the air. But there are continuing rumors of a TomTom phone that would allow them to implement two-way connectivity. EDIT: Thanks to Fred for his comment below, reminding me that TomTom is introducing two-way connectivity in Europe, complete with crowd-sourced traffic.


Status: No publicly announced plans

Details: Navigon has not announced any plans for a connected device and, as a smaller entity, may not have the financial resources to pursue it either. Their closest related technology focuses on getting map updates in the hands of consumers on a quarterly basis.


Status: In process

Details: Not surprisingly, Garmin is moving on this front. Their take appears to be that consumers will not want to pay for two cellular subscriptions. The Garmin nuvifone, due in Q3 2008, is their solution. Offering Google Local search, the nuvifone is also slated to support real-time traffic, though we do not yet know who the provider will be. Garmin has given no indication that they intend to utilize crowd-sourced data, though surely that is coming even if it’s in a later-generation nuvifone. Perhaps we’ll learn more at CTIA this week.

Dash’s future

Meanwhile, Dash has a head start and will continue to improve their product. I have to wonder about their business prospects though, and how many units they can sell. By developing the first commercial crowd-sourced traffic model for consumer GPS, they are going to acquire a treasure trove of data. Perhaps their end game is to be bought, by Garmin or by a cell phone manufacturer. File that one under pure speculation.

New business models to emerge?

One final word. Sooner or later, someone is going to offer an advertising-supported model that will eliminate the monthly fee for those willing to view geographically and possibly interest-based ads.

About Rich Owings

Rich is the owner, editor and chief bottle-washer for GPS Tracklog. Connect with him on Twitter, Facebook or Google Plus.


  1. It is not hard to launch high priced device with high monthly fee. Making money out of it is. I guess this and not DASH was the real reason why the big guys, TomTom and Garmin didn´t launch it big-time
    And with TomTom things are bit more complex than I see written 🙂
    TomTom indeed already have paid connected services like Traffic, Speedcameras and Weather since 2005 in all their GO^s. And the subscription cost are much lower than Dash. (Ok, bluetooth connection with Phone to the Internet)
    Then they continued to launched the first PND with integrated SIM back in 2006 in Europe. (Ok, GO 750 was part of the TomTom Work EU/US and focused on the companies.)
    In Nov 2007 they launched the first connected PND for the mass market with integrated SIM and providing real-time traffic information coming out of the mobile network and user traces. Much more reliable than what Dash is doing I must admit. (ONE XL HD Traffic)
    And at Cebit they now launched a car charger compatible with their older devices which includes a SIM and opens up the way to mass market.
    But at the end it was and still is all about the sim-cost.
    From a technical point of view most PND provider already implemented most functionalities that DASH is now claiming to be innovative with 🙂

  2. Larry G says:

    I’d like to see a poll of existing PND owners that asks:
    1. – if they have ever updated their maps and firmware
    2. – do they know how?
    3. – how would you feel about a unit that automatically got map updates as you drove?
    I would posit that anyone who thinks that connected GPSs are not going to eventually be the default capability for PNDs.. go back and rethink …
    from a mass-market consumer point of view.. this is like asking if you want a PC that is not connected….
    If the DASH performs as promoted.. they’re off and running.. and Garmin and others are going to hear Dash’s footsteps..
    If the DASH doesn’t fulfill expectations… it will be at best.. a temporary setback for the concept… and possibly a permanent setback for Dash but the concept .. in the end.. will prevail.. in the PND industry IMHO.

  3. Sorry, this is a concept that is going to appeal to a limited subset of early adopters and will never attain the critical mass it needs in order to take off.

  4. How much real time information does the iPhone have in major cities? GoogleEarth has traffic speed information (from sensors in the road I presume) in Los Angeles and if I understand correctly the iPhone uses Google map info. I know this isn’t crowd sourcing, but looking at options.
    What a PND?

  5. Fred,
    I’ve updated the TomTom section of this post. Thanks for the reminder about HD Traffic in Europe.

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  7. Well if you’re looking for mobile video and navigation type stuff, I found this site thats got awesome deals but doesn’t gouge (sp?) you on shipping like ebay. Check it out, its where I got my strada nav system

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