Sunday, March 18, 2012

iPhone GPS – What we know now


You’ve probably heard by now that Apple unveiled their next-generation iPhone yesterday and that it has GPS. So here’s a little roundup of what this may mean in terms of navigation and competition with personal navigation devices (PNDs) and the forthcoming Garmin nuvifone.

First of all, it appears that the iPhone will not have built-in turn-by-turn navigation. I say "appears" because, while it wasn’t mentioned in yesterday’s announcements or shown in the demo, Gizmodo has a video that shows  rudimentary navigation.

Meanwhile, TomTom says they will have navigation software for the iPhone (image above via Gizmodo), and Telenav is expected to also put forth an offering. GPS Lodge cites rumors of a Dash app.

All of which leaves us with a number of questions:

  • Will these maps be delivered over the air or will they eat up the limited memory on the iPhone?
  • How is visibility in full sun?
  • Is the speaker loud enough for voice navigation?
  • How well will traffic be integrated?
  • How well will navigation be integrated with phone calls, music, etc.?

Though the 3G iPhone has a nice $199 price point, you have to factor in the cost of mapping software; TomTom Navigator 6 is $149.95. Or if Dash provides their service, I would assume yet another ongoing monthly fee.

Is this the death of the PND? No, there are a lot of people out there not willing to pay $30 per month on top of a voice plan. And we’ve yet to see how good of a navigator the iPhone will be.

As far as the nuvifone goes, Garmin and AT&T better come up with a competitive discounted price, but the iPhone 3G isn’t necessarily a nuvifone killer. Voice quality and integration of navigation will also be important factors determining whether the nuvifone can compete and survive.

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. Hey Rich, I figured I’d answer some questions for you. 🙂
    • “Will these maps be delivered over the air or will they eat up the limited memory on the iPhone?”
    I suspect they will go in the internal memory. The iPhone comes in 8GB and 16GB, so there would be plenty of memory available. (The TomTom ONE for example only has 1 GB of memory.)
    • “How is visibility in full sun?”
    The iPhone (1st generation) screen has twice the resolution of most screens of that size, so I suspect it would be equal or better than most 3.5″ GPS devices.
    • “Is the speaker loud enough for voice navigation?”
    Judging by the first generation iPhone… no. The 3G model is suppose to have a “greatly improved” audio system… so who knows.
    • “How well will traffic be integrated?”
    With TomTom traffic already being dumped into phones via data plans, I suspect it would be easy for TomTom to offer PLUS services (traffic, buddies, weather, etc) coming down the Edge/3G pipe.
    • “How well will navigation be integrated with phone calls, music, etc.?”
    The current iPhone handles this fairly well, but perhaps not in an ideal way for navigation. If you are reading email and a call comes in, you can choose to keep doing email or take the call. While on the call you can still go back to other apps– but manually rather than the automatic method GPS devices use. So I suspect you could tap the button to take the call and then tap back into navigation wile still on the call– but that is just a guess.

  2. Thanks Tim. Always good to hear from you. Most of that sounds spot on, but remember that hi-res can mean less visibility in sunlight…

  3. Another question: will we have access to the data? (tracks, waypoints etc)
    Most likely not. At least not out of the box. The latest release of the iPhone SDK (beta 7, released yesterday) contains a lot of location stuff though, so I guess it’s on us to build the apps ;).

  4. True– I guess I was speaking more from a first hand experience using my iPhone on the dashboard versus pure stats:
    But yes, a valid point.

  5. First hand experience is good! So Tim, how visible is it? Is it like TomTom, or as bright as a nuvi, or…?

  6. I’d say better than something like a Nuvi 360, not quite as good as something like a Nuvi 760.

  7. I just came across this interesting nugget in GPS World:
    Apparently the agreement associated with the SDK prohibits creating applications for real-time route guidance. The article speculates this could be because Apple already teamed up with a company to produce software for the turn-by-turn routing.

  8. Yeah, I saw that a little while ago. I wonder if they’ll be ready to roll on July 11. Curious that they didn’t announce a partnership the other day though.

  9. I’ve been in the market for an affordable GPS for several months.
    I also was waiting for the next-generation iPhone to be released before I considered buying one.
    Now that it has aGPS, and I’ll supposedly be able to buy TomTom software at the Apple apps store is a big selling point. I think that could be the case for the consumer who is sort of a casual PND user or who might have been on the fence about buying one — especially given Garmin’s higher price points (iPhone 3G will be $199 for 8GB and $299 for 16GB).
    Don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying iPhone with GPS is a PND killer. But I do think PND manufacturers need to keep keep evolving (Nuvifone is a good example, as is TomTom’s software for iPhone) to continue competing with ever-expanding tech companies like Apple.

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