Sunday, March 18, 2012

The future of auto GPS, part two – embracing the smartphone

Yesteday we looked at safety technologies that might be integrated into auto GPS. Today, we’ll look at another option for GPS manufacturers that is somewhat safety related – how we interact with smartphones while driving.

I love my smartphone, I really do. But I don’t tend to leave it on my dash. Sure, it’s convenient to have a navigator with me wherever I go, especially one that can query Google’s points of interest (POI) database. But the damned thing does too much. I’m listening to music, taking a phone call, navigating, and then a notification of a text from my wife comes in – sheesh, I’m one glance away from becoming a distracted driving statistic. Which is why I prefer an old fashioned personal navigation device (PND) anytime I’m planning ahead, going out of town or having to find multiple addresses.

Of course the holy grail is to be able to do all those tasks I mentioned by voice. Smartphone manufacturers have the opposite problem of the GPS industry; they are having to do it all. Which brings us to an opportunity for the GPS/PND industry to pivot.

Clarion recently announced the Next GATE (pictured above), which they are hawking as “a smartphone controller for iPhone,” and I think they are onto something. MirrorLink is an industry standard that may speed this concept to market. Garmin is, to a certain extent, going the opposite direction with their Smartphone Link app, which is more about using the phone’s data connection to enhance PND usage, though they are showing signs of moving to app integration in their OEM division.

Wish list

So what would be the ideal here? I’ll propose some key features for a PND/smartphone controller hybrid:

  • 5-6″ screen
  • Built in navigation
  • Voice command with minimal screen interaction required
  • Ability to control/play MP3s and key audio apps such as Pandora
  • Auxiliary output and/or Bluetooth to send audio to car stereo
  • Excellent Bluetooth sound quality with voice dialing
  • SMS text to speech and speech to text

So what do you think? Is there any other functionality that really needs to be integrated? Would you be interested in a product like this, and would it make you more willing to buy an auto PND?

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. I stopped using my Garmin pnd gps years ago, admittedly i’ts an older model, but i can’t even think of getting a much more expensive gps only
    You seem to be talking about my Galaxy Note.
    5.3″ screen
    Doesn’t your Nexus have Maps/navigation? i have a shortcut on my ‘desktop’ with the blue ‘triangle’ that opens navigation with voice activation.
    I have several apps that let me loan music, phone maps, or whatever, on one easy to hit big button screen.
    I have excellent Bluetooth with my Prius, sound quality and steering wheel control
    I have very good voice recognition with android [you too?] that i dictate my sms to.
    I will also admit, when i’m doing all three, my battery gets hot, and dies faster, but i have a plug in the car, and amazon had a great sale on spare batteries that came with a two pack and a separate charger as well.
    I can program several things with voice command, but that is one area that can [and will with upcoming improvements]
    I love how google maps is always updating, and with free traffic, and alternate routes, i’m pretty well set.

    • My Nexus does have GM Navigation but it’s still not that car friendly. And GMN requires too many taps to do anything. But yes, there are many things I love about it.

  2. gpshiker says:

    I am a heavy Gamin GPS user and own at least a dozen Garmin GPS devices. However, I do think the smartphone could replace them in the foreseeable future. The reason is simple. Smartphone is a open platform for developers and Garmin is not. From my experience working on a GPS navigation application for iPhone, I do see a lot of potential on it, especially its ability to integrate with a lot of other features (social,…).

  3. Rich, I just found your site. Appears i’ve been missing a lot. I am the developer of the BridgeMTM mobile tablet mount that addresses a lot of concerns in your two articles on the future of auto GPS and the comments.

    imo there is room for a wide spectrum of GPS auto nav-assist devices, but those that enhance driver safety, ease of user experience, while afford-ably leveraging devices like smart phones and tablets people already own, will eventually win out. There will always be the PND afficianados who demand more from a GPS system, but i am referring to consumers who have experienced the value of inexpensive or free GPS nav/mapping/audio turn by turn, and want it without adding yet another device and expense of a premium PND system.

    I also agree with the comment that factory in-dash GPS systems tend to have a short tech shelf life for their price, and do not provide a safer head-up alternative to aftermarket dash mounted nav devices.

    Solutions for mounting navigation devices with no windshield obstruction, ease of device charging, while providing head-up, hands-on-the-wheel finger touch or optional voice or gesture UI device control, will be of interest as the popularity of in-car nav and augmented reality layering video continues to grow. Those new 7-8″ tablets (like Apple may be ready to roll with this fall) as well as larger 4-5″ smart phones like the Samsung Note will be leading the way in car nav options the next several years.

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