Sunday, March 18, 2012

Garmin’s Android strategy

Garmin Navigator Australia

Screenshots from Garmin Navigator for Australia

When Garmin and Asus ended their ill-fated nuvifone partnership, Garmin gave Asus an exclusive for any preloaded navigation apps through the end of 2012. Because of this, quite a few Garmin watchers expect an announcement of a Garmin navigation app for Android early this year. But that may not happen.

A tough market and another option

The market for Android navigation apps is challenging; the developers must compete with the free and always improving Google Maps Navigation app that comes preloaded on Android handsets. Not that is isn’t without significant flaws, but at free, it’s good enough for most folks. The TomTom USA app has sold less than 1,000 units to date. Garmin has had more luck down under, with over 100,000 installs. Even so, when I saw this morning that Garmin had swung a deal with Samsung for preloading their Navgon app on the Galaxy Note 2, it made me wonder if Garmin wouldn’t be better off striking such deals with manufacturers. This would be a good differentiator for companies in the hyper-competitive mobile market.

We should know soon

Regardless, the picture should be clearer by the end of February, as I’m expecting an announcement one way or the other at Mobile World Congress. Which way do you think they will go – an app you can buy or a deal with a manufacturer?


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. Speculation fun-time

    Manufacturer. As popular as the Garmin name is for navigation placing the garmin name on the box or ads and touting the benefits of Garmin Navigation would influence more buyers. The marketplace doesn’t appear to make sense in this case. We’ll see when the “Congress” convenes.

  2. Well they sell the iOS StreetPilot onboard app for $50. If they had an Android version for the same price, I could get a Galaxy Tab 2 and have the equivalent of a 7″ Nuvi for $250. Maybe they are worried about it taking too large a bite out of their dedicated PND’s?

    • Could go both ways I guess. If I was on the fence about which tablet to get and saw that one could be used as a nuvi with an included Garmin app I’d probably go with that one. It would help sell units. They could ALSO offer the sale of the app for $50 for other tabs. This way they cover both bases. Why limit yourself right?

  3. You know, I’d happily buy TomTom or Navigon for my nexus 7 – except its not an option.

  4. I believe that if StreetPilot app as it is now, with the same specs it has in Padfone 2, became available in Google Play for all Android devices, then Garmin won’t have anything to worry about. The app is very good, similar with 34XX series software and i think it should sell like crazy in a reasonable price.
    I hope that Garmin won’t make the same mistake it did with Asus again and get into a trap this time with a manufacturer that sells today but maybe not tomorrow.

    • I’ve had the garmin-asus a50 for about 2 years now (actually we have two – the wifes has another. makes it easy that the can share the installation in the cars). It is by current standards an old slow smartphone… I would really like to be able to select _ANY_ current android phone and just buy the garmin software for it (along with lifetime map updates). Lifetime for a smartphone is probably only 2-4 years anyway …

      The reason we bought the a50’s was garmins navigation. Before that i used it on a nokia 5800 and also have had garmin ique.

      On the bike and motorcycle i use a garmin gpsmap 60 and for 910xt for sports…

      But i really enjoy the integration of smartphone and navigation. Only one unit to remember 🙂

  5. Rich, where did you find the figure of fewer than 1000 copies sold of TomTom USA for Android? The iOS version shows nearly 4000 reviews (presumably many more copies sold – as not all buyers post reviews). And that’s just the USA version.

    Hard to fathom how the app could be an order of manitude more popular on ine platform over the other.

  6. I think that they will offer an app that can be purchased. I really doubt that they are going to enter into any sort of exclusivity agreement as a result of what happened with ASUS.

    I actually bought Garmin Mobile XT several years back and installed it on a Pharos GPS Phone 600. i found out that I really liked having maps stored on the device, but I really didn’t care much for the Windows Mobile operating system.

    Sometime later Garmin offered the Garmin Nuvifone G60. It was carrier subsidy locked to AT&T in the US, but I unlocked it and used it on T-Mobile. It was even better than Garmin Mobile XT, but it really is only good as a phone and GPS. The camera was unimpressive. Trying to surf the web was frustrating.

    Later, when Garmin offered the Garminfone A50, I bought one of those second hand. By today’s standards, it is not a great smartphone. It had Android OS version 1.6 out of the box and I updated to 2.1 when it was available.

    I think Garmin realized that apps are the way to go for them as far as smartphones go. It makes sense. That way people can get the smartphone they want and then simply download Garmin StreetPilot For Android, if, and when, it becomes available.

  7. Scott Abernethy says:

    Been watching the Mobile World Congress feeds hoping to see something from Garmin….. nothing yet on a new Garmin Android App…..

  8. That is pretty disappointing to me. There is one more day of MWC2013, but I guess at this point it isn’t real likely will will see anything there tomorrow. I may have to re-focus my attention on the TomTom For Android app after all!

  9. Garmin and TomTom can’t really compete with Google maps/nav for people with smartphones, 99.99999% of whom have data plans (otherwise, why have a smartphone, for all but a few), if the apps they produce merely mimic their hardware PNDs. Smartphone adoption rate is climbing, and Google maps/nav is getting better all the time, and Garmin, TomTom, Magellan are going to suffer the consequences. Google’s POI accuracy is already better than any of those three, and that’s an important factor for someone in an unfamiliar area who is trying to find a certain type of POI (not by the address).

    Also, I’m sure they (especially Garmin) see themselves as mainly hardware makers. The 1990s Apple/Microsoft battle comes to mind here.

  10. I realize that Google I/O 2013 is nearly a month away yet, but is there even the slightest possibility that Garmin StreetPilot For Android could be released during that event?

  11. Yes, I am sure you are right. I am still just hoping that they might have Garmin StreetPilot OnBoard For Android someday, but it doesn’t look very good right now.

  12. Jim1348 says:

    We now have the Garmin Monterra available, which shows that Garmin is still interested in Android devices, but it still sort of puzzles me that they haven’t released a Garmin StreetPilot Onboard For Android. Since they have an Apple iOS version, it would seem natural to also offer an Android version. I think that it goes without saying that Android is an incredibly successful smartphone operating system. All I can figure is that they must feel that there is not enough of a profit margin in this to make it worth their while.

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