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According to Berg Insight, the penetration of Personal Navigation Devices (PNDs) is already quite high in Europe and North America, and sales increases in new areas aren't likely to be enough to offset the future decline in these larger markets. (In fact, Europe is already on the decline, though North America is still growing.) The firm expects global shipments of PNDs to hit 42 million in 2011 and 2012, and then decline to 34 million in 2015.

Arstechnica story


I use my iPhone now and can never see buying a GPS only device.
 

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Why would someone buy a 250$ GPS when you can get a smartphone that does just about anything? I'd say GPS makers should make something just as useful as a phone in order to stay in the game or lower their prices.
 

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I'll start by saying my cell phone use is pretty much limited to a few phone calls a month so I don't really have any smartphone experience.

Can someone tell me if you use a smartphone as a GPS, do you incur any additional data charges (or whatever) from you service provider? Are the maps stored on your phone or are they downloaded as needed? Also, would you incur any roaming charges if you used your phone as a GPS in the US?
 

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If you use the online maps, like Google maps, you require a data connection and it will go against your usage.

There are however offline map alternatives. Depending on what you want from the GPS unit they range from free to $$$. TomTom makes an iPhone app for example that includes the full maps.
 

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I think for the average casual users, may be.

I had an iPhone 3G and I now have an iPhone 4, but I still went out and bought yet another PND (TomTom XXL 550TM) lately, even though I have a Garmin Nuvi 750 (but mount and cable stolen lately), plus other devices.

Why?

-- While driving, it's hard to see text such as labels for roads, on the 3.5" iPhone screen; and even if you can see it while squinting, it's not safe.

-- iPhone screen and audio will yield to any phone calls, including incoming calls; and no navigation aid during the calls. If you are relying on the navigation at the time while a call came in, you would have lost the aid and so you might miss a turn, an exit etc. Even if you ignore the call, the app will be interrupted for the time of the ringing. This is even true on the latest 4.1 OS on the 4, and with the latest TomTom 1.5 app which is fully 4.x multitasking compatible.

-- iPhone internal speaker is weak, especially for in car use. Sure you could route the audio to your car stereo but then you'd loose the capability of using your car stereo. Sure you could use your iPhone for music, but if you want to listen to radio (such as a traffic report), you would have to use a streaming app, but that is only if you have a data plan, and also within data coverage (e.g. if you are roaming in the US, data roaming would be very expensive).

-- Most apps for phones that I have seen / tried, have limitations on functionality on using the navigation app. It is either unavailable or much harder to achieve if you want custom POI (I found no method of loading it on the iPhone app while it is much easier on the PND while both from same company TomTom), track logging (Nuvi 7xx has it), uploading or downloading of routes, waypoints, tracks etc (within the app, I know there are apps that can do those things specifically).

-- Before I got the iPhone 4, my iPhone 3G constantly runs out of memory (RAM) so I had to clear memory (free memory), or even restarting the Springboard (respring), or rebooting. But that is only easy if you have the phone jailbroken and have tools like sbsettings installed. I have also used Windows Mobile device such as HTC Advantage, and the earlier OS versions would have stability problems making it an unsuitable platform for real time needs such as GPS navigation.

Granted, phone screens are getting bigger, and platforms are getting more stable. You might not mind not having car stereo playing the radio and thus can feed the audio through it. And future apps might add back those extra features that are on PND, but I still say that for the time being, I'd prefer to have a stand alone PND for this for any serious navi usage (such as a mid to long trip).

BTW, the iPhone 3G's GPSr sensitivity is quite low such that it is unsuitable to be used in landscape mode. Even in portrait mode, the sensitivity is sub-standard. (the 4 is much better, fortunately).

The market for PND is slowing down because most people do not need a PND, not because PND is not a good and useful product.

This is coming from someone who has used GPSr before PND was available on the market. I have set up car navigation using Toshiba Libretto mini laptop with external GPS receiver, running Delorme and Microsoft mapping software.

To answer the OT question, navigation software does not use cellular data if it is using offline maps (stored locally), unless it has some Live features such as traffic, weather, etc, and those use much less than maps. Online maps use server based maps and will eat up lots of data. I don't like those because you could be out of cellular coverage, or your connection could be bad and then your navigation goes with it.

And to the 2nd poster, besides the above answers, there are lots of reasons why smartphone nav apps are still not as good as those inside the PNDs. Sure the reason could be marketing decision, but still. So I'd flip the question around in that when would smartphone apps be as good, if not better than those on PND, so I don't have to keep both?

Why would PND become a smartphone? I know some products try to do that. For the record, I never use the Nuvi 750 for the photo viewer, MP3 player, calculator, etc, as I always have a smartphone or PDA with me, if not a computer. Why would those extra functions be important in a PND? They are just novelty and exactly I have used them as such, tested them out, and then never go back to those screens again.
 

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fortissimo, Very comprehensive post and well thought out. This is very much a "standalone best of breed" vs. "all-purpose" device type discussion.

For the casual user (such as me) the iPhone with Google Maps is sufficient but I would definitely buy a dedicated GPS device if I needed it frequently.
 

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Thanks for the compliment. I am a frequent contributor on a GPS related forum (but under a different screen name though) so I get a lot of info there also.

For the iPhone audio, there is indeed a solution from TomTom and Magellan, in the form of a power docking mount, that combines a powered speaker (bluetooth for some reason), and external GPSr (for better reception). Now watch the price: it is more expensive than a lower end PND, and that does not include the price of the app itself!! Ouch! huh. So only a few people would buy this as one could buy a complete unit (albeit low end) at that price.

Another thing is that smartphones usually do not include a car mount (I know some do, but iPhones don't, nor my HTC Advantage), so you still have to pay for a mount.

Apps used to cost almost as much as a stand alone unit. TomTom was $100. when launched, although they have come down in price lately, to about $60. (while $50. was the lowest), for the North America version (which is the standard to compare, although you could buy the Canada only one for less).

Again, with the price of a mount and the app, you could go out and buy a complete (but low end) unit. When on sale, one could find a brand new (not even refurb) TomTom or Garmin 4.3" (not even 3.5") for about $100. in stores, with full warranty etc (example: Garmin Nuvi 255W, TomTom XXL which was on Futureshop sale lately, forgot exact model).

I keep nav apps on my phones as a backup. It is also useful if I'm not driving (being a passenger in someone's else car), and I can use the phone to do the nav aid. Being a passenger and a navigator, I don't have to worry as much about the small screen, and so I don't have to carry the PND w/ me. I still have to watch my battery life of course.

When I go on long trips, I have at least 2 nav systems going at the same time, usually 3. Especially in the old days, systems can hang or crash, or maps could have errors (I-5 near Seattle would lost the distance marker on Navteq maps).

Google Maps for iPhone is not suitable for turn-by-turn real time navigation, as the pulling of map data is too slow compared to the speed of a car. It's best to be used for static use or for traffic info though. You might consider getting TomTom or Navigon on the iPhone (my personal choices), and wait for them to go on sale.

Every product trend goes through a similar cycle: from early adopters (even I did not buy the earliest PND, as they were too expensive), to enthusiasts, to tech savvy consumers, to mass consumers, and then to be replaced by something else. Right now we are hitting the mass consumers as price is going below $100. for lowest end PND. Because of maps are finally free for upgrading on many brands, there are no longer big needs to buy the new ones as it used to be (when maps were $100. each update, people went out and buy new models instead, such a silly time for Garmin way back).
 

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fortissimo, thank you so much for your post. We've been considering a GPS, but have been wondering about getting a smartphone instead, and using the GPS on it. I too had the question about data charges, so am happy to get the answer on that (why this is hard to find on provider sites I don't know). Anyway, the rest of your post has convinced me to get a separate device for the GPS in the car.

Most informative - I love this site!
 

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My GPS receives live traffic data via FM making it extremely useful to avoid jams and accidents. That alone gives it a heads up over a smartphone.
 

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We have a couple of GPS units and a smartphone with GPS apps. We'll continue to use the GPS units. As fortissimo mentioned, the phone is nice when I am a passenger. It's also nice to have when we're not relying on GPS to get somewhere. However, cell tower coverage is spottier than I expected, at least to manage the GPS constant function. We drove from Oakville up to Rattlesnake Point and lost cell coverage quite a few times during the trip. The app itself told us we'd lost cell coverage. Once lost, it took quite a few kms to lock back in. In one case it would have resulted in us missing our turn, if we didn't have an idea of where we were going.

Surprisingly our best GPS experience is with our oldest model, a Garmin that's about three years old now. Our newer Garmin always leads us on strange routes, even if the settings are the same as the old model.
 
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