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Summary:

[qi:gigaom_icon_mobile] Within five years, your cell phone will replace your Garmin, TomTom or whatever personal navigation device is currently sitting in your car, according to a Forrester report published today. Forrester supports this conclusion by arguing that more young people are using their cell phones for […]

[qi:gigaom_icon_mobile] Within five years, your cell phone will replace your Garmin, TomTom or whatever personal navigation device is currently sitting in your car, according to a Forrester report published today. Forrester supports this conclusion by arguing that more young people are using their cell phones for navigation and that because the phone is web-connected rather than offering static data, it provides a greater benefit. I’m not sure I would toss out the old Garmin just yet, however.

As GPS and services like Skyhook Wireless, which use Wi-Fi to help provide navigation even when GPS signals aren’t available, proliferate on cell phones, the communication devices can serve as a decent source of navigation. However, they are far from perfect. Skyhook analyzed customer feedback on gadget review sites and found most cell phone-based navigation services were slow, provided spotty coverage and drained the battery. They are also expensive, around $10 a month at AT&T and Verizon.  Despite this, AT&T said that its navigation applications generated the most revenue in new sales during the first quarter of this year, which means phones currently have something the consumer wants.

I think that something is actually connectivity and interactivity — namely the ability to get information like real-time traffic and maybe the closest, clean restroom on your road trip. I think of it as social navigation, in which information provided by user reviews or data from other people currently traveling on the same route is packaged up as useful, real-time information for the traveler. If personal navigation devices can add this type of social element, perhaps by using a data connection in the car, they may stay ahead of phones. Dash Navigation, the makers of a personal navigation device we loved, attempted this, but is now licensing its software to other device makers. When it comes to navigation it’s not the phone that’s essential, but the connectivity. Finding neutral wireless connectivity at a reasonable cost will be the key theme in the decade to come.

socialnavchart courtesy of Forrester

  1. It hadn’t occurred to me there would be resistance to using the phone for navigation. In my case, one reason I decided to skip over the iPhone 3G last year was because it did NOT include that service. I didn’t want to buy a Garmin if I could get my phone to do the same thing.

    Oh, and completely off-topic, it’s nice to be part of a group that has “younger” in the title? :-)

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  2. My iPhone won’t replace my Garmin Nuvi any time soon.

    What do you do when the phone rings and you’re using the nav to get somewhere?

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    1. Stacey Higginbotham Thursday, May 28, 2009

      Jordan, my thoughts exactly.

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    2. The phone app runs just fine in the background. Answer the call and switch back to the Nav app while talking.

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  3. That doesn’t help me when I am hiking in the Sierra Nevadas.

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    1. Maynard Maynaze Friday, May 29, 2009

      Good Take Greg.

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  4. There will always be a market for standalone GPS devices. I use my GPS on my motorcycle, which requires it to be weatherproof and shockproof, adding bulk and weight that the smartphone market won’t tolerate.

    Greg the hiker probably feels the same way…it would be a bummer to get lost in the wilderness because you dropped your iPhone in a creek.

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  5. Huh? Nokia phones have NAV inbuilt, and don’t have to use wi-fi, they use the carrier momentarily for A-GPS and then the GPS kicks in soon after. And, guess what?, no subscription, no bother. Ahh, the joys of buying an unlocked phone. Oh, with the Nokia, you can download the map for entire US at no charge via your home connection with a USB cable to your phone. Nokia FTW!

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  6. John Angerman Friday, May 29, 2009

    This article didn’t differentiate that “cell phone” nav comes in two types: on board and off board. The complaints cited deal with off board solutions. Mobile carriers push off board solutions as these rack up those monthly fees as noted. To avoid the problems like slowness and have navigation always available (even in areas with no cell coverage) go for an on-board solution like Horizon Navigation’s Navmate software for Mobile.

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  7. [...] The Dawning Age of Social Navigation [...]

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  8. [...] for comment on this story. However, if Dash earned its investors so little, that may indicate that connectivity is the key rather than a special-purpose device for a given task. The Kindle has an iPhone app, while Slacker, [...]

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  9. [...] e-reader is a waste of silicon and plastic. I’d argue that an unconnected music player or personal navigation device will soon become [...]

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  10. [...] If 2009 was the year when “geo” became a buzzword and gathered momentum, then 2010 is going to be the year when location-based functionality is going to become commonplace — from mobile apps to consumer devices, even to web services are all going to be geo enabled. Like me, one man who has been patiently waiting for the future to arrive is Ted Morgan, chief executive of Skyhook Wireless, a Boston-based company that provides location-based service as an infrastructure. His company keeps close tabs on the location ecosystem. (Related: “The Dawning Age of Social Navigation“) [...]

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