GPS navigation: Phone vs stand alone


We previously pondered how dedicated GPS car navigation services would compete with the rising popularity of cell phone-based GPS navigation services. Mobile networks can offer connected features and the ability to easily navigate from wherever you are, while the stand alone GPS navigation market is vulnerable from commoditization and increased competition. The Wall Street journal asks that question this morning, and points out that Nokia plans to add free navigation functionality on its new N95 mobile phone.

The WSJ quotes a TomTom spokesperson as saying:

TomTom says it isn’t worried about competition from mobile-phone makers, as “screens on mobile phones simply aren’t large enough for in-car navigation,” Mr. Titulaer said.

That’s a pretty poor argument, because that’s where audio-based directions come in. Rather than pointing at the shortcomings of the mobile market, the stand alone companies like TomTom should make sure their devices and services are that much better than the basic ones being offered on cell phones.

Both markets are growing rapidly, but big mobile players like Nokia who can afford to give away navigation service as a differentiator on a new phone may help turn navigation into a standard cheap or free service. If all phones one day offer free navigation, would someone pay extra for a stand alone device for a car? Only if it offers a significantly better experience. TomTom, you should probably start mapping out some plans.


Dr. Morgan

I also use LifeInPocket from for over a yea for freer. I used to pay $10 for Telenav while LifeInPocket is easier to use, better feature and free.

I don’t think anybody can compete with this free app — better, real time, updated and free. Nothing can beat it.


They all use same map data thus they are about the same thus the key is
– Pricing
– Rich in features

I use free app and services from for 12 months on my AT&T Nokia phone, the navigation is about the same as those $120 per year but the address book sync capability and location message are what others cannot offer. More expensive isn’t better, cheaper is better.


Actually, GPS’s can not be used to locate your car the way you think. A GPS only recieves a signal from satellites, it does not transmit a signal.


Indeed, I actually use TomTom Mobile on my Nokia N93, and it is just as fast as dedicated navigation units (I also had a TomTom 500). The fact that the screen is smaller means nothing, just set the phone on a cradle where you can see it – besides, as mentioned, you have voice instructions.

Funnily enough, the EU was to pass a law that banned navigators with display units, as they were distracting drivers who stared too much at the screens. Only navigators that turned off the screen when the vehicle moved, and provided voice instructions would be legal to use.


Garmin’s (and others’) touchscreens make selecting a destination fairly uncomplicated. How is that to be managed on a cellphone?

What I REALLY want is a GPS device in EVERY vehicle so that they can be located in an emergency (e.g., the recent unnecessary death of James Kim after turning onto a ‘road’ that should have been CLOSED and being LOST for TWO WEEKS).


I find the article a bit misleading – TomTom had a cellphone version of their product since late 2004 and if you check their annual report, you can see that the product’s sales have been extremely low compared to their dedicated units.

Most people go for convenience… That means iPod,PSP/DS,dedicated GPS over cell-phone/do-it-all-PDA.

Alan Keister

Great timing. I am just now posting a review of Verizon Navigator. I compared it to several consumer GPS units including Acura factory, Garmin 2620, and others. The cell phone isn’t the best display but it is plenty good enough for light duty use. The biggest challenge is entering an address.

Subscription GPS services have some key benefits you might not realize until you use it. The biggest being map updates. They happen quicker and don’t costs a lot of money. In fact, a map update for my Acura costs $200. A year of Verizon Navigator costs $120 and it fits in my pocket.

Read more here

Peter Cranstone

Our company has developed a simple solution. A GPS enabled phone can now stream real time GPS data over the web to a web server. Customers privacy is ensured with encryption and the ability to control the GPS data being sent. Works just as well on a UMPC or a laptop.

Here’s a link with a diagram to show what else it’s capable of.




Personally I would be afraid of the new UMPC’s that are GPS equipped. A ~one pound touchscreen Vista PC with all the trimmings, new less expensive maps and browser(Yahoo maps)all in one.


Also the day is not far when some sort of mobile chip will be added to the navigation device in the car or it will update its system via bluetooth in the phone. I am sure in a few years we can pay for navigation content to one company which can make the content available to us in the car, on the phone or on computer/tv at home. I am sure there is little bit for all the major players in each segment of the market.


Whilst a very valid and interesting conversation – I’ll think you’ll find TOMTOM are doing something about it. Such as selling their leading software to run on phones. I’m running TT Navigator 6 on my Treo 650 and it is excellent. You can get TT for windows mobile, Palm and Symbian – I’d say that covers a few phones!


Here we go again. trying to cram another devices functionality onto the cell phone !

The music cellphone has not replaced the mp3 player … yet.
The camera cellphone has not replaced the digital camera or video cameras … yet

At best these have been disruptive. Being able to use the technology in different ways. For eg: When you forget/cannot carry the digital camera to an event.

I ended up buying a car GPS navigator after seriously considering a cell phone GPS. My cell phone is already burdened with so many things that it is a pain to be able to make calls. Also I need to be able to use the GPS when a call comes in. The dimunitivce screen size does not help either. And for all the connected information that can be available, very little of it is available right now. The only good thing that I could see was live traffic updates which a lot of GPS’s support thorugh FM TMC. Also with all the things I put the cell phone through, battery life is becomign a real issue.

I would not be scared if I was TOM TOM. I would be scared of the in-car navigation systems which are superior and are coming standard with a lot of the cars.


There is one important issue with mobile phones having naviation: today one cannot TALK WHILE NAVIGATING…
Even if phones multi-task” and are able to have data/voice on simultaeiusly, how will you get your voice directions while on the phone!!! visually maybe, still a sticky problem…


Most people don’t use navigation daily, they simply use it when needed. I think both paid phone navigation and GPS computer will be gone.

Free phone navigation such as the popular LifeInPocket ( probably fit most people’s need best. It’s convenient, handy, ready to use, updated, realtime and free. You don’t carry extra device, you don’t worry about monthly bill and you don’t buy anything.

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