Magellan Introduces Android Powered GPS Units at CES

magellanLogo Magellan, a maker of GPS devices for vehicles, fitness, outdoor and mobile navigation, announced it will introduce a new line of RoadMate GPS Navigation units featuring “EasyTouch” touch screens and using Android OS for a more powerful navigation experience, at 2014 International CES.

The 5″ model 5430T-LM with traffic and lifetime maps will be the first released sometime in the first quarter of 2014.

MagellanRoadmate

“These new models will have the advantage of the Android operating system’s superior handling of navigation data and Magellan’s record of proven safety and performance,” commented Stig Pedersen, associate vice president of product management at Magellan. “Also, commonly found on smartphones and tablets, capacitive touch screens on PND units were previously offered only in the highest price ranges, but the Magellan RoadMate line now offers it at an affordable price.”

It comes equipped with many premium features such as landmark guidance, PhantomALERT, junction view, and free lifetime traffic alerts and map updates. Users know they are traveling with the information necessary to make critical on-point driving decisions.

The information I have at this point doesn’t say whether users will be able to add any apps to the devices.

Magellan’s RoadMate 5430T-LM will be available at retailers throughout the U.S. and Canada, as well as online at www.magellangps.com in Q1. It has an MSRP of $179.99.

Running Multiple GPS on the Road

As an over-the-road truck driver, I’ve been playing around with GPS various devices and mapping software for several years. Maps and GPS’s have radically improved over the years. Does the perfect GPS exist? Not yet. So what is the solution? The solution I’m currently using is multiple GPS’s running at once. “Isn’t that a bit extreme?” you ask. Not really. Let me explain my current setup. I have a special Garmin GPS that is aimed at commercial truck drivers as well as those driving around in large motorhomes and other recreational vehicles. It differs from a standard Garmin or other stand-alone GPS unit in at least a couple of important ways. First, the user inputs the overall dimensions of his or her vehicle. The Garmin attempts to calculate routes based on known truck routes. It attempts to calculate routes based on keeping to known truck routes, and avoiding roads and routes that trucks and large vehicles are prohibited from. Secondly the Garmin has a database of truck stops, truck washes, scales, rest areas, etc. These two elements are theoretically updated with each new periodic map update. The Garmin does a decent job, but it has its quirks. I also have a Google Nexus 7 which has the excellent built-in Google Maps and Google Navigation, which are actually two separate apps that are tied closely together. I have found the Google satellite view and Google Street View to be invaluable aids on a daily basis as I am constantly having to find and go to places such as warehouses I’ve never been before. I can usually get a great idea of the size of the place, how it is laid out, if there is truck parking either on the property or nearby, etc. I also have the TomTom for Android GPS app along with a subscription to TomTom’s excellent HD Traffic service. Since I have a full-time data connection via a WiFi hotspot, I often run the TomTom software in parallel with the Garmin since TomTom’s HD Traffic service is generally pretty accurate when it comes to major traffic tie-ups and slow-downs. But wait, there’s more. Let’s say I’ve got the same destination programmed in to both the Garmin and the TomTom software, but I want to know how far it is to a particular point of interest along the route, for example a particular truck stop. The TomTom software continues to run in the background as I go to the Nexus 7’s menu and start Google Maps and/or Google Navigation. Yes, it is easily possible to have TWO completely separate navigation programs running on the Nexus 7 at the same time, even in the background. Of course if one runs any GPS program it’s a good idea to have the Nexus 7 plugged in since it will drain the battery in just a few hours’ time especially if one keeps the screen turned on. Also, with both the TomTom app as well as the included Google Navigation app running simultaneously in the background, it is still possible to open the regular Google Maps app and search and browse the satellite views as normal. As an extra aside, I frequently also have an app such as Audible or DoubleTwist running in the background attached via Bluetooth to a Bluetooth stereo speaker setup. The Nexus 7 is easily able to handle all of these tasks in stride with no slowdowns or stutters. So I find that having multiple GPS apps available in front of me (stuck to my windshield on the Nexus 7 via an inexpensive windshield mount I found on Amazon) to be an invaluable extra navigational aid. I personally believe one of the Nexus 7’s biggest strengths to be the built-in GPS chip, a feature that the Amazon Kindle HD’s lack, as well as all iPads that lack a built-in data connection. A built-in GPS chip really adds tremendous amount of value to any tablet, regardless of what the intended use might be.

An Open Letter To Apple CEO Tim Cook

ear Mr. Cook,

Like many people, I converted to Apple products because it represented real value. My first Apple computer was a second-hand Mac Mini with a Power PC processor. I was impressed by the fact that a clearly obsolete machine could remain so useful and usable at several years of age, when other older computers of the same vintage were long gone.

My next Apple product was a white plastic MacBook with an Intel processor, which is now six years old. Impressively, the machine still remains highly functional today.

Since then, I went on to get a seventeen inch MacBook Pro, two Intel Mac Mini machines set up in home theater configurations, two iPod Classic MP3 players, an iPad 2 and an iPod Touch.

Apple purchases were easy to justify. An Apple computer might cost three times as much as a competing piece of hardware, but the Apple operating system could usually be counted on to continue to function years longer than a competing Windows counterpart. Back in those days, Apple machines were also repairable. My seventeen inch MacBook Pro has been repaired twice, and I’ve replaced the battery myself once.

In my mind, the Apple brand represented usability, innovation, and long-term value. It was easy to recommend Apple products to friends and family, because genuine value was present.

Unfortunately, in the past year or so there has been a change. Recent product releases have failed to excite me. New Apple laptop computer designs present hardware that is close to being non-repairable and disposable. Apple has become a high-end disposable Bic computer. In the realm of phones, Apple, once the innovator, is now failing to catch up to competing Android phone features. Apple seems to be preferring to go down the path of suing competitors such as Samsung in a desperate attempt to cling to past glories, rather than continue to experiment and innovate towards future effulgences.

Apple founder Steve Jobs was a brilliant innovator, albeit with some flaws – i.e., he tended to be controlling and manipulative. As a genuine innovator Mr. Jobs was ultimately successful in spite of those flaws, not because of them. It’s been a year since the death of Steve Jobs. I fear the remaining imprint of Steve Jobs on Apple as his personal innovation fades is deteriorating into Apple embracing the skeleton of the dysfunctional parts of the Jobs personality. The genuine innovator at Apple died a year ago. Growing tendencies toward control and manipulation remain.

Steve Jobs created an unprecedented amount of momentum, which Apple still benefits from today. Apple, now at its pinnacle has reached unbelievable heights even as there is an unnoticed malignancy.

For me, the thrill is gone. IOS 6 diminished my iPad 2 experience. I rely heavily on Google Maps, including both the satellite view and Google Street View. The new Apple satellite images in IOS 6 are clearly inferior and fuzzy when compared directly to Google’s superior satellite images. Street View is gone. The YouTube app is gone. Apple has embraced Steve Jobs’ desire to punish Google for coming up with Android and daring to compete with the iPhone. The removal of Google Maps and the YouTube app in IOS 6 is a move born out of spite, not innovation. Actions taken out of spite are always a mistake.

In Apple’s more humble past there has always been a core of users, often dubbed the “Mac Faithful” that would stick with Apple and buy their products no matter what. In recent years, under the renewed leadership of Steve Jobs, Apple was able to finally move into the mainstream, picking up a vast bulk of new customers that lack this zealous loyalty. People like me were enticed to buy Apple products by the genuine value they offered.

As a long-time consumer of technology, I lack this Apple zealoutry. My loyalty extends only to products that offer good value. I can only speak for myself, but at the present time I don’t see myself buying any additional Apple products anytime soon. I am wondering how many other recent Apple customers share my lack of loyalty?

What has befallen Apple is unfortunate. It was always fun watching the presentations of world-changing innovations. These days, not so much.

Sincerely,

A now-unhappy customer.

Recalculating ….

You can’t always listen to what your GPS device tells you to do. My husband had a birthday this week, and some of our friends took us to a restaurant to celebrate. The driver was using one of the Garmin GPS devices. We knew where the restaurant was located. However, our friend wanted to try and get used to driving and following the directions given by the Garmin. This was sort of a “test run”.

The Garmin’s “speaks” in a female sounding voice. We noticed that she sounded rather irritated whenever my friend wasn’t following her suggestions. “Recalculating….” she would, disapprovingly say. This happened almost immediately after we started driving, because the Garmin wanted my friend to essentially make a u-turn to get back to a larger street. However, the street we live on is somewhat narrow, and was filled with parked vehicles, so it made more sense to drive around the block, instead.

The Garmin then took us on a route to the restaurant that my husband and I had never taken. Soon, we learned why we had never decided to go that way. The restaurant is located in an area that has recently had the road built up. The Garmin took us down a residential side street, named “Garcia”, and then instructed my friend to drive across a four lane road that had a large and impassible median in the middle of it.

He wisely chose not to attempt that particular maneuver. The Garmin complained. “Recalculating…”. The device felt that my friend had simply missed his turn, and attempted to direct him back around to Garcia road. Had he selected to follow the directions given by the GPS unit, we would have been driving in an endless loop until we ran out of gas.

What caused this problem? It could be that the satellite hadn’t caught up to the recent changes to the road. Perhaps it couldn’t tell that the road was now a four lane with a large, impassible, median in the center. Or, the problem could have been because my friend had not updated the device with newer versions of the map for quite some time. Either way, it just goes to show that you cannot always listen to what a GPS device tells you to do, even when it says “Recalculating…” in a tone that implies that it is disappointed with you for not following its directions.

Image:Driving A Car by BigStock

Magellan RoadMate Commercial Truck GPS Navigator 9270T-LM

The Magellan RoadMate 9270T-LM is a 7” inch touch screen GPS aimed at the commercial trucking industry. I’ve spent a lot of time with it in real world situations and at this point feel I can give the unit a fair review.

I’ve done a fair amount of experimenting with GPS units aimed at commercial drivers. I live with these things 24/7 and at this point I’ve got a pretty good idea of what a commercial GPS should do. In this review I’ll be using my current Garmin trucker GPS as a bit of a yardstick to compare the Magellan unit to.

The box includes the 9270T-LM GPS itself, along with a long, heavy-duty base unit with dual suction cups capable of securely attaching the unit to virtually any big truck dash, no matter how large or oddly shaped it is. It comes with an AC adapter, which must be assembled with the included prongs for North American AC power outlets. It also comes packed with a USB cable for connecting the unit to a computer for updates, a 12-volt power adapter to power it with a 12-volt vehicle power socket, as well as a very rudimentary user’s manual. The box says the unit can be updated with software for both Windows and Mac, however the website seems to suggest that their Mac update software is limited to certain GPS models.

The Magellan 9270T-LM comes with lifetime maps – that’s what the “LM” stands for. It also comes with lifetime traffic updates, which are accomplished via a passive FM radio system present in many areas of the country. It has a bright 7” inch touch screen that makes the unit easy to read and use. Overall vehicle dimensions can be readily customized, as well as specifying whether or not one is hauling hazardous materials for routing purposes.

The 9270T-LM’s navigation seems on par with the Garmin trucker GPS I’ve had for the better part of a year. It seems to follow truck routes and also is cautious about routing large truck’s around roads it isn’t sure about. One quirk I found with the integrated points of interest is that it does not seem to include the Blue Beacon chain of truck washes, which is a major omission unless I happened to run into some quirk in it’s integrated POI database. I am constantly having to look for truck washes at times on a daily basis so I can get my refrigerated trailer washed out prior to reloading it, so the more complete the integrated POI database is, obviously the better.

In use, the unit warns of an upcoming turn two miles before, then again, as you get closer. It also chimes at both turns and at freeway off ramps. It automatically (and quietly!!!) quickly recalculates if you happen to go past a turn or an exit.

One of the features I really like is the way inputting cities, streets and address numbers works. It is predictive (attempting to predict the names of cities and streets so you don’t have to type the entire words) with a large onscreen keyboard that takes up most of the screen, making the keys easy to hit. It also speaks each letter or number as you hit it, making it easy to tell if you’ve made a typing mistake as you spell the names out.

On the negative side, the unit is fairly inflexible in how it allows you to customize the main screen to your own individual tastes. My existing 5” inch Garmin trucker GPS allows a tremendous amount of flexibility in the multiple pieces of real-time data it allows the end user to simultaneously display. I like to have the current time of the time zone I’m in always displayed, along with the speed limit of the road I’m on, the speed my vehicle is actually traveling, along with how many total miles are remaining for the entire multi-stop trip.

The 9720T-LM has a pop-up display accessed by tapping on the screen that displays the remaining distance, the ETA, the actual vehicle speed, and the elevation. It also displays the direction of travel but I’ve found this digital compass feature to be completely unreliable. This transparent slide-up data display bar stays up for a few seconds and then slides back down with no way to force the information to remain on the screen. It is unfortunate because the large 7” inch touch screen ends up with a lot of wasted screen real estate. I discovered by playing around with it that it is possible to pick one of those pieces of data to display in the lower right corner of the main screen by default. After tapping and getting the slide-up display in position, tap and hold the piece of data you want to remain displaying in the lower right corner and it will stick once the data display slides back down off the screen. The most useful piece of data for me personally and one I find myself constantly monitoring is the current vehicle speed, especially when traveling down two lane roads and going through small towns, which can sometimes be notorious as speed traps.

The Magellan 9720T-LM is capable of multi-stop routes, making it possible to enter a multi-drop trip into the unit all at once, however it falls short in that it doesn’t offer the total miles for the multi-stop trip readily available on the main screen the way the Garmin does. The 9720T-LM only displays the mileage distance to the next programmed stop. This is an important omission for most irregular route commercial drivers, because it is often necessary to calculate the total mileage for a multi-drop trip.

One feature I’d like to see in any GPS is the ability to manually adjust the average prediction speeds myself to particular vehicles. My truck has a 63 MPH top speed, not 65, and not 70. If I could adjust the top speed for about 60 MPH for freeways, and even slower for secondary two-lane roads, the overall ETA predictions would be far more accurate for trucks in the real world.

The 9720T-LM does seem to have some speed limit data for certain freeways, but the data seems to be incomplete. This lack of speed limit data might be revised in future map updates. Going back to my Garmin, it has speed limits for the vast majority of roads, including secondary two-lane roads.

On the plus side, the 9720T-LM calculates routes very quickly compared to my Garmin. On the other hand, the unit can often be somewhat unresponsive to on-screen taps, with delays sometimes of up to a second in some cases before it responds. This delay factor can end up being frustrating if you’ve tapped twice or more thinking that you just didn’t tap hard enough, only to find yourself tapping on something you didn’t intend to and having to start over. To be fair, to an extent my Garmin suffers from the same issue. I don’t know if this is a slow processor problem or a problem that better programming practices could fix.

The 9720T-LM’s integrated speaker located on the back of the unit is loud enough for me to easily hear in my truck at freeway speeds.

Under the “One Touch” menu in the upper right corner of the display, it offers the ability to program in a total of twenty frequent destinations and even save multi-stop trips making it possible to eliminate having to re-enter the same trips over and over again for drivers that are constantly making exactly the same trips or constantly going to the same destinations.

If you are looking for a large 7” inch touch screen GPS for a commercial truck or even a large recreational vehicle (RV), the Magellan 9720T-LM is a nice choice. It offers good routing capabilities for large vehicles, along with a big, beautiful, easy-on-the-eyes display.

Suzuki & Garmin Team Up For In-Dash Infotainment in 2013

Image Courtesy Garmin. A look at the new Garmin 6.1 inch     hi-res touchscreen to be featured in most American Suzuki 2013 vehicle models

Swiss satellite navigation device maker Garmin has teamed up with Japanese auto maker Suzuki to outfit most 2013 American model vehicles with a fairly robust infotainment system featuring a 6.1 inch hi-res touchscreen, Bluetooth connectivity, Pandora radio and, of course, GPS navigation (among other things).

“By leveraging our long-standing experience in developing navigation software, user interfaces and hardware design,” said Matt Munn, Garmin’s managing director automotive OEM, “we created an integrated system that is easy to use and makes driving more enjoyable.”

Garmin’s Suzuki system includes the following functionalities:

  • Media and music integration: Integrated AM/FM radio and CD player with interfaces allowing users to play from external devices such as a mobile phone or iPod, including a USB and AUX jack, Bluetooth and a SD card slot. Pandora supported, as well (via iOS smartphone).
  • Navigation: Premium road guidance with spoken turn-by-turn directions and street names; PhotoReal Junction View with lane guidance; speed limit and current speed displays, millions of points of interest, and more.
  • Full voice control: Users can control the system with voice commands, which helps reduce driver distraction.
  • Connected services: Real-time information, such astraffic, dynamic parking, weather and fuel prices, will be available through Garmin Smartphone Link (added to the system with an update after the initial launch).
  • Backup camera support: Backup camera displayed on the screen, giving drivers better view of what’s behind vehicle.
  • Hands-free Bluetooth: Integrated Bluetooth calling function

This partnership is being seen as a move that could boost both Suzuki and Garmin in different ways. Suzuki, like many auto makers, has seen a rough few years with sales figures tumbling with the auto market. For Garmin, this ain’t their first dance with auto makers, but it is the most versatile device they’ve put out so far – packing several features into one unit.

Either way, the in-car/in-dash infotainment industry is widely viewed as running full-steam ahead as the technology is gathering popularity with more consumers expecting it in higher-end vehicles.

Magellan GPS units made for Geocaching


Andy (Head Hard Hat) Smith from Geocaching World talks to Eric Waters of Magellan GPS about their new line of hand-held GPS units made with the Geocaching Hobbyist in mind.

The Magellan eXplorist line of GPS units. Instead of having to type in a waypoint, the explorist units have a number of geocaches in the unit already. The Explorist 610 even has Turn by turn directions up to the nearest road and then walking point-to-point directions for the hike to the cache. Some models even have a camera so you can take a picture of the waypoint instead of typing it in manually.

More information can be found at magellangps.com

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iOnRoad Warns Drivers of Danger

As well as being a really bad pun, iOnRoad is an augmented reality app that helps car drivers become safer drivers. Courtney gets into the fast lane to find out more about this app which was awarded a CES Innovation Honoree prize.

Available for Android smartphones now and the iPhone soon, the app uses the smartphone’s camera, GPS and accelerometer to provide warnings and guidance to car drivers as they drive. By looking at the white lines, the car in front and correlating data from the GPS and accelerometer, the app can warn about lane departures, tailgating and speeding. The iOnRoad includes a couple of other features, including reading text messages and a car locator.

Obviously the phone has to be mounted on the dash with a view to the front of the car, but you can test the app using the video here. The app is currently free with a charge of $9.99 to be introduced in the future.

Interview by Courtney Wallin of SDR News.

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Magellan Roadmate RV

magellan logoMagellan recently showed of the Roadmate RV, a specialty GPS unit made for recreational vehicles.  This isn’t the typical GPS device you would place in your car, but a very specialized unit made specifically for the RV.  For instance, automodile drivers don’t generally have to worry if their car will fit on a particular road.

At the recent Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas Andy Smith of TPN got a look at the new Roadmate RV.  This GPS unit will let the driver know about specific road conditions based on the size of their vehicle, such as if the road is too narrow or if there are low bridges.  It can also direct the user to RV friendly campgrounds.

The Roadmate RV has a large 7 inch screen.  Users can also uncheck their vehicle profile and switch the unit to their car for standard navigation.  You can find more about the fautures and pricing by watching the video below and also by visiting the Magellan web site.

Interview by Andy Smith of Geocaching World.

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DeLorme inReach Two-Way Satellite Communicator

DeLorme LogoAndy talks to Jim from DeLorme about the new inReach two-way satellite communicator, perfect for those really out of the way places.

The DeLorme inReach is a tracking and communication device that uses a satellite radio link to transmit text and GPS location data, rather than the mobile phone network. Owners can communicate via text message from anywhere on the planet, not just those areas with mobile phone coverage, and it’s ideal for hikers and extreme sports enthusiasts who might have an emergency far from a phone signal (or simply want to reassure family that they’re ok.)

The inReach has two modes of operation, one where you use the control unit directly, the other where an Android smartphone app talks to the control unit via Bluetooth. The app is needed for two-way text messaging, mainly as the control unit doesn’t have a keyboard, but there is a dedicated SOS button on the control unit for emergencies. Other smartphones may be supported later.

The inReach costs $250 and a monthly subscription is required for service priced at $9.95 per month. The units are available now.

The inReach is impact-resistant, waterproof, floats and weighs 8oz. Battery life is 60 hours on a pair of lithium AAs. Overall, it’s an ideal emergency backup device but please note, gadgets like this are not a substitute for proper planning, preparation and equipment. Always tell someone your plan and expected return time.

Interview by Andy McCaskey of SDR News.

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