back to article 'Satnavs are definitely not doomed', insists TomTom man

With satnav companies announcing revamped apps all over IFA Berlin, you'd be forgiven for thinking that moving onto smartphones and tablets was the game plan for a market that has seen sales plummet in the last few years. TomTom, Garmin and Navigon all saw fit to use the show to announce their updated-in-various-ways apps, …


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  1. petur


    My TomTom needs 30 seconds (sometimes more) to get a GPS lock, while my n900 has one instantly. Reason: my smartphone can access the internet, and get a good hint on its location for a fast kick-start of the GPS

    Also, the analogy with cameras is completely off: the big difference between a phone camera and a dedicated one is optics and sensorsize. The impact of the GPS antenna size isn't quite as big.

    Since a dedicated GPS receiver and a smartphone share a lot of common components, merging them seems like the obvious step. Goodbye dedicated GPS.

    1. bazza Silver badge


      "My TomTom needs 30 seconds (sometimes more) to get a GPS lock, while my n900 has one instantly. Reason: my smartphone can access the internet, and get a good hint on its location for a fast kick-start of the GPS"

      Funny, if I keep the satellite almanac data on my TomTom up to date (by plugging it in to the internet via a lappie every now and then like the book says to) it gets a complete lock within a few seconds. And it'll do that anywhere on the world's surface. I'd like to see your n900 achieve that outside of mobile phone coverage. Also a phone's approximate initial lock is OK so long as there's not two closely spaced roads to pick from...

      "Also, the analogy with cameras is completely off: the big difference between a phone camera and a dedicated one is optics and sensorsize. The impact of the GPS antenna size isn't quite as big."

      Not sure about that either. I've yet to find any phone with a GPS as sensitive as almost any satnav's. My TomTom gets a GPS signal almost anywhere *inside* my house; phone's don't. That gives a more reliable GPS lock in practise, something that's quite important in the urban jungle.

      "Since a dedicated GPS receiver and a smartphone share a lot of common components, merging them seems like the obvious step. Goodbye dedicated GPS."

      Indeed, and I think that a lot of the recent models of satnavs have 3G in them to get live traffic updates, roadwork information, etc. So there is a lot of hardware commonality between phones and satnavs. But some of the little features of satnavs that are missing from phones (like better sensitivity, no need for cell coverage, live traffic data that automatically alters the route) add up to something that the dedicated road warrior benefits significantly from.

      I suspect though that the majority of the market will be phones, so the market costs for dedicated satnavs won't be sustainable and we'll all take a step back in capability like it or not. As for built in satnavs that benefit from speed and steering data direct from the car's own controls (and a lot of them have inertial sensors too), well they're already very expensive.

      1. eldakka

        The title is required, and must contain letters and/or digits.

        "Indeed, and I think that a lot of the recent models of satnavs have 3G in them to get live traffic updates, roadwork information, etc. So there is a lot of hardware commonality between phones and satnavs. But some of the little features of satnavs that are missing from phones (like better sensitivity, no need for cell coverage, live traffic data that automatically alters the route) add up to something that the dedicated road warrior benefits significantly from."

        Of course, there are some basic things that phones have that Satnavs should have. And in fact some Satnavs used to have but have now, for some reason, disappered from the latest models. And here I'm referring to a bluetooth profile to allow navigation instructions to be sent to a bluetooth receiver. But all the latest generation of Garmin and Tomtom satnavs seem to have lost this feature, even the top-end models.

        And with many of the top-end models having voice navigation, why don't they allow an external mic (either via bluetooth or a socket)? In my old HiLux with off-road tires, the cabin noise is too great for the voice navigation to work on my Tomtom GO1050.

        I'd like to use the Tomtom on my motorbike too, however no ability to route audio directions via some sort (any sort) of headset is a big fail. And voice navigation is (or at least would be!) a huge increase in safety on a bike, but again, can't plug in an external mic, which makes it another fail for both Garmin and Tomtom.

      2. petur


        I do not intend to get the GPS out of my car every day to have it updated. Which brings me to another point: most of the time when I need the TomTom, I find that its batteries are dead because its OFF button only puts it to sleep, draining the battery in a few days. So when I do need the TomTom, it takes several MINUTES to get it going and have a GPS lock.

        Also, you seem to contradict yourself: to me you write that you connect it the dedicated GPS to the internet, but later on, you respond to an AC that you keep it in the car. Make up your mind.

    2. watchman

      if you have a device that does the job....

      then why would you buy another device.

      I'm not David Bailey, my phone takes pictures that are quite adequate for my needs. To be honest, even I wanted to take world class, ultra sharp pictures in the maximum resolution possible to man, I'm sure I'd find I can't afford the camera.

      I bought a sat nav before I got my smart phone and it did me great, until the software needed updating and Garmin wanted more money.

      My smartphone has internet enhanced GPS and the software updates for free, regularly.

      Am I going back to the dedicated sat nav? - er, no...

      I'm sure Google can then go onto track me if they'd like but there would have to be a massive dearth of interesting people to make this viable.

    3. Pete 6

      The title is required, and must contain letters and/or digits.

      I've also got an N900, and seeing as Nokia have basically abandoned it, the sat nav on it is utter garbage and so lacking in features it's worthless. As the userbase is so small, you can't get anything decent for it.

      I'll be sticking with my Tomtom for now. I can wait 30 seconds for it to kick off, when I'm driving I generally know the general direction I'm heading for at least that long, I'm not a total vegetable that needs my hand holding right from my doorstep.

      1. petur

        @Pete 6

        The n900 is now community supported - just today it got a whole bunch of fixes and new stuff!

        For GPS app, I use modRana, which can use many map sources and uses the internet to search, not some outdated database on the device.

        Visit and see how much useful stuff there is for your n900, you'll be surprised.

        1. Bristol Dave

          Also for N900

          Sygic MobileMaps. More than adequate and wipes the floor with OviMaps

  2. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Extrapolating from a sample of one...

    I used SatNav functionality as a justification to buy - not a SatNav - but a decent phone. The SatNav companies are "competing with free" for Android phones with GPS and Google Maps.

    1. Anonymous Coward

      Not exactly...

      First, lets talk about accuracy.

      Your in dash sat nav has an external antennae (Sitting on your dash) as well as accelerometers that help you keep track of your location when you lose signals from sats. Your phone? Not so well.

      Also even with GPS-A (Assisted GPS) which is on your phones... you're still off by 100 meters or so.

      Just stand still and watch your position move. Heck, you could be seated outside of your favorite pub and get a 'workout' as your phone bounces you around trying to 'pinpoint' your position. Cars have it easy because they can snap your location to the road link. (This removes the jitter)

      Your in dash sat nav doesn't constantly update Google or Apple with your location. ;-) So while the app is free, you're really making money for Google.

      While I wouldn't own a TomTom, the guy in the article is correct.

  3. Jim 59


    Nobody has mentioned the major problem of smartphone GPS, viz:

    - the phone does not contain maps, it downlopads them as you go

    - which places you under the anxiety of mobile coverage. How's that in Glen Coe ?

    - and costs you money every mile.

    On top of which, sometimes it is just better to have 2 devices for doing 2 different things in 2 different places.

    1. kevjs

      Erm, No!

      On my phone I have a satnav which has maps stored on it, therefore doesn't require cellular coverage and doesn't cost me a penny after installation - this Co Pilot live application is even from a "real" sat nav manufacturer! A single payment of £20 was all that was required IIRC.

      Oh, and Google caches your route so if you follow the instructions it doesn't matter if you lose cellular coverage.

      The only issues I've had are:-

      1) The pathetic volume level on my Xperia X10 - can't hear the directions unless I mute the radio (fortunately I generally know my route so this is a minor issue, and when I am in an unfamiliar area of the main roads I tend to lower the volume anyway)

      2) When you end up actually needing it (Wakefield town centre signage I'm looking at you) sods law dictates you'll be on the phone (via the bluetooth system) and unable to see the sat nav screen or get the audio from it!

      3) Androids "Don't Lock the screen while charging" setting is awesome as it means the satnav stays on screen, but once the battery is fully charged it stops charging and starts locking the screen - argh!!! (I wish it was smart enough to not lock the screen when the charger is connected). Fortunately it does pop up on screen when you are 1km from the next turning and stays on screen until you more than 1km from the next turning.

      Even with those issues for a reactively light user like me mobile phone based sat nav works fine.

      1. David Simpson 1

        hint hint

        Get an app called Screebl, it controls your screen on/off depending on the angle your phone is at.

    2. watchman

      anxiety of mobile coverage?

      As a regular camper in Glen Coe, I have to say the reception is great.

      Glen Orchy? Maybe not - no signal at all, so your point is still valid, but Glen Coe, being the very popular tourist area that it is, is quite well serviced by masts.

      Costs you money every mile? not for me, fixed contract with data plan.

      On top of that, there is an app called "Glympse" that sends your position on a journey to whoever you send it to - handy. I'm not sure but can sat-navs do that?

    3. Arnold Lieberman

      Not really problems

      "the phone does not contain maps, it downlopads them as you go"

      Ovi maps downloads the map data onto your phone offline. No data connection needed. Same with TomTom (on Symbian), CoPilot etc.

      "which places you under the anxiety of mobile coverage. How's that in Glen Coe ?"

      Not really. the only issue is that a cold fix may take longer than under network coverage.

      Completye UK maps fit in 200Mb SD card, and full European maps in less than 2Gb.

      "and costs you money every mile."

      See points 1 and 2.

      Have been using SatNav on my phone since I got a Nokia 3230 in combination with a Bluetooth GPS matchbox, and now on an E71 with its built-in GPS.

    4. AndrueC Silver badge
      Thumb Down


      There's no cost per mile because like a lot of people I'm on a fixed rate contract with a data plan. I've never come even remotely close to hitting the limit.

      I was on vacation in Dumfries and Galloway last week and reception was okay. I lost it sometimes when in a valley but it usually came back within ten minutes of walking uphill. Anyway Google maps cache so any active routing is fine. The only thing you can't do without a data connection is search for things and even then it usually knows towns. It's specific points or addresses it doesn't have.

      But it ain't perfect, that's true.

      The instructions for roundabouts often go by street name instead of saying 'nth exit'.

      The UK voice is cold, whiny and too quiet.

      The antenna is inadequate in really bad weather. I drove up last Friday night and in a torrential downpour it kept losing accuracy. Several times it had me on a minor road running alongside the M40 instead of the M40 itself.'s adequate and it's free. I don't need anything else. I can read a map, I can navigate for myself. I just like having a backup and it's useful when driving around a strange city.

    5. Richard 81

      Final point

      "On top of which, sometimes it is just better to have 2 devices for doing 2 different things in 2 different places."

      I agree with this. That's why I'd rather have a PC with separate monitor, or TV with separate DVD player and digi-box, rather than any kind of combo. If something fails, or you want to upgrade it (my HTC hero is going out the door as soon as my contract is up), you just swap out one of your gadgets instead of buying a whole new system.

      1. Jim 59

        @the above folks

        For the low cost of a GPS, it seems sensible to buy one and rest easy that ALL map data is right there in your glove box, immutable, forever, with no dependancy, no complication and no further cost. I am on about basic models without the posh "live" services. A fixed contract is still a cost - even if you use it for other things, you still have to spend the money.

        If smartphones can store for example all european map data just like a GPS, that's cool too, I never knew that.

  4. Anonymous Coward 101
    Thumb Down

    "Global economic downturn"

    Ah, what rubbish. This excuse is always trotted out when your enterprise is falling apart. I once heard John Cleese on the radio, after ticket sales for his new stage show were crap, patronisingly declare on that the 'downturn had hit everyone hard'. He didn't want to admit his show was not good.

    The times I've used the SatNav on my phone, I have been happy with it. Maybe if I needed a SatNav everyday, it might be worth investing in one - but I don't and see no need.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: "Global economic downturn"

      "I once heard John Cleese on the radio, after ticket sales for his new stage show were crap, patronisingly declare on that the 'downturn had hit everyone hard'. He didn't want to admit his show was not good."

      I can't comment on the show, but the tickets certainly weren't cheap. He may have had a point.

  5. Anonymous Coward

    Fair enough

    "Just because you have a camera on your phone doesn't stop you from buying a digital camera."

    Fair enough but I know plenty of people who are happy to make do with the basic quality of camera phones for a few family snapshots. Indeed even pro photographers use camera phones when on reccys to locations as it's easier to carry a phone than lugging the full kit just to size up a location to see if it's fit for purpose, before coming back later on.

    People use phones far more now than ever before as a 'one-stop-shop' for all their on the go tech needs, teenagers especially prefer a simple, single gadget to lugging a bagfull of toys. This may not be the end but you need to keep up or will very quickly get left behind.

    1. bazza Silver badge

      @AC, re: Fair enough

      "prefer a simple, single gadget to lugging a bagfull of toys."

      I don't know how many people lug their satnav around. The normal place to find a satnav would likely be in the glove box in the car, not the driver's pocket / hand bag.

      1. mikeyt

        in the glove box?

        not me had my side window done twice just for leaving the sucker on the windscreen. my satnav stays in my pocket or manbag when not en route.

        1. bazza Silver badge

          @mikeyt: crims aren't that bright

          Cars used to get broken into if the windscreen had the marks from the sucker on it!

          I suspect that when some idiot breaks in to a car these days they're not doing specifically for the satnav; they're just not fashionable enough.

  6. Anonymous Coward

    Camera example is bad

    ""I always use the example of cameras on phones," he told The Reg. "Just because you have a camera on your phone doesn't stop you from buying a digital camera.""

    But it will reduce the number of sales very significantly. Look at the pocket video camera market such as Flip - who's going to spend £100 on a mini video toy, when they already have one on their Smartphone?

    Also - when TomTom continue to gouge me for maps at £20 - £50 a time, just to keep them up to date, when others give them away free, then don't expect me to buy another TomTom product when I want a new GPS.

  7. Sir Runcible Spoon


    My SatNav bailed on me the other week heading into London, a couple of miles short of my destination saying it couldn't get a signal.

    So I got out my Blackberry to come to the rescue (after pulling over). No sooner had the directions laid themselves out before me on the Blackberry, the SatNav kicks back into life. It had a shame-faced look about it too.

    So now I load up both on an awkward journey. Mustn't let these devices get the upper hand you know.

  8. lee harvey osmond

    How TomTom could sell more PNDs

    Most PNDs, like TomTom's, aren't entirely self-contained devices. They generally need to have their data updated periodically, and this is done by attaching the PND to a computer and managing the PND with some software supplied by the PND's vendor.

    For older TomTom PNDs, there is an application with comprehensive functionality called TomTom HOME. But for current TomTom PND models, there isn't.

    That might be down to the settlement reached with Microsoft over the FAT32 patent. Or not. But, whatever the reason, however much I'd like a new TomTom PND with enhanced lane guidance and a 5" capacitative multitouch screen, and bluetooth, etc etc etc, until TomTom release the corresponding device management software, I'm sticking with my existing PND.

  9. Hunch

    SatNav on smartphones

    I borrowed my mates iphone wtih the tomtom app on it and it worked really well when driving in France so I don't think the GPS signal weakness argument holds water. As for having it running on a tablet, I disagree that it's a bad platform for in car navigation. I'm sure someone can come up with a better way to use the larger screen real estate so you can have a good size navigation screen with loads of extra relevant info ? I think this would be where the free apps could innovate. Maybe google street view type functionality or Points of Interest or real geeky stuff like pulling info from the Engine Management system to give all sorts of data. I like having a dedicated SatNav but I think the software is over priced. I've got a TomTom IQ XL2 and will bin it once it becomes unusable due to lack of Map upgrades as I'm not willing to pay the sort of sums TomTom want at this point, I'll move to using my smartphone 100% of the time.

  10. Anonymous Coward
    Thumb Down

    I've just given my tomtom away

    Says it all really.

  11. mcv

    TomTom often wrong

    We've recently noticed a lot of problems with TomTom. Very outdated max speed info (despite a recent update), and it sent us in the wrong direction more than once.

    And yes, TomTom needs a ridiculous amount of time to get a GPS lock. Perhaps we should try Google Nav for a while, and see if we like that more.

  12. John Armstrong-Millar

    It's all about the maps, stupid!

    Satnav companies will live or die by the speed at which they can update maps. As a TOM TOM user I am frequently amazed by the number of roads and speed cameras missing on the latest maps. If the was something better I'd use it. The platform is not important

    1. Intractable Potsherd Silver badge
      Thumb Up

      Almost there, John

      Yes, speed of updating is one element (but any update is only valid up to the date of publication), but the cost of the updates is also very important. If any company wants to charge me more than the price of a new road atlas once a year then they are not going to get my money, at least not on the same schedule. If they keep the price down to reasonable levels, keep supporting older models (Garmin has stopped support for my perfectly adequate StreetPilot i3, and I'm seriously displeased about it), do annual updates, and offer something that the smartphones can't do, then they are on to a winner. Unfortunately, that doesn't seem to be in the gameplan, so my phone is going to get used as a satnav for a while to see if it is an adequate replacement.

  13. Pete 2 Silver badge

    It's a retrofit

    The only reason to buy a discrete satnav is because your car doesn't come with one preinstalled ... yet.

    The satnav market (by comparison with the smartphone market) is merely satisfying a lack of vehicle specifications. Just as if cars didn't come with windscreens, you'd expect companies like Everest to step in and fill the gap (literally, though quite how well they'd do it is another question) - but ONLY until car manufacturers realised their mistake and retooled their production lines.

    So what's the future fro the satnav suppliers? Well, not too good if they want to sell to the public. Better if they make OEM products for Nissan and the others. However, just like Motorola started off making car radios, they'd better diversify pretty dam' quickly - and wisely. Otherwise they could find that they either shrivel and die or get bought by a search company - presuming they have some patents, hardware or balance sheets that makes them desirable, 'cos their suitors won't be after the satnavs.

    1. MrEee

      It's a no-fit!

      "The only reason to buy a discrete satnav is because your car doesn't come with one preinstalled ... yet."

      That's assuming you want to overpay for a preinstalled system that will cost you many times more to fix if it has trouble down the road. (If there's a fix - good luck finding parts or replacements for an older vehicle with outdated nav electronics...)

      No thanks to the stand-alone device either. Smartphones FTW here - they work on foot or in a car, you inherently already are carrying them, they have easier software updates - not to mention you can use different apps if you determine you don't like the one you have and _still_ save money.

      Ah well, maybe the satnav people can team up with the iomega click-drive team...

      1. bazza Silver badge


        "That's assuming you want to overpay for a preinstalled system that will cost you many times more to fix if it has trouble down the road."

        Built in satnav has the potential to be very very good. They can exloit car data (wheel speed, steering angle, etc) to provide a more reliable position fix than GPS alone. Shame that no one seems to do a good one. So why spend all that money on something that doesn't produce as good a result as something like a TomTom?

        I wish there was an effective standard for these things in cars. DIN radio slots aren't the answer; it's not like every car comes with a spare DIN slot just waiting for you to put the upgrade of your choice in, and they're far too big. What would be very nice if there was a smaller slot that provided all the pertinent car data (wheel speed, steering angle, GPS antenna, etc) in a standardised way. The satnav manufacturers could provide units that would fit any car without having to stick it to the windscreen. Then there would be *real* competition in the satnav market.

    2. Jim 59

      Built in satnav

      Cheaper cars will always be available without built in satnav, just like they are available now without air conditioning, though air conditioned cars have been around for 70 years.

      Built in satnav is great but the map updates are typically £200+.

  14. Hayden Clark Silver badge

    TomTom will be dead soon anyway

    The products aren't good enough.

    My Go720 (the pick of the bunch at the time) only worked remotely properly before the inevitable software updates. The new features made the device slow, so that you miss turnings. Worse, on Motorways, the maps have the slip road starting where it ends!

    Our local Halfords has stopped selling them if possible, as the Manager is fed up with the customer complaints.

  15. David Simpson 1

    Earth control to Major Tom Tom

    So drivers should be watching a large satnav screen instead of the road ?

    TomTom will sink without a trace if they believe this nonsense, between Smartphone, Tablets and built in systems from car manufacturers they are completely screwed, which is a good thing since they have been screwing customers for so long.

    1. Captain Scarlet Silver badge

      Agreed on top point

      Those do annoy me, I got a bean bag type thing as soon as they were out to ensure I could see.

      However you can choose the size of satnav and choose a small one instead of a large brick.

      Last point I don't agree, people like me will always buy them because of experiences of smartphones

  16. Captain Scarlet Silver badge

    I must be a minority

    I still continue to use my old satnav, my phone might pick up GPS quicker but the signal is more stable and I don't have it freak out when it gets a phone call. Same with the camera, its alright but for anything I want a photo for I take along my old camera.

    1. stucs201
      Thumb Up


      I don't want my sat-nav ringing, I want it telling me which exit to take. I want a separate box ringing which I can either ignore, pull over to answer, or ask my passenger to deal with while I get on with driving.

      Smartphones are like the swiss-army knife of the electronics world. They do a bunch of things and can be convinient, but theres times when you want proper tools, either because they work better, or you just want the separation.

  17. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    "Turn around when possible."

    "Turn around when possible."

    "Turn around when possible."

    "Turn around when possible."

    "Turn around when possible."

    50 miles later...

    "You have reached your destination."

    1. AndrueC Silver badge

      Google Navigator

      <whiny female voice>

      Make a U tuuuurn.

      Make a U tuuuurn.

      Make a U tuuuurn.

      You can actually this a dozen times by driving along the A449 between the M6 and M54 while navigating to North Wales.

    2. bazza Silver badge

      @AC, re TomTom

      I've got quite an old TomTom (a One v3 with Euro maps) that I find very useful indeed. Its maps are a little out of date, but not disaterously so. I quite happily go all over Europe and it's not let me down once. On a recent family holiday in rural France I was the only one to make it direct to the remote farmhouse we were staying in with no difficulty at all. It even knew about the driveway. Everyone else with mobiles, newer satnavs that had cheap / partial euro maps, etc. spent hours driving round the countryside lost either because they couldn't get a mobile signal, or the roads weren't on the map, etc.

      I was vaguely thinking of getting a newer one, but from I've read here today I think that I'll stick with the one I've got. I don't want to use a phone either because they're expensive to buy and aren't quite as good (worse GPS in my experience, reliance to some extent on mobile coverage, voice too quiet, stupid things like auto screen blanking that the app can't control, can't make a phone call and navigate at the same time, etc. etc.). If they just made a slightly newer One v3 then I'd buy that.

      Why oh why does shiny mediocrity succeed over old fashioned yet effective clunkiness? Do people want to be stylish more than they want to get to their desination with ease? Why would anyone buy a £400 smartphone and use it to navigate and suffer the inevitable compromises when a 4 year old £100 TomTom argueably does a better job?

      I suspect that it works this way:

      Punter: "Does this smart phone do satnav?"

      Sales dude: "Of course"

      Punter: "And it is nice and shiny too..."

      whereas it should work this way:

      Punter: "What's the GPS receiver sensitivity in dBm?"

      Sales dude: "Errrr"

      Punter "And what's the GPS antenna pattern like?"

      Sales dude: "Welllllll"

      Punter: "What the peak antenna gain?"

      Sales dude: "4?"

      Punter: "And what's the average time-to-update for map corrections from the date the road layout changed?"

      Sales dude: "blurb blurb"

      Punter: "and what's the map resolution? And what's the average time from traffic jam forming to autorecalculation of my route?"

      etc. etc.

      To make a useful comparison between satnavs, either phone or standalone, these are the sort of data that is actually needed. But none of the companies supplies it. So a level of mediocre performance has become the accepted norm and the general public will use the half baked products in ignorance of the fact that they could be a *lot* better than they currently are. And the trouble with mediocrity is that it has a way of letting you down just when you really, really want the damn thing to work properly.

  18. fishman


    There have been times when using my Garmin GPS that I cannot get satellites, so my daughter used her smartphone GPS app to get us the rest of the way there.

  19. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    I used only phones for years and they were brilliant ( over Europe on a motorbike several times with bluetooth to a Cardo Scala headset), but I now also have a Garmin Oregon to supplement it.

    One of the reasons is battery life, but it's actually not major - my N8 lasts about six-seven hours on gps and the Oregon about ten-twelve and AA batteries are light. But in saying that, I can also change out the N8 battery in about a minute and on the bike can charge it.

    Ovi maps are free and are stored on the phone, plus I also have Viewranger running O/S maps and OSM too. As for accuracy, when I'm out cycling or hiking I have both the phone and the Garmin tracking and there's basically no difference between them.

    The only real reason I got the Garmin was because it's more rugged and I don't have to put it in a case or bag when hiking or travelling. And that is literally it, even in the car I generally prefer the Nokia, and I wouldn't bother with a car specific gps at all.

  20. Ben79


    Haven't used my Garmin since getting a free Nokia 5800 with free offline maps. It's just as good IMO, plus the updates are free.

    1. AndrueC Silver badge
      Thumb Down


      I used to have an X6. Ovi maps is awful. The routing can be terrible (North Wales to Stranrear via the Mersey Tunnel for instance) and it takes ages before it will finally re-route if you ignore it.

  21. Anonymous Coward
    Thumb Up

    Maps stored locally ... same with TomTom (on Symbian)


    I acquired an Android recently to replace a tired old Nokia E series which had TomTom for Symbian on it.

    One day when the motorway was closed and I needed an alternate, I had no signal to reroute or to make calls (maybe coverage, maybe congestion, doesn't matter), and no practical prospect of getting maps or route. Not ideal.

    I failed to find a decent TomTom replacement on Android (no Google Maps for me thank you, and opinions of CoPilot seem mixed at best).

    Other snags with this particular Android included poor battery life and poor touchscreen and poor camera.

    So I **bought** (2nd hand) a more recent Nokia and installed TomTom on it (as permitted by the licence, obviously).

    The 'new' Nokia also fixed the signal issues, battery life issues, and camera issues. And it has a real keyboard. Job's a good'un.

    Does Mr TomTom know that standalone GPSes that work just as well as whatever's in his box start from around a tenner these days? It was cheaper to use one of those than waste time trying to get TomTom to work with the Nokia built-in GPS.

    I suspect I'm in a small minority here, but hey, I suspect Mr TomTom's lying through his teeth anyway.

    Random closing thought: most smartphones have accelerometers these days. Are they the kind of accelerometer you could use for inertial guidance when there's no GPS?

    1. Vic


      > Are they the kind of accelerometer you could use for inertial guidance

      Distance is the integral of the integral of acceleration.

      You don't need much noise in that before you get some big errors...


  22. mark 63 Silver badge

    This is why I dont need a watch

    This is why I dont need a watch, theres a clock on my phone, and on the screen i stare at most of the day, and in my car , and on the box under my telly, and in the pub.

    But on my phone is the point. I no longer need a watch.

    I'm surprised the mp3 player market hasnt gone the same way for the same reasons - execpt that apple seems to have pulled off the greatest magic trick in the world and brainwashed everybody into thinking the only way to use mp3 is with the i-thing

    1. bazza Silver badge

      @Mark 63

      I like my watch to work when my mobile battery goes flat...

      You're right about the mp3 player market, hardly anything decent still on the market. I'm still using an ancient iRiver iHP-120 in the car, still works very well indeed, and the little cable remote control is just perfect - don't need to look at it even. Much better than fumbling around with a crappy touchscreen on a smartphone. Two headphone jacks (surprisingly useful, you can have great fun with a pal in an airport departure lounge listening to rude songs sniggering away without anyone else being able to hear), loads of different codecs, optical line in/out, FM radio (Apple still don't put radios in theirs, do they? Why? I mean, why oh why oh why do the f*****g idiots not just put a damned 5cent fm radio chip in their goddamn shiny toys? How long can a fit of pique over them not thinking of it first go on for?).

      Anyway, I digress. Apple's success has really lowered people's expectations of what they think is technically achievable. It's no longer really commercially feasible for other manufacturers to push out superior products because not enough people understand the benefits of the technology anymore. Form is now more important than function.

      Isn't it time for the competition authorities to take a serious look at Apple's dominant position before satnav is reduced to nothing more than an eBook atlas?

      1. Fogcat


        Still using an H140 here (upgraded to 60gb and rockbox-ed) and haven't found anything better yet for the car. Does anyone apart from Apple make high capacity *music* players any more?

    2. Pete 6

      The title is required, and must contain letters and/or digits.

      I tried using my phone as an MP3 player, but the hissy output, meagre storage and crap battery life are somewhat of a disadvantage.

      I'll stick with my old 160GB ipod. As much as I'd like to get something else (as the battery is now a little ropey, it used to be fantastic, but it is nearly 5 years old) there's nothing that does the job as well. Shame itunes is such a bloated pile of slow garbage.

  23. Rick Brasche

    only reason I haven't purchased a dedicated satnav recently... because my 4 year old satnav still works perfectly. All I do is update the maps every year or so. When it dies, then I'll replace it. Hopefully there will still be a motorcycle-specific model like the Zumo available then.

  24. Dr Trevor Marshall

    I still keep my IPAQ alive to run its TomTom software app

    That's the only thing my IPAQ does these days. Run several-years-old maps and TomTom on Windows CE. With the "Austin Powers" voice. Come on TomTom, give me the app on Android before I decide to switch to something else...

  25. durandal

    I swear

    My satnav is out to kill me. First it directs me into an EDL 'static demonstration', the next thing I know, I'm half an hour round the south circular! Laugh? I nearly bought an oyster card...

  26. heyrick Silver badge

    My experience...

    Motorola Defy - takes between five seconds and several minutes to get a lock. Once it has, it works well with Google Navigate. I've only tried it a few times (as a passenger, I prefer to use a paper map), but it seems fairly accurate and gives warnings in good time. My only complaint would be the phrase "continue straight" (i.e. don't turn) which is a little non-obvious in situations where the road bends and going literally straight is wrong (surprisingly common on country roads).

    The camera analogy is bogus. While my phone has a reasonable 5mpx camera, I've seen some with dreadful cameras. My phone's suffers from wanting to focus in under a second and it doesn't always get it right. There is no control of white balance. Macro is lame. Zoom is digital, not optic. You can't push the exposure into seconds for night photography. The LED flash is cool as a torch, but it isn't so hot as a flash as the imager just lacks sensitivity. In other words, it provides adequate pictures, but it isn't a digital camera. By contrast, a phone with navigation app can guide me from A to B... You might say it is lower quality, but then so is driving it in a Citroen instead of an Audi...

  27. Alex King


    CoPilot on my iPhone comfortably outperforms the one built into my '57 Jag, in terms of speed, reception and usability. I've never seen any TomTom or similar standalone device that would persuade me to upgrade from my £20 app. It multitasks with the phone or the music player.

    Contrary to an earlier poster, nobody does (or should) give two hoots about gain, antenna patterns or whatnot. If it works, is easy to use and does the job then that's the point.

  28. Clive Harris

    Map and compass!

    Learn to navigate with a map and compass. They never break down and could save your life one day.

    I went off GPS after a bad experience flying a light aircraft to a small island off the coast of Australia. About 30 miles out to sea the (aircraft-grade) GPS packed up on me without warning. The ADF (radio-nav) had already died and radar cover is virtually useless in those parts, so I was left with just a map and the aircraft's compass, surrounded by an awfully big ocean. Fortunately I knew how to use them, and found the island, and its airfield, without difficulty.

    Don't rely on modern gadgets. You never know when they'll let you down.

  29. Stephen Bouvier

    A bit of a right to reply ...

    Just a few comments to maybe update the chap from TomTom on what a real-world former customer of his is doing ...

    "Just because you have a camera on your phone doesn't stop you from buying a digital camera."

    Actually, it did. My Android phone takes perfectly usable pics and even comes with an app that allows me to add all manner of effects -- lomo effect and so on -- at the press of a thumb.

    Yes, I agree, that satnav on a mobile is not exactly brilliant, but nor has been my experience of TomTom. Software on my first unit back in 2007 fell over so often that John Lewis gave me a refund. My fondest memory of crashing system software was in a snow storm near Eindhoven at around midnight ... Oh, and why was TomTom never able to satisfactorily do a temporary update to its maps of those roadworks? They were rather enduring ...

    I bought a 940 LIVE back in 2009. Apart from the hassle of having to lock subscriptions to an account, double charging for subscriptions, and a unit that had to be returned for replacement, what really made my p**s boil was the way TomTom suddenly segmented my 2Gb Europe-wide map coverage into four separate downloads. Great move if you plan to drive from the UK to Eastern Europe a lot.

    But issues of overall customer service apart -- although they did try quite hard, and they do employ intelligent customer support people -- what has really done for satnav long-term is the fact that it has really reached a developmental brick wall.

    I want a device that gets me from A to B with live updates and camera warnings. I now have that. What else is there left to develop but a newer or shinier casing? A better screen? Isn't it the case that product development has reached such a point that the customer has fallen out of the need-to-upgrade cycle?

    You could call it the Windows XP problem: it's not brilliant, and there are arguments against keeping it, but it does what I want.

    Oh, and the reason why TomTom won't have me back as a hardware customer for a few years is that when I get sick of one manufacturer, I simply try out another. You are all selling me-too products, and as a dimwitted consumer I am struggling to differentiate.

  30. bazza Silver badge

    @Alex King

    "Contrary to an earlier poster, nobody does (or should) give two hoots about gain, antenna patterns or whatnot. If it works, is easy to use and does the job then that's the point."

    Except that if you as a consumer wanted to choose between them based on GPS reception performance that is the information you need. Without it all you can do is pick one at random.

    This forum has many people saying that they've suffered GPS drop outs. When someone is lost in a city with no GPS reception they do care. Shame they didn't think about that when they were buying it in the shop.

    But because the industry is effectively silent on the matter there is no commercial pressure. Sure, it works quite a lot of the time but we would all like it to work better.

    TomTom certainly used to care - my ancient old TomTom easily out performs any phone I've ever seen in terms of GPS signal reception. When you're driving around the Peripherique and motorways in Paris through all those half obscured almost-tunnels you really don't want a GPS drop out; you will miss your exit! My TomTom hasn't let me down yet, but every phone I've seen packs in at the first hint of overhead obscuration.

  31. tony

    A Title,

    Always enjoy stories like this when people can angrily extrapolate out their anecdotes and pretend it's "data".

  32. alexhoskins

    Tom Tom useless for me

    I live in a little enclave in east London, a bunch of streets enclosed by no entry signs and traffic calming measures. I broke both my legs last year and spent a few months being ferried in and out of various hospitals by ambulance.

    All the ambulances used Tom Tom. None of them could navigate successfully to my door, and I had to direct them personally! All I can say is I'm glad it wasn't an emergency...

    The Tom Toms had updated maps, the no entry signs have been in place for the best part of 10 years and this is in Zone 2, on the borders of Central London. If I owned a Tom Tom I would want my money back.

    Co-Pilot Live on my iPhone finds my house fine and apart from very occasionally losing it's GPS fix for a few seconds does it's job perfectly well for my purposes. If you gave me a standalone GPS I'd give it away.

  33. jubtastic1

    Navfree on the AppStore

    Spoken turn by turn, doesn't require Internet access, reroutes on the fly, you can't beat the price.

    It's the proverbial headlamp of an oncoming train Mr Tom

  34. Onid

    tomtom? no tom ...

    First tomtom was a 700 model(500squid).. Was interested in HD traffic so bought the 720 which was supposed to be able to handle HD with an optional power adapter that would be made available when HD traffic was brought to the UK. The adapter never materialised and generally was happier with the 700. So I sold it..Later got the 750 but found it's interface a bit toyish and HD traffic which finally was on it was a bit naf to be honest. Seems all those negotiations with councils and what not as to how to redirect traffic ended up crippling the system. Worst thing on both 720 and 750 (and all in between) the compass stopped showing heading and distance to target. This the 700 still does and is invaluable - I use it to ignore the map and just follow the needle guessing which roads to take when seeking alternates if there's too much traffic on selected roads. I can't believe they removed that... Sold the 750 a couple of months after I bought it. The 700 doesn't have the hotfix data to assist in cold starting it but I managed to score an external gps antenna on it (which u can't fit on 750 apparently or most of the newer ones even!). Net result in use the 700 has a better fix than the new ones as gets better reception.

    Not buying a new tomtom that's for sure... next one will probably get if I need one will be the nuvi range - some interesting features there... but would love it if could integrate gps with car data - maybe plug in to obd data from the engine management!!.

    As for using camera phones instead of proper cams? seriously?? I have an old fuji finepix 2800z something (2.0 Megapixels with a 6 X optical zoom ) it's old it's no big winner in megapixels race but takes far better pictures than ANY camera phone bar none.(I'll challenge any phone and any MPs) I have an N95 and seen the crap the iphones take and all other phones.. Some of the photos look like the ccd is just dabling with a paintbrush the rgb elements in a vague general direction of where they should be. Chromatic aberration is just crazy on them and the sensor noise.. oh the sensor noise... by the time you finish cleaning up in photoshop you are left with less than 1 Megapixel even if the cam supposedly an 8MP. Absolute crapola. I want to upgrade my camera now to the HS10 (prosumer with fixed but decent lens).

    OK I do take photography as a bit of a serious hobby (still have old film SLRs which pretty much wipe the floor of any digital cam though it is inconvenient to be dealing with film and not seeing what you shot instantly is a major drawback). Seems to me all our gadgets are converging to crap all the time. Can probably now afford hasselblad large format cams from the film area!! though they are being adapted with sensor plates though still so maybe not just yet.. but regular 35 mm film SLRs they are now at incredible prices!! (wondering if can mount old film SLR accessories to new digital versions with a bit of gaffer tape!!!)

    I guess it's never been truer "they don't make 'em like they used to" heh..

  35. Tegne

    I got me a Nokia N8

    12MP with carl Ziess optic camera with Xenon flash - Don't need a seperate digital camera. Ovi Maps preinstalled where I can pre-download up to date maps from any country for free (or on the fly if necessary), live traffic reporting, speed cameras and most of the usual gubbins you'd expect from a sat-nav including customisable voices (you can even use your own voice!). And when I was on holiday in New York was able to use it to navigate to all the landmarks too. All this will be coming to Winmo 7 with the Nokia/Microsoft deal... Shame it's not Android.

  36. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    "Just because you have a camera on your phone doesn't stop you from buying a digital camera."

    Of course it does. I might still be buying SLRs but I haven't brought a "pull out of your pocket at the party point and shoot" style camera in 10 years.

    Bonus thumb ups for unintentional alliteration, please.

  37. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    +1 for phone apps

    Not having tried with more than one device at once, how many devices can connect to a bluetooth audio interface simultaneously?

    In today's world, you have to be "hands free" for your phone by e.g. using bluetooth.

    If you can only have one bluetooth connection, this precludes a standalone satnav using the connection too.

    I find it quite handy that the same bluetooth connection can do the phone calls AND also relay the messages from the satnav app telling me to "turn around where possible" over the ICE speakers.

    Plus, of course, like many, my phone has my list of contacts and access to my email and calendar for the address of where I'm going to....

    Also gets over the problem of not being able to hear the instructions over the car noise / audio output. It doesn't however necessarily make it loud enough to be heard over the screaming of the passengers :)

    As others have pointed out, satnav apps like CoPilot Live have maps of your chosen region on the SDcard. Also it has "live traffic" (which it retrieves from the internet - so that needs a data connection) for the route and offers alternative routing to get around bottlenecks.

  38. Joe Montana

    The low end...

    There were systems announced a while ago to USE gps to enforce speed limits, and to charge road tax or insurance based on what roads you drive on...

    "The antenna is inadequate in really bad weather. I drove up last Friday night and in a torrential downpour it kept losing accuracy. Several times it had me on a minor road running alongside the M40 instead of the M40 itself."

    The lack of accuracy could be a problem, driving down the motorway at 70mph and your gps suddenly thinks your on a small adjacent minor road and slows you down to 30mph... I believe it might actually be illegal to drive so slowly on the motorway, because it's certainly very dangerous.

    As mobile phones do more, so they will render obsolete individual devices that offered the same functionality...


    Low end cameras


    Electronic organisers / address books

    And now it looks set to replace lowend GPS devices, although i imagine there will still be a smaller market for higher end ones and specialist (bike/truck) units.

    What i would like to see however, is a universal phone dock standard which could be used in cars....

    Consider a standard cable/cradle which combines HDMI, USB, Power, Audio in/out, Antenna... You get in the car, drop your phone into the dock...

    Larger GPS/GSM antenna on the roof of the car for improved reception (esp at speed)...

    Your audio routed through the cars speakers.

    The in car microphone routed to your phone.

    Steering column controls connected to the phone.

    Phones display routed to the in-dash screen, where you can use the GPS.

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