At Home with Tech

It’s time to maximize the potential of all your gadgets.

Tag: Garmin

The Best GPS for Your Car

What a difference a week makes! If you think this is the same photo as last time, look again. This new GPS interface is sweet…

What a difference a week makes! If you think this is the same photo as last time, look again. This new GPS interface is sweet…

Yes, I’ve apparently gone against the general flow of the rest of the planet, and I’ve decided to buy another car GPS to replace my old Garmin. Sure, a smartphone can often handle your navigation. (But not always)

And with social-enhanced traffic and navigation apps like Waze, your phone can suddenly possess a ‘Borg’-like awareness from the “Star Trek” universe.

But I’ve got my six reasons to remain a stick in the mud.
And I’m sticking to them…

I know many of you may already have a GPS bolted into your car’s dashboard. So you’re essentially stuck with what you’ve got.

For the rest of you, let’s go shopping!

Go Garmin
Acknowledging the “Better with the Devil You Know” strategy, I decided to focus on another Garmin…
(By most accounts, Garmin is the leader in this category… so you really can’t go wrong.)

The current Garmin choices divide up mostly between the “DriveSmart” and “Drive” model lines. And then you’ve got to choose between 5, 6 or 7” screens.

Though this is not Garmin’s top of the line, it’s more expensive than the Drive models. For sixty dollars more, you’re essentially getting:

  • Bluetooth hands-free calling
  • Voice Activate navigation
  • Pinch to zoom display

For my needs…

  • I already have a Bluetooth connection from my iPhone to my RAV4’s sound system.
  • Voice navigation sounds exceptionally cool, but I don’t believe it’s so agile that you can speak an entire address. I think it’s more like saying… “Gas Station!”
    (If I’m wrong on that, someone please let me know…)
  • And pinch to zoom is also not a ‘must.’

The Drive model line hits the sweet spot for me.

The base 5” model is a ‘reasonable’ $129.99. For that…you’re getting all that you really need to get you where you’re going. You don’t have to ask it where the nearest cappuccino is!
(Though you can still tap in your restaurant urges.)

Lifetime Map and Traffic Alert Updates
Garmin also packages in some after-purchase subscription services into the pricing of their units. Where as once upon a time you had to buy your map updates or shell out more money each year for Garmin’s traffic-alert service, now you only have to pay a ‘little’ more when you buy the GPS.

I highly recommend you take advantage of this packaging.

The hard part is figuring out the acronyms attached to the model names.
Here’s how it works…

It’s Lifetime Maps and Traffic.

So LM = Lifetime Maps
And LMT = Lifetime Maps and Traffic

Okay, maybe that’s not so complicated!

Garmin Drive 50LMT
The last time around, I was wooed by some of the optional features and then didn’t end up using them.
So think about what you’ll actually use…

Considering all of above, the Garmin Drive 50LMT really stood out for me.

It doesn’t have the extras that may be ‘cutting edge,’ but I probably won’t use.
And it does come with the lifetime maps map updates and traffic.

Plus it’s got Foursquare functionality baked in to help my wife and me find a good restaurant for dinner when we’re driving back from a day trip.

This Garmin Drive sports a 5” screen, which is actually a tad larger than my old Nuvi’s 4.3” screen.

It lists for $169.99 at Garmin’s site.

And Amazon’s got it at the same price point… $169.99.

For an extra ten bucks, you can also get Canadian maps integrated into the unit’s memory.
(Can you say family road trip?!)

What’s not to like?


The Right Choice for Me
For those of you out there who still think I’m crazy for spending so much, remember
the base Garmin Drive 50 model goes for only $129.99 on Amazon. No you don’t get any lifetime updates… but you’re if you’re into living in the moment, you’ll be in really good shape… for a while.

And don’t forget…“Lifetime” is a relative term in the technology world. It’s certainly not forever, but if you get three to four years out of it, I say you’re doing okay…
(My old Garmin lasted a lot longer than that.)

But other than the “LMT” upgrade, I think I held the line pretty well this time around.

“Best” doesn’t always mean having the “most.”

For me, this is the best Garmin GPS unit available today.

Six Reasons to Buy Another Car GPS

This is what happens when you drop your car’s GPS navigation unit on the pavement. The cracked glass is the least of its problems. So now what…?

This is what happens when you drop your car’s GPS navigation unit on the pavement. The cracked glass is the least of its problems. So now what…?

I’m on the record proclaiming that I’d given up on my car’s old Garmin GPS a while back, when smartphone apps developed their own talking directions. With my iPhone Maps app and Google Maps app, why would you need anything else?

Truth be told, I secretly kept using my Garmin Nuvi, which my wife and I spontaneously named “Jane” quite a few years ago. Sure we’ve more recently also been using our smartphone map apps, but our GPS Jane remained a constant presence while we were driving in my RAV4.

I found it helpful to see the digital road ahead, and Jane often offered a second opinion on the best way to go.
(I’m not saying it ended up being the faster way.)

So I didn’t actually retire Jane like I said I would. Instead, I left the Nuvi on my car’s dash with an upgraded Garmin friction mount that magically prevented it from sliding about.

Jane still worked well enough…

Until fate finally intervened.
Last week, I somehow pulled Jane’s power cable with my briefcase as I stepped out of my car. Jane went flying out of my driver door and… smash… onto the pavement.

Yep. And that finally ended the relationship.
(A big crack was now front and center.)

When I plugged Jane back in, her typing interface no longer worked. Sure, the navigation was still functional, but I could no longer set a destination.
(And that’s no way to travel through life.)

So now what?
It was time to replace Jane with something newer. But with what….?

Time to Buy Another GPS
Can you believe I’ve decided to go with another GPS navigation unit?
I bet you’re thinking that doesn’t make any sense at all.
I didn’t think so either.

But here are six reasons why…

It Takes Too Long to Power and Mount Your Phone
No, I’m not ready to go it alone with just my iPhone and it’s native Maps app or the Google Maps app. Sure, both of these apps work great in the car, and for many are GPS killers. But the truth is I’ve realized I prefer having a dedicated device set up in the car.
(Assuming your car doesn’t have its own built-in GPS)

Otherwise, you’ve got to take out your smartphone… Plug it in for power… (unless you’re okay draining the battery) Attach it to its dash mount… and then open up the appropriate app.

That probably ends up taking only about a minute to do… But several times a day? Then multiply that by a week… you’re at close to thirty minutes now. Now look at the monthly commitment… two hours.

Annually, that becomes a whopping 24 hours.

Yes, you’d spend a whole day of your life over the next year plugging in your smartphone into your car to handle GPS duty.

No, thank you.

Multitasking between Different Dialogues is Confusing
I say just let your phone be your phone. It’s already working hard for you in the car. Don’t give it too much to do.

When you’re paying attention to which exit to take on the highway, you don’t want the same device to handle a phone call from your spouse regarding what to pick up for dinner that night. The audio exchange can get a little confusing as the app interrupts your conversation with its audible directions.
(Then who knows what dinner’s going to look like!)

The same dynamic occurs if you’re playing music on your smartphone and your Maps app is trying to talk to you. While that doesn’t create the same confusion, it can really mess up the best parts of any song you’re trying to enjoy…

Multitasking between Different Visuals is Usually Impossible
A similar problem occurs with you’re sharing your GPS’ screen real estate. When a call comes in, that ‘next turn’ prompt disappears!
(And so may your chance to get to that meeting on time!)

Your Smartphone Can’t Tell You Where to Go if You Lose Your Signal Bars
So if you venture out into the middle of nowhere, you might find yourself stuck in the middle of nowhere scrambling to find that old map you threw in the trunk years ago.

GPS units that use satellite reception are more reliable in this regard. Period.

Using Your Smartphone to Navigate Eats into Your Data Plan
While that’s not a problem for me, (I’ve held onto an old all-you-can-eat plan from AT&T) most folks have to worry about that.

I say why not use your precious data elsewhere…?

Available HUD displays are More Fiction than Fact
I really thought this was my next step…
Head Up Displays (HUDs) project driving directions
right onto your windshield.

How cool is that?

But when I started shopping around, there really wasn’t anything out there other than glorified reflector systems for your smartphone. And I really wasn’t into mounting my iPhone onto the back of my dash. (See reason #1.)

Garmin came out with a HUD device a few years back, but the interface just isn’t as robust as a typical GPS unit.

Navdy is a HUD in development that looks really cool. But as far as I can tell, it’s not on the market yet.

If someone knows of a real-life Head Up Display unit that’s out there, please let me know…

Assuming you can actually find a HUD (at an affordable price point), yes, it’s cool that the display shows up on your windshield. That can certainly help maintain your focus on the road ahead. But driving with a dedicated car GPS mounted in front of you also approximates the same experience.

The Shopping Begins
So as I’ve already suggested, I’ve come full circle. It’s time to buy another GPS navigation unit.

Which way to go?

I’ll let you know… Next time on At Home with Tech

GPS Jane

My Garmin Nuvi took my family on a ride getting to our vacation. Then, my iPhone Maps app actually got us there.

The first time my wife and I drove with GPS navigational support was six years ago, while driving in a car rental out in San Francisco.

I should first mention that my wife is the official navigator in the family.
She loves maps and has only gotten lost once (in the woods) in all the time I’ve known her.
It’s probably not going too far to say that I’m moderately to severely geographically challenged. I could get lost driving down a straight highway.

I could blame this unfortunate fact that I grew up in New York City and never drove a car until after college. Good excuse? Well it’s my story, and I’m sticking to it.

Driving around Fog City, I felt like I was in the car of the future. A portable navigation device using GPS (Global Positioning System) technology to take you anywhere you wanted to go. No more worrying how to get there.
I was sold, before I even got into the car.

My wife wasn’t so sure.
I was so charmed I set the device’s voice control to dictate its directions in a smooth female Australian accent.

And then I gave it a name.

[My wife joked about “the other woman.”]

The Other Woman
We ended up not following Jane’s directions much that day due to human/computer incompatibility. My wife had her map, and unless she saw the logic of the Aussie hussie, my wife called out an alternate course.

And though we collectively agreed there was little value to this circus show circuit freak, I purchased one within three months. (the Nuvi 760)

The name stuck, and eventually, the two north stars in my life came to some sort of understanding, and Jane became a welcome passenger on most of our big road trips.

Today, even though portable GPS navigation tech is a common consumer tech tool, and of course available in many car models and through our iPhones, we still use our aging Jane quite a lot. The fact that she talks still keeps her ahead of much of the still silent competition, unless you want to buy a costly GPS app for your iPhone.  (That said, I understand Android’s native free navigation capability is pretty awesome.)

And as of May, Garmin has sold over 100 million of its GPS products. So I’m not alone in my devotion to this magic tool that stretches my navigational capability.

Deep down, though, my two navigators still don’t get along.

And much like a bad movie where the “other woman” threatens the lives of a happy couple, I have finally begun to see the errors of my ways with Jane. But is it too late?

The Blind Leading the Blind?
First off, I’ve clearly become overly reliant on Jane.
I take Jane with me down the street to get a quart of milk.
New restaurant in the next town? Too far to risk getting there by myself.
I need my Jane!

And now that Jane has comfortably cemented herself to my life, something strange has begun to happen.
She’s getting lazy.

Her directions are sometimes, well… wrong.
And over time, the problem has gotten worse.
Her directions eventually get me where I want to go, but not always through a shortest route approach.

Yes, I know that road maps need to get updated from time to time, and you’ve also got to refresh your portable GPS unit’s memory with software updates.

About a year ago, I got an email from Garmin offering lifetime software updates for Jane. I took the deal, thinking I would never need to look for another portable navigator ever again.

Cue the ominous movie music…

Jane Takes a Vacation during our Vacation
Last weekend, the Lester family got into the car to kick off our little beach vacation on the North Fork of Long Island.

As usual, Jane was front and center as we headed out.
I type ‘Harbor Road’ into her keypad, but before I can complete my data input, she automatically suggests ‘ Harbour’ without allowing me another option.  She then happily locks in the address but also changes the two-digit house number to a non-related three-digit number.

It’s like the vacation address just doesn’t exist.
Am I in a Twilight Zone episode?
If only…

So I pull out my iPhone and repeat the same exercise to see how the Maps app handles the task.

Problem? What problem?
My iPhone quickly locks into our correct route.
There it is. Harbor Road, on the water.
Not Harbour Road, several blocks inland with an entirely different address.

My wife is driving.
So I have the flexibility to run both devices simultaneously.
A little competition, if you will. (Getting into the spirit of the Olympics.)

Let the Games Begin!
The two wonder machines run neck and neck until the last mile. I knew it would come down to the wire.
Then Jane says calmly, “Turn right.”

But iPhone Maps clearly points, Left!!

This is the moment of truth.
It was time to change the status quo.
I call out, “Take a left…Now!!

Jane proclaims her disapproval at my disobedience.
I firmly repeat my navigational act of anarchy.

My wife complies, and as our car begins its left turn, Jane admits defeat.
I look at her readout and it says, “Recalibrating…”

And in that moment, Jane lost her grip on me.
She eventually regains her composure and finally displays the original address I had wanted all along, as well as our now-correct bearing.

Too late, Jane.

She decides to acknowledge her error in the last minute of our journey?!
I don’t think so. This is the last straw.

I know. Jane and I are bonded together for life. Right?
Lifetime updates with no additional cost.
Doesn’t matter.
It’s time to make a change.

Jane, it’s over.

Let’s Just Remember the Good Times
My change of heart has nothing to do with the recent but separate tech announcements by Google Maps and Apple promoting even greater upcoming capabilities for smartphones. And even more irrelevance for dedicated GPS devices.

Wired has already declared, “The portable GPS device is dead.”

Nope. I’m not just reading the writing on the wall about Jane.
This time, it’s personal.

Where’s the Nearest Flower Shop?
Now I’ve got to woo back the one and only true navigator in my life.

So I decide to write my wife a little note to express the error of my ways and my true regret.

Dear Wife,

I’m sorry I ever doubted your navigational superiority.
Artificial intelligence can never match your keen sense of direction, and your innate capability to drive around a traffic jam, leaving all others in your dust.

I was wrong to ever trust Jane, when you are truly my one and only navigator.

Can you ever forgive me?


Your Geek

So I close the envelope and look around for my wife.
It’s suddenly way too quiet.
Oh no… She’s gone!

Don’t worry.
She just went shopping with a friend at a local farm stand on the side of the road, five miles away.
I should go find her.

But I don’t really know where she went.

Excuse me. I’ve got to go and find Jane.

%d bloggers like this: