updated 05:35 pm EDT, Thu July 8, 2010
Garmin claims free smartphone GPS too costly
Garmin today tried to steer European travelers away from smartphone navigation today by claiming that it would be too expensive. The GPS maker claimed that free services like Google Maps Navigation were actually more expensive as the international data fees needed to get map updates were costly. Even a relatively short return trip like one from Calais to Paris, for example, could cost a British resident £74 ($112) in data.
The issue could be worse for certain travelers, as the EU's new roaming data caps could limit roaming fees to 50 euros ($64), possibly cutting off data in mid-trip.
While it remains true that roaming fees are likely, the claims don't touch on how the free services can work or to address every competitor. Google Maps Navigation can cache the entire planned route and may only need to download data on the return trip or if veering off of the intended course. Also, Nokia's Ovi Maps includes fully offline maps and doesn't charge at all. A handful of iPhone apps offer free GPS, though very few have offline maps.
The remarks come as Garmin has been threatened by smartphone GPS use and has itself felt compelled to enter smartphones with devices like the Garminfone. Even when free services aren't available, smartphone owners, especially iPhone owners, have had the option of paying for GPS apps with the same offline maps as dedicated GPS units.