Device convergence is happening everyday as new tech gadgets combine the functionality of previous devices into one handy solution. I first experienced this when the iPhone replaced both my previous phone and my iPod. Not having to carry both devices around all the time was a huge step forward for a music fan like myself, and now we overlook simple pleasures like these.
Another device that could soon be swallowed by the smartphone is the dedicated GPS receiver. Friday, Google announced some updates to its Android app, Car Home, which provides big-button access to car-friendly apps for your windshield-mounted Android smartphone. Are the days of the dedicated GPS numbered?
The new version of Car Home features a slew of customization features, including app shortcuts, icon colors and background wallpapers. Users can quickly add app shortcuts to their Car Home screen, and the app can be automatically launched when placed in a special dock.
Do you always use your Bluetooth headset when you drive? Or perhaps you have one of those newfangled Bluetooth enabled cars? With a few settings you can also have the Car Home app launch automatically when your phone is paired with these devices.
Google has also made it easier for developers to make their apps car-friendly, which could be a catalyst to the convergence of smartphones and GPS units. The powerful developer communities that exist for smartphones will be a huge advantage for smartphone-based in-car navigation.
The other leg-up the phones have is the ability to pull data down from the cloud. Some GPS units can include things like live traffic, but the advantage of smartphones is they are already tied to a cellular network which the user already pays for. There’s only so much a dedicated GPS unit can do via satellite.
But this convergence will take some time. The major thing holding it back is the power (or lack thereof) of GPS chips within smartphones. Until they are capable of the accuracy found in dedicated units, these units will still remain valuable to wayward motorists. Eventually, however, that is going to change and manufacturers like Garmin, TomTom and Magellan will suffer. That is unless they start making their own phones, like the Garmin nüvifone.