When speaking with executives from the Google Maps team earlier this year at I/O, I was reminded that Maps wasn't even a product in 2004. In less than a decade, one of Google's bright ideas has completely and unabashedly transformed the entire routing industry. (Avid readers will no doubt recall this graph, depicting real moves in the stock market moments after Google Maps Navigation was first introduced.) That development, coupled with the explosion in smartphone adoption across emerged markets, has left players like Magellan in quite the predicament. It wasn't that long ago that dedicated PNDs (personal navigation devices) were the gift to get for the holiday season. And indeed, many units from Garmin in particular delighted me plenty over the years.
But the reality today is that PND makers have found themselves redundant. A few have resorted to innovating on the software side and nailing down partnerships with automakers and fleet-management firms in order to keep revenue rolling in, while Magellan has opted to create a new piece of hardware. That hardware, of course, is the SmartGPS. Rather than being a standalone PND suitable for mounting on one's dash or window, the device works best when used in concert with an accompanying iPhone or Android app (sorry, Windows Phone and BlackBerry users). In essence, the company is hoping that by creating a product that extends the functionality of your smartphone, you'll be inclined to hand over $250. After a week of road tripping through the US southwest, however, I'm inclined to believe differently.
Gallery: Magellan SmartGPS review
Source: Magellan SmartGPS product page