Are Smartphones Making In-Car Navigation Obsolete?

Sections: Cellphones, Communications, Gadgets / Other, Mobile, Mobile Computers, Smartphones

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credit: bizmac

Navigation systems used to be the ultimate automotive feature.  As a kid in middle school, I used to drool over cars that were seemingly anointed with the eye of God. A user was able to type in a destination and be led their by their automobile.  I, like some of you, keenly remember the times when my dad had to stop and ask people for directions.  The idea of a car giving you directions just blew my adolescent mind.

Today’s car navigation systems are even more sophisticated.  They talk to you, give you the weather, and even pulls traffic information.  They are (relatively) cheaper from automotive manufacturers as well.  Despite all of this, I cant see myself owning a future vehicle with one.

You see, our smartphones can not only do everything our navigation systems can do, but they do it whether we are in the car, jogging or at a boring family dinner (I’m sorry mom..honest!).  Most importantly our smartphones are constantly updating map data. I can plot my trip and check traffic before I leave the house.

I have a relative with a navigation system in a luxury vehicle that is six years old.  The lack of congruence between it and today’s roads are dramatic.  It believes that certain traffic patterns from 2006 still exist.  At this point, you are better off omitting navigation altogether.

With apps like Google maps, you have a constantly evolving app that is good for the entire world.  US-based DVD navigation systems won’t tell you how to get from Tokyo to Kyoto.  Sure that’s impractical for a US based vehicle, but the possibilities with smartphones are endless.

Why use in-car navigation at all? Why can’t we just have a screen in our cars that can display our smartphone information.  Expensive navigation options would be unnecessary. Through these screens (or the phone itself) we would access a constantly updating platform.  It wouldn’t matter which smartphone you owned. The screen would display your preferred UI.

Smartphones are making the navigation system redundant.  Many in-car systems are only useful after a few years. My suggestion? Get a smartphone and a mount so you can pocket the extra grand while relying on better data.  Especially if you plan on keeping the car for an extended period of time.

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  • Louis Stevenson

    In real life the answer is yes and no. I just got my wife an in dash DVD/GPS stereo. I didn’t originally intend to get a GPS unit since we use phones and dedicated GPS units. However the built in GPS has a much much better antenna and is tied into the cars speedometer and has accelerometers. This allows it to keep tracking you despite losing reception. This is extremely useful in big city with tall buildings where you really need the GPS to be as accurate as possible. A phone just can’t cut it in this situation. It also works better when you’re at the bottom of deeper tight valleys in the mountains with very little visible sky.

    • Jeffrey Jones

      This is an awesome contribution and touches on a point that I did not consider. Smartphone users are familiar with the times when their smartphone simply does not work. This would obviously be a huge inconvenience when you are totally lost…especially in the situations you’ve noted above! Thanks, Louis!

      • Louis Stevenson

        You’re welcome. It really caught me off guard how much I would like it. Like I said we’ve been using dedicated units and our phones for years and this is just so much better in towns. As I said I didn’t intend to get a GPS receiver but they had a sale that made it nearly the same price as a non GPS unit.

        Besides the benefits I mentioned the benefits to replacing a stock receiver and speakers in sounds quality are amazing and the main reason we got it was to have a really good hands free device. It really is a better calling experience from the car. Everyone in the car can join in on the conversation and the person on the other end can hear everyone clearly without a ton of road noise.