Magellan linking GPS hardware to smartphones with SmartGPS

Mel Martin
M. Martin|05.02.13

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Magellan linking GPS hardware to smartphones with SmartGPS

Magellan merging GPS hardware and iOS

Magellan has announced the nationwide availability of its new SmartGPS device. The hardware GPS for cars mates with an iPhone or Android app to provide the in-car solution with several advantages, including content from Yelp and Foursquare that's based on the user location and planned route. Live content includes fuel prices, traffic, local weather and traffic camera alerts.

Rather than draining your cellphone data plan, the SmartGPS (which looks remarkably like a tiny iPad) is designed to cache the "heavy" content -- the reviews, photos and other data from Foursquare and Yelp -- via WiFi. The unit detects the wireless networks you've set up and will automatically connect when you're within range of your home or office WiFi. Downloaded content is kept up to date for your immediate area and the destinations/routes you program into the unit; you can also sync content via USB and a browser helper app on your Mac or PC.

The hardware is initially available at Best Buy for US$249. The iOS app that provides the network links is free -- although it's not yet available in the US store, it should show up under Magellan's heading in the next week or so. You can find information for a destination on the Magellan app, then send it via Bluetooth to the GPS hardware in the car.

The idea behind the SmartGPS is to blend the best parts of the smartphone experience with dedicated hardware. This approach will succeed or fail depending on whether people find the navigation solutions on their smartphones inadequate without dedicated hardware. Multitasking for music, phone calls or other activities while using your phone as a primary GPS unit can be annoying or dangerous, so there's something still to be said for an independent, but connected dashboard navigation unit.

The Magellan SmartGPS has a 5-inch touchscreen, free lifetime map updates, traffic alerts, WiFI and Bluetooth radios and an AV input for connection to media devices and wireless back-up cameras. You can insert a microSD card for other media or data use.

Consumers can upgrade to Premium SmartGPS apps for iOS, featuring turn-by-turn directions with voice navigation, for $49 with US maps / $59 with US and Canada maps. The iOS companion app will be available this month. iOS premium navigation upgrades are scheduled to be available in summer 2013.

We've got a review unit of the Magellan device in-house now, and you'll see our full review soon.

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