Thursday, June 28, 2007

GPS Navigation Is the New Must Have Auto Gadget

It doesn’t get much easier finding one’s way to a destination than by using a portable GPS navigation system. Program in the location to which you’re heading and bingo, the most direct route is displayed in real time as you drive, street by street, turn by turn.
So convenient are these marvels of space age technology and now more affordable that the public has turned a niche market product of a year ago into the must-have-item-da-jour.
At Radio Shack in Fairhaven, Massachusetts sales associates Steve Slattery and Sean Landry have noticed a big upturn in sales of the devices over the last few months.
“More and more people are starting to buy them,” observed Steve.
Lower pricing and the availability of more brands has made the difference.
The GPS navigation device kiosk at Radio Shack displays three brands: Garmin (the industry leader), TomTom and Magellan. Prices range from $299.99 for the essential TomTom “One” to $899.99 for the Garmin “Nuvi 660”.
The most advanced models offer Bluetooth wireless connectivity to cellphones and headphones for hands-free driving convenience and safety. With similarly equipped Bluetooth cellphones, the phone display comes up on the larger GPS device display and audio is routed through the unit, too.
Plus, many models now include test-to-speech capability to actually recite the street names and turns as you go along with other instructions and can locate points of interest, restaurants and service stations.
Vacationers are a ready market for this level of technology. What is especially enticing is that there are no monthly service fees to use the equipment and get information.
“If I were traveling, I would probably have one,” noted Sean.
But even day trippers and commuters can find great convenience in using a GPS navigation system.
As familiar as a Boston or a Providence might be or even the winding back roads of Cape Cod, there are always new places one goes to in these locales that can be hard to find. Simply program the location into the navigation system and you’re ready to go – no guessing.
Some models also make a traffic re-routing service available for an additional subscription fee. The service will notify the driver of upcoming traffic snarls and offer an alternative route.
“Most people coming in, looking for the most features for the lowest price go for the TomTom “Go 510” or the Magellan “RoadMate 2200T”,” explained Sean. “Both are $399.99.”
Key differences are that the Go 510 offers Bluetooth compatibility whereas the Magellan holds a longer battery charge.
If you’re an iPod user, some models are fully compatible with the player and display the iPod screen on the navigation display. Other models provide mp3 music playback and memory card capability.
More than another distraction while driving, GPS navigation systems can make it a lot easier for drivers struggling to figure out where they are going.
“Definitely a nice thing to have,” said Sean. “The last time I was in Boston, I wish I had one.”