Analysis by Patrick Avenell
SYDNEY, NSW: The future of satellite navigation is advanced connectivity and increased information dissemination, if the new Garmin nuvi 1690 is any indication. At a literal test drive of the device today, Current.com.au was able to play with the new features of this premium navigation unit.
As Garmin is one of the world leaders in personal navigation devices, with products for the car, boat and plane, the focus wasn’t so much on getting from A to B (which you can now achieve with sufficient accuracy from a $99 device), but on the advanced features Garmin is introducing to enhance the relationship between the user and the device.
The nuvi 1690 includes a built-in SIM card, which means data can be pushed to the device to improve functionality. Google local search is on board, so esoteric or little-known points of interest — those not amongst of hundreds of included landmarks — can be sourced off the internet.
The internet is also used to push petrol prices to the device, with users able to source the location and price of all the major fuel varieties from their current location. For frequent travellers, the Flight Status function can access details of recent, active and future flights, with the departure and arrival times updated centrally for accuracy. A currency exchange feature, powered by XE.com, is also handy.
One of the features that Current.com.au trialled extensively was the Ciao! Friend Finder. This feature is currently available on Garmin’s high-end models. Users with compatible models can add friends, much like on a social networking site, and then have their friends’ positions constantly plotted on their own device. You can use this feature to locate friends and then be directed there, or to track friends as they drive to meet you.
Although this feature is fun to play with, there is some lingering scepticism as to its potential to be properly utilised. It only works on certain Garmin devices, and people might be understandably wary about allowing other people constant access to their location, even if they are free to turn it on and off at any time.
Much more utilitarian are features such as the world weather guide, built-in Bluetooth, lane guidance and the aforementioned Google local search functions.
Some of these features are available only by subscription, which costs $99 per year, after the first year. All consumers receive a free year’s access included in the purchase price, which is RRP $599.