I saw an ad for the Garminfone during the World Cup today.
It’s essentially just another Android phone, but focused on Garmin’s navigation rather than Google’s. I’d heard about its existence in the past, but never paid much attention.
This move makes sense for Garmin, but I wonder if consumers care. After all, Google’s Navigation app on Android is really good, and there are affordable options for iOS too.
I find the Garminfone intriguing because of what it represents, i.e. device convergence.
Think about all the tasks your smartphone can do and all the devices it replaces.
- It’s a phone, and it send text messages.
- It’s a digital camera.
- It’s probably a video camera.
- It’s likely a turn-by-turn GPS.
- It’s a personal organizer and contact manager.
- It’s a gaming console.
- It’s probably an intertubes device.
- It’s a digital music player.
About the only device it hasn’t replaced is the CD/DVD player, but that’s moot based on its capabilities as a digital multimedia and intertubes-capable device.
Your phone replaces at least six devices. I’m assuming the digital camera also shoots video, and the phone probably was also an organizer and contact manager. Flash back to 2000 in your mind to confirm.
From a convenience perspective, obviously, this is a good thing. No more need to travel with a bag full of gadgets and chargers.
But is it a good thing otherwise?
I don’t know. One presumably nice thing about separate devices was that each targeted a specific set of tasks. I had an interesting experience with the Google Navigation app on my Droid.
I was testing it out before Google IO for giggles between Pleasanton and San Francisco, and the battery died on the Bay Bridge. Good thing I knew where I was going.
I left Pleasanton with about 75% left, but without a charger, it ran down to empty in a matter of about 30 minutes.
That was the Droid, not the HTC EVO, whose battery woes are well-documented.
Yeah, I know about ways to squeeze more battery out of Android phones, but that’s poor usability. And you know it. Sure, I could carry a car charger, but would I need to for a regular old GPS?
I’ve never had a GPS, but we bought one for my mother-in-law and used it around here quite a bit. Several hours of driving on a full charge, but no hint of battery weakness.
And of course, it came with a car charger, which smartphones do not.
Singularity of design is a good thing. We can debate whether devices with one purpose are any good, e.g. my Sony video camera has some really bad UI, most digital cameras take better pictures than phone cameras, etc.
Even Apple won’t be able to make the iPhone and iPad do everything really well, but they’ll be pushed by competition to try.
Why? Because we’ll keep buying these uber-devices. Still, I wonder how much and what I’m sacrificing in the name of convenience.
And, for the record, running out of battery before reaching your destination is definitely not convenient.
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