At the beginning of April right as I was coming off my "back surgery vacation," I wrote a kitchen sink blog that, amongst other things, dragged consumer-targeted global postioning solutions like those from Tom-Tom through the mud. But, at $500 to $700, I found the pricing for something like that to be outrageously expensive when compared to the $10 map book you can buy at the local gas station that could very well be more up-to-date. I felt a little uneasy about drawing that conclusion after several people wrote to me to say they thought I was off-base. But now that the New York Times David Pogue has chronicled his GPS nightmare, I'm not feeling so bad about what I said. I'm excerpted some of what Pogue wrote but you should click through to read the complete details since I only focused on the parts that make a point about price:
.....my wife and I were excited to receive, as [a] very generous Christmas present from a relative, a Magellan RoadMate 300 that we could install in our other car. It’s a portable GPS unit (from a company called Thales) that suction-cups onto your windshield....I discovered that its memory comes essentially empty. You have to load it up with road-map data from a set of map CD’s using a Windows PC. The transferring process is complicated, non-intuitive and dog-slow. But they’ve got to get the price down somehow, right?....More money buys you lots of great features, by the way. In the $800 range, for example, you can buy one whose voice doesn’t just say “Turn right,” but “turn right on Maple Street.” The really nice ones, like Thales’s upcoming 6000T, also download real-time traffic data (for a monthly fee) and route you around traffic jams.
Poor David. As I read his blog, I really felt his pain. Pogue eventually points out that the RoadMate 300 is an old model that is no longer available from the manufacturer and that the newer model overcomes some of the problems he encountered. But the fact that the older model is still on store shelves didn't escape his scrutiny.
Nevertheless, sometimes, you really have to wonder how certain products ever make it into the marketplace (I remember as a teenager wondering the same thing about the decision by Ford to put the horn button at the end of the blinker control). Anyway, liike I said in my original blog, I've somehow managed to make it to the age of 44 without the convenience of a GPS system. Sure, I've gotten lost a few times. But sometimes, getting lost can be fun. When these systems drop below the price of $200, I may reconsider. And I mean the $800 systems. Not the el cheapo $400 ones that require a rocket scientist. In fact, if there's a monthly fee involved, perhaps whoever is charging that fee should give the units away (much the same way cell phones are given away today).