There’s currently a lot of hype surrounding Apple’s iPhone (I can call it that now, right?) but the device that I’d really like to see coming out of Cupertino is not a iPod/cellphone hybrid, it’s an iPod/GPS receiver hybrid.
I’m convinced Apple could do a better job of making a usable GPS receiver than any of the big names currently doThe GPS receiver market is enormous and growing rapidly and it’s a market I am surprised that Apple hasn’t ventured into. GPS receiver market growth has been in the double digits for several years, growing at about 12 percent a year and it’s expected to grow at that rate for the foreseeable future.
Over the past eight or nine years (I can’t remember when I got my first receiver – although I remember that at the time I was really impressed with a single-channel GPS receiver that took about 5 minutes to get a signal lock) I’ve handled and used a number of receivers and while the technology has moved on considerably, the user interface is sadly lagging. Even the latest receivers from the big names like Garmin and TomTom still suffer from not having enough thought put into making the device easy to interact with, especially in-car GPS receivers. It’s great that the newer devices allow you to play MP3 files and even audio books from Audible.com but the interface can be tricky to use, especially when the car is moving (no matter whether you’re in the driver or passenger seat).
I’d really love to see what Apple would come up with in terms of a design and interface. The more I use my iPod nano the more I feel that Apple have nailed what the interface should be – it’s so easy to use that I just don’t need to look at it any more. That’s exactly what I’d like to see on a GPS receiver – an interface that didn’t require me to have to give it 100% attention whenever I needed to do anything. Also, if you have dozens of waypoints stored a clickwheel would be so much easier to use than a scroll arrow on a touchscreen (that’s fine when you’re sitting in an armchair figuring out how to use the GPS receiver but it just isn’t efficient when you’re moving along). I can’t help but feel that the clickwheel would make navigating an on-screen map or through a long list of waypoints a whole lot faster and easier.
Another nice thing about the iPod form factor is that it would translate into both a handy handheld and a nice automotive GPS as one of the major drawbacks of most in-car GPS receivers is that their bulky design doesn’t lend itself well for use when not behind the wheel.
Entering the in-car GPS receiver market could be good for Apple too. The company has already shown signs of wanting to break into the car audio market with the iPod and an iPod/GPS hybrid would help to boost Apple’s presence in cars and broaden the appeal of the iPod. Not only that, but I’m convinced Apple could do a better job of making a usable GPS receiver than any of the big names currently do.
Thoughts? What do you think of the current state of the GPS receiver market? What do you think of an iPod/GPS receiver hybrid? Which would you be more likely to buy, the iPhone or an iPod/GPS receiver?