Watch out - the Belgians are coming and they’re on a mission to keep us Brits on the straight and narrow.
Yesterday, satellite navigation company Mio launched seven GPS (global positioning system) navigation products ranging from a £199 entry level C210 dashboard unit to the top-of-the-line A701 - a shiny black Windows Mobile 5.0 triband PDA-phone with a built-in GPS receiver.
The £379-£449 inc VAT (depending on mapping options chosen) A701 was unveiled several weeks ago and is currently being reviewed by PC Advisor, but yesterday’s launch was as much about Mio announcing its intentions to further consolidate its position in the UK satnav market as about the products themselves.
Mio chose London for the official launch, as we Brits are keener than any other nation on satellite-assisted navigation. Mio expects between 1.5 million and 1.8 million units to be sold this year and believes that portability, ease of use and styling are becoming crucial deciding factors in what is now a relatively mature market.
However, Mio says that it will be "concentrating on useful features, not just gimmicks". TMC’s live UK traffic updates will be included as part of the standard makeup of the higher-end units and an optional extra for those more likely to be traversing the Steppes or the back roads of France than parping their horns on the M6. Speed camera warnings with a years’ worth of free updates will be included.
Unlike some vendors, there will be pedestrian and cyclist modes on all units, reflecting the fact that GPS products are no longer only used for maritime and in-car navigation. The market for preinstalled car-navigation systems is now all but flat, with sales of portable devices in a range of designs skyrocketing.
Among the clutch of dashboard and PDA-style models, PC Advisor was shown a considerably slimmer, sleeker device, the H610, which isn’t much larger than a credit card and seems to be aimed at the iPod-touting youth traveller rather than being a GPS product for drivers. It will be available in white, green or purple and will display photos and house an MP3 player as well as satnav hard- and software.
Set for launch in mid- to late September, a Mio spokesman told us that it’s likely to cost between €499 and €599 and will have a 2GB flash memory. The H610 weighs just 120g and will come preloaded with maps of Europe and WorldMate travel aids such as multi-language translators, currency converters and travel guides.
According to Mio, it is evaluating which publisher or content provider is able to supply the best set of European travel guides before fixing a date for launch.
The intention is that travellers will be able to pitch up at a city and get in-depth details and reviews of restaurants, hotels and tourist attractions together with directions to each venue and the time required to make the journey.