First, travelers unfolded maps. Then, some turned to dashboard GPS systems. Now people can just open a smartphone app when they need directions.
Garmin Corp., once the biggest provider of devices with GPS capabilities, has felt the shift toward GPS apps and away from standalone dashboard systems. Its new navigational app, Viago, launched in mid-June in an attempt to woo back users who abandoned their traditional navigation systems for cheaper or free GPS apps on their phones.
Viago, available in Android and iOS versions, offers more features than the free apps Google Maps and Apple Maps, but at a price. The app itself is only 99 cents — on sale until July 13, when it will go for $1.99. But the bulk of its unique features requires other in-app purchases.
“The idea is that instead of charging a fixed price, you can buy the app and just purchase the features you want,” said Johan-Till Broer, Garmin’s press relations manager at the company’s U.S. headquarters in Olathe. “It gives a user more flexibility to really choose what they want.”
Patrick Connolly, a senior analyst at ABI Research, said Garmin’s days of relying on automotive navigation systems for revenue are long gone. Garmin used to be the top seller of dashboard GPS devices, but its stock plummeted after a peak in 2007.
“Is this going to be the savior of Garmin? I would say no,” Connolly said. “Free navigation is everywhere ... I can’t see a paid app bringing in a lot for Garmin.”
But Garmin’s diversification of its markets means the app’s success or failure won’t make or break them, Connolly said. Garmin’s outdoor, fitness, aviation and marine segments now make up 58 percent of total revenues. Garmin’s automotive segment claimed 42 percent of revenue — including apps, standalone navigation devices and OEM systems — in the first quarter of this year.
Basic features in the app include multi-destination routing, speed limit information and lane assistance with realistic junction views.
The features that require an in-app purchase cost $4.99 to $19.99.
Maps To Go downloads maps that are stored locally on the phone so they are available when the phone is out-of-service. Regional maps are available for North America, Latin America, Europe, Russia, the Middle East and Australia. The maps cost $19.99 each, but are on sale for $9.99 until July 13.
Sound & Buildings adds 3-D buildings and landmarks to maps and spoken street names. It costs $9.99.
Mobile Alert Live sends alerts about mobile speed cameras that other drivers have reported. Requires Maps to Go and costs $9.99.
Safety Kit includes an active lane guidance graphic that shows drivers the proper lane needed for turns and exits. Requires Maps to Go and costs $9.99.
Real Directions uses landmarks, buildings and traffic lights instead of just street names to direct the driver. Requires Maps to Go and costs $9.99.
Traffic Live routes around jams and gridlock by analyzing historic and real-time data from other drivers. Traffic Live is on sale for $9.99 until July 13, when it will cost $19.99.
Panorama View 3D requires Maps to Go and costs $9.99.
Urban Guidance is only available for iPhones. It integrates public transportation and is $4.99.
Viago isn’t Garmin’s first system for hand-held devices; the company released the StreetPilot app back in 2011, which Broer said Garmin will continue updating. Compared with other Garmin GPS products, such as Nuvi devices, which cost anywhere from $99 to $399, Viago seems to be a steal.
“This has Garmin routing, and we have 20 years of experience,” Broer said.
Garmin does not release sales numbers, but Broer said the app was at the top of iOS’s app store the day it was launched.
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