One thing Google have got going for Android (and Garmin haven’t) is “network integration”…

Let me explain:

A few weeks ago I bought a Garmin 1690 GPS, and I love it because it’s “live” – live traffic updates, Google search for placenames, etc; not perfect but very good when you are out on the road and need to get from A to B and avoid the worst of the insane traffic that is to be experienced in the UK.

In fact the only time it’s really put a foot wrong, was when I used the onboard Google Search to locate a hotel where a friend was staying – but as the search result elided a building-number I ended up on the same streetname in the middle of nowhere, with the device insistent that I was in the right place.

A proper Google Search on my Android phone, yielded a postcode, and that worked. Verb sap.

- HOWEVER -

The next step is that I want to transfer routes from Google Maps to my Garmin; so far Garmin have enabled transfer of waypoints but that is not the same as transferring an entire pre-planned route.

In any case: with the Garmin it’s not exactly “transferring” – it’s more a process of:

  • plug the garmin in as a hard disk
  • get your mac to mount it
  • install (once) a plugin that talks to your browser and knows how to navigate the /Volumes/GARMIN disk
  • use the browser to do some magic (select a waypoint on GMaps, click Send To GPS
  • plugin pokes the contents of /Volumes/GARMIN
  • eject GPS and walk away

…so it’s not so much “send” as “copy”; since the GPS has a hardwired GSM SIM onboard, I was hoping that I would magically send waypoints to it as SMS messages or somesuch, but apparently not so; and I still can’t send routes.

So I went looking; due to Garmin’s proprietary past there are huge communities set up discussing how to hack the damned things, and none of the hacks are the same from one device to the next – where “hacking” includes tasks like “using your GPS in a way you would have expected to be easy in this day and age”.

After two attempts I found a webservice which would turn my Google Maps KML file – a flavour of XML – into a Garmin GPX file – a flavour of XML – which in theory my GPS would be able to consume and render on screen.

In practice, however, no; the “Garmin POI Loader” tool read the file, told me how many waypoints were in it, and then declared that the file did not exist when I hit the button to confirm the upload.

The “Garmin RoadTrip” application looks like something out of 1999 – indeed, it probably is the same software base I was using back around the turn of the century to drive my little Garmin handheld – and it told me that it had uploaded the GPX file to the GPS… and then, nada. It seems not to have done anything.

Whereas with Android:

  • Load: Google Navigate
  • Tap: Layers, More Layers, My Maps, Mapname …

…and boof a little blue line appears on screen to tell you what route you had marked out, irrespective of the gravitational attractions of nearby road junctions, with zero fuss.

Garmin: I loved you, but I suspect the 1690 will be the last unit I buy from you unless you raise your game really, really fast.

Dump your platform and go Android, for starters. Custom platform games? Ick.

ps: TomTom users, to the best of my knowledge you’re no better. Still GPS-trying-to-be-networked, rather than network telling you where you are and where you need to be.

3 thoughts on “One thing Google have got going for Android (and Garmin haven’t) is “network integration”…

  1. Michael Ramchand

    I’ve been happily using my iphone to track all my rides and runs. Easily did 5.5 hours on Saturday and still left 1/4 battery. Using MotionX GPS which is clever enough to use the iPhone 4’s accelerometer to extrapolate while GPS sig gets lost under trees and stuff. (I think). Also Karena has been using HTC Legend with Endomondo to track her runs. (and we’ve compared). Why would anyone want a Garmin now? (I wanna get a bluetooth thing so I can do all the HR and cadence monitoring as well at some point.) (Check the stuff I’ve posted on fb with the routes I’ve been doing. Pretty well integrated.

    Reply
  2. Pingback: I wondered about buying a Garmin Cycling GPS – and then I thought: Why bother? /cc @dcuthbert | dropsafe

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