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Will Mobile Phone Apps Make Sat-Nav Units Obsolete?

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January 18, 2012

The world of technology is a constantly changing one, of course, and the advent of the mobile phone app has enabled us to perform a number of tasks while on the move. From the practical time-savers to the entertaining time-wasters, we all have a list of our favourite apps, but will the mobile phone ever really be able to replace the in-car satellite navigation system?

In recent years, the sat-nav has evolved into an accessory that is installed into cars at the production stage, although there are of course plenty of stand-alone units that can be purchased in stores and on the web. They have transformed the way many of us get from A to B, and some drivers wouldn’t even consider leaving home without taking their gadget with them.

Finding the right route

Manufacturers of mobile phones, and producers of apps, have been quick to respond to the ever-increasing reliance on GPS technology, and have included the relevant software for some years now. Although in many cases they are only really of practical use if there’s a passenger in the car, some motorists have found them to be a useful accessory.

However, one of the factors that will stand in the way of apps becoming practical enough to replace the in-car unit completely is the size of most mobile phones. While some have relatively large screens, such as that on the HTC Sensation XL, for many motorists it will be difficult to see a screen clearly enough while safely negotiating a road journey.

Visibility is everything

Most commercial sat-nav systems feature large detailed screens which will hold all the necessary information, and will enable users to easily see the route they should be taking. If a mobile phone app was to be used, the phone itself would need a large screen to offer the same level of detail. With most contemporary cellphones, this would be an impossibility.

The cars of the future may perhaps get round this via a number of potential solutions. For example, a Renault lease car may have a screen on the dashboard which can be accessed via a mobile phone, which could then transfer the information onto the screen.

Another alternative could be a voice-only app which could be used to give verbal directions to the driver. How useful this would be without pictures remains to be seen, but it is of course a possibility. The day may even come when sat-nav technology could be incorporated into an intelligent steering wheel, which could perhaps vibrate on the left-hand side when the route dictates a left turn.

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