Navman gets smart for an Android-based GPS

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So much of what we do can connect to social media, and GPS navigation is now included in that category too, as Navman finds a way to make social media work when you’re driving with a GPS running on a not-quite-phone.

You already have a phone, and like so many Australians, it’s probably a smartphone, which can run a GPS navigation app if need be.

But not everyone relies on these apps, and so the car-based GPS models are still quite relied on by Australians, with hundreds of thousands of units still being moved and sold annually.

This year, Navman plans to add to its range with its first “SmartGPS,” a device that takes its mapping and route suggesting functionality, and adds a more social aspect to it, downloading information over WiFi when in range of a wireless network from social services such as Yelp and FourSquare, and then providing you with information about places you might be driving to or around from those services.

“Not since the origin launch of the first GPS device, have we seen such a major step-change in technology,” said Wendy Hammond, Navman’s Country Director for Australia.

“We know people are using the internet every day to search for information regarding a location or destination. They are also using their smartphones and tablets on the go. However, after the search, the rest of the experience is not great. We’ve introduced the SmartGPS to marry these everyday behaviours with quality navigation from a dedicated GPS device.”

Information provided to you might include petrol prices, or where mobile speed cameras are, or even special offers at restaurants, with recommendations and reviews about places also taken from the Yelp and FourSquare social platforms for consideration of what’s around you.

Other networks like Twitter and Facebook are currently missing in action, but Navman says “watch this space” for Facebook’s own location system, Facebook Places.

Underneath the hood of the SmartGPS, we’re told there’s a 1GHz dual-core processor, which likely means a Cortex A7 processor, similar to what Kogan uses in many of its phones and tablets. There’s 4GB of storage in-built, and more can be added through a microSD slot, with WiFi and Bluetooth both available for wireless connections, and all of this sitting under a 5 inch screen supporting the relatively low resolution of 800×480.

Technically, Android runs as the operating system here, though it’s likely not Android as you know it, and Navman has ridiculously customised it, so while it is Android, you won’t be installing apps or running games on this.

Rather, it’s a GPS that just so happens to use Android, though an older version, with Android 2.3 “Gingerbread” running on this device. Since any Android before version 3.0 was built for phones, the first generation of Navman’s SmartGPS is more like a phone without a mobile modem.

Past the specs, though, the software, as we said has been severely modified, and while it’s Android under the hood, the entire experience has been made to look and feel like a conventional navigation device.

It’s also one that will already connect with your smartphone, linking up to an iPhone or Android smartphone by way of the SmartGPS companion app, making it easy to send addresses from your phone directly to the GPS for easy address entering.

You can, of course, still type in a keyword or address by hand , look for landmarks, and SUNA Live Traffic Information is also provided free, which as we understand it is transmitted through radio and picked up by an internal FM receiver in the GPS.

Pricing for the Navman SmartGPS comes in at $299, and availability will be later this month, with electronics stores getting the navigator.