Saturday, August 21

The Speed of Change

It’s a rain sodden murky day out on the hills with visibility near zero.

Thank goodness for the trusty digital map and GPS readout, courtesy of Smartphone technology.

Then the mobile telephone slips from your frozen & wet fingers, hitting the rock at your feet with a worrying clunk. Or more likely the screen starts to flash a 'Low Battery' warning.

Of course, being the sensible hillwalker that you are, dear reader, out comes the map and compass carried as a fall back for times like this.

But stop for a moment to think about those less experienced than yourself.

Those who believe the hype about Smartphone technology & its promise to deliver Always On Internet, GPS location finding, detailed mapping, nearest pizza shop etc etc.

My kit is map, compass & GPS unit. The latter a low budget Garmin piece primarily used for the Grid Reference. The fact it happens to record distance covered, height, time etc is something of use, but not why I originally bought it.

As a piece of outdoor kit its robust, waterproof (well so far), and has a reasonable battery life of 2-3 days (10-12 hrs per day) before its replaceable AAA batteries are changed.

But all this may be due to alter.

My personal view is that the rise of the Smartphone is resulting in a rapid drop in the sales of GPS units. Take this quote from a Millett's shop I was in earlier this week

"We don’t stock GPS any more. We were selling about one every 3 - 4 months. So we dropped them'

As to GPS units themselves. Well the manufacturers have only themselves to blame with the attempt to bolster an inflated price by over speccing functionality, largely unwanted. Or at the lower end of the market selfishly maintaining excessive margins on basic models, despite their payback on that technology having been recouped some years ago.

After all - who will spend £100+ on a GPS unit when your "free" contract phone can provide it at no extra cost?

So for those of us interested in functional kit that does exactly what it promises, and keeps on doing it, we're likely to become increasingly frustrated. I suspect buying a replacement GPS in the coming year may prove difficult, as yet another technology, rapidly taken up by Outdoor users, equally quickly bites the dust.

And not so much through failure of the idea. Or even a lack of relevancy or market.

More fashion & greed.


A point I've been aching to make for ages John! Smartphones are far too flimsy for hill use and the OS don't make it easy for GPS manufacturers to innovate as they want extortionate licensing fees to let them sell our maps to us. It's our data OS, thank you very much. Once you've bought your digital maps you're basically in vendor lockin as you can't afford to, say, upgrade to a SatMap 10 or whatever as you have pay all over again for your maps.
It's also worrying that people are wandering all over the shop using their phone as a GPS on poor battery performance, especially in the cold and when they get los, they've nothing left to phone for help with.
A timely rant and one I may echo myself!
An an excellent acho it is too Ebothy

Glad I'm not a lone voice on this
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