Gutsy Garmin announced its 2014 nuvi Advanced Series navigation devices at IFA in Berlin on Wednesday--amid heavy showers of smartphones and tablets, whose own "good-enough" navigation capabilities are beating Garmin at its own game. With the nuvi upgrades, however, Garmin is joining them. The new devices add Foursquare venue data and a new feature called Direct Access, which helps find locations within a larger site, such as a shopping mall.
The 2014 nuvi Advanced Series devices, available now, range in price from $200 to $350 and feature touch displays from 5 to 7 inches in diagonal width. All offer pinch-to-zoom capability and split windows to view more data while driving.
The new Direct Access feature offers data on sites within a larger space, such as the stores in a shopping mall or a rental-car booth in an airport. It can guide you closer to the site-within-a-site to make it easier to drop off someone or park close by.
Preloaded data (not requiring a tethered cell phone) includes Nokia's Here maps and points of interest, plus the Foursquare data. Bluetooth-enabled models can use Garmin's Smartphone Link app (available for Android and iOS) to provide real-time enhancements such traffic camera images and weather. The app also opens up deeper Foursquare information, such as ratings, contact information, and trending data on nearby venues.
The nuvi lineup offers other Garmin navigation features, including Real Directions, which uses landmarks and traffic signals to give directions, rather than the more abstract distance and intersection information on other systems. Active Lane Guidance coaches you through freeway exits and other complex changes with vocal and visual cues. Up Ahead alerts you to driver resources along the way, such as rest stops, gas stations, and restaurants. Can your phone's navigation do all those things? Most likely not.
Still, for many people, what navigation they can get on their smartphone is "good enough," even if it's awkward-to-dangerous to use such features while driving. Android Auto and Apple CarPlay's direct smartphone connections will change that for new cars. For the many millions of existing cars that won't be able to enjoy such a mind-meld, however, the upgraded nuvi Advanced Series gives Garmin a fighting chance at their dashboards.