Review: Griffin in-car smartphone mounts

We got our hands on two of Griffin’s recently released hands-free mobile car kits.

Air-Curve-Mount

Aircurve Window Mount, RRP £24.99: Designed for the iPhone 4 and 4S, the Aircurve has been designed to cradle your phone securely and increase its audio output by up to 25 decibels thanks to some clever acoustic design. This means you will no longer need to strain to hear telephone conversations, GPS instructions or music as you would if you were using a normal window or dashboard mount. The mount itself is sturdy and easy to fix onto a surface, and no cables or batteries are required to use. If you are looking for somewhere to hold your iPhone with optimal audio output, the Aircurve is worth a look. It is very basic mind you, so for the asking price you may be better off shopping around first.

Windowseat Mobile Car Kit, RRP £34.99: Priced in a slightly higher bracket than the Aircurve, the Windowseat car kit is compatible with any modern Smartphone. Along with holding your phone securely, the car kit also includes several plug in cables – an AUX and microphone (so you can plug in to your car stereo), a USB car charger and an iPhone dock connector. If you are looking for a highly flexible hands free kit this really does tick all the right boxes, the USB connectors are a godsend and the mount is easy to set up and use, holding your phone safe and securely. Again, I have a slight concern when it comes to the price of the car kit, but the quality and versatility – you can use it with just about any model of Smartphone – cannot be denied.

For further information on both products, visit www.griffintechnology.com.

Tom Tom and Renault launch electric car navigation

At last someone has seen the light and for once produced something entirely useful for the electric car; and that someone is Tom Tom. Not content with dominating the navigation market the navigation superhero has turned its attention to the electric car in a way that is so beneficial to electic car owners you have to ask yourself why has it taken so long?

TomTom-Dash

Thankfully Renault has seen the light and designed space in its Fluence Z.E.electic car for an in dash navigation system developed by Tom Tom which not only obviously navigates, using Tom Tom’s tried and tested GPS software, but also allows drivers to navigate to the nearest recharge station. Thus solving one of the major worries for electric car owners. Genius.

The Carminat TomTom Z.E LIVE, receives direct information from the battery about its charge state and then taking the current planned route into consideration, calculates whether a recharge will be necessary. If it is, it’ll display just where the nearest charging points are located along the route.

While it’s at it, it will also provide the most energy efficient route in the first place, eking out those extra precious miles from every available cell.

The Carminat TomTom Z.E LIVE also carries many of Tom Tom’s now standard features such ad HD traffic, local Search with TomTom Places and Google, safety camera alerts and IQ Routes.

Giles Shrimpton, Managing Director of TomTom Automotive points out “This is the first navigation system TomTom is launching in the area of electric vehicles and it represents a great milestone for us as a company in this exciting new market”. Renault has clearly scored a bit of a coup with this, and providing Tom Tom expands this to the other electric car manufacturers, it will be one less thing in the minus box for electric car owners.

Pioneer’s Appradio makes your dash even more dashing.

It was inevitable. It had to come eventually and now it has. In car audio has officially gone mobile. Pioneer, never one to shirk its responsibilities, has been the first out of the blocks to fully integrate a smart phone into an in car audio system.

App-Radio

The Appradio is a WVGA 6.1” touch screen radio that fits flush into your car’s dashboard to provide all your in car entertainment as usual. The fun part is it more or less mimics your iphone 4 screen display and control system, letting you operate the capacitive screen as you would your own iphone 4. So, simply launching the Appradio app from your iphone, will let you call all your usual mobile features like iPod operation with all the music info, AM/FM radio, and Bluetooth hands-free talking and phonebook transfer directly from your dashboard.

The standard Google maps GPS navigation app is available which saves you shelling out for a sat nav device particularly when you discover there is an external GPS receiver bundled with the Appradio to make the iphone navigation system more responsive and you can use the Appradio 800X480 display to watch video, look at photos and surf the net. In case your now thinking you can catch up with all your You Tube videos whilst you’re on the road, forget it, you can only watch video once your car has stopped moving!
There’s also a rear camera connector available to provide you with a rear view for parking and a steering wheel remote adapter too.

Currently, there are only four third party apps that are supported through the AppRadio due to the limitations of the iOS; Pandora Internet Radio, Rdio, MotionX GPS Drive navigation, and Inrix Traffic but the potential is there for developers to utilise this ingenious platform.

The AppRadio is due to launch this autumn and will retail at around £300.

Mio get Spiritual with a new range of Spirit Sat Navs

It seems the SatNav market is hotting up once again as other manufacturers strive to combat TomTom’s dominant market position. It’s a highly lucrative market now with the emphasis clearly on traffic avoidance and ease of use and with increasing investment providing better technology the race is definitely on.

Mio

Korean Taiwanese manufacturer Mio who in 2007  swallowed up Navman, one of the early contenders to Tom Tom’s crown, has just released  a number of additional units to its Spirit range of SatNavs that offer many high level functions at an entry level price.

Whilst the 480 series and upwards offers some new functions such as Parking Assistance which automatically shows a list of close by parking spaces and an excellent Pedestrian mode for when you’re out of the car, helping you explore new places on foot, it’s the 680 series in particular which stands out.

This has a large 5” colour screen over 30% bigger than traditional 4.3” screens and accepts voice commands so now you can simply tell it where you want to go. Having voice recognition also allows it to handle Bluetooth enabled mobile calls giving you hands free capability for your phone too. The 680 also offers you a choice of four different routes in your screen: fastest, shortest, easiest and most economical so you can choose the route that best suits your needs.

There’s premium traffic information available subscription free and also a handy AV In port to connect a rear view camera (sold separately) to help reversing into tight positions.

Mio also provide cheap virtual ‘rental maps’ to download for those situations when you only need a map for a limited period. An excellent idea.

The Mio Spirit series is available from £79.99 up to £149.99 giving you a lot of functionality for a highly affordable price.

For more information head here

Become a ‘Waze hero’ with the “Facebook for Drivers!”

Now this new app actually roused my attention although I am not sure why it is being marketed as “The new Facebook for drivers”. When you are cruising along at 80 mph down the motorway, happily calculating what time you will arrive at your destination, the one thing that puts a dampener on your plans are the depressing sight of a queue of brake lights ahead whereby all you can do is slow down and join them. “Why didn’t we come off at that last exit”, you cry to your equally exasperated passenger, “If only we’d known about this delay!” Enter the ‘Waze’, a new and free navigational app where drivers get to avoid traffic by joining local ‘Waze’ driving communities.

Waze

This 100% user-generated app allows users to passively share real-time traffic information with other ‘Wazers” so that the driving community has an active role in sharing live traffic information about queues, hazards and accidents with other drivers – ah, so that’s why it is being marketed as the “Facebook for drivers”, because it is essentially as social networking site for drivers.

So why not just listen to the highly annoying local radio ‘travel updates’ that rudely interrupt you and rivet your attention back to the road whilst you listen to your favourite track? Well I don’t know about you but I find these radio ‘travel updates’ to not only be annoying for their ‘interrupting’ tendencies, but have an even more annoying habit of warning you of a delay on the road when you are already in it.

‘Wazers’, on the other hand, will have the ‘upper hand’ on local travel information and not only this but the Waze app is designed to be fun, allowing drivers to win prizes and top the ladder board by sharing information and validating roads. On second thoughts perhaps this app is a little ‘sad’, it should have just stuck to enabling drivers to share vital and useful information with other drivers without patronising us to become ‘Waze heroes!’

The new version of the Android app also features a commuting widget, which uses both live information and historical data to tell users when best to take their chosen journey and enables expected time of arrival and journey length to be displayed in real-time from the phone’s main screen.

Check it out here

Autoglass 2020 Vision

Fortune-telling is a dubious business. And if Gypsy women with mystic balls and hordes of magic charms aren’t to be believed, what chance do windscreen manufacturer Autoglass have? Well, when the future is this cool, hopefully quite a lot.

Autoglass

Autoglass has created a “2020 Vision campaign”, pondering what information our windscreens will show us in 2020.

The video, included below, suggests combining augmented reality, visual sensors and GPS technology to make – undeniably – one of the coolest windscreens we’ve ever seen.

Key information such as speed, fuel and car issues are displayed right on the glass, meaning you never have to look anywhere else. It also means you’ll feel like you’re playing Wipeout 2097 or any other futuristic racing sim, where overlays keep you up-to-date about your racer.

It also shows overlays for nearby places of interest, which, using GPS technology is already widely implemented – only now, it’s got an awesome display. It also prompts deals along the bottom of the screen for nearby restaurants or bars – something that could be genuinely useful for road users (and might help supplement the huge rising costs of fuel!)

Visual sensors could also be implemented, recognising nearby pedestrians and cyclists and highlighting them as potential hazards. It’s all very computer-gamey – and therefore awesome.

The demo shows pedestrians being highlighted, deals popping up (perhaps distractingly so…) and the fuel gauge drop low, whereby the screen informs the driver of the location of the nearest petrol station and directs him on-screen, with arrows overlaying atop the real world.

The soundtracks pretty cool, too.

NuLink! 2300 series: Garmin now lets you see what lies ahead

Garmin has finally found a ground breaking idea to bring it out from behind Tom Tom’s rather large shadow. Its next generation of Sat Nav’s, the NuLink! 2300 series incorporates PhotoLive pictures (via a subscription) from live traffic cameras along your selected route. The company has announced it is committed to giving drivers the very best traffic avoidance possible and this neat idea will certainly be a welcome addition.

Garmin-SatNav

The new system will have access to over 80 million traffic sources across Europe in its war on waiting, so as well as live traffic cameras we’ll receive information from radio travel reports, traffic hazard stories like road debris, Google local search and even en-route weather radar, airport arrivals and departures, fuel prices and even exchange rates.

In an excellent security move, Garmin has included a built in tracking system that can be activated by the owner’s instigation. The tracking can be monitored on the web, posted to social networking sites or to another 2300 unit and provides another level of enhanced safety that can be used in all kinds of situations.

The 2300 series is packed with new features that herald the next generation of portable satellite navigation. POI’s (Points of Interest) have been completely overhauled and combined with Google Local Search, and with Automatic Speech recognition technology you can give your unit a name and just wake it up by calling it out. Once it’s awake you can navigate through the menus by voice recognition making it truly hands free. Of course the knock on effect is the Bluetooth enabled advantage of dialling phone numbers through the voice recognition too. PhotoReal Junction View displays a digitised view of your approaching junction in a split screen view so you can be fully prepared for your next manoeuvre and you can save real money by following a proposed EcoRoute to reduce fuel consumption.

On the face of it, the 2300 series is a leap forward for Sat Navs, and we can only guess what Tom Tom will come up with in response.

The NuLink! 2,300 series £229

Tom Tom takes multi tasking to a faster level

Not content with taking the sat nav world by the scruff of the neck and shaking it until all the completion falls away, Tom Tom is seemingly making itself almost indispensible to other hardware manufacturers too. Tom Tom has long led the in car sat navigation market with its wide range of driver friendly, intuitively easy to use devices that have got me out of hopelessly lost causes, pointing the way home from the middle of nowhere on more than one occasion.

TomTomCharger

With the launch of the new high speed multi charger, Tom Tom is taking its driver responsibilities to even higher levels. Now we can not only ensure our saintly sat nav is fully charging, but also while we’re at it, charge a few other peripherals too. Why not hook up an iPhone, an iPad, and a juice hungry DVD at the same time at four times the speed of normal rechargers?

The new high speed multi charger can charge up to three devices simultaneously without any reduction of power unlike other chargers where power is split between ports. There are two USB ports, one at 1.2 amps for standard mobile phones or mp3 players and another at 2.1 amps for more power heavy iPhones and iPads plus a dedicated 12 volt port too for larger devices such as DVD players.

Corinne Vigreux, Managing Director at TomTom delivers the final  knock out punch: “Sleek, small and boasting TomTom’s award-winning design, this is is the first TomTom accessory that enables users to charge their sat nav device and other mobile devices at the same time – it’s a neat in-car, in-truck, or in-caravan charger”.

The new high speed  multi charger will be available  online and at most major electrical retailers for £19.99