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Garmin Map Update 2009 and other thoughts

Yesterday I received the City Navigator North America NT Map Update 2009 DVD in the mail. I plugged in my StreetPilot c580, applied the update and everything went smooth as silk. It took a very long time to complete (as usual because of the massive amount of data transferred,) but it worked exactly like it should.

For each successive update Garmin is definitely getting better and better at it. This was by far the easiest update compared to when I updated to version 8 then Map Update 2008 for the following reasons:

  1. Garmin places a BIG LOUD GREEN sticker on the back of the jewel case with your product key. There is absolutely no way you can miss it - and that's good. Previously it was a separate sheet that could be easily lost; now it's in a place where if you lose it, that's your own darn fault. 🙂
  2. The update program updates both the StreetPilot (or nüvi) and MapSource at the same time whereas it didn't prior.
  3. The update and myGarmin site now talk to each other very smoothly. The updater program verifies your unit's serial and will auto-update this information in your myGarmin account with no fuss, no muss. Big improvement. And to note, if you don't have your Garmin device(s) registered with Garmin.com, you should because you'll get notified of map updates much faster. And let's say for the moment you lose the jewel case with your product key. No problem - it's kept in your myGarmin account for retrieval later.

The only problem that still exists is that it takes a really really long time to update the unit. At least a good 1 to 2 hours. During this time you're doing nothing but playing the waiting game. Does it finish? Yes, but geez does it take a while.

I e-mailed Garmin Cartography and alerted them the update went smooth and also to let them know there were still a few major Tampa Florida intersections that hadn't been fixed in this update - but that's okay because some were fixed.

To anyone with The Big Question "Should I get the 2009 update?" Yes. This is the one to get, no question.

The way to report map inaccuracies is not to contact Garmin. Why? Because they don't provide the map data. NAVTEQ does. If you want to report something wrong with the map data, you use NAVTEQ's Map Reporter.

So why did I contact Garmin Cartography? Because the errors I was reporting were very unique. It has to do with major intersections in the metro region of Tampa Florida and would take way too long to explain here, but it definitely had to be reported. Garmin Cartography was always super-nice, professional and very good with follow-up communication.

My thoughts on the way Garmin deploys map data in StreetPilot and nüvi series (and what needs to change)

The single largest complaint among Garmin mobile GPS owners is that the map data is not current. And the only way to update the map data is via DVD (or recently introduced download which I haven't tried yet.)

The DVD is not cheap. It's 70 bucks. Most people get really upset about this, especially people who buy lower-cost sub-$200 nüvi models (when you buy a nüvi for $160 then have to spend an additional $70 to update it - this ticks people off big time.)

Note that you don't have to update your Garmin GPS if you don't want to. There is no "expiration date" on map data. For example, I have an older StreetPilot i3 with version 7 maps (3 versions ago) and have absolutely no intention of updating it. I can still use it even though the data on it is old.

What needs to change about the way Garmin deploys map data is:

1. Use an online subscription-based model.

The download feature in the myGarmin web site may be this but I'm not sure. Garmin needs to only deliver DVD updates as a secondary means of updating map data and not primary.

This model would bring Garmin tons of consistent revenue in a very short period of time and allow people to update their Garmin GPS devices at a significantly lower cost (30 bucks instead of 70 would sure be a lot nicer, right?)

2. Allow for "pick'n'choose" updates.

At present when you update the map data in a Garmin mobile unit, it updates ALL the data. This takes way too much time, and via a download would take even longer.

Using the USA as an example, the older "i" series allowed to pick'n'choose which states you wanted loaded into the unit - so the model for map data loading of this type already exists.

If I had the ability to choose what I wanted to update, I would only update Florida. The download and update would be fast and painless.

3. Tri-annual delivery of updates.

Updates are only delivered annually at present; they need to come much quicker. I would say to deliver quarterly but that doesn't allow enough time for verification of newly updated data. Tri-annual (as in every 4 months) on the other hand would. Heck, even bi-annual (every 6 months) would be a major improvement.

4. Reporting (any reporting) on what was updated and where.

Garmin currently does not tell you what was updated in any DVD release they deploy. However you can verify if certain locations were updated by using NAVTEQ's Map Reporter. It's the same data that's loaded into your Garmin GPS device so it's not like the data is inaccessible by any means.

The lack of any reporting (better known as a changelog) needs to change. Garmin needs to provide reports on what was updated - even if only in a vague sense.

Using the USA as an example, it would be nice to see a simple report on what states have newly updated data and what regions were affected.

You could break it down by country, state, then county, like this:

USA, Florida, Hillsborough County
327 locations added
75 locations removed
33 locations updated
4 interstates updated
2 highways updated

..and that's it. This report lets me know that there's stuff that's been updated in Hillsborough County Florida (where Tampa is.) There is nothing revealing any personal information about anyone. All it lists are locations that were either added, updated or removed. It does not need to state where in the county this occurred. All it needs to state is that an update or two actually happened.

This lets the GPS owner know whether they have to update or not. Most people probably would just to stay on top of things.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

I don't want to give off the impression that Garmin is dropping the ball here. They're not. For every communication I've ever had with them via phone or e-mail with cartography, they've always listened and acted upon any issues/problems or the like. It's a fantastic company that truly pays attention to the people who use their products.

If only computer companies would do the same... 🙂

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