I think so.
This morning, while going through the tweets in my Twitter stream that had arrived overnight, I stumbled upon a MacObserver article that discussed the iPhone becoming the top “camera” on Flickr. (I have my own opinions on that factoid, which I left as a comment on that post; it’s not a favorable commentary on Flickr users.) That post linked to a far more interesting one by Ted Landau titled “A Dozen Devices the iPhone is Killing.” In it, Ted discusses how features in the iPhone that duplicate those in stand-alone devices are making those devices redundant or simply not necessary.
GPS for Everyday Use
As I commented on that post, Ted is right on target with the GPS analysis. I’ve been using various GPS tracking apps on my iPhone for a while now and am super-impressed with the results. The first one I tried was the $2 GPSTrack app, which I wrote about here. Since then, I’ve also played with GPSLite, a free app that does much the same and more for free (which an interface I find a bit too complex for everyday use). My goals with apps like these is to create track logs and trip computer data for flights and for geotagging photos.
Although I’m not fond of turn-by-turn navigation, I know there are plenty of apps that do this, too. So, as Ted pointed out, in-car GPS navigation systems can also be replaced by an iPhone.
GPS for Flying
For pilots, a great app called ForeFlight, which works on both iPhone and iPad, offers better functionality than the $12,000 panel-mount Garmin GPS in my helicopter. Rather than view my location on a primitive screen display, I can see it on an actual aeronautical chart. I can also download charts and other information in advance so there’s no need to rely on 3G connectivity in flight. If I do have 3G connectivity, I can also get up-to-date weather information in flight. And although the iPhone screen is generally too small for my aging eyes to see the details, the same software works on my iPad — that screen size puts my panel mount system to shame. In fact, ForeFlight is the reason I’m updating to a G3 iPad 2 — that model includes a GPS; my original WiFi iPad does not.
Garmin is apparently trying to play catch-up with this functionality but I don’t think they’ll succeed. Why would someone pay thousands of dollars for a one-trick pony like a panel mount GPS when less than $700 will get you an iPad with GPS and Internet capabilities that can be updated on the fly and do so much more — for example, e-mail, Web browsing, ebook reader, and other apps? Best of all, the FAA is starting to accept apps like Foreflight as “electronic flight bags,” thus making traditionally required documents such as printed charts and flight plans unnecessary. (This is something I hope to blog about in more detail soon.)
And Another Thing…
One thing Ted didn’t mention is the main reason why I don’t like carrying more devices than I have to: batteries and charging. When I go on the road, it seems that my “gadget kit” is filled with cables and charging devices. And spare batteries. What a pain in the butt! Wouldn’t it be nicer to carry just one cable and charger, perhaps with a DC adapter? While it’s true that running a GPS app on an iPhone, especially in tracking mode, sucks battery power more than almost anything else you’re likely to do with the phone, a DC charging device can usually remedy this. Heck, even my helicopter has a DC power port.
At this point, it’s hard to imagine why someone would buy a standalone GPS if they had an iPhone or another smartphone with equally good GPS capabilities. Can you think of a reason?