The dying handheld GPS market…

My father taught me to read Topographic maps at a very early age. To understand the geography of where we were hiking. My grandfather taught me about water and water flow and how water moves within that topographic 2d map. Both are skills that I treasure and both skills contributed to my being a map and weather geek. The other part of my being a geek has to do with an attachment to gadgets but that is a story for another day.

Handheld GPS systems were all the rage, and still are in some groups. In particular those who hike and boat away from where Cellular connections don’t work. Having your cell on when there is no wi-fi or cell service drains the battery faster than pocking a hole in the bottom of a bucket and trying to move water. You can bail but most of the water stays where it was. The other problem with a handheld GPS is where did I leave it last. I use mine about once a month or so. It’s a nice Delorme handheld.

Now there are a number of handheld GPS makers that have a number of interesting devices but they went from main stream to Niche. There are exercise GPS systems that can be used for working out. They are normally bands or wrist watches. There are other systems in your car and other personal craft (boats etc.). that we use. So that handheld market, like the digital camera market has moved over to niche and specialty markets.

In fact if you look on eBay right now, devices that sold new for 400 dollars average less than 60 dollars sale price now. The floor has fallen boss. Now that said there are still reasons to have a Hand Held GPS. There is a value to a handheld GPS for those that need them. Connection to the world beyond the Cellular Coverage map. Connection to a world that is more Thoreau than it is gadgets. The world of nature.

I’ve talked before about the digital push away from cameras. The cell phone replacing the digital camera. the digital camera moving further and further into specialty devices. (3d, VR, infrared and so on). The specialty devices becoming more and more functional as we consider not only the need for those specialties but also the functional impact of adding that capability to a cell phone. Does it make sense for your cellular phone to be a high end infrared camera (you can do that, not high end but use the Seek add on). In fact handheld weather stations have a place and a purpose, that continues. Handheld GPS’s also have a place and a purpose. They move like digital camera’s into the specialty market.

What I haven’t seen yet is the specialty GPS system. First off I have been thinking about this market for the past year and I can’t quite figure out what would be interesting. Faster locking to satellite signals would be a value (a handheld is much faster than your cell phone at locking onto a signal). Interactive displays that capture local weather and GPS signals displaying both on the screen? Knowing rain is coming is critical, seeing the squall line on your GPS so you can put your hood up before it arrives, priceless!

So now we talk features of specialty handheld GPS systems. The few die hard mapping geeks will buy their last handhelds for the sake of mapping devices. Then what does the market do as a specialty offering. How do the companies making the devices move beyond the fitness craze?

What does the specialty mapping market look like?


Mapping Geek