Friday, 18 June 2010

Hmm. Satnav customer services... a generally bodily-fluid-poor relationship...

From Pocket GPS World...

The arrival of TomTom's START device saw the first unit that could not natively support third party POIs including our speed camera warnings.

Now it seems that TomTom have seen fit to roll out this dumbed down feature list to the XL-2 IQ, XL-2 IQ Live and Ease. Whilst there was a work-around that permitted users to install custom POIs, TomTom have now blocked this with a software update.

Is this a move to differentiate budget models from premium devices or are we seeing a move by TomTom to control their devices and restrict what users can install upon them?

As content providers it is only fair that we declare a vested interest in this issue but the move sets a worrying precedent. Are we going to see further moves to secure the content and prevent third parties from competing with them?

If we take speed camera data as an example, our subscribers have long known how poor TomTom's data is in comparison. If they lock down their units then you will no longer have the benefit of choice in choosing who provides the speed camera data or be able to install community provided POIs.

This is a major issue, folks: none of us have the time to go out and research where the next petrol station, rest stop facilities, bank, cinema, tescos/asda/whatever is in relation to where we are at any given time, which is where POI, or Point Of interest files come into their own when used with satellite navigation systems (Sat Nav).

Generally speaking, the POI files that manufacturers may supply (or not), are horrendously out of date by the time we get them, which is where 3rd party POI suppliers, like PGPSW, come into their own. The POI files are updated by the members, in a similar manner to the way the Open Street Map is updated by its' contributors. The result is timely, pretty-much up-to-date and thus accurate POI files, that many rely on.

For TomTom to remove the ability of new customers to use these files is frankly an absurd move on their part that I for one fail to understand. It is, in my view, another sign of an arrogant company trying to have absolute control over what choices are available to its customers.
Only this time, I reckon they've shot themselves in the foot.

TomTom has, in the past, been recognised for it's easily usable and user-customisable Satnav systems. Not any more, by the look of things.

They are being challenged by the online providers such as Google Maps and Ovi maps; there are many more providers of the on-board satnav packages than ever before, and now they're locking their products down, and thus limiting their usability to the customer?!

I'm darn glad I jumped the TomTom ship last year.

Only one problem, my current provider's not much better when it comes to customer service, so I'd hold off on NavMii for the moment too: Their promises appear on the face of it to be very much like vapourware: Loads of promise, with nothing materialising to justify the claims. Example: we've been promised updates for everything from TTS (Text To Speech) to better routing, and updates to many areas of the package (just have a read of their forums - it's all there); nothing's materialised. There's a public beta out, but given the features they've said they've "improved" in this very minor beta release, I'm not bothering with it, in case something else in there has been broken.

Frankly, I'm getting very hacked off with the lack of reliable service we customers are getting, and I'm about ready to jump provider AGAIN.

I went to NavMii from TomTom for several reasons, the two main ones being price and compatibility with the Pocket GPS World speed - sorry - safety camera POI database. For these two reasons, it's been successful.

However, they promised updates not just to me, but to all their customers, and this was reason three: I expected that they would release updates to fully enable the package to utilise POI files, in much the same way that they enabled it for the PGPSW files.

This, they have not done.

Likewise, they have been saying that they would release regular updates to the maps. Well, here's a thing: Their mapping provider, TeleAtlas, allegedly release updates every three months. This from their website:

Do Tele Atlas’ partners use the most current Tele Atlas product?
We deliver the latest release of our products to all our partners and customers on a quarterly basis. Each release includes extended content and coverage and improved quality, which enables our partners to deliver robust, turn-by-turn navigation systems and innovative location-based services that address the needs of millions of consumers every day.

So, how come no updates for the last five months on the maps, then?

Like I said above: Vapour promises.

Once again, I'm very disappointed with these people. All we, the little people, seem to get, are placations and pats on the head.

I for one am thoroughly sick of it.

Damned if I know how it's going to be achieved, but isn't it time that things changed for the better?

A couple of hours later...

OK, update time already

The following ius a slightly truncated quote from Darren over at PGPSW...

My original news item is incorrect in suggesting that these dumbed down models have removed ALL support for custom POIs in that Start/Start2, and XL IQ2/XL IQ2 Live.

I need to clarify this as it was a misunderstanding on my part caused by the lack of POI options in the new simplified menu. There is no longer any option for managing POIs but any that you install do appear in the "Navigate to POI" menu.

So you can still install third party POIs and navigate to them, what you cannot do it set alerts and so speed camera warnings are no longer possible.

However, the forthcoming GO LIVE 1000 is a different beats entirely and with no direct access to its file system it remains to be seen how or indeed if TomTom will manage the install of third party data.

So, existing units can still accept speed camera files, they just in certain cases won't issue alarms for safety cameras.

It's effectively the same thing, though: many folks use these POI files to keep themselves on track and within the law, by reminding themselves of speed limits. This is where the safety camera alerts initiated by the POI files come into their own.

As TomTom has now effectively removed the facility for those alerts, what's the point of using their products, then?

None at all, from what I can see.

I got some feedback for this entry from someone who, while making a very poigniant and sensible point about the value of good customer relations, also included a really blatent and 'in-your-face' plug for a commercial website for people to obtain tailored Curriculum vitaes...

Now, in principle, I haven't a problem with someone being enterprising. Hell, I like making money, just like the next bloke. I just don't like people tring to do it off my back, especially when it has absolutely nothing to do with the subject at hand. It's just very poor manners.

So, as I couldn't edit out the web address, I've had to reject the comment. It's for this very reason that comments are fully moderated here, by the way.

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