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Connected World of Portable Navigation

Heads up!

Welcome to this article from the Crutchfield archives. Have fun reading it, but be aware that the information may be outdated and links may be broken.
Happy customer

Connected GPS for your car combines the mapping capability of GPS with the search functionality of the Internet, so you can find any type of destination you're looking for in real time. This handy feature, which is currently available on only a few GPS models, lets you use very specific search terms to find exactly what you're looking for quickly. And it offers some extra benefits for the road as well.

The old way: points of interest

Most portable GPS navigators come with a built-in point of interest (POI) database as well as detailed road maps. The points of interest typically include address and phone number information, and are grouped by the GPS navigator into broad categories, such as restaurants, shopping, fuel, transportation, and more. Then the POI are usually subcategorized one or two more times, such as dividing the "food" category into various types, such as pizza, Mexican, or coffee shops. "Transportation" can be divided into airports, train stations, subway stops, and more.

Garmin nuvi 1690
Points of interest help us get the most out of our navigation devices, like this Garmin nüvi 1690.

You can use the navigator's touchscreen menu to find a specific destination by going through several menu screens once you've figured out how the POI are categorized, but it can be a time-consuming process if you're not sure exactly what you're looking for or are searching for an atypical travel destination.

The new way: Internet-connected search

This is where connected GPS can make a huge difference. With an Internet-connected navigator, you can bypass the guesswork, wasted time, and sometimes missing or outdated information of the POI database and rely on real-time Internet search results to find any type of destination, from the common to the unusual. Connected GPS devices use wireless Internet connectivity to link to popular search engines such as Google™ to provide rapid results for searches. You can quickly find numerous listings for locations such as "music stores" and "pet groomers" nearby, often with helpful customer ratings when applicable. Once you locate a specific destination, it's navigation-as-usual: You get directions to go there, and maybe a phone number, with only one or two taps of the navigator's screen.

More than just search

TomTom GO 740
Connected services make a portable navigator, like this TomTom GO 740 LIVE, easier to use and more useful than ever.

Connected services do more than give you search capabilities — they can also provide live traffic reports in your area, weather forecasts, and local gas price information to help you save some money. You can also look up local movie times and events listings to find out what's going on in town tonight. Other features such as flight departure and arrival times, currency conversions, White Pages listings, and social networking with other GPS users help keep you informed as you travel.

Connected GPS services typically require a subscription, but most navigators that come with this capability include a free trial so you can try it out. Connected services do not work in Canada and may not be available in all areas in America — consult your GPS device's owner's manual for more details.

Find out more

The two primary service providers are Garmin and TomTom. Garmin calls their service nüLink!™, while TomTom's is called TomTom LIVE. Visit their sites for more information.