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Approachable UI package in Garmin Nuvi GPS

The new Garmin Nuvi GPS presents a well thought-out UI, cleanly knitting together three modes of interaction: display, touch, and audio.


Garmin and other manufacturers have been making GPS units since the late 1980s, and during that time have continually made incremental improvements in size, form factor, performance, and UI. From time to time I’ve looked at the category, but beyond the flat-out magic of finding your way using satellites, I found little captivating about the products themselves. GPS units have suffered from a wide range of UI problems, such as the heavy use of jargon, awkward use of a few buttons to accomplish complex tasks (such as entering an address), and cumbersome systems for transferring maps to a device with limited memory.

Sometimes you encounter a product and get the strong feeling its the first one in its category to really be Designed, with a capital "D". In my case, TomTom had the first GPS with that distinction. From the branding to the startup sound to the UI, they had clearly thought about the product as a consumer experience. Despite breaking that ground, I still felt that the TomTom product I saw came up short.

The Garmin Nuvi is the first GPS I’ve seen that meets my bar for a good user experience. They’ve given a lot of thought to an overall package of functionality a traveler might want in a single pocket device. In addition to the GPS, the Nuvi unit includes an MP3 player, a photo vault, a currency converter, a world clock, a foreign language dictionary, and a travel guide. This is a good sign that Garmin’s considering the overall user experience of the device, not just trying to make a housing for a satellite receiver.

You can read thorough plenty of reviews of the Nuvi elsewhere, so I’ll focus on the nice bits in the user experience:

Overall, a nice information appliance.