Garmin, TomTom, and other aftermarket telematics systems have been fighting an uphill battle since July 2008. That's when Apple launched the App Store and smartphone users began to realize that apps could serve the same function as pricey dashtop units, but with minimal upfront cost and no subscription fees. In the intervening years, the app market has exploded with an array of offerings for nearly every operating system, and telematics manufacturers have struggled to stay relevant.
We're happy to report that Garmin may have found a way to keep its head above water a bit longer, thanks to a nifty new partnership with RoadsideAmerica.com, one of the web's quirkiest, most entertaining sites for road trip enthusiasts. Roadside America is a repository of information about oddball Americana, like the famed Cadillac Ranch, the Jolly Green Giant statue in Blue Earth, Minnesota, and the National Border Patrol Museum. The site even keeps tabs on particular phenomena, like manifestations of Muffler Men or homages to Stonehenge.
This new partnership allows Garmin subscribers to download directions to these and other attractions, providing an array of offbeat summer road trip options. Given Garmin's non-nonsense Swiss roots, this seems like an uncharacteristically wacky thing to do.
That said, this isn't much of an advantage for Garmin -- after all, Roadside America has an iPhone app, and we'd be surprised if they didn't roll out one for Android fairly soon, given that OS's booming popularity. In other words, smartphones have beaten Garmin to the punch again. But you have to hand it to Garmin for not giving up the ghost just yet.