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Garmin Adds Free Lifetime Traffic

New York— Portable GPS suppliers are pushing step-up features at attractive prices for the back half of the year, including lifetime traffic, lane assistance and speech recognition, to help drive upgrade sales.

Garmin announced it will add built-in free lifetime traffic for the first time, and it is including the feature in its entry-level Nuvi 200 line as well as the pricier 700 series starting in October.

Navigon also announced it will offer speech-recognition input for addresses, becoming the first tier-two supplier to deliver the feature.

The lowest-priced Garmin personal navigation device (PND) with free, embedded lifetime traffic is the Nuvi 265T with 3.5-inch screen. In addition to traffic it also adds street-name guidance and Bluetooth for hands-free dialing, and preloaded maps of North America at a suggested retail of $299. By comparison, the current entry-level Nuvi 200 has a street price of $199 and it lacks Bluetooth, street-name guidance and any traffic options, which can cost more than $100 for an adapter plus $50/year in service fees.

Also new is the Nuvi 265T at $349 with the same features plus a 4.3-inch screen. A third model with the same features, called the 275T, is aimed at intercontinental travelers and includes maps of both Europe and North America at a suggested $349.

The new line also marks the first time Bluetooth has been added to the entry-level 200 series.

In the higher-end 700 series, Garmin is adding lane assistance for the first time, in addition to lifetime traffic. Lane assistance provides cues on which lane to enter in busy intersections in order to exit or stay on course, as needed. Gamin is also displaying for the first time, road sign details and 3-D transparent views of buildings in some areas. The 700 series also features 4.3-inch screens and street name guidance, starting at a suggested retail of $499 for the Nuvi 755T, and $599 for the 765T with Bluetooth. A 775T offers maps of both Europe and North America at $799 and a 785T has a built in MSN Direct receiver plus a trial subscription at $699 for those who want movie listings, gas prices, weather and other updates, in addition to lifetime traffic.

Navigon’s new 7200T offers free lifetime traffic from Clear Channel, as well as advanced voice recognition. Users can speak their destination address aloud rather than typing it into the device. The top three PND makers, Garmin, TomTom and Magellan also offer this feature.

Navigon’s unit also adds lane assistance and 3-D landmarks in some cities, street-name guidance, and Zagat Guide ratings for restaurants and other points of interest. It is expected to ship in October at $449.