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Survey says: Garmin GPS No. 1 in consumers' hearts and minds

A study by marketing firm BrandIntel reveals that Garmin is the most discussed and most loved GPS product among consumers.

When you think of GPS, what brand name comes to mind? Would it happen to be Garmin? Because according to a new study by marketing research firm BrandIntel, Garmin is the most discussed portable navigation system and holds the best overall sentiment score with consumers. But it shouldn't get too comfortable or complacent, because TomTom, Magellan, Mio, and Lowrance are hot on its heels.

Based on an analysis of search results from "online consumer communities" (i.e., blogs, forums, and so forth) across the Web during July 2006 to August 2007, BrandIntel's GPS Navigation Systems Report found that Garmin made up 42 percent of the 7,000 consumer mentions, while TomTom was a distant second with 15 percent. Magellan garnered 13 percent of the results; Mio had 10 percent; Lowrance scored 5 percent; and 12 percent went to other vendors. However, the competition gets fierce when it comes to customer sentiment scores. Once again, Garmin took top honors with a 3.9, while Magellan, Mio, Lowrance, and TomTom were all close with scores of 3.7, 3.6, 3.6, and 3.5, respectively.

Garmin lead the pack for its functionality, features, ease of use, and appeal, but price seemed to be a sticking point, which I can understand. I find that even its entry-level models, such as the Garmin Nuvi 200, are overpriced for what they offer, especially when you compare them to the competition like the Mio DigiWalker C230. Speaking of which, Mio as well as Lowrance got kudos for their displays and touchscreen functionality. Other findings of the study reveal that map software, Bluetooth, and MP3 compatibility are all key features consumers consider when buying portable navigation systems.

I found several points of this report interesting. First, it really doesn't surprise me that Garmin and TomTom are the two most discussed GPS companies. They have the brand recognition, offer some of the broadest range of in-car GPS, and are the most aggressive in terms of advertising. Meanwhile, Magellan and Lowrance have a loyal following of customers but seem to rely more on word of mouth for advertising and discussion. And I've said this before, but in my opinion, Mio is an up-and-comer that could give the big boys a run for their money. Yes, Mio's presence and reputation for customer service in the States isn't the strongest, but it's ramping up those efforts. More than anything, though, the company offers solid products with a good set of features at an affordable price--yeah, it's that simple.

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What I found particularly surprising is that TomTom was at the bottom of the list for consumer sentiment. I've always found TomTom's GPS easy to use, sleek, fairly priced, and capable navigators. Plus, I like that the company concentrates on bettering the navigation functions, rather than adding superfluous features. And while we're on the topic, MP3 compatibility? Really? You want this on your GPS device? I just don't see the need.

So with all that said, I'd love to hear from you. Who is your favorite GPS manufacturer and why? Which features are on your ultimate wish list? Why is TomTom not feeling the love? Let me know!