Postcard from Liverpool

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In some ways trips to see family and friends in Liverpool have become an anthropological aspect to them. I get outside my media industry / early adopter bubble and get to see how the general public use technology and the internet.

Whilst 2008 will go down in the annals of history for the housing bubble going pop!, the banking system collapsing and the world’s largest Ponzi scheme having been discovered; in gadget terms it seems to have been the year of the GPS system.

My Dad purchased a GPS unit from discount supermarket Aldi; it seems that they have been stocking GPS units on a regular basis throughout the year. He doesn’t do much personal driving beyond his local area, but does for work purposes so the units detachable nature and voice instructions were invaluable for him in his job.

It was interesting that all the drivers in his business had bought their own GPS units; and GPS unit map updates and device comparisons had joined the discussion topics that they had at work complementing the best PAYG mobile phone tariffs and last night’s football results and the performance of their lottery syndicate.

My friends told a similar story: one of them who is a professional driver uses a Tom Tom  unit, he gets the latest maps and exchanges tips and hacks with other users. The killer apps of the Tom Tom was its superior data about speed cameras which he felt was essential to keep his license. Radios and recorded music were used a lot less whilst driving as the satnav took over.

There seemed to be a small community for third party applications and utilities that improved the devices further.

Devices that were built into a vehicle were dismissed because they were hard to update or optimise. Mobile phone mapping like Nokia Maps and Google Maps were rejected because they didn’t have a big enough screen, traffic data or speed camera locations.

Mobile phones were seen as disposable, particularly as they used different phones to take advantage of PAYG tariffs. Typically there was a work phone and a weekend phone, or a voice call phone and a phone for text messages.