TomTom’s “leap year bug” causes problems: will getting cozy with car makers help save the industry?

TomTom Via

Update: TomTom has offered a fix here.

Satellite navigation specialists TomTom have blamed a “leap year bug” for the problems being experienced by a number of its GPS unit users.

The bug began to appear on 31 March, when affected units displayed nothing more than a blank screen, and a message saying a connection with GPS satellites couldn’t be established.

Posts made on TomTom’s support forums showed complaints from all around the world, with users in the UK, Australia, Italy and North America all describing similar symptoms from their broken gadgets.

Since then, TomTom has issued a fix for the bug (a poor relation to the “millennium bug,” perhaps) and said that “third-party” software used in the GPS receiver was to blame.

It won’t help anyone without access to a computer though, as it requires the GPS unit to be synced with MyTomTom so new firmware can be installed.

TomTom lists the Start 20/25, Via 120/125, Via Live 120/125, Go Live 820/825 and the Go Live 1000/1005/1005 World as the models it’s aware need updating.

Profit drop

Although not so widespread to affect sales, TomTom’s “leap year bug” and the surrounding publicity comes after a difficult end to 2011, and it certainly won’t endear the company to those looking to buy a new, standalone, personal navigation device.

During the final three months of last year, TomTom reported a $16 million drop in net profits over 2010, and a 40-percent reduction in sales. This resulted in a 31-percent drop in revenue, and forced the company to cut its workforce by 10-percent in December.

These job cuts, along with other cost-saving incentives, are expected to save TomTom in the region of $50 million this year, which could prove essential in the fight against its competitors.

Smartphone challenge

GPS unit manufacturers have been forced to compete with the onslaught of free software solutions and GPS-enabled smartphones for several years. Initially, the user experience of turn-by-turn navigation on a phone wasn’t as good as a standalone unit, but as technology has moved on — and screens increased in size — that has changed.

The market leader in North America, Garmin, tried to beat the smartphone manufacturers at their own game with the Nuvifone, an oft-delayed and ultimately failed GPS/phone hybrid.

But, the old adage “if you can’t beat ‘em, join ‘em” soon came into effect and several companies, including TomTom, introduced GPS applications for smartphone platforms instead.

Suzuki GarminPartnerships

However, while these apps ease the pain caused by the smartphone market, portable navigation device manufacturers are ensuring their survival by forming partnerships with automotive companies.

This week Garmin has announced it will be supplying factory-installed “infotainment” systems to Suzuki. The units will provide GPS navigation along with smartphone integration, iPod compatibility, Bluetooth, voice control and even video for the reversing camera.

Garmin also supplies Toyota, BMW, Honda and Chrysler with navigation software and devices.

TomTom has also been hard at work establishing similar partnerships, including Ford and General Motors, to whom it provides mapping software, and Europe’s Opel, where it supplies complete navigation systems.

As sales of standalone units continue to slow, forming meaningful automotive, marine and aeronautical partnerships looks to be essential for makers of such devices to not only preserve their share of the market, but perhaps even their survival too.

Emerging Tech

Inside the Ocean Cleanup’s ambitious plan to rid the ocean of plastic waste

In 2013, Boyan Slat crowdfunded $2.2 million to fund the Ocean Cleanup, a nonprofit organization that builds big, floating trash collectors and sets them out to sea, where they’re designed to autonomously gobble up garbage.

GPS units aren't dead! Our favorite models still do things your phone can't

Love hitting the open road but hate having to rely solely on your phone for getting around? Thankfully, the best in-car GPS systems will allow you to navigate and capitalize on a range of features sans your cellular network. Here are our…

Capture life in every direction with the best 360 cameras

While 360 cameras are still a new technology, that doesn't mean there's not a few that are worth a look. Whether you want to shoot from the middle or just need a simple, affordable option, here are the best 360 cameras on the market.

Michael Kors updates its Sofie smartwatch, but still uses a processor from 2016

Michael Kors announced an update to the Sofie smartwatch, now offering heart rate monitoring, GPS, and NFC support. There's only one problem — the device still offers the Snapdragon Wear 2100 processor.

21 charged in Chicago carsharing heist; 100+ cars stolen, many still missing

More than 100 Mercedes-Benz vehicles belonging to carsharing service Car2Go were stolen in Chicago. Police are still working to recover all of the cars, which are equipped with GPS, and 21 people have been charged.
Emerging Tech

Troubleshooting Earth

It’s no secret that humans are killing the planet. Some say it’s actually so bad that we’re hurtling toward a sixth major extinction event -- one which we ourselves are causing. But can technology help us undo the damage we’ve…
Emerging Tech

Climeworks wants to clean the atmosphere with a fleet of truck-sized vacuums

Using machines that resemble jet engines, Climeworks wants to fight climate change by extracting CO2 from thin air. The gas can then be sold to carbonated drink and agriculture companies, or sequestered underground.
Emerging Tech

How 3D printing has changed the world of prosthetic limbs forever

When he was 13 years old, Christophe Debard had his leg amputated. Here in 2019, Debard's Print My Leg startup helps others to create 3D-printed prostheses. Welcome to a growing revolution!
Emerging Tech

Geoengineering is risky and unproven, but soon it might be necessary

Geoengineering is a field dedicated to purposely changing the world's climate using technology. Call it 'playing god' if you must; here's why its proponents believe it absolutely must happen.
Digital Trends Live

Digital Trends Live: Earth Day, indoor container farming, robot submarines

Today on Digital Trends Live, we discuss how technology intersects with Earth Day, a new Tim Cook biography, indoor container farming, robot spy submarines, A.I. death metal, and more.

Google’s Stadia is the future of gaming, and that’s bad news for our planet

Google’s upcoming Stadia cloud gaming service, and its competitors, are ready to change the way gamers play, but in doing so they may kick off a new wave of data center growth – with unfortunate consequences for the environment.
Emerging Tech

Hawaiian botanists’ drone discovers a plant thought to be lost forever

In what may well be a world first, botanists in Hawaii recently used a drone to find a species of plant that scientists believed was extinct. The plant was located on a sheer cliff face nearly 20 years after its last sighting.
Emerging Tech

Alphabet’s Wing drones now have FAA approval to deliver packages in the U.S.

Alphabet Wing has become the first company to receive Air Carrier Certification from the FAA. This means that it can begin commercial deliveries from local businesses to homes in the U.S.
Emerging Tech

A battery-free pacemaker harvests and stores energy from heartbeats

Researchers in China and the United States have developed a new battery-free pacemaker which gathers its required electricity from the energy of heartbeats. Here's why that's so exciting.