CES: GPS serves up new options

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Gadgets on the go

LAS VEGAS -- Not so many years ago, civilian Global Positioning System devices were the province of land surveyors and other specialists, who needed suitcases to carry them around. Now the devices are popular with hikers and soccer moms, and they are small enough to hold in one’s hand, attach to a dashboard or integrate into other products.

As with the latest crop of devices on display at the Consumer Electronics Show demonstrate, GPS units are easier than ever to use and they are now coming bundled with other capabilities.

One of the slickest products is the Pharos GPS Phone. The 5.2-ounce phone is a little larger than many cell phones, but it includes a 2.8-inch touch screen that displays easy-to-read maps and driving instructions. The GPS phone ships loaded with North American road maps and “points of interest.” Users can update this data by connecting to Pharos servers via the phone’s built-in Wi-Fi or cellular service.

The GPS phone also offers quad-band cell capabilities, Bluetooth, a 2 megapixel camera, an FM radio and Windows Media Player. The phone, which uses Windows Mobile 5.0 as an operating system, has a suggested retail price of $699.95 and can be used with various service providers.

Garmin International’s new Nuvi 680 is also impressive. Garmin has been providing auto GPS devices for some time, but this product is something new. Besides serving up maps and directions, the Nuvi 680 also enables users to locate the lowest gas prices, movie theaters and other information -- all courtesy of MSN Direct.

The Nuvi 680, which also doubles as an MP3 player, sports a 4.3-inch wide screen and supports Bluetooth. The unit has a list price of $999, which includes a year’s subscription to MSN Direct.

The Nuvi 680 isn’t the only option for GPS data integration in the car. Dash Navigation is also previewing its Dash Express GPS service. The service, which should be available this summer, will deliver location-sensitive information, such as guides to retailers, gas stations and the like. But it will also include traffic information by collecting data from other Dash-enabled units on the road. Dash Express is designed to work with existing GPS units.

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