Garmin: Never Failing to Disappoint

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I’ve been using Garmin products for many years, having started with an automobile Nuvi. Garmin make excellent hardware but as a software company they really suck. Garmin’s latest iteration of its software update manager, Garmin Express, is the most recent demonstration of the company’s ineptitude and inability to listen to its consumers.

Ask anyone who owns a Garmin product and they will tell you that one key to happiness is keeping the firmware and maps up-to-date. I learned that the hard way with my Nuvi and, when I upgraded to the Zumo for my motorcycle, I swore I would always stay on top of the software. To that end, I purchased a Lifetime Map update subscription. The premise was simple enough: the Updater software would alert you when a new map was available, you’d tether your GPS to your computer and the map would be downloaded to either your GPS, the computer or both.

The ability to download the map to the GPS and computer is invaluable. I’m one of those users (suckers) who relies on Garmin Basecamp for route planning. It’s clunky and looks like it was developed by a junior high school kid but it gets the job done. Having the map accessible to Basecamp while route planning is essential and in most instances I do not want to tether the Zumo to the computer just to draw a route or add some waypoints. Therefore, having the map loaded onto the computer (in addition to the Zumo) was a value-add from my perspective.

I bet you see where this is going! With Garmin Express, the Garmin overlords have seen fit to remove the ability to load the map onto the computer. In other words, if you want to plan a route, you MUST tether the GPS to the computer for Basecamp to “see” the map. Way to Go Garmin. Remove valuable functionality from your software. Frustrate users.

It gets better. The most recent map update using the new Express updater installed nothing on my Zumo. Nothing. No map. Yet the updater tells me that my Zumo is up-to-date, despite the fact that the Zumo shows no maps installed.

This is just the latest in a series of missteps by Garmin. It seems every time they update something, they cripple some companion feature that users found helpful. And it is not like there is an abundance of information about how to use the products to begin with. For the most part, users are left to figure out things on their own through trial and error or trolling message boards for help from fellow users.

Please get your shit together, Garmin. Start listening to your users. Stop eliminating features that people rely on in an attempt to “dumb down” the products. Optimize (and here I mean fix) your existing products before releasing new ones.

Basecamp is a mediocre product. It could be great with a little effort at improving the Search function and mapping tools. Instead of reinventing the updating software every 20 months, how about sticking with one platform and improving on it or, even better, leaving well enough alone.

If it aint broke, don’t fix it!

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About robertkerner

Educator, registered nurse, attorney, inquisitive mind
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40 Responses to Garmin: Never Failing to Disappoint

  1. Sam says:

    Well said. I made the mistake of trying to update my eTrex 20 with the “new” Garmin Express. Now I have a brick and have to deal with customer service. I think Garmin’s biggest problem is that they have what seems like hundreds of different devices that all pretty much do the same thing. They need to have maybe 3 versions of each style, max. Then perhaps they could concentrate on better software for them. And they better do it soon, because lets face it… my iPhone with some free to dirt cheap apps does everything the eTrex 20 does. I understand that not everyone has a smartphone, but those days are fading fast. It’s not likely I will ever buy a new Garmin at this stage of the game…

    • robertkerner says:

      I agree, they make too many products and don’t provide adequate support for them. At least not software support. I know of a few people who had hardware problems and they were sent new units under warranty, so I guess it is not all bad.

      With minimal effort they could be so good. When my 800 works it really is a fantastic device. Still baffles me that I have to turn on the turn-by-turn guidance each time I run a route!

      Good luck.

  2. Michael says:

    Yeah, updated my Nuvi 205w yesterday, today it is a Brick. Completely killed it. They have 45 different NUVI’s listed on their website, and as far as I can tell, they have made virtually no improvement in the past 5 years. The units appear to have about the same processing power, map details are less. They are a GPS company and doing nothing to improve the GPS, they are adding all sorts of extra features. They are going to be the KODAK of our Generation. It is a dedicated GPS unit and now they are adding features like mp3. Really! They should have cross units that are for hiking and automotive but nope, no custom maps for the NUVI. Guess what I am doing, looking for an alternative. Looking at turning a Nexus 7 into my next GPS with Waze. Goodbye Garmin.

  3. David says:

    I just finished the most satisfying exercise. After trying for 2 hours to update the maps on my 2 year old Nuvi 50 with lifetime maps without success I untethered the Garmin and stomped it flat. Should of done it long ago.

    • Sam says:

      Bravo! I sledge hammered a skipping portable cd player once with a splitting maul. What an unparalleled feeling of satisfaction it was!!

    • robertkerner says:

      It would take so little to keep us happy as consumers. But Garmin’s priorities seem to lie elsewhere.

  4. Doug Esposito says:

    My Garmin Nuvi 780 went bad after a year and half. It cost me over $700 in 2008 and they wanted over $100 in parts to fix it. My batteries went bad after a year, so I sent it in. Lost all my data and they sent me a worse unit. Well, in 2010, I started using the USB port to power it. That worked fine til about August 2013 when I updated the software (which I’ve done a number of times in the past with no problems). Now the Garmin goes into software update mode even in my car. It never did this before. In summary. the Garmin has had problems. I won’t buy Garmin again. American companies can’t make a good product. I think if its American, the profit motive is too much to produce anything of quality. What a bunch of dirt bags.

  5. Doug says:

    I had a Quest 2 on my motorcycle for a few years. Paid for a map upgrade and only after paying did the upgrade program tell me SORRY, not enough memory. I made the mistake of purchasing the Nuvi 550 to replace the Quest. Not a bad unit for the price but guess what? Recently went to update maps and “Not Enough Memory”. Did install an SD card but it was a nightmare getting the map to load on the card. First trip I went on the new map became corrupted somehow.

    I would not mind paying Garmin’s outrageous prices for a motorcycle GPS if only they could muster some basic customer support and somewhat user friendly support software. Don’t see that happening since they seem to have only gotten worse over the past few years.

    Waiting for my new TomTom Rider to arrive. It has got to be better than dealing with Garmin. I’d rather stick needles in my eyes than give Garmin another dollar. If the TomTom is what they claim, I will encourage all my riding buddies to trash their Garmin’s.

  6. randy says:

    i dropped the money on a monterra, thinking that as its an anderoid OS, the
    big G couldn’t screw it up too much. yeah, they can…. and lets look at Birdseye,
    where the data transfer is crippled so badly that it’s like watching paint dry.
    you can download 250 megs per shot, and it takes about 3 hours to do it,
    cause you are limited on the PAID service, to keep you from just downloading
    everything.

    garmin’s corporate strategy sucks, and if someone would get their shit together
    and offer an alternative, we’d all go for it. and then garmin could go broke like
    it deserves to.

    the garmin experience is like being in a bad nevada brothel, negotiating a service
    with an ugly girl, one stroke at a time, and paying six times what it’s worth. while
    having no firsthand experience of such a thing, it just seemed an apt description.

    • m says:

      ha ha this made me laugh. its so true though, garmin products and service suck. i have owned both an edge 810 and edge 1000 now, and they both suck so bad i am getting a refund. pretty much all of the advertised functions, apart from the basic speed, distance, heath rate etc, do not work at all, so you’re basically paying a premium for a premium product that does no more than a model half the price. its a complete rip-off.

      • robertkerner says:

        I’m afraid that even after nearly 3 years of constant use I can’t figure out why sometimes it works and other times it will not follow a route. I thought maybe it had something to do with getting routes from Ride with GPS but it sometimes refuses to navigate a route that it previously ran properly. Super frustrating.

  7. j says:

    Found this by searching for, well, GARMIN SUCKS. Just resolved to rid my life of this shite brand forever – mediocre products, crap software, cosmically useless customer service…

  8. Bill says:

    I agree the Express software is near impossible to use. I want to update the software to a part of Europe. Sometimes I have the option to select a part of Europe and other times not. The process should be consistent and should be easy to select options. If maps are not available, there should be a simple explanation and options listed. But no, such a simple process does not exist. On a 1 to 10 scale, its software package is 1.

  9. Ugene says:

    Garmin will never listen to it’s customers, we are the research and development of the company, it’s a massive savings on their part, we buy their crap and complain about it, they compile the information and move on without addressing the customers concern.
    BOYCOTT the scums and watch them come down to their knees.

  10. Ward Cleaver says:

    Garmin connect sucks. Almost never syncs without rebooting a hundred times. Now it won’t even sync at all.

  11. have a NUVI 2569 – shit product – shit customer service – would never buy Garmin crap again

  12. Ares Mesa says:

    My Mapfactor Navigator Android offline GPS apps is better, and I use it, not the damn Garmin Nuvi 2555LMT, on short routes. No problem with waypoints, blocking a particular road, finding places – it has Google map integration when the smartphone is connected to wifi – instant route calculation and simulation, etc. I only opted for a dedicated GPS since my phone’s battery charge could not keep up with power needed when the GPS is in operation even if it is connected to a 12VDC USB car charger. It has a very simple user interface, no need for a computer to plan your route. A 500km route can be set up in in a jiffy.

    Ares

  13. A Nagy says:

    Garmin 2495 – is just a piece of useless gadget! Garmin Express not recognise it, so no way to update the maps. In Germany I had a surprise without the new maps. Although it is slow, and far not as accurate than a google map!. To avoid the permanent “touring” mode – we are spininng around or drive up and down few times on a road – we finally give up and used the google map on a smart phone. And the miracle just happend, we find a straight, fast way without hassle! Garmin just fail to be match even a simple smartphone app! Old and slow software and hardware – it may was good decades ago, but its out of date now. Give up garmin, be good and follow the dinosaurs!

    • robertkerner says:

      Yes. They are still disappointing customers. I’ve been shopping for a watch for hiking and running. I’ll almost certainly go with Suunto rather than giving Garmin more of my money.

  14. rty says:

    What a horrible company to deal with, batteries are the cheapest they can buy and barely last past warrany. if you dont have life time maps its cheaper to buy a new gps then pay 80.00 for their maps and hope your unit isnt a brick with their software..Stay away from Garmin can understand why their stock prices are where they are and should be lower

  15. Marlen says:

    I agree with the comments. Garmin has totally lost it. The new phones have better gps than does Garmin. I have been using a Nuvi 760 for years. I actually have two of them. I purchased the life time maps to keep up to date. The latest update “CN North America NT 2015.40” What a sorry mess! Instructions are getting worse with each update and timing of the instructions are off. At times the map and the audible instructions don’t agree.
    I for one will not buy another garmin product.

    • randy says:

      well, i’ve found a solution for garmins worthless “birdshit” er, birdseye imagery… they use the word imagery so you won’t confuse it with a map.

      this will work on IOS and android operating systems… GAIA app for OSX seriously rocks. you can
      download maps, it works offline without wifi, and best of all, they offer a cloud service, so you can sync your maps, tracks, etc across all your devices.

      so, my iphone and ipad have all my maps on them, and GAIA from the google store runs fine on my monterra, and all the maps match, and all the tracks match….

      so, the monterra is still on the handlebars… and maps work… i’ve erased everything garmin i can, and don’t have to spit as much when i talk about it.

  16. Hyryd says:

    07/15/2015 DO NOT PURCHASE GARMIN VIVOFIT. THERE IS NO SUPPORT FOR THIS PRODUCT!

  17. Brent says:

    I tried to load their Express app on my laptop yesterday and it would load – said my Win7 OS was “out of date”. The legacy app also refused to load – dead link. I emailed their support and got back a cut-n-paste of their web site directions. I’m pretty much finished with these guys.

    • robertkerner says:

      Their customer support is certainly hit or miss. A few weeks ago, I damaged my Edge 800 while trying to replace the battery. I called Support and told them the truth and they replaced the unit with a refurbished 800 for $90, which is what they would’ve charged had I sent it back to them for the battery issue in the first place.

      The entire episode–from me calling, to me sending the broken one back to the “new unit” arriving at my home–took 5 days. It was a pleasant experience, actually.

      I chose to load OSMs in stead of ponying up for another map subscription. Yes, they don’t give you back your Lifetime maps if you swap the unit!

      I wish they could get their act together. Just when I think they are improving, something happens to piss me off. This morning I tried to get old destinations off my Zumo, both by connecting it to a computer and manually deleting on the GPS, and there are some locations that just will not leave my “Favorites” folder. This shouldn’t be that hard. But it is because….it’s Garmin, after all.

  18. Roger Harris says:

    I’ve had very similar experiences to those above. I’ve had a couple of Garmin models for cars, and have to say I really don’t like them. The product works well, but the support is terrible, in particular when you need to update the maps, the Garmin software is just awful. You’ll need updates after a couple of years, so if you don’t mind buying a new device (since they’re impossible to update) every two years, they’re okay. And they nickel and dime you with out-of-country maps. For most purposes, a smart phone map app works just as well if not better. I’ll never buy a Garmin again. IMO this brand is toast. Take your money elsewhere.

  19. Eric says:

    Excellent column and sums up all I find wrong with Garmin.
    I like the Nuvi 42 I have. I use it for road trips and just to get around town and relly only need to update my maps every year or two.
    This last time updating was a nightmare. 6 hours googling forums to find out why I couldn’t get Garmin express to download.
    2 heours waiting in line at Geek Squad to get ti on my computer and then be told that they wont actually push the buttons and make it work..even Geek squad wont touch Garmin express.
    3 days of trying to download the new maps with repeat errors not letting the download complete.. FINALLY it updated..but the local bridge construction completed 6 months ago isn’t showing on the map… makes me want to buy a smart phone and google maps.

  20. Dufrain Galt says:

    As a former garmin employee, I can assure you that garmin is indeed a complete disaster. Each dept is run as it’s own company so no one knows what the other one is doing. (we were often competing with ourselves). HR is run by a (I kid you not) retard, and the ceo is a hyper phobic shut-in who is afraid of his own shadow… One last thing, the fitness brand is run by a asshole, and he is a tiny guy with a Napoleon Complex. I could go on, but garmin is a case tudy in how to destroy a once great company.

  21. robertkerner says:

    Let’s not lower ourselves to name calling! I’m sure for every misguided individual there’s dozens of people who want to do the right thing, just like in every organization in every aspect of life.

  22. Big Quark says:

    Today is June 20th 2016 and this is 4 months of not being able to connect to garmin’s garbage express to update. my LMT3490 is basically useless. Thank You Waze and Tom Tom for making great iOs navigation aps that work!!

    Dear Garmin GO F@UCK YOURSELF!!!

    • Randy says:

      take a look at GAIA… i’ve got a post up there ^^^^ about it. it works well.
      open a cold beverage, take a mouthful, swish it around, spit it out,
      and repeat. it’ll wash the “G” taste out a bit. we’ve all had to rinse and spit.

  23. Flatspin Fumble says:

    I have spent 8 hours trying to upgrade a new 58LM. Support are useless. Long time user of GPS50 GPS12 G1000 since 1993.

  24. Flatspin Fumble says:

    After three attempts to update Lifetime Maps it hangs at 1h6m left. Express should be Called Slow Night Freight Train a better name for a train-wreck of a system. They say it will hang so just keep trying! Nope, 23 years of goodwill are gone. Caveat Emptor, get a smartphone.

    • Flatspin Fumble says:

      Support are sorry I feel this way. Wait, they must be lurking here, but that is a good thing as they might learn something. Still they know where I live but…will never find me as they will use Garmin products. Third strike out even following their email to the letter.

  25. leonberger says:

    Can’t agree more with you.

    Have had Garmin products for several years, started slow with eTrex Vista, worked wonder also service. Later bought an eTrex Vista Hcx.
    Bought a Nüvi 660 as the first auto GPS, added LMT later to this device as you couldn’t get it at that point.
    With this came MapSource – This I can recommend, unfortunately it was replaced by BaseCamp – a junior product.
    Everything was great, so when the 660 was stolen it was replaced with new 660, then a 3795 was added to the pool as I was happy with Garmin.
    I even bought an Edge 1000 when it was introduced in Europe, some times I really regret this. Why does everything has to be in the cloud (Garmin Connect, my b…)- when it fails on a regular basis.
    Then it started to fail, Garmin Express the worst update product ever.
    Why not keep the old way of doing stuff, jerks who rely on Express let them do it, but why can’t ‘old’ users keep the way of downloading firmware and then install it them self?
    Latest I get ‘updates to your devcie’ – and when you try to update, ‘error in connecting to Garmin’

    To it looks like Garmin, as a lot of other companies are only looking at shareholder value, never-mind the customer. Everything has been send abroad for development – and it has to be cheap. You get what you pay for.
    Garmin; get back on track as the one of the leading GPS companies, currently you are on deep water in relation to customer support.

    Also, is it just me, or have their homepage deteriorated too?
    I find it very hard to find stuff, and quite often I run into 440 – not found, despite it is a link on their own page – and then they tells me it is ‘my’ problem.

    And if you do the trouble to send a question to customer support, telling everything, detailed problem description, unit id, latest update, hw version, fw version etc. they just come back with ‘Have you tried to update your device?’
    This is a typical ‘first level’ support, disregarding every rule of customer support – Garmin you can do better, you did previously.

    I liked Garmin a lot, and recommended Garmin to everybody, but now I not so sure anymore.

    Hope it will change in the near future – otherwise I’m probably on a new track.

    • Randy says:

      and the beat goes on…..
      i honestly can’t even figure out why garmin is still a thing……

      i posted up there a ways back, and get the occasional ping from another sad
      person who wanders in here. … seriously, with all the apps that will allow you
      to download free maps, and use them on a device without a network connection,
      and are bulletproof, and pretty easy to figure out, screw garmin.

      not really a map related thing, but the level of system integration that is presently
      available is nothing short of astounding. i’ve got a ballistic calculation program
      for long range target shooting, in the 2,000 yard range, that integrates a portable
      weather station, rangefinder, gps onboard the ios platform, and displays windage
      and elevation for a 2,000 yard shot, allowing for the direction you are shooting,
      relative to the rotation of the earth. orbital mechanics, off an iphone? for $19?
      and you can hit a trash can lid at 2 miles, on the first shot….. $19?

      garmin should just close it’s doors in mortification.

    • robertkerner says:

      It is amazing to me that, all these years after my original post, people are still finding their way here to vent frustration. This tells me that Garmin does not pay attention to its customer base.

      The cynical NYer in me says they just don’t care because they control the market for all practical purposes, although each year others intrude into the space. For example, I’ve all but given up on my Zumo for day to day navigation, preferring Google Maps on my phone. I still use the Zumo for complicated trips when I want a large screen display while driving or when I need to conserve the phone’s battery. I’m still very much dependent on my Garmin 800 for cycling but try to not plug it into the computer too often out of fear that some new update will brick it.

      Garmin maintains its market control because people like me will always need something they make in some part of our lives because there is no alternative that meets all of our needs.

  26. Sam Martin says:

    Bought an e.trex touch 35 device thinking it would work like an off road sat Nav!
    Well it’s an over complicated piece of crap with poor battery life & Garmin want £350 for a map so it might become functional!
    Not a chance I’m prepared to take , anybody want to buy a £200 paper weight cos that’s all this bar of soap shaped useless device is any good for!
    Ps I also own a Sat Nav by Garmin ,this is supposed to have lifetime traffic but says on boot that a file is missing for traffic & to contact Garmin support who just say Go to Garmin Express ,then I find no such file is available!
    Going to buy a Tom Tom & give it away!

  27. I agree. The Garmin softwareis the worst in front end what I know. Why the company have not senior level developers?

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