Finding Your Way With GPS

Choosing the Best GPS Software

Author: Rene Tse

GPS Software

Life without GPS

Introduction

Did you know that in Japan, 4 out of 5 cars are sold with built in navigation systems. In the US, the number of cars that are sold with built in GPS navigation systems are much less. Perhaps the reason is because it cost over $2, 500.00 USD to install one in a car. Inevitably it is luxury cars that come with GPS systems built in. Near luxury cars offer it for a huge upgrade cost. I was in Japan in 1984 and believe me to get around in those convoluted streets you want a car with built in GPS.

It is far easier to get around in the States with or without GPS systems. Not everyone who owns an in car GPS system is happy with it. Some say that the screen is hard to see, the map data is obsolete and getting an upgrade for the software cost an arm and a leg. Also some say the system doesn't even work at all.

Taking all this in to consideration and paying over $2,500 for an in car system is not an option the average person can afford. So what if you could get GPS a whole lot more affordable? Would you try it? This is why this article will look at some of the cheaper options. I will do a review of 5 different GPS software solutions for your Pocket PC, Symbian device, Smartphone or Windows Mobile Device.

Selecting the right GPS receiver, software and map will determine whether you will use it time and time again. If you don't make the right choice, it will end up in your garage as just another techno gagdet. Picking the right software and GPS solution is not a small decision, but one that I am sure you are looking forward to with great anticipation after reading this review.

The Alternatives

The cheapest way to go about creating a custom GPS system: find the software with the features you like, choose the maps you need, then buy the GPS receiver that supports the software you like the most. This is why as a new buyer to GPS software for your Pocket PC, you need to weigh the hardware, software and map data before you put a system together. Here are some things to consider:

There are several different software pacakges available:

CoPilot Live 6

Copilot Live 6 contains street maps from NAVTEQ. For approximately $100, you can get a 1 GB storage card with complete maps of the US, Canada or Europe. The borderless door to door trip calculation and turn instructions set in your own language makes driving in the south of France as easy as driving around Las Vegas.

Get live traffic updates on route specific incidents.

The Copilot Interface

I was really impressed with the large menu buttons, clearly labeled menus and finger touch interface. It's so easy, all you have to do is enter the destination and start driving. Using Copilot is like having your own personal chauffeur. The directions were available to me in seconds, to recalculate a change only took seconds as well. I downloaded Las Vegas Mapping software onto my HP 4700's 4 GB Sandisk CF card and found it to be easy and effortless. After I downloaded it, I paired up my HP 4700 and CoPilot Bluetooth GPS receiver and drove around Las Vegas, Nevada without a misguided turn. With other GPS receivers, it took over 15 minutes to get a fix. With the CoPilot, I could see the fix, latitude, longitude, heading, speed, elevation, the number of satellites and the signal strength in a matter of seconds.

The one disadvantage was text to speech was not available on the smartphone version. The voice to text pronunciation of some longer street names was not very clear or accurate. Know if you do miss a turn, CoPilot only needs a couple of seconds to find you a new route.

Summary:Great for beginners, has comprehensive maps, simple interface and excellent navigation capbilities.
Price:$299.99 includes CoPilot Live software and US and Canada or Europe maps. Will work on Motorola Q, Treo 700wm Windows Mobile 2003.
Price:$349.00 includes CoPilot Truck Software, bluetooth receiver and U.S coverage maps.

Destinator PN

Destinator PN is not the type of GPS solution for the impatient types. In fact, if you have no GPS experience, you would have to spend hours reading the manual in detail before you could use it. It is not the type of application you can run immediately and effectively.

Destinator PN

Pros

Has a sharp and professional screen layout: multi-stop routing, map customization, map loading, fingertip navigation and quick routing/re-routing capabilities.

The text to speech function gave me instructions so I don't have to look on the screen. A good thing while I am driving, I want to keep my eyes on the road. It recommended I have 125MB and I only had 64MB and it worked anyway. I can enable or disable 5 different voice prompts: over the speed limit, route recalculation, low signal, GPS not round, drive carefully.

Very fast at recalculating routes and also recommends U-turns.

Cons

Flashiness of the displays got in the way of ease of use.

POI and address screens are not intuitive. I found the destination screens to be hard to decipher.

Takes only 2 screen taps to get the desired destination input screen, however the many options and hard to use interface makes selecting an address a dreary and time consuming process.

Look and Feel

Destinator has a different look and feel compared to other GPS software applications. A full screen is used to show a portrait display. The location icon is green but can change depending on if you are in pedestrian or driver mode. It also has a shadow area to show which direction the sun is facing on the screen . The route you are on is highlighed in blue. Once you read the instruction manual, it is easy to change from 2D to 3D day or night view. Destinator does not use windows like menus, rather they use icons without descriptions that surround the screen. The purpose of this is so you can have one touch access even without a stylus, but if you do use a stylus it is better. It will take a while for you to get use to the custom icons and learn the functions of each icon. The Destinatator will work on Pocket PC or smartphones.

Price:Destinatator PN software bundled with the GPS receiver is $169.95

iGuidance 3.0 by iNAV

iGuidance 3

Of all the software I reviewed, the iGuidance 3.0 by iNAV was the cheapest for only $119. The software comes with a DVD. I found the installation of the DVD was pretty easy. After completing the installation, you will be pleased to know that iGuidance puts a Map Loader application on the desktop and the Iguidance GPS application on the device. Next you will want to load up the map data to your storage hard drive. Using my card reader, I loaded the United States and Ontario Map onto the card. It took about hour an hour to load 2.3 GB worth of map information.

What I like about the newest 3.0 version is that it has new features such as: multiple stopover waypoints, itinerary planning, detour by distance or avoid road, shortcuts to home and points of interest subcategories. You will also see a trip status box which shows the ETA, distance and time remaining and speed that you are going.

Points of Interest

You will notice that the picture to the left shows iGuidance a great program with super large gorgoeus buttons that are easy to use and finger friendly. If you need to rehearse how to get from point A to B, there is a great feature that let you record and play back turn by turn instructions. I tested the Iguidance by going from my house to the aquarium across the bridge and the result was amazing. It got me there no problem. What is great is that is that it choose the route that took only 45 minutes as opposed to the one that took 1 hour and 20 minutes with the other devices I tested. This is excellent if you are travelling to a city you have never been before. Here are some other great features about the version 3.0 I love:

4 new color schemes so it is easier to look at the map screen

Smaller but clearer guages at the bottom of the screen showing: speed, miles travelled, time therefore maximizing the screen real estate

Transparent menu and soft sound buttons that allow you to turn off or on the sound

Points of Interest categories: What do you and your family feel like having for dinner tonight? Mexican, Chinese, Italian, American or Vegatarian food? Iguidance can search within a 25 mile radius for a specific ethnic restaurant for you

The auto day/night mode. The iGuidance 3.0 knows when it is day or night time. When it is night time the display mode automatically changes to the night mode allow your eyes to see the screen easier

As I mentioned in the beginning of the review the iGuidance comes with NAVTEQ digital maps. I have used this when I have gone to conferences in: Northern California, Southern California, Northern Florida, Georgia. Living in the pacific northwest, I have found the Navteqy maps to be the most accurate map data application out there.

If you are a demanding GPS user, no doubt you will love this last feature: tap and hold the position marker, you will see several options such as: current street location, setting, start location, stop over location, destination and also give you the ability to add to the itinerary, gives you weather information.

Mapopolis 4.7

As mentioned in the beginning of the article, the original GPS in car navigation systems were very expensive and sometimes not available to individuals. Then companies such as Mapopolis began to make software for the general public and today you can download the navigation program for free on your pocket PC or smartphone. You can buy map packs, for North America it is only $99 and $124 for western Europe.

Mapopolis

Compared to the rest of the GPS software reviewed here, mapopolis has the simpliest interface. The version being reviewed here is 4.7. I really like the small memory footprint, very quick responsiveness, the ability to scroll the map easily and the accurate turn by turn directions.

Some of the disadvantages however are; the computer generated default voice sounds giving you instructions sounds very robotic, not as good as voice overs in Star Trek. You will also need to use a stylus as the main menu is not designed for you to use your fingertips. Lastly, there is no 3D map. There are also no indicators on the screen to show you the signal strength of the satellite.

Because this software is free, it is easy to navigate using the standard menus and I found it very easy to catch on even though you can not create your own custom icons on the desktop. When you lock the position you are going to and have a GPS connection, Mapopolis can create a route from your current position to where you want to go in less than a minute. That is once you have inputed the contact, address or POI. What I find really amazing is by typing out the first few letters, it knows what categories to search for in the POI.

When it comes to recalculating routes, it gives the driver plenty of warning for your next turn on the road. In fact the software will tell you when it is recalculating.

I found it very easy to install Mapopolis, you can store the software on the main memory or on a storage card. As well, you can store the north american maps internally or on a card.

Tom Tom Navigator 6

The TomTom Navigator lets you do things with your GPS system that you have not dreamed of. The TomTom 6 navigator comes with: a 1 GB mini SD memory card plus adaptor with map coverage of the whole of the United States and all Canadian provinces and territories, a wireless bluetoothâ„¢ GPS Receiver, a

cigarette lighter power car charger and an A/C home power charger. If you 'll be using the Tom Tom for hiking and touring around an unfamiliar city, a home charger will come in handy. The maps come in 8 CDs. What is nice is that you can download just one CD for a single state map or a group of states depending where you will be travelling. This whole package is $299.99

I tested the TomTom 6 navigator on a Dell Axim x50 running a Windows Mobile 2003 operating system. One of the cutting edge features I like is to be able to select alternate routes in a heart beat. With the routing preference list, it will fire a list of alternate routes when you tap the calculate Alternative function. The Tom Tom is super sensitive, you can select Avoid a roadblock to get around a construction site for example. Another handy feature with the Tom Tom Navigator 6 is the humongous database of POI or points of interest. You can even add your own.

Can The TomTom Learn New Tricks?

I found when I took the wrong turn, the Tom Tom 6 was quite slow in recalculating an alternate route. When I took the Tom Tom on a test drive, I found myself driving off to side roads off the freeway. I guess no GPS system is prefect. This has happened while I was testing other GPS software and receivers.

If you are going on a long trip, one where you will be driving for 13 hours straight, you won't be happy that the battery life on the GPS receiver is only going to last you 5 hours.

With that in mind, the Tom Tom Navigator 6 software is easy to use, extremely accurate and has a robust operation. Knowing that the battery life is so short, you may want to go with the software only for $149.95 and buy a different bluetooth GPS receiver.

Conclusion

My personal favorite of all the GPS software above would be the iGuidance by iNAV, because it gave me the quickest route, announces the side street as you approach the destination, announces how far you have to drive before the next turn and has a bright easy to navigate screen. Not all the GPS software and equipment works seamlessly out of the box, it will take a lot of patience on your part to get use to the GPS solution you selected. The receivers that work in conjunction with PDAs are basically peripherals that provide GPS data to a computer. The computer or PDA then uses that with mapping programs. Depending on which GPS solution you choose, some vendors will bundle a GPS receiver with a mapping application.

For Serious, Experienced GPS Users, The Iguidance 3.0 Bundle Is An Incredible Deal

Source:Smartphone Pocket PC Jan 2007, Handheld Computing Issue 8.3
Images courtesy of:
 PocketPCMagazine, Gpsinformation.net, Alk.eu.com, Inavcorp.com

Copyright © Rene Tse, the founder and president of the website: tmobile cell phone deals.

Rene Tse is on the look out for mobile devices to enhance her productivity. This website cuts to the chase and has valued information on: family cell phone plans and which is the best Geo caching solution available for your Linux PDA, Pocket PC or smart phone.

If you have any questions regarding this article please submit a comment on my blog at: free cell phones blog.

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Last edited Wed May 02 20:39:03 2007.