GPS smackdownSeptember 15th, 2009 at 6:26 pm by Bob Grip under Daily Dot Com, Uncategorized
Over the past few months, I’ve had the chance to give AT&T’s GPS service a test drive. Navigator is a free download for the iPhone, but costs about $10 a month to use, added to your AT&T bill.
For my first test, I let Navigator pick the quickest route from Orange Beach to the Grand Hotel in Point Clear. Given the iPhone’s short battery life and since the battery-draining “Location Services” must be activated for Navigator to find its way, I selected a relatively short route.
I typed in the street address for the Grand and off we drove. Navigator took me up Highway 59, then north on Highway 98, and west on Gayfer Street in Fairhope. According to Navigator, the Grand Hotel was located on Gayfer Street, east of North Section Street – not exactly the waterfront property folks have learned to love over the years. Luckily, I knew where I was going. When I did arrive at the Hotel, I found Navigator had placed me in the middle of the Lakewood Golf Club across the street. Its accuracy left a little to be desired.
The next test pitted Navigator against the “NeverLost” GPS system, hardwired into the Hertz rental car I was driving from the Pittsburgh airport to southwestern Pennsylvania. Like the first test, I was familiar with this route as well, but there was an en-route challenge to both GPS systems. Part of the trip involved a toll road that was still under construction. Would they be able to cope?
Leaving the Pittsburgh airport was routine with both systems, though I appreciated the timely reminders from NeverLost about upcoming turns. The two female voices used by NeverLost were crystal clear as opposed to the sometimes-muffled voice coming from Navigator through the mini-speakers on the iPhone. When it came to the map display, there was no contest between the two. NeverLost looked like PacMan versus Navigator’s 3D street imaging.
When I drove onto the toll road, Navigator pulled way ahead in the competition. Because Navigator downloads maps as needed along the route, it recognized the new stretches of highway and the detours needed to guide me to them. NeverLost turned into EverLost as it tried desperately to keep me from driving through cornfields, or so it thought. It finally gave up and warned me to return to the paved road. In this case, Navigator knew exactly where I was, and how to get where I was going. It also offered to check for traffic along the route.
To its credit, AT&T has come out with several refinements to Navigator in the past few months which are available free via the App Store application on the iPhone. Neverlost didn’t show evidence of that flexibility.
The next time I really need to find where I’m going, I’m bringing my iPhone, Navigator and, for a long trip, an extra battery.
BTW, I stopped in an Apple Store on my way back to the airport to lust after check out the iPhone 3GS. The “S” really does stand for speed. It booted faster, wrote pages faster and shot some really great looking video.