If you have a smartphone or handheld you don’t need to buy a stand-alone GPS navigator; you can save some money by using what you already own.
But unless your device has a built-in GPS receiver, your going to need to buy an accessory that adds this function. These are much less expensive than a full unit, because they don’t need a screen or storage or things like that.
The one I use is the Freedom Keychain GPS, but there are several of these available. What these have in common is they talk to your main device over Bluetooth.
Once you have one of these, you’re going to have to get it set up with your smartphone or PDA. Unfortunately, the process for doing this with a Windows Mobile device can be surprisingly difficult. That’s why I’ve put together a set of instructions to walk you though it.
Part I: Pair the Two Devices
To start off, you’ll need to pair the two Bluetooth devices. This should be easy, especially if you’re familiar with the process with other accessories, like maybe an external keyboard.
First off, turn on the GPS receiver and put it in Discovery mode. You may have to refer to the manual to find out how do this with your particular accessory, but most of the external GPS units I’ve tried have always been been in Discovery mode, so you just have to turn them on.
Next, go to your Windows Mobile device and hit Start > Settings and tap on the Connections tab. Look for the Bluetooth icon and open it.
Tap on "Add new device". Your smartphone/PDA will look for the GPS receiver, and its name will show up when it’s found it (see image at right). Tap on the name and then hit the Next button.
Next you’ll be asked for the GPS receiver’s passcode. This is another thing you’ll need to look up in the manual, but if that’s missing there are some standard ones you can try: 0000, 9999, and 1234.
Once the passcode has been accepted you’ll be able to choose a display name for your GPS receiver, and then you’ll see a list of services supported by the Bluetooth accessory. Be very sure you put a checkmark next to "Serial Port", then hit the Finish button (see image at left).
Part II: Set a COM Port
Pairing the devices is something many of you are probably familiar with if you have other Bluetooth accessories. The second part of this, though, requires you to set up a COM part, something I’ve only ever had to do with a GPS receiver. Don’t be worried, this isn’t hard. But it’s something that cries out to be simplified.
Go into Start > Settings > Connections > Bluetooth > COM Ports
(If you just got through with Part I of these instructions, just tap on the COM Ports tab at the bottom of the screen.)
Now, tap on "New Outgoing Port", select your GPS receiver from the list of devices, and hit Next. On the next screen, assign this Bluetooth connection a port (I suggest COM6) and check that this a Secure Connection (see image at right). Hit Finish.
Then go into Start > Settings > System Tab > External GPS
Make sure the GPS Program Port is set to something different from the COM Port you just assigned (I suggest COM5).
Next, without leaving the External GPS app, switch to the Hardware tab. Now set the GPS Hardware Port to the port you set in the first step, the one I suggested be COM6. Set a Baud rate of 4800. (Faster isn’t better.)
And you’re basically done. You can run the Navigation application of your choice, but in some cases you’ll have to tell it which COM port to use. Most of them, however, will know to automatically check the External GPS settings.
If you’re in the market for an external GPS receiver for your mobile device, the one I use is the Freedom Keychain GPS Receiver.
And if you have a Windows Mobile smartphone and you want to get started with GPS navigation, I’d suggest you try out Google Maps Mobile. This isn’t a web service like the regular version of Google Maps; it’s a stand-alone application. It works with a GPS receiver and, best of all, it’s free.