Head-to-Head Review of Navigation Software for Windows Mobile

by Magellan Reads (105,523)

Thanks to the following vendors for providing software for review.

iGo (Beta) from PDAmill
Mapopolis
TomTom Navigator

Equipment used for test: iPAQ 4350 with 1 GB SD card, Emtac Bluetooth GPS module, 96 Saturn SL (I need a new car).

Many features were similar on all three applications, including route options of shortest time or distance, voice prompts, POI display on/off, night mode, screen backlight always on, and auto zoom and rotate. Since the differences are what people will be concerned with, I will concentrate on them.

The biggest differences were the extra features and the user interface. iGo and Mapopolis have a launch screen with large easy to read buttons. See below

iGoMapopolisTomTom

Another difference is in both iGo and TomTom when navigating it always assumes to use your current GPS position to start, with Mapopolis you must select your starting point, but current GPS position is one of the options. Another difference is the map display, which has a 3D option on iGo and TomTom, but not Mapopolis. See below

iGoMapopolisTomTom

You can also see that iGo has a battery icon, which is a nice touch. Both TomTom and iGo have GPS status icons as well. Both Mapopolis and TomTom integrate with your devices address book for quick mapping. iGo does not yet have this option. Both iGo and TomTom have itinerary planning, Mapopolis does not. TomTom and iGo have a nice zoom feature that brings you in closer and slightly changes the angle at intersections.

You have the some routing options on all three for quickest route, shortest, etc., as seen below:

iGoMapopolisTomTom

As you can see below, they all have a nice set of options to quickly route you to your destination:

iGoMapopolisTomTom

Test Scenarios

From home to work and back. Yes, I know how to get to work and back, but does my PDA? I had both home and work addresses saved, so I could do quick taps to navigate. I live in a northwest suburb of Minneapolis and work in St Paul.

Test 1: Using quickest route, travel from home to work and back EXACTLY how the application told me to, and hope I don’t end up in Canada.

Test 2: Using quickest route, purposely go off course by taking known shortcuts, stopping for coffee, etc, to see how quickly the route would adjust, and how I would be routed back on course.

Test 3: Change to Shortest route, and repeat Test 1.

Test 4: Using shortest route, repeat Test 2.

Test 5: Route with more than one stop (Itinerary)

Results

Considering this is a beta, iGo is a very good navigation solution. The voice prompts were clear, and the 3D map view was easy to read at a glance. I really like the launch screen on this one. It is very easy to do most functions with a few taps on the large buttons. I was guided back to my route very quickly after one of my “errands.” I think the longest it took to reroute me was five seconds. After trying out the shortest route option, I decided to never use it again. I thought traffic was bad on the freeways, but the side streets around here are a mess! It was, however, the shortest route, so it did what it should. However in one instance after going off route, it stopped giving me directions. It showed where I was, but not where to turn. This was fixed in a later beta, and was apparently due to a memory use problem. I tried again on the next beta, and was rerouted properly. The itinerary was nice, and I was easily able to lay out my stops. In one case, I stopped at a planned stop, but the application didn’t recognize that I done so. I had to manually click on next stop to route me to the next destination. Grade B+

Of the three, Mapopolis was the only one without a 3D map option. This may be a preference, but I found the 3D maps easier to read on the go. According to Lamar from Mapopolis support, this feature will be added in the next version later this year. Another thing I found with this application is the turn prompts tended to be a little late. Often the tone for a turn would happen in the middle or just past the intersection. The others prompted me shortly before the turn. The voice prompts sounded very digital, but were clear and understandable. Reroutes after going off course were relatively quick. Just like its competitors, the shortest route plunged me down side roads I normally wouldn’t take, but, as promised, the route was shorter. There is no true itinerary mode in this version, but should be available by the next release later this summer. Grade B+

TomTom Navigator got me there and back flawlessly. Like iGo, the voice prompts were clear, I was given ample time to prepare for turns and exits, and the 3D view was easy to read with a quick glance. The voice prompts were easily understood. Upon going off course, the application would reroute me in a matter of seconds. It recognized one-way streets as such, and guided me to the first one-way going the direction I needed. The shortest route had me go down the same roads as the other two applications, and, just like the quickest route, my meanderings were quickly corrected back to the short route. The itinerary mapping was intuitive and worked well. It took me from stop to stop without issue. Grade A

Final Test: I had to sit for my CPA exam on April 11, and all I had was an address. I had no idea how to get there, and it was on the opposite side of Minneapolis from where I live. I had to choose which guidance software to use and it could not fail! I went with TomTom for a couple of reasons. It was always fast and accurate in setting a destination and getting me there, and I did not have any problems during testing. The prompts always gave me ample warning on the next turn, and it was easy to see on screen with the 3D map. I was routed to my exam site accurately, and I didn’t miss any turns. I even got there early, which for me is saying something. The concern I had with Mapopolis is the late prompting, and sometimes it took longer than normal to get a GPS fix and get the route set. My concern with iGo was, being still in beta, I didn’t want to discover a new bug when nearing a very important turn, I was also concerned about this application’s memory usage. I often had to move things around to free up memory on my aging iPAQ.

Summary

All three applications worked and should be adequate for most people. At this time my recommendation would be TomTom, but keep a close eye on iGo when it is released. TomTom was very reliable and accurate, and the extras like weather and traffic put it over the top. The 3D view with zoom was very easy to read, and the options for routing were very comprehensive. Mapopolis is slightly cheaper, and may work better on older devices with less memory. Also, a new version of Mapopolis is due later this year which will address both itinerary planning, and 3D maps.

More About the Software

iGo Price TBD www.PDAmill.com

iGo is currently in beta, and due for European release shortly. It is very similar in functionality to TomTom, having 3D display, clear voice prompts, and full maps by State or Country. One thing I liked better than TomTom is the quick launch screen. It was very easy to select my destination and work through the menus using my fingers thanks to its large on screen buttons.

The Good: 3D and zoom are very well designed. The zoom is very smooth. Launch screen

The Bad: Large memory requirements (approx 14 Mb) minor graphics glitches (beta)

 

Mapopolis $99.99 www.mapopolis.com

Mapopolis is different from the others in that you select your maps by county. This can be both good and bad. The good is, if you are traveling in a small area, you can save a ton of space by just loading the counties you need. The bad is, you will need to know all of the counties on extended trips. Mapopolis does have a work around for this by providing major highway maps by state. This way you can just load county maps for your destination, and use the highway maps for the trip there. Another unique feature of Mapopolis is you get the viewer for free, and purchase the maps. When you buy a map pack, you get to download them for one year.

The Good: Low memory requirements, very fast load times, least expensive

The Bad: No 3D option, voice very mechanical, prompts often slightly late, long time to connect to GPS

 

TomTom Navigator 5 $149.99 www.tomtom.com

Although the most expensive of the three applications I tested, TomTom Navigator also worked the best and was the one I chose when I had to get somewhere without a hitch. Its prompts for upcoming turns are always on time and its 3D maps are easy to read while on the go.

The good: Mature product, very stable and well thought out. The extras are very nice. And I loved the ability to use John Cleese’s voice! Options for traffic and weather updates.

The Bad: No “quick launch” screen. Long load times. Technical Support can be very slow to respond.

 

Coming next, Palm OS navigation software!


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