Everyone has to drive in unfamiliar places every now and then, and a GPS unit can really come in handy.
There are plenty of stand-alone units on the market, but TeleNav has recently released one that can run on your T-Mobile G1. This offers on-screen maps, spoken directions, and even a guide to the places with the cheapest gasoline.
The G1 comes bundled with Google’s basic navigation software, but TeleNav GPS Navigator offers more, like speech recognition and traffic alerts with one-click rerouting.
With the summer driving season just cranking up, I decided to take this application for a spin. (Sorry, I couldn’t resist the puns.)
Suppose you want to drive somewhere you’ve never been before. Rather than unfolding a map, just get in your car and fire up the TeleNav application.
You start by telling the app where you want to go. There are tons of options for this.
If you know the address, you can type this in, or call TeleNav and use a voice-driven system to input the address. The computerized voice-recognition system works surprisingly well, and it’s my preferred way of putting in destinations.
In addition, TeleNav can pull an address out of your smartphone’s contacts list.
Points of Interest
Whale you’re in an unfamiliar town, you might like the extensive list of Points of Interest (POI). This can give you directions to nearby restaurants, grocery stores, movie theaters, malls, and much more. You can tell TeleNav to look for something by typing in a category, or you can say the name of the category aloud.
The POIs are generally nice, but I ran into some curiously missing ones. This app had no idea there’s an Avis Rent-a-Car at the Cincinnati/N. Kentucky airport, for example, even though I was driving a car rented from there. This didn’t happen often enough to be more than mildly irritating, though.
One of the nicer features is a constantly updated list of gas prices, allowing you to find the least expensive gasoline.
Once you’ve input your destination, TeleNav will go online and get a set of directions.
This brings up the greatest advantage — but also the biggest disadvantage — of this application: all the maps are stored online. This means you don’t have store them on your G1, or ever worry about having to update your maps. On the other hand, you have to have a wireless connection to the TeleNav service to get directions and the maps you need.
Then you’re ready to hit the road. This application gives you a constantly-updated 3D map of where you are, the distance to your next turn, and what direction you’ll be turning. This is available in both landscape and portrait modes.
I don’t like to take my eyes off the road very much, so I prefer to mostly use the spoken directions. For the most part, these work really well. It’s very nice to have the application say, for example, “Prepare to turn right on 275 in 0.5 miles,” so you don’t have to look down at your smartphone’s screen.
Unlike with Google Maps Mobile, if you miss a turn, you are automatically rerouted. And this service monitors your route and watches for traffic congestion or accidents. If any occurs, you get a warning and you can easily choose to find another route.
Another of my favorite featues is the ability to search along your route. When I’m on a road trip and I’m looking for a Cracker Barrel, I don’t need to know about the ones I’ve already ; those are dead to me. I just want to know about the ones I’ll be coming to soon.
Google Maps Mobile on the G1 is a bit dangerous to use if you’re driving in a new place, as you need to keep fiddling with it, which can get you killed if you’re behind the wheel. TeleNav GPS Navigator handles much more smoothly, and it has some nice bonuses: voice input and searching for low gas prices.
It’s available for a free 30-day trial on TeleNav’s web site. After the free period, you have to pay for $9.99 per month for unlimited use of the service. I wish there was some payment options for occasional travelers. Some people might only need to use this app for one week a year, and would happily pay $20 for that, but won’t sign up for a 12-month contract.
Still, if you find Google Maps Mobile too limited then TeleNav should be just right for you.