GPS systems can be really handy.Â When you’re travelling, and driving around a city that you really don’t know, there’s nothing better than that mechanical voice telling you where to turn left, turn right, and how far you are from your destination. The only downside is that at $15 or so per day with your rental car, they’re pricey.
Several people I know have gone out and purchased GPS systems in order to avoid this expense.Â You can get a nice TomTom, or Magellan unit for under $1000 now.Â Again, pricy, unless you’re a very frequent traveller.Â But, if you travel more than 60 days in a year, it would be worth it for you.
For those of us who travel, but not as frequently, there are nice alternatives.Â Pictured at the right is the Nokia LD-1W Bluetooth GPS receiver.Â It’s about $100 on EBay, and comes with a 3 month trial of Wayfinder Navigator, a GPS package for Smartphones, including the Blackberry 8700, and the Nokia N70, both of which have.Â Wayfinder Navigator will set you back about $200, if you decide keep it.Â
To use it, you just turn the GPS unit on, throw it on the dashboard of the car, and run the Wayfinder Navigator software on your mobile.Â Once you’ve typed in a destination, it does the rest, guiding you turn by turn to where you need to be going.Â
The UI, especially on the very bright Blackberry 8700 screen, is nice.Â This image shows a typical Wayfinder screen, navigating from my home to my office.Â On the left you can see an image of a satellite, with three spheres below to show GPS strength.Â None, when the picture was taken.Â The GPS was inside.
Beside that there is a right turn arrow to signify that the next turn will be a right and that it will be in 290 metres.Â The whole thing is overlaid on a nice clear map, with the route laid out as a red line.
So how good is the combination?Â Well, surprisingly excellent.Â
- On both the Blackberry 8700 and Nokia N70, the GPS module is easily found by the Wayfinder software.Â
- Searching for a particular address is a nuisance on the N70 because of its T9 keypad, but it’s a breeze on the 8700.Â In both cases, it’s easier than the dedicated GPS units car rental companies give you.Â
- The software can be easily configured for either metric or imperial units.
- The turn by turn directions are clearly articulated, although in a very crisp femaleÂ English accent.Â She quickly earned the nickname “the Bionic Bitch” at our house.
- The maps are easily viewed and read on the screen.Â
Downsides?Â There are a few:
- It can be a little slow to respond.Â Maps are downloaded over the air, and if the system is loading a map it can take a few seconds.Â This has the advantage, however, of allowing traffic information to be sent to the mobile as well, but I was unable to test this.Â Not available where I am.Â
- If you receive a phone call while navigating, the Bionic Bitch can’t vocalize new directions to you.Â that’s not the case with a dedicated unit.
- And finally, if you wilfully ignoreÂ it, andÂ deliberately drive off route for prolonged periods of time (as I did, to see what would happen), Wayfinder continuously loads new maps, and eventually will crash. It was hardly fair to the poor thing, though, to confuse it like that.
There are few differences between the Nokia and Blackberry versions of the software.Â It can be difficult to find your way back to the Wayfinder application if you receive a telephone call on the Nokia version, for instance, while it automatically resumes on the Blackberry.Â Â The Nokia software is prettier to look at, however, and has a nicer user experience.Â In contrast,Â the Blackberry software is a littleÂ more usable, and a little more stable.Â
All in all, Wayfinder and a Bluetooth GPS unit gets an enthusiastic thumbs up from me.Â For $300, it’s a helluva fine navigation tool.