Wednesday, April 19, 2006

The coolness of GPS

Last Thursday I got this Bluethooth GPS reciever (cheaper than listed here). It sends GPS co-ordinates to any Bluetooth device which supports serieal profile (phones, PDAs, computers, etc.). That in itself isn't too interesting. Numbers generally aren't fun.

On my Nokia 7610 I have TomTom 5. It's super cool. It has maps of the whole of the UK and knows about POIs (points of interest) like Tesco and garages. With the GPS it's a complete navigation system. If you ever get lost, just turn on the GPS, load up TomTom, wait for it to connect and find a few satellites and press 1, 1. It'll then guide you with voice prompts, street maps and directions.

Generally it's very good. I told it to take us to Lidl and it did so almost perfectly. At one point the GPS lost satellites and it didn't know where to go but then it soon fixed itself. It even beeped when I was coming up to a speed camera.

The interface is very polished and options are very easy to get to. The maps are very clear and useful even if you have no GPS. The on screen directions are clear and the voice seems OK. I may try random voices soon (E.g. KITT from Knightrider! That'd be fun.) It can't tell you which lane to get into in roundabouts so crossing Ex Bridges it just said turn left after a bit. I had to look at the map to know which exit it wanted me to take.

The GPS accuracy is very good and probably accurate to under 10m. The little arrow corresponds exactly to the car / me. The GPS signal is not so good in areas with tall buildings but should be OK.

If you don't like a route it suggests you can easily change it. If you want to go a different way just start driving that way and it will automatically recalculate the route! It's very easy to find petrol stations or anything on your route to stop at.

There's a traffic + weather service which looks useful but you have to pay lots for. Maybe when I have a job.

When I was driving it only distracted me when I wasn't sure. I think it's best to either do exactly what it says or just go your own way and let it adapt. If you're not sure which road it wants you to take either get a passenger to check, take the road or ignore it. Don't look at it yourself and try to figure it out. TomTom does not (yet) tell you if you're about to hit into another car!

TomTom seems to be the best navigation system there is (according to reviews and my own testing). It works with (hopefully) every Bluetooth GPS unit there is. Just eBay one.

The display on my phone is fine for maps and directions. A larger screen (e.g. PDA) would be nice but is definately not needed. I really need a phone holder for my car. The voice prompts are loud enough unless you have loud music on. They can also be turned off if you want, though it's funny when it says things like "turn around at the next possible location".

TomTom seems to leave just enough memory free in my phone to send / reciece texts and make phone calls. It probably couldn't do much more that that.

A seperate GPS system would be very nice but if you already have a phone with an OK screen then you can't beat this for price. The GPS is under £50 and you should be able to get just the TomTom software for under £100.

Hopefully TomTom will work on my next phone. (Nokia N80?) I'm sure I'll let you all know if it does.


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Anonymous said...

Hello Dave, I am struggeling to install TomTom 5 on my Nokia 7610. I see the icon, but when I click it, TomTom does not start. Is it possible that you email me your installation directory - or at least some instructions? (