Navigation With Android

I have been using an Android phone for a while now but haven’t blogged about it before. Not for any negative reason but simply because I had little to say. I bought a HTC Hero outright, no contract. I love it, it works well and does everything I wanted and much more. It came with Android 1.6 but soon after I got it an "Over the Air" update from HTC upgraded it to 2.1. That went well and added several features and a few bug fixes.

I had read that the latest update to Google Maps added a Navigation feature so I decided to test it today. I wasn’t going very far and it was a route I often take which I think is a good way to test. I wanted to see if it would replace my Tom Tom GPS. One less gadget in the car is a good thing. The phone is mounted in a cradle that mounts to the windscreen with a suctionn cap just like a GPS so it should receive the GPS signal well.

There is a navigation icon on the applications screen and that immediately asked me to activate GPS. Which I did. I tried to type in a destination but the hint list only showed US and UK locations so I changed to Spoken commands which worked surprisingly well when I gave the suburb and state it immediately found it as an Australian place.

When I asked for spoken directions I had to install the Text to Speech app. It worked well but defaulted to US English. It worked well but had trouble with several place names and couldn’t even pronounce "Way" as a road name. I have since changed it to UK to see if that is better.

The GPS worked quite quickly finding the location. Much better than the Tom Tom does when it hasn’t been used for a while. But I’m guessing it uses the phone location to get a start. It found almost the right place but where I was was difficult. It was the side street that runs beside a main road with only a few metres between them. It thought I was on the main road. Once I was moving it quickly zeroed in on the correct place. The directions were clear, allowing for the pronounciation problems, and accurate. It quickly recalcualted when I took a side street too.

So does it replace the dedicated device? I have some reservations and they are not really due to the app. The most biggest concern is the amount of download data needed. If you have a generous plan with plenty of data that won’t worry you but my plan only includes a couple hundred megabytes a month. If I were using it as a navigation device regularly that would be used up and I would be into the very expensive excess data. I could increase the data allowance by paying a small extra amount but the cost would exceed the cost of updates for my Tom Tom. So the conclusion is at the moment I think I would stick to using the Tom Tom when I am doing longer trips but for occasional help and as a backup the phone is great. If I didn’t already own a GPS unit I wouldn’t buy one I would use the phone without hesitation.

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