Are you looking for a GPS replacement? Do you go for the “stand-alone?” Do you use a Bluetooth GPS Puck? Or do you opt for the Freedom Keychain GPS?
Manufactured by Freedom Input , I have listened to and read some glowing reviews on this remarkably small device. In fact, I'd recomment checking out the Podcast Review of the the Freedom Mini GPS Keychain done back in October by Leo Laporte on the Daily Giz Whiz show. Leo actually picked up his Freedom Keychain from the ShopCrackBerry.com store (his favorite BlackBerry store by the way!). CrackBerry.com's sibling site, TreoCentral.com, also posted an informative review of this device that's worth a read.
While the Freedom Keychain Puck has a great reputation, I'm still the kind of guy who holds an opinion until getting some hands-on experience, so I waited for the puck to arrive with anticipation.
[ Editor's Note: There are now two versions of the Freedom Keychain - the GPS Original , and the newer Freedom Keychain GPS 2000. In this review, Tom's images/opinions are of the Original GPS. However, stock photo and store linkage is to the newer GPS 2000 which is what we now carry in the ShopCrackBerry.com store (same price). The GPS 2000 is essentially the same - just slightly sleeker, different LED layout, and even better ]
On arrival, I was intrigued by the size. But appearances can be deceptive -- the Freedom Keychain comes across like something from a James Bond movie. One of the biggest selling points for this unit is the fact that its incredibly small and light -- weighing in at a mere 30grs or 1.06oz and only 49 x 32 x 19 mm. With those dimensions you wonder how the performance may be affected. But with its simple black rubber coating, the GPS Puck feels solid and, more importantly, secure. It can hang from my key ring without being removed and the key chain part of the puck is secure and despite my tugging to see how fragile it might be – I can’t shift the puck. I am confident I am not going to lose it.
I'm not sure what all the GPS tech specs mean, but it sure seems like a lot of punch is packed into this tiny Smartphone addition:
Setup and Function
According to Freedom Input the Freedom Keychain GPS is currently the world’s most compact GPS receiver. The unit is aimed directly at users of SmartPhones and BlackBerrys and the 85 percent of devices that don’t have built in GPS.
After leaving the puck to charge overnight using the mini-USB charger, which is on the bottom of the puck protected by a rubber covering, I paired the GPS puck with my Curve. The process was relatively easy and took only a few seconds.
I liked the side-mounted sliding On/Off switch as I know I have definitely turned off the device. Once on, I initially found the LED lights a little confusing. Depending on what is happening, the LEDs flash a number of colors despite being Bluetooth connected. For example, to let the user know there is satellite connection the LED will flash Orange, which on most Bluetooth devices means the unit needs recharging. However, you should quickly get used to the various light indicators.
Freedom Keychain in Use
One important factor to be addressed is which software to use. The company, Freedom Input, says this product can work with the following: The AA, Active Pilot, BlackBerry Maps, CoPilot Live 6, Destinator 6, Gate 5, Google Maps, Mapquest, Memory Map, Navigation Mobile, Navman, Nokia/Smart2Go, Navicor, Route 66, Spot, TeleNav, and Wayfinder. I can’t test all of the above because of my location in the UK, but having used Google Maps before, I felt comfortable with that option.
Once connected, the puck handles a secure link and, even when driving in areas where I know some other units might drop out, the Freedom Puck keeps the connection and that really is good news. Living where I do can sometimes cause connection problems, and even some of the “high quality” stand-a-lone units fail miserably in this department. The initial searching of satellites took a little time, but after repeatedly testing the connection, it does speed up on start up.
Using the puck in the car certainly works well although I noticed one problem. I was not able to use my hands-free Bluetooth headset while the GPS was running. Ideally I'd like to be able to use my Bluetooth headset at the same time as the Freedom Keychain, so I can talk handsfree while driving and looking at directions. Without that ability, using GPS Maps in the car makes the phone itself unusable as a talking device (since you'll want to look at the maps and not have the phone up against your ear).
With such great price tag, it’s very hard to find many faults with this unit. Currently, the unit is available in the store at $89.95. There are dislikes, but if I am honest, they are more personal than actual faults and it would be unfair for me to judge this unit because there are things that I would have differently. However, Freedom could really be on a winning streak with this GPS Puck. Figures show that over 150 million BlackBerrys and Smartphones are likely to be sold by the end of this year, and people will be looking for a solution may find this a good compromise. While is unfair to compare it to a “stand-alone” Satellite Navigation unit, the Freedom unit will get you out of a pickle. Once you understand the way the mapping works with the various softwares, then you’ll find the powerful yet tiny package certainly packs a punch.
Purchase the Freedom Keychain GPS 2000 from ShopCrackBerry.com