We recently reviewed the new BlackBerry 8800 featuring a built-in GPS system. We were anxious to review a full Navigation System to take full advantage of the built-in GPS.
As you probably know, a GPS Navigation system uses the position data from a GPS receiver to locate where you are on a road in a map database. The TeleNav GPS Navigator is different from a traditional stand alone unit. This is a server-based application meaning that the map database is not located on your BlackBerry. While you are viewing maps and following real time turn-by-turn directions, the requests are sent to the TeleNav server using your BlackBerry data connection. The main benefit is that you’ll never have to worry about updating your maps! But if you lose your connectivity, no maps anymore. We tried TeleNav on the Cingular network with EDGE connectivity and the data speed was never an issue.
Starting with the application main menu, you have six options: GPS Navigation, Biz Finder, Maps, GPS Tools, Preferences, and Support. The preferences screen will help you customize the application to better fit your expectations: 2D or 3D maps, audible street names, etc…
Let’s jump into the core functionalities of the service: navigation. Starting from your current location that TeleNav will detect automatically, you can input your destination address using three distinct methods:
1) You can use the BlackBerry keyboard and simply type in the address.
2) You can also dial a toll-free number and just “speak” the address. A voice recognition application will input it for you. This option is very convenient while you are driving.
3) Finally, you can go to TeleNav.com on your PC and input the address. This is a good alternative if you want to prepare a long trip before leaving home.
Maps are displayed using a 2D or 3D view. The 3D view is probably the most practical on a smaller screen. Whether you use a BlackBerry 8800 or 8700 with a 320 by 240 pixel screen resolution or a BlackBerry Pearl with 240×280, there is plenty of screen to display a clear map; it is very visible while driving. A zoom feature is also here to help. Zoom worked very naturally with the trackball on the front of the 8800, even better than using the trackwheel on other devices.
Now, you simply follow the turn by turn instructions given by TeleNav. Some important information will be displayed and updated real time on your screen: current street name, distance from next turn, and remaining distance to destination. And if you miss a turn, the GPS Navigator will detect it and provide an alternate route to get you back on the right track. A feature that came handy ahead of time was the preview mode. Before starting your trip, you can see a list of all the turn by turn instructions you will have to make. What makes this feature so interesting is that if you happen to lose coverage, you will still be able to go back to this preview and access the full list of directions.
From 3D to 2D maps, compass, Biz Finder,…
So TeleNav features a powerful Navigation system. But there is something else that we consider just as valuable: the Biz Finder. This is basically a huge point of interest database. You can search for a multitude of locations such as ATM machines, restaurants, hotels, drug stores, etc… In total, over 10 million points of interest across the U.S. Again, this is server based information so this will always be up to date. You can even search for restaurants based on type of cuisine. My favorite category was “Gas By Price”, which will show you the best prices for purchasing gas for your car.
TeleNav Gas by Price Finder
Finally, a few neat utilities were included in the application. There is a compass as well as a utility to show your relative position to any other location.
For less than $10 a month, you will find that TeleNav can be a life saver. The application will work with any BlackBerry that features an internal GPS receiver (8800, 8703, 7520, 7100i). But don’t worry, if you have a BlackBerry with Bluetooth support, you can also benefit from a GPS Navigation system. In that case, the only thing you need is a BlueTooth GPS Receiver. TeleNav sells one for under $99.
TeleNav Bluetooth GPS Receiver
Still wondering if you should get TeleNav for your BlackBerry? Well, $10 a month is certainly much more cost effective than a stand alone GPS Navigation system unit that will cost you around $500 and will most probably be obsolete before too long. With the Biz Finder capabilities alone, you’ll get your money back. I am saving an average of $3 each time I fill up my tank with the Gas Price Finder. And with the ATM finder, I can now avoid withdrawal fee (usually anywhere from $1 to $2.50) by finding an ATM machine from my bank!
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