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G-Map US West

As someone who has been waiting since the launch of the iPhone for turn by turn Navigation support, I was extremely excited to have a look at G-Map for the iPhone.  I recently took a road trip from Southern California all the way up to Seattle Washington with many stops in unfamiliar places along the way, so I thought this would be a great opportunity to put the app through its paces.  If I had to sum up my thoughts of this app into one word: Potential.

Pros:

  1. Maps stored locally on the iPhone (not wireless network dependant like services like AT&T Navigator (Telenav) – GREAT for areas with spotty coverage – Maps never lagged
  2. The maps looked very good on the iPhone display – with many streets visable and lots of POI (Points of Intrest)
  3. COST:  $24.99 for US West (East is also $24.99) with support for future upgrades  (most cell based solutions are $9.99 per month (appx $120 per year) and decent portable GPS running well into the $150 range and beyond)

Cons:

  1. No distance until next turn (XRoad GPS has stated that this will be in future versions)
  2. No voice directions (XRoad GPS has stated that this will be implemented around the time Apple releases iPhone 3.0 software in June)
  3. Only 1 audible tone (beep) before the turn, and the tone does not give enough warning before the turn in many instances (mainly on Freeway junctions) to make the turn.
  4. An easy to read route summary view is currently not available in this version  – Currently, the route preview is the user watching a fake marker make the trip on the device.  This can only be played at 5X speed so you can imagine how long this would take on long routes! XRoad GPS has stated that a Route Summary list view is coming.

Luckily, I have more than one word to describe G-Map.  To start, finding an address or a city to navigate to is quick and easy.  The route calculates pretty quick as well.  After the route is loaded, there is a lag of a few seconds before the correct mileage to destination and time remaining are displayed.   One drawback is that initially the distance data is based on where the user was the last time they used the application, so it can be misleading for the first few seconds of the route if you are not careful.   A benefit of having maps stored on the device itself is that your route calculates fast and is not dependent on a cellular data connection.  The one price that is paid is in storage space on the phone: This app weighs in at a hefty 943 MB!  It made me wish I had the 16GB iPhone so I wouldn’t need to delete my Dark Knight  movie to make space.   As expected, this application drains the battery VERY QUICKLY.  A car charger is essential to have with this app.

Once you are driving the route it tracks the vehicle relatively well.  One feature that is on the route map is the speed (MPH).  The annoying thing about the speed on the screen is that it jumps back and forth within a 15 MPH range constantly, even when I had the vehicle set at a constant 70 MPH.  It they can’t make the MPH accurate, they should just remove it. Another normally standard feature is next turn preview (which is there) and distance until next turn (which is not)  I found it extremely frustrating not having distance until next turn; this feature should be STANDARD on any GPS Nav.   When I went to look for a route preview to see distance until next turn – it wasn’t there either.  The route preview currently consists of a fast forwarded view of the trip (up to 5X speed)

The application does a good job of recalculating routes when you miss a turn, but I really missed having voice guided directions in busy downtown Seattle.  Having to look at the iPhone every time the app beeped for a turn got to be dangerous on busy unfamiliar freeways.

I didn't actually exit the freeway here in Seattle

I did like how easy it was to pull up the 10 most recent locations that you had found and route to them.  I also found most of the routes efficient and accurate.  There is also a game which gives rewards (special icons) when you arrive at each turn; which  I did not find this helpful at all.   Sometimes when there was a street under of very close to the freeway I was on it would put me on the wrong road then Display an “Oops Sorry”

message on the screen.  Usually, it would get back on the right track relatively quickly.  The POI information was relatively accurate in the areas that I was driving (California, Oregon, and Washington) – It groups food and retail locations into categories to assist in finding what you are looking for.  A feature that used the iPhone’s data connection to give traffic alerts would have been nice.

In summary, XRoad GPS’ G-Map application has a great foundation for success if they address the concern of voice guidance, distance until turn, and a decent route preview.  I was encouraged when I contacted the XRoad and they assured me that all of the above features would be added around the time the 3.0 software update hits in June.   If those features are added, this would be an outstanding portable GPS Nav solution.









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