Saturday, July 17, 2010

Getting There - GPS versus AT&T Navigator

Technology -- I usually don't leave home without it, but on our recent trip to Florida, I decided that one GPS was probably going to be enough. This is a bit of culture shock for me, because we usually travel with three -- the dashboard one for giving directions, my old trusty handheld Magellan (for when we want to do a little geocaching or record travel through "cookie crumbs" to fairly remote locations and a plug in version that attaches to our laptop so we can run Delorme's Street Atlas. The dashboard is good for giving directions to the driver, but Street Atlas is a lovely distraction for the passenger, enabling us to plan side trips and pointing out places of interest that we might never have known were there. We also had Delorme's Topological Maps, but I decided to leave all of it home and pack a book to read instead.

This turned out to not be the best decision ever. A simple process like "where's the next hotel" meant taking the Navagon off the dashboard cradle and hunting and pecking through the options to find a nearby hotel. Getting it back into the dashboard cradle and adjusting the thing so that Bruce could see was annoying, too. Since I had the option to use AT&T Navigator on my Smart Phone with a 30 day trial, I decided to try that. It also had the advantage of having traffic information, which seemed pretty useful since we were going to be traveling through some congested areas.

Compared to the normal GPS, Navigator was slow to find our location and didn't give a second by second location on the map. It was very good at giving traffic along the route, and if you wanted all the businesses nearby, it was better at giving that than the standard GPS units.

Its search function worked poorly, though. Hunting for Finz Restaurant in Stuart resulted in no hits (and a spammy list of everything within the entire area), although Finz has been in operation for well over five years.

Navigator can get pricey if you do a lot of different routes, since network charges apply for downloading lots of data (and the maps are generated from a lot of images.) If you can't buy a GPS unit, Navigator is good for a temporary "better than nothing" solution.

As for me, I canceled the Navigator and traffic subscription, and I'll be taking my trusty little Garman Nuvi (I have the 225W unit, which can be bought very cheaply) along when the two of us are taking another road trip.

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