Holiday Buyer's Guide 2006, Part 7: More Mobile Stuff

Networks In Motion Wireless Phone GPS Navigator Service

First let me say that this wireless phone-based GPS navigation product works as well as any other I've tried, in-phone or standalone. But I wasn't so sure of that in the beginning.

When I first tried the Networks In Motion (NIM) VZ Navigator service (VZ NS), I was quite disappointed. The wireless Motorola Razr V3m phone, with built-in GPS hardware from Verizon ("VZ"), location-based service (LBS) platform and client server architecture from NIM and maps from NAVTEQ, kept insisting that I take longer routes than I knew were available between my home and TG Publishing's offices in Culver City California, a distance of around 3 miles.

As it turned out, the NAVTEQ map data lacked information about changes in key arteries in Westwood California where I live. So, right off the bat I was told to make a left turn that was impossible since about November 2004 when a median strip was installed on Santa Monica Blvd. Fortunately the GPS was able to get back on track after I made a right instead of a left turn. However all along it tried to get me to go east when I knew a straight southward path would get me to the office most quickly.

After that experience, I tried the same trip using my Tom Tom Go 700. Every part of the trip was exactly the same. It wasn't the phone, it was the NAVTEQ map data. This is one of the most annoying things about GPSes. Data gets updated slowly and finds its way to GPS users even more slowly than that.

Now that I've exonerated the NIM-NAVTEQ-Motorola-Verizon product, let me tell you what I liked about the device. I stuck the phone in a cup holder in my 2005 Prius, about 16 inches from the bottom of the car's front windshield. The phone has no external antennae for phone or GPS services. Yet, it performed its GPS functions flawlessly, except for the previously noted map data problems.

The NIM Navigator Screen

The female voice that guides you along the way was clear and easy to hear, even when I was driving. The phone's display is small for a GPS and you surely shouldn't look at it while driving. However, I had no problem visually checking my route on the map when stopped. Both the display and the voice indicated the next turn clearly and well before it was time to turn. The GPS interface is quite good, making it quite easy to set a route.

If you need a phone and a GPS consider the NIM VZ Navigator service. Verizon offers the service for $9.99 a month or $2.99 a day.

Barry Gerber

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