Tuesday, May 20, 2008

The S60 Road Warrior, Part 1: Finding my way around

You could be travelling in a different city each week or just exploring your own city, a GPS is a valuable tool to help you find your way. Just last week I used it to find a detour to avoid an accident on my way to Yankee stadium and find a close parking lot to the stadium.

Unlike the "GPS" pushed by your wireless carrier for phones that clearly do not have GPS (Motorola RAZR and first generation Apple iPhone) and rely on triangulation of cellular towers, a real GPS relies on a clear view to the sky to connect to a GPS satellite to give you your position accurate to within a few meters (accuracy depends on your GPS receiver). Moreover, a real GPS does not need to use cellular data if you have the right map software and maps already installed.

Most of Nokia's recent S60 include a GPS receiver but if it doesn't, you can always get a bluetooth GPS receiver and pair your S60 phone to it. The benefit to having a bluetooth GPS is that your handset's battery is not drained as quickly. But you have one more thing to carry and that's one more thing you;re likely to forget to bring when you really need it. There were a few times I was lost in New York City and relied on my GPS to find my way back to the hotel.

A couple years ago I plotted my trips on paper maps. With the advent of the Internet and MapQuest/Google Maps, I plotted my trips online and printed out the directions. But now with a GPS, I can jump into my car and plot an address or place of interest onto a map program.

Unlike the GPS products you buy from BestBuy or Fry's, S60 phones don't usually come with maps pre-installed onto the phone or memory card. You may also need to download the map software and install it to the phone. It's a little more complicated than buying a dedicated GPS but you the flexibility to choose the map program.

With each mapping program comes pros and cons so it's important to evaluate each one before purchasing. The most common mapping programs available for S60 and support Nokia's internal GPS in North America are Nokia Maps, Garmin XT, and Google Maps. Here is a brief list of pros and cons of each before I going into detail on how to get them set up on your phone:

Nokia Maps 1.0
Pro: Usually installed by default. Installable over the air. maps are free, maps can be downloaded over the air (wifi or data)

Con: Turn by turn navigation is charged by subscription. Pay for Points of Interest (POI) guides that are not up to date for North America. Pre-loading of maps requires a data cable. If you choose to install maps from your computer, Nokia Maps needs an Internet connection to download the maps from Nokia's servers.

Garmin XT 4.10.80
Pro: Same software you find on dedicated GPS devices from Garmin. Decent list of Points of Interest (POI) included with maps.

Con: Complicated install if you deviate from the suggest method. High initial cost. Need to pay for maps. Maps must be pre-loaded.

Google Maps 2.0.14
Pro: Simple install instructions. Installable over the air. ability to see satellite view, always up to date. Points of Interest (POI) comes from Google. Can be used with GPS with limited accuracy.

Con: Relies on data, slow to load maps depending on your data connection. No voice turn by turn navigation.

There are two more major map software for S60, but Wayfinder doesn't support Nokia's internal GPS and TomTom just released 6.02 to support it. I haven't a chance to test out TomTom.

I was going to write about all three map software in one blog entry but it quickly got too long so I'll blog about each one in an individual blog entry. Stay tuned!

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