Local Search is much like the POI database found on in-car navigation systems. You can search from more than 14 million POI, including gas stations, restaurants, ATMs, hotels, and movie theaters, and you can have VZ Navigator map its location or provide directions from your current location. Also, if a number is listed with the place of business, you can call it directly by simply pressing the Send button twice, which is great if you want to make dinner reservations on the fly, for example. Verizon says it updates the database every several months for the most accurate information.
VZ Navigator 4 takes local search further with Movies and Events, a new fuel finder feature, and weather updates. They're all particularly useful tools as it lets you better plan your trips and perhaps experience more once you get to your destination. For example, the weather updates can help you decide what to pack for a trip or what to wear for the day. And if you're looking for something to do, the Movie and Events can find local theaters and movie times, as well as other events and entertainment venues, such as concerts, museum exhibits, and night life. Of course, with gas prices as high as they are today, the Fuel Finder is particularly useful as it offers a listing of the current fuel prices at nearby gas stations so you can find the least expensive option
Finally, My Places gives you fast access to your favorite destinations, recent searches, and more. Within this menu, you can save your home and work addresses, so you can use either as a quick starting point for navigation. You can also now manage your favorite locations and searches from your PC or laptop using the VZ Navigator Web site and synchronize the information to your phone via USB cable or wirelessly. This is a nice option if you have some time to plan your trips, since you get a larger view of maps with your computer's screen and you can enter addresses using a full keyboard. That said, we're disappointed that you can't use the Web site to get driving directions and transfer them to your phone.
We tested VZ Navigator on the Motorola V325 in the San Francisco area; we were impressed with the service and found it very useful. From a cold start, it took several minutes for the phone to acquire our location, which is pretty standard for most GPS devices; subsequent starts took only a few seconds for satellite acquisition. We then used the Local Search function to find the nearest Best Buy in our area, and within a couple of minutes, VZ Navigator returned with our route. As we mentioned before, the V325's 2-inch display isn't the ideal for use in a car, but thankfully, the voice-guided directions were there to help, and the speakerphone's volume was more than adequate. It was also helpful that it called out specific street names rather than generic instructions, such as "Turn right in 100 feet." This text-to-speech functionality is just starting to show up in today's portable in-car GPS devices. On the downside, we found the frequency of the audible directions to be somewhat sparse. Accuracy, for the most part, was dead on, although on a couple of occasions, it gave us the wrong street address when we used the Maps "Where Am I?" function. We also purposefully took a wrong turn to test out the autoroute recalculation, and though it took a minute or so to get our location, VZ Navigator got us back on track.
To test the messaging and Web features, we used the Motorola Razr V3m. We sent a several text messages from different points in the city to the Verizon Wireless G'zOne Type S, and each text came through just fine. However, there were some issues. First, the listed address was off a couple of street numbers or had us located on the nearest cross street. The addresses were always in close proximity of our actual location, but we expect better accuracy. We also noticed that the latitude and longitude coordinates were stripped from the original sent message--not as big a deal as the former issue since most people won't be searching or navigating via coordinates. On the bright side, the PC to phone synchronization worked like a charm.
Finally, we used the Motorola Razr2 V9m to try out the new feature of VZ Navigator 4. The traffic capabilities were quite nice for planning a trip as we could see beforehand where the problem areas were along our route. However, as we noted earlier, a cell phone's smaller display doesn't make it optimal for in-car use. There's a lot of information crammed on the screen, particularly if you're viewing at the details of a traffic incident, so obviously the more time you're looking at the phone, the less time you're looking at the road. It definitely helps if you have a passenger in the car. As for the Movie and Events tool, we had no complaints about the accuracy of movie times or theaters, but we thought the listing of local events was pretty thin; hopefully, this is something Networks in Motion will fill out in the future.