Earlier this year, Verizon launched a navigation app for its cell phones called VZ Navigator, and judging by the user opinions, it has been well received. Now, Cingular has launched its own location-based service, called TeleNav GPS Navigator. During our tests, we found it to be a useful and accurate navigator, though a bit slow to perform some tasks such as redrawing maps. Still, if work (or pleasure) requires you to be on the road a lot--and you're a Cingular customer--TeleNav GPS Navigator is worth the $9.99 per month for unlimited use or $5.99 for up to 10 trips. The service works with a number of Cingular's smart phones, including the Cingular 8525 and the Palm Treo 680, but you can check for compatibility on TeleNav's Web site. Also, unless you own one of the HP iPaq hw6900 series models, which have built-in GPS antennas, you will need to get a Bluetooth GPS receiver.
From the main menu, you have six options: Navigation, Biz Finder, Map, GPS Tools, Preferences, and Support. The Preferences page is a good place to start, as you can set your measurement unit (miles/feet or kilometers/meters), how you want routes calculated (fastest, shortest, avoid highway, prefer highway, or pedestrian), your navigation screen, and more. From there, you can start planning your trip via the Navigation menu--where you can enter a specific address--or, if you don't feel like typing, by calling TeleNav for directions. In most cities, this option allows you to use a toll-free number, but in some areas the system will default to a local number. TeleNav says you shouldn't see a difference at all, as local and toll-free numbers are both charged at the same airtime. If you don't need guidance to a specific destination, you can go into the Map menu and simply get a general map overview of your current location or any recently visited areas.
Maps are presented in 2D or 3D view. Of course, a smart phone's smaller screen isn't optimal for in-car use, but it gives you a good idea of your location, and could be a lifesaver when you're completely lost. You also can zoom in and out of maps, but we noticed it takes some time for the app to redraw maps, which was a tad frustrating. When following a specific route, TeleNav also gives you visual prompts about the current street you are on, the next street to turn onto, remaining distance to your next turn, and so forth. In addition, you can get a text-based preview of your entire route. TeleNav GPS Navigator automatically recalculates your route if you happen to get off track, and supports text-to-speech functionality to speak actual street names rather than generic directions.
Biz Finder is essentially your points-of-interest database. You can search for all the major attractions, such as lodging, ATMs, and gas stations. There's a great feature called Fuel Finder that lists gas stations near your location by fuel price so you can find the best deal. Also handy is the ability to search for restaurants by cuisine type and call a listed number directly from your phone.
Some other helpful extras include a compass and an option to record and name your location. These can come in handy if you're unfamiliar with the area and need to, for instance, mark where you parked your car, or if you'd like to record frequently visited sites, such as your home, and use them as a Favorites list.
We tested the TeleNav GPS Navigator on the Palm Treo 680, pairing the smart phone with the TeleNav Bluetooth GPS receiver. We downloaded the app from the mobile's Web browser and though it took a few minutes, it was easy and required minimum effort on our part (just a few Yes or No questions). Overall, the service was easy to use with a simple and clean interface. It took a couple of minutes to acquire a GPS fix, but once located, the service did a good job of tracking our position. The rate of route calculation was acceptable, but more importantly, TeleNav GPS Navigator provided accurate directions.