Today, Palm and TomTom announced their latest GPS solution for the Palm Treo family--the Palm GPS Navigator Smartphone Edition. This new version brings support for the Treo 700p, as well as the Treo 700w and the Treo 650, and features the latest TomTom Navigator 6 software. It's a good addition for Treo owners who are constantly on the road and need help getting directions to their destinations. The setup is easy, and the software provides accurate driving directions, with the option to add traffic information and other useful services. At its $299 price, we think the devices is a bit on the pricey side; you can get some stand-alone in-car nav systems for that price nowadays. But considering how attached Treo users get to their devices, and with the travel-friendly setup and usefulness of the GPS Navigator, the functional and user-friendly GPS solution is sure to attract a number of Treo owners.
The compact and lightweight GPS receiver is powered by a SiRF Star III chip. A power switch and a port for an optional external antenna are on the left spine, while on the front of the device are three indicator LEDs that show the status of GPS reception (orange), Bluetooth operation (blue), and the battery life (green for fully charged, red for low). There's a mini USB port on the bottom end for charging the user-replaceable lithium-ion battery, which is located on the back along with two rubber pads designed to help prevent the receiver from sliding around on a flat surface. However, we found they weren't quite strong enough; the device took a few tumbles as we drove around curves and went over bumpy roads. We wish it came with a more stable mounting apparatus for the receiver. However, Palm does include a windshield/dashboard cradle for your Treo, a USB memory card reader, and a car charger with connectors for both your Treo and the GPS Navigator.
The Palm GPS Navigator features TomTom Navigator 6 software, which includes 2006 TeleAtlas maps of the United States and Canada and a comprehensive points-of-interest (POI) database. All data is loaded on the included 1GB memory card, so you don't have to deal with any map transfers from your PC. Once you insert the card, you'll have to endure a couple minutes of setup and activation. You'll be asked to input preferences such as language choice and whether you want your distance units displayed as miles or kilometers. After four or so questions, you will then need to activate the software. To do so, you'll need to have ready the product code (located on the flap of the included software CD) and a device code (presented on the Treo once you start this process). We suggest you have a pencil and paper on hand, as well.
Fortunately the setup process is the most difficult part about using the Palm GPS Navigator. If you've ever used a TomTom navigation system before, the GPS Navigator's interface will look familiar. And even if you haven't, you'll need little acclimation, as the menus are easy to understand and intuitive, with large icons and clear identification. What's more, the Treo's touch screen and QWERTY keyboard make it easy to enter commands and addresses. If you already know where you're going, the Navigator's map browser gives you a general overview map and you can use it to keep track of your location. Otherwise, you can enter a specific address, city center, or intersection or select a recent destination, a POI, or a name from your Contacts list to receive driving directions. There is also an Itinerary function where you can add other destinations and waypoints into your current route. Under the Preferences menu, you can instruct the Navigator to calculate a route that avoids all freeways or takes the shortest time or distance. You can also plan by bicycle or walking routes.
Maps are presented in 2D or 3D view. If you select 2D mode, you can choose to have either north or the direction you're traveling always face the top of the screen. There's also a night mode that changes the color of the maps for better nighttime viewing, and if the default settings don't suit you, you have the option to change the color schemes under the Preferences menu. You can choose to have driving directions presented as text or images. The main driving view will give your current position, the name of the next major road, the next instruction, and information about your trip, including remaining trip time and distance and estimated arrival time. In addition, you can zoom in and out of maps. And though the GPS Navigator has voice-guided directions, it does not feature text-to-speech functionality, which speaks actual street names.
There are some added bonuses to the Palm GPS Navigator. If a POI has a phone number associated with it, you can dial it directly from your Treo--great for, say, making dinner reservations or calling ahead to see if there are any vacancies at a hotel. You can also access traffic information, safety camera warnings, and more via TomTom's Plus services. However, it will cost extra; you can find more information about subscription fees here. Alternatively, if you don't want to pay for traffic info, the GPS Navigator has automatic route recalculation, in case you go off the prescribed route.
For our tests, we used the GPS Navigator with the Palm Treo 700p for Sprint, and we had no problems with the pairing process. The Treo found the receiver immediately and identified it as a Palm GPS. We entered the four-digit passkey (0000), and we were set to go.
From a cold start, the receiver acquired a satellite fix in less than two minutes, and subsequent starts were much faster. Driving around without a preplanned route, the Palm GPS Navigator did a good job of tracking our position as we shuttled around the streets of San Francisco. We ran into a couple of problems as we drove through the downtown area and lost reception, but this is typical of all GPS devices, as tall buildings block a clear view of the sky. We also plotted a course to the Cole Valley neighborhood of San Francisco, and the GPS Navigator got us there with accurate driving directions. Voice prompts were loud enough to hear in the car via the Treo's speakers, and they even paused when we received an incoming call. We purposefully missed a couple of turns to test the automatic route recalculation, and we're happy to report the Navigator didn't miss a beat and immediately got us back on track.