TeleNav is no stranger to the navigation market. The company has provided location-based services for GPS-enabled cell phones and smartphones for quite some time now. However, the company has never released a standalone portable navigation device (PND), until now. The TeleNav Shotgun isn't just a regular PND, either. Similar to the Dash Express, the Shotgun offers Internet connectivity via the GSM cellular network. It ships with a SIM card and uses the TeleNav Connected Service to get you connected to the wireless network so you can get the most up-to-date traffic data, current maps, and business listings all the time. Plus, you can receive software updates over the air and send addresses from your computer wirelessly to the Shotgun.
The connectivity does come with extra fees, however. The TeleNav Shotgun, which is available now, costs $299 and comes with three months of free TeleNav Connected Service. Afterward, you will need to subscribe to a Connected Service plan to continue to get dynamic content. There are several service plan options. You can purchase a two-year plan for $239, a one-year plan for $129, or go month-to-month at $11.99 per month. Even if you choose not continue with the service, you can still use the Shotgun as a regular GPS for turn-by-turn directions, as the SIM card has all the maps and an 11 million points-of-interest (POI) database.
We loved having such fresh content at our fingertips but we found the TeleNav Shotgun's search capabilities not quite up to our expectations. It didn't always provide the most current or appropriate business listings, and it doesn't quite take full advantage of the Internet connectivity. For example, unlike the Dash, you can't search for movies by show times or title, though, according to the company, these features will be added in the future. Also, the voice prompts were slightly muffled and route recalculations were slow. If TeleNav can iron out some of these kinks and continues to add more connected features, the Shotgun has the potential to be one powerful PND.
Unlike the bulky Dash Express, the TeleNav Shotgun is a sleek and compact portable navigation device that shares a similar shape to many of the latest GPS like the Garmin Nuvi series. The Shotgun measures 4.9 inches wide by 3.1 inches tall by 0.7 inch deep and weighs 4.3 ounces, and also features a black, soft-touch finish that gives the casing a rubber-like feel.
On front, you get a 4.3-inch TFT touch screen with a 480x272-pixel resolution. Though not the sharpest, the display is clear and bright enough for reading maps and directions. Like most PNDs, you can choose from day and night map colors or set it to automatic, so the system will switch the colors on its own based on time of day. As far as text entry, there's an onscreen QWERTY keyboard that's slightly on the smaller side, but the TeleNav Shotgun offers predictive text so it will automatically bring up possible matches as you start to enter letters.
The Shotgun's user interface (UI) will be familiar to anyone who has used the TeleNav location-based service on their GPS-enabled cell phone or smartphone, but even if you're new to the service, the UI is intuitive and easy to use. From the Start page, you have four main choices: Drive To, Search, Maps & Traffic, and Extras. There are also two smaller icons for the Preferences menu and Volume control. Even as you get deeper into the menus, everything's clearly marked and identified, so you shouldn't have too many problems figuring out how to operate the device.
On the left side, there's a 3.5mm headphone jack and a mini USB port, and the right side has a SIM card slot and a microSD expansion slot, both of which are protected by an attached rubber cover. The power button is located on top, and there's a reset button on the back. Finally, you'll find a small LED to the left of the display, which illuminates different colors to indicate different statuses: solid red when the device is charging; solid green when it's fully charged; and blinking blue when connected to the TeleNav service. The latter gets to be very annoying and distracting, as it constantly blinks while you're driving and using the GPS. TeleNav will now ship the Shotgun with a small cover that goes over the light to make it opaque.
The TeleNav Shotgun comes packaged with a car charger, an AC adapter, a USB cable, a car mount (windshield and dash), and reference material.
Obviously, the feature that makes the TeleNav Shotgun different from other current GPS (Dash Express aside) is the cellular connectivity. The Shotgun uses a GSM connection and ships with a SIM card but to be clear, you cannot swap out the included SIM for an AT&T or a T-Mobile SIM. This is especially important since the SIM card holds the Shotgun's maps and points of interest, so if you drive out of wireless coverage or choose not to continue with the TeleNav Connected Service, you'll still be able to use the Shotgun as a regular PND.
The advantage of the TeleNav Connected Service is that with that real-time connection, you get the most up-to-date information for traffic alerts, maps, business searches, and other data like gas prices. Similar to the Dash Express, you're not limited to searching the preloaded POI categories. You can really drill down and search for specific items by entering terms in the search field. For example, let's say you're out shopping for laptops. Just type in "laptops" and the Shotgun will bring up any relevant businesses. You can search for business near your current location or another address. Once you have the search results, there are options to route to the location, save it, map it, or add it to your Favorites list. You can also search for gas station by fuel prices.
When the Shotgun first launched, one thing we knocked it for was the lack of business reviews and the capability to search for movie titles by show time. While we still don't have the latter, TeleNav added business reviews with its latest software update. You can now check out ratings and user reviews for a variety of POI, including restaurants, hotels, stores, and more. You can also add your own ratings and opinions right from the GPS. The feature is particularly useful if you're in unfamiliar territory and need help finding a place to eat or stay. Even if you're not, it's good for discovering new spots in your area.
In addition to the business reviews, TeleNav added a Mileage Capture tool that was designed with business users in mind so that they can track their miles and record them for any clients or jobs. The tool lets you capture your mileage on a specific route or from any user-specified start and end point. Once you return to your office or home, you can then connect the Shotgun to your PC via USB cable to view and download reports as Microsoft Word or PDF files.
Another advantage of the connected service is that you can enter addresses on TeleNav's Web site and then send them wirelessly to your Shotgun. We tried this functionality, and it worked flawlessly. It's real convenient when you have time to plan a trip ahead of time, and don't have to sit there punching in letters and numbers on the device itself. You'll also receive over-the-air software updates, so you don't have to hook up your device to your computer to download the latest software. When an update is available, a pop-up window will appear onscreen and then it will guide you through the download.
The Shotgun comes with maps of the United States, Canada, and Puerto Rico and 11 million points of interest, which are preloaded on the aforementioned SIM card. You can plan a route in a number of ways, including by specific address, recent places, favorites, or POI. The GPS supports multidestination planning, so you can have more than one stop along your journey. In the Preferences menu, you'll find various route types: fastest route, shortest route, traffic optimized route, prefer highways, prefer streets, and pedestrian mode.
Once you've entered a start and end point, you can check a list of turn-by-turn directions (along with total distance and estimated time of arrival), view a map summary, or check out traffic along your route. Once on the road, you can view maps in 2D or 3D mode, and you'll see the name of your current street, distance to, and direction of your next turn as well as the street name, and other pertinent information. You are able to zoom in/out and pan through maps, but we noticed it takes some time for the Shotgun to redraw maps, which got to be frustrating.
In addition to the visual aids, you have voice-guided turn-by-turn directions and text-to-speech functionality, so you'll hear the name of the specific streets. Other navigation tools on the TeleNav Shotgun include automatic route recalculation, a Spot Marker feature that lets you mark points along your route in case you want to use it to find your way back or save it as a POI, and a compass.
We tested the TeleNav Shotgun in San Francisco, and from a cold start, it took the unit about 5 minutes to get a fix on our location, while subsequent starts weren't much faster. Satellite acquisition was never instantaneous. It usually took at least a couple of minutes for the Shotgun to find our position, even if we had just turned off the device for just a second. Also, we were often met with the message "GPS signal is weak" even when we had a clear view of the sky. It got to be quite frustrating, especially since we were just sitting in our car waiting for the Shotgun to kick into gear. Once locked on, the GPS did a decent job of tracking our location as we drove around the city and managed to keep its fix even as we drove through the Financial District where the sky is often blocked by tall buildings.
We plotted a couple of routes with the Shotgun. The first trip was from the Marina District to San Francisco International Airport, and the PND was pretty quick to return with instructions, using the fastest route preference. We checked the list of traffic alerts before heading out, and we liked that the traffic summary also gave the average driving speeds on major highways. Once on the road, the Shotgun was able to get us to our destination with no problem, but the voice prompts sounded a bit muffled and not as clear as some of the other GPS we've tested.
For our second outing, we entered our standard test route, which starts at the Marina District and ends up at CNET's downtown headquarters, and based on the route summary of turn-by-turn directions, we found the directions to be accurate. Along the way, we missed a couple of turns to test the route recalculation rate and encountered some problems. The Shotgun was slow to realize that we were no longer on the course, so it would already be giving us our next instruction before realizing that we were no longer on the original route. As a result, getting back on course was a bit difficult. Admittedly, San Francisco has short city blocks and fortunately, we knew where we were going, but obviously, this isn't the type of performance you want from your PND, especially if you don't know the area.
We found that the TeleNav Connected Service search function wasn't quite up to par. We entered numerous search terms, and while it was fine for generic items like coffee or shoes, it had a hard time with more specific searches. For example, we looked for iPods and got a weird selection of music stores. Meanwhile, there was an Apple store right down the street from our current location. We hope that this can be rectified with software updates and we look forward to the new functionality that's planned for the Shotgun. The TeleNav Shotgun has a rated battery life of 2.5 hours, which is pretty short, but we're happy the company includes a wall charger for home use and a car charger.