If you took a new, high powered phone and matched it up with a 2yr old budget GPS, which device do you think would win? Surely the new phone must be more powerful, have all the bells and whistles, and improve upon the user interface, right? TeleNav recently released their GPS Navigator software for Google Android and I decided the best way to evaluate their product was to compare it with my old friend TomTom. The results my surprise you.
Let me share a little so you can see where I’m coming from with this review. I freakin love my TomTom. It has surpassed all the expectations I had when I first paid $99 for the thing over a year ago. I’m required to travel over 50k miles a year and I use the thing almost every day. Even when I travel out of town and I know where I am going, he still remains powered up and acts as a tool. At the same time, it is just a basic GPS and I have been considering an upgrade.
When I purchased my T-Mobile G1, my sole reason for doing so was Android. The GPS was an afterthought. I failed to recognize the potential for an always on device. After using TeleNav for only 3 days, I already see several must-have features for frequent GPS users. It’s not all good news though and I will share some of my major gripes with the first comercial turn-by-turn software released for Android.
My TomTom has the feature of hooking up to my pc and getting the latest satellite positions which allow it to get a fix rather quickly. It just works every time I turn it on. My Android is connected to the tubes, it should know where the satellites are, but sadly this is often a task. Most times, it takes me several minutes sitting in my car before it gets a fix. Sometimes it doesn’t get a fix at all. Other times, it loses the GPS fix in the middle of a trip. I don’t know who is to blame for this, but I’m going with HTC. Hopefully a new firmware could address these problems.
The other notable about performance is the frames per second. My TomTom does maybe 1o-15fps and the animation is quite smooth. I can see as I’m making a turn and it refreshes very quickly when I miss a turn. TeleNav runs about 1fps which to me is my biggest complaint. This can make certain turns confusing because the screen is so slow to refresh. It is also slow to refresh after missing a turn. Again, I don’t know what is the limiting factor but I would suspect the GPS receiver. Winner = TomTom
The TomTom One 3rd edition offers only the basics. You can search some POIs, but their database is lacking. I have no weather, traffic, or alert information. There is no voice control as well. I would often curse at my TomTom because his maps were old and wished it had Google Maps. TeleNav on the HTC G1 has almost every feature available on high end GPS units. Every time I have used the search for a business or address, it has found it. I actually get traffic updates in my city. The voice control has worked rather well for me. The ETAs it gives are also perfect. I’m still exploring all the features it has to offer. Anything that is missing could likely be addressed in a future update. The online syncing is a nice bonus as well with the ability to view your recent trips(wish they had stats for them though). Winner = TeleNav
Ease of Use
The TomTom is a device most people can pick up and begin to use right away. The big on screen keyboard is perfect for inputting text. The display has all the needed information. Any operation can be completed with a few taps. TeleNav on the other hand is not designed very well for operating the device when it is mounted to your window. You have to hold down buttons to record your voice. The keyboard must be slid open to type an address out. Most of the options require the use of the menu button which can be hard to press.
TeleNav could fix all this with a touch only mode. Taps to the map could bring up the menu. Voice recording should be done by timer or taps and not holding the talk button down. An soft keyboard could be easily added. Winner = TomTom
TomTom has one option for purchase. You buy the whole device then when new map packs are released you can purchase them for $45-55. TeleNav allows up to 3 different plans. You could pay for a single month for users who only travel several times a year. For heavier users you can get the 1yr or the 4yr plan which is heavily discounted. By moving your subscription from device to device over 4 years, you would own a future proof GPS solution. Winner = TeleNav
So what is the better overall purchase? Based mainly on pricing, TeleNav offers the best value for Android users. Even though the software is not perfect and the G1 has its issues, there is room for improvement and the experience will improve with user feedback. TeleNav has included the brilliant feature of allowing you to send feedback at any time during the program by voice or text. I am eager to see how the next release goes. I have no experience with TeleNav so I do not know their reputation for updates. I hope they take advantage of their early release advantage because other players are going to enter this market.
Is there any hope for the G1 GPS receiver? I’m not holding my breath.
p.s. its kinda funny writing a blog about a phone…