GPS Options: Many Ways to Find Your Way
Best for: Owners of Android-based
smartphones who have unlimited data plans, want a well-rounded navigation experience, and don't mind doing without niceties like advanced, GPS-friendly car mounts.
Hardware tested: Google Nexus One
Navigation app tested:
ALK CoPilot Live 8
Like an iPhone, an Android smartphone carrying navigation software can guide you, with certain limitations: An incoming call will interrupt navigation until you are done talking, and you'll have a tough time viewing the phone's directions unless you buy a mounting dock for it.
Currently, Android-based navigation offers fewer app alternatives than the iPhone (neither Magellan nor TomTom has an Android app, for example) and fewer mounting options. Since the Android operating system is available on many different devices, each with far fewer users than the iPhone has, manufacturers haven't poured money into designing mounts for each handset. For instance, the first car mount for the Google Nexus One (the Android phone that I used in my tests) didn't appear until four months after the handset's debut--and it came from Google itself.
But you may not need a separate navigation app, depending on the version of Android that your handset uses. Android 1.6 includes a version of Google Maps that provides text-to-speech, turn-by-turn directions. And unlike the basic Google Maps implementation that the iPhone 3GS uses, the one built in to Android 1.6 moves your routing map with you to keep your position on the map.
To deliver maps and street views, however, Google Maps must maintain a 3G or Wi-Fi network connection. If you should lose your data connection, you lose your navigation.
Available from the Android Market, a dedicated navigation app stores data locally on your smartphone, so you have access to navigation information even if you drive out of 3G range (you will, however, lose live traffic updates, local fuel prices, and the extended capabilities of Google local search).
ALK Technologies' CoPilot Live 8 ($30) is the lowest-cost full-featured navigation app for Android that has complete maps of the United States and Canada. The premium version ($20 more) includes fuel-price updates and live traffic data that is very similar to what you'd find on Google Maps; both applications take traffic into account when calculating routes.
CoPilot Live 8 lets you navigate to an address, a point of interest, a contact, a point on a map, an intersection, a location defined by GPS coordinates, or one defined by a geotagged photo. The program's voice-recognition capability simplifies data entry, and you can choose from four route options (quickest, shortest, no expressways, or economical)--a feature that Google Maps doesn't offer.
Overall, CoPilot Live 8 performed well on the Nexus One. At times the touchscreen response within the app felt a little sluggish; but CoPilot calculated my route in two-thirds of the time Google Maps did, and in approximately one-seventh of the time the Garmin Nuvi took. The navigation experience resembled that of a dedicated GPS device, though I missed the larger screen and menu layout of the latter.
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Android doesn't have a plethora of turn-by-turn navigation applications--yet. Intrinsyc's Destinator 9 offers on-board map data, 2D and 3D views, weather reports, lane guidance, and speed-limit information. The full version costs $70. An Android app from Navigon is expected later this year.