Another extra is PC software which allows you to plan routes and then delivers both turn by turn and map based routing. This is superb and includes trip planning for all of Europe as well as comprehensive help for the Smartphone application.
Entering a destination on my SPV C600 was as easy as tapping in a full seven digit postcode though you can plump for entering a full address or using the contacts database of your handset if you prefer.
The on screen display is small but it delivers well. There are turn by turn instructions as well as a 2D and 3D map views and a ‘safety view’ which shows the direction of the next turn and clear textual information about where you are and how far it is to the next turn prominent on screen.
ALK knows how to avoid clutter on screen and still offers some useful options – the handset joystick can be used to pan around a map, and also to zoom in and out if you press it first. You can also make a setting which only shows Points of Interest on screen when you stop so they don’t clutter your view if you glance at the map while driving.
Spoken instructions are loud enough, and thanks to the previously mentioned tweaking, they were delivered at appropriate times.
There are three modes of operation: Guidance is used during a trip, Planning is used beforehand to prepare a trip and doesn’t need the GPS antenna, and Walking generates a straight line between you and your destination and maintains that whatever you do when on foot. This is nowhere near as good as having a paper map in your hand I am afraid. Until NAVTEQ (ALK’s mapping partner) starts mapping for pedestrians and including cut-throughs, tracks across parks and so on, I am sticking to paper maps when walking.
Weighing up the pros and cons of smartphone based and larger touch screen devices, I find after this revisiting of the smartphone format that I am not as disgruntled about it as I had thought I might be.
Sure, there are a few bits and pieces to carry around, but ALK has done very well with the screen and user interface limitations, its software is strong, and that desktop trip planning extra is a real plus.