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Much has been spoken – and written – about the fact that Nokia’s N95 has a GPS antenna built into it, but I’ve not read a great deal about this in serious use for door to door navigation. Having tried it, I am more pleased with it than I expected to be, though all is not entirely rosy.
The N95 takes an approach to navigation that I’ve not come across in a mobile device before. It is worth recapping what is available before considering how Nokia is breaking the mould.
Currently there are several options available. You could go for a standalone navigation device whose sole, or main job is turn-by-turn navigation. Yes, it might add in MP3 playing, acting as Bluetooth handsfree kit, or some other extras, but it is primarily for navigation purposes.
Alternatively you can add navigation software to your mobile phone or PDA. You may need to add a GPS antenna too, if this is not built in. What you are doing in this instance is augmenting an often strong set of smartphone features with another capability.
Finally, you can take a solution with a range of off-board components. These rely on data networks to deliver information, which offers the plus points of more up to date information about Points of Interest and maps, but rely on the data networks being accessible when you need them.
Nokia has broken the mould by giving away basic map data and route planning capability, only asking you to pay if you want turn-by-turn navigation, and then offering payment plans based on how long you need the facility for right down to a single week. Moreover, maps are available not just for a limited number of countries, but for plenty of them, across the world. Yes, for free.
During turn-by-turn navigation you can download maps over the air as you travel if you are rich enough and/or confident enough in network coverage. I chose to download the maps I needed to a PC before travelling and drop them onto a microSD card instead. That way I could also use the entire maps for pre-planning at any time.