I also found that while using the N95 on turn-by-turn navigation testing that closing the slider caused the GPS signal to become flaky. Furthermore, in a vehicle, I couldn’t rely on having the handset function to its best fully inside the body of the car as I can with standalone navigation devices these days. Nokia doesn’t say where it got its antenna from, but I doubt it is a SiRFstar III.
So far I’d not spent a penny, but now it was time to start spending because I wanted to try the turn-by-turn navigation during a car journey. Here Nokia has hit on what I think is a real selling point.
When it comes to turn-by-turn navigation, you effectively hire the capability for the time frame that suits you. And you can pay direct from your handset. With a map open all you have to do is choose the Options menu then Extra Services, then Add Navigation and pick your region. In the UK and Republic of Ireland you can buy a three year license for £47.53, a one year license for £40.47, a 30-day license for £5.43 and a seven day license for £4.41.
Now I was ready to try full navigation. At the first attempt the N95 told me my destination, Abergavenny in South Wales didn’t exist. On the second try it decided this was a place after all and was ready to create a route from my current position to there. It calculated my route fairly quickly, thought it was an obvious motorway based one and so not exceptionally difficult to work out, and then I was offered the opportunity to download the voice commands. For a 70-mile trip this took about two minutes.
You can do a lot of the things you’d normally expect to do with navigation software, including switching between 2D and 3D map views, zooming in and out, and displaying points of interest. The GPS antenna was pretty accurate – tracking as I went across railway lines for example, it didn’t lag behind or jump ahead excessively. Some of the spoken instructions are a bit minimal, such as the one to stay on a road ‘for a while’ where other devices tell you the distance to the next turn, and it didn’t tell me when I’d arrived at my destination which really it should do.
Caption: there are 3G views but they are not very well realised and in general the 2D views are far superior
Caption: pretty good use is made of the screen space, and the next turn images are clear in the map views and very clear indeed in the safety screen views.
After testing on a couple of road trips I have to say I feel more confident in the N95 and smart2go than I’d expected to. There are some features that serious sat-nav users will miss. You can’t tell the software to avoid certain roads and there is no real time traffic information for example. Also, I feel the GPS antenna is poor in built-up locations and I would not suggest it is as reliable as any device with a SiRFstar III antenna.
However, it will do the classic shortest and fastest route calculations and you can easily save places as ‘landmarks’, which is excellent for temporary use when you spot a restaurant you want to revisit while walking, or, in my case, set the B&B you are staying at as a landmark so it is easy to return to later.
Moreover, the device managed trips of upwards of three-and-a-half hours off a full six bar battery charge, only dropping down to four bars, minimising the need for an in-vehicle power adaptor.
This is not viable competition for standalone sat-nav devices, which tend to have a superior GPS antennas and a wider range of features. Also, anyone living in or visiting built-up areas may find it can be very flaky indeed. Neverthelessl, Nokia may have hit on something with its pricing policy, and as a first generation device it is pretty impressive. Would I buy it at the moment? No because other more reliable and flexible solutions exist. But it is one to keep an eye on.