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In the world of technological gizmos and gadgets we often see manufacturers play the game of feature one-upmanship where one manufacturer attempts to outdo another by copying the feature set of another, and improving on it. But a product doesn’t have to have all the bells and whistles to work well.
Sometimes all it takes is a little thought or a different approach to capture the imagination. Take the iPod Shuffle – it doesn’t have a screen, FM radio or microphone, yet it’s a pleasure to use because it’s simple.
In the world of GPS navigation, Telmap is attempting to do a similar thing with the latest version of its Java-based mobile phone/PDA navigation software, Navigator 3. Instead of going for fancy 3D maps, Telmap has stuck with the trusty 2D view and has instead made a big effort at making its maps readable and interface easy to use.
And to a large extent it has succeeded. This might not be the most exciting sat-nav software to look at, but it is easy to read and the directions are extremely clear. Turnings are highlighted with bright yellow arrows and the current route marked in red – it’s even clearer than Wayfinder 7’s maps. The user interface is straightforward to find your way around, while voice prompts are timely and clear too. In testing I never found myself wrong-footed, waiting for the maps to catch up.
Like Wayfinder, Telmap’s system is server-based so whenever you want to create a route, the software sends a request over whatever data connection you have and the servers return the favour, sending a small chunk of map and route data. The advantages are that maps are kept up to date, as are points of interest. It also means that memory requirements aren’t too severe so the system can be used on mobile phones with limited memory and no memory expansion slot.
On the subject of points of interest, Navigator 3 has to have the most detailed database of any sat-nav system I’ve ever tested. I punched in the address of the local shop that’s tiling my kitchen floor, and it returned the name and phone number of the shop. It’s not a chain either. The search is also much more intelligent than that on your average GPS. Type in Channel Tunnel and the first option you’re given is the Eurostar; enter London Zoo and the system takes you straight there. You don’t have to know the exact address or postcode.