If manufacturers of stand alone sat-nav devices aren't getting worried just yet, they should be. So many smartphones are now being launched with the GPS built in that soon the mass market will be gone. In the past year I've reviewed more phones than I can count that have the necessary hardware integrated and I can see it making its way steadily onto more mainstream handsets in the future too.
As a result, almost all the major in-car sat-nav makers now have a mobile phone version of their software, and there's a raft of alternative phone and PDA-only products on the market too. ALK's CoPilot Live 7 is currently our favourite, so can the latest version of Route 66's navigation software change our minds?
It doesn't make a very good start. Route 66 Mobile 8 is currently only available for Symbian S60 V3 devices (a Windows Mobile version is coming soon) - and when we tested the Symbian version on an 8GB Nokia N95, installation didn't go particularly smoothly. Despite the fact that you're supplied with an installation disc for backup purposes, Route 66 stipulates that you must have a free memory card slot in order to install the software. There's a 512MB microSD card in the box with the software already on it, and a couple of adaptors for those who have phones with miniSD and full-sized SD card slots instead.
This in itself isn't a problem - the software installs perfectly from the card supplied, but if your phone has no slot at all - like the 8GB N95 - then you're in trouble; it won't install from the CD directly to your N95 without completely wiping the memory. In the end I simply copied the contents of the supplied memory card straight into the N95 memory bank and installed from there. It worked without a hitch, but it's hardly an elegant solution.
Still, this won't affect everyone, and once the software was installed and activated over a data connection, I had few complaints. A criticism I've levelled at software such as this in the past has been that it can be tricky to use. Wayfinder 7, for instance, wasn't the most intuitive piece of software in the world - but Route 66 Mobile is above such opprobrium. The interface isn't as slick as the Windows Mobile version of CoPilot I have installed on my TyTN II, but all the important menu items are quickly accessed via a couple of clicks.