The most impressive thing about Route 66, however, is how responsive the map view is. By default it loads into 3D navigation view, but click any of the keys on the N95’s directional pad below the screen and it instantly switches into 2D mode. In the following screen you can pan and zoom around the map to your heart’s content and, unlike many smartphones, or even dedicated devices, the map will respond smoothly and almost instantly.
This is extremely handy for navigating in pedestrian mode, or adding waypoints to routes for which you don’t have a precise postcode or address. I frequently have a problem with the latter on one of my test routes – from London to Dolgellau in Snowdonia via the M6 Toll. Because the M6 Toll has no fixed abode to speak of, many sat-nav search engines either don’t find it or simply direct you to a service station on the road. But here, all you have to do is set up the route, go into browse mode and add the road as a waypoint – all of which can be achieved quickly and painlessly. In comparison, performing the same trick on my TyTN II with CoPilot Live 7 is a sluggish and frustrating experience.
Route 66 Mobile 8 also has a free text fuzzy search capability, which enables you to search both POI and address databases with one single field. This is a boon on stand alone devices, but on a phone like the N95, which doesn’t have a touchscreen, it really comes into its own, and saves loads of time you would otherwise spend paging through multiple boxes and options. It’s also a much more intuitive way of hunting down a destination than the usual, multi-stage approach.
One of the most difficult things to pull off in a smartphone navigation system is fitting enough useful information on screen. The N95’s 2.8in, 240 x 320 screen doesn’t offer much space with which to work, but again Route 66 excels. For starters, all the menus are transparent, so the map doesn’t feel as crowded as it might do if they were solid graphics. But there are also plenty of display options to choose from, in addition to the standard 2D and 3D views. You can display a minimal menu along the bottom of the screen with a next turn icon at the top left; a larger bottom menu with the turn icon integrated; and there’s also a transparent overlay mode where the next turn icon fills the whole screen while the moving map still shows behind.