We’ve seen Telmap develop in the right direction since version 3, but the latest iteration promises even more services. On first loading Telmap5, you’re presented with a 2D map of your current location. Pressing the Blackberry menu button then gets you started with the navigation process.
You can search for a destination by postcode or address in a reassuringly freeform way, with either being entered via the same dialogue. Input a postcode, and all the addresses listed for that postcode will be displayed, including company names. So you can choose the house number or business you want to go to easily from the results. In the case of a business, you may even be provided with a phone number, so you can call ahead to say you’re on your way. In the same information screen, you’re given the option to find parking, petrol and ATMs near the destination. Once you’ve found a few locations, the My Places option lets you browse the most recent discoveries, so you can quickly recall them for navigation.
With your destination set, Telmap5 provides a relatively familiar navigational experience. The map is shown in quasi-3D, and along the top a panel describes your next turning, including a graphic illustrating which lanes to be in at a multi-carriageway junction. There’s no full-screen display with realistic signposting here, but the graphic will be sufficient to guide you through most turnings.
Telmap5 even displays speed camera locations, and a warning sound indicates their proximity even when you’re well within the limit, just in case. Most impressive of all, TMC-based traffic information is provided, with warnings of jams on your route popping up at the top of the screen. You can also drill down for a more detailed description of traffic events.
None of this is particularly revolutionary. But Telmap5 does have one feature which is a little different to other sat-navs, with both good and bad implications. During navigation, pressing the Blackberry menu button allows you to call up the Widgets carousel, which you can then rotate to find the desired option. Some of the Widgets add onscreen elements. For example, Route Information lets you know how much time and distance is left in your journey, and Phone Information displays battery life and GPS status. The Weather option shows the forecast for your current location. The downside is that you can only have one of these Widgets onscreen at a time. So you can’t have both Route and Phone Information visible simultaneously. Perhaps the most unusual Widget of all is the one which calls up Twitter postings for your current location, and allows you to post your own.
Other Widgets give you the option to search for Points of Interest in your vicinity, although the way this functions is a little different to traditional standalone sat-navs. For a start, POIs are divided into two sections. The first includes categories like restaurants, parking and petrol stations, but also has branded options like Starbucks and McDonalds. The second is called SOS and includes things like police stations and hospitals. Either way, the details for the listings usually have a phone number, which links directly to the Blackberry’s dialler, as with the address details described above.
But there’s also another way to search for POIs using the Wozzon option, which gets its data from the website of the same name. You can search for entertainment listings, most interestingly which films are on nearby. The Wozzon listings contain a lot more information than the POIs, providing a mini review, opening times, and even pricing information.
Searching for a POI near an alternative location is not as easy as with a traditional sat-nav, as there’s no option in any of the POI widgets to specify a different target area. However, you can find a destination, then choose the limited range of options available when you bring up its details, which as we’ve stated already include just parking, petrol stations and cash machines. This isn’t exactly seamless, but at least some form of POI listings is available, which it isn’t directly with Google Maps Navigation.
One thing which hasn’t changed through the development of Telmap is its constant requirement for a live data connection. You need this to search for a destination, and it’s required for downloading your route and when you stray from the intended itinerary to any great extent. So if you’re in an area with no coverage, you’re out of luck in either case.
At the time of writing, distribution and pricing hadn’t been confirmed. Version 3 and 4 were sold via monthly subscription, but version 4.5 was available on the Blackberry App Store, costing from $49.99 for the UK and Ireland version to $79.99 for the whole world. Telmap5 will allegedly be made available by the carriers, in a similar fashion to Vodafone’s bundling of Telmap-based software in its Blackberry packages from September 2007. But with the free availability of Ovi Maps and Google Maps Navigation, Telmap5 could end up being included as a bonus within a premium package.
The bottom line with any sat-nav app or device is whether you can find destinations and get to them without being led on ridiculously circuitous routes, and Telmap5 does achieve this adequately. The map is a little hard to see on a small Blackberry screen, such as the one on the Bold 9700 we were using for testing, although this is mitigated by the excellent viewing angles and general brightness of many Blackberry displays. But for finding your way every now and then, it’s perfectly adequate. So Blackberry owners potentially have something to compete with Nokia’s Ovi Maps and Android’s Google Maps Navigation, although Telmap5 is not Blackberry only, and is available for other handset platforms too.
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