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New Treo GPS Solution: Amazing Telenav GPS Navigator Works OTA

Every once in a while a new product or service comes along to really impress me and the latest one to have done so (aside from the amazing Google Maps On My Treo) is the Telenav GPS Navigator – one of the first commercial OTA (over-the-air) GPS solutions that I have come across and one which Palm and Cingular plan to promote heavily with the forthcoming Treo 680.

In sharp contrast to other Treo GPS software solutions such as the TomTom Navigator (which powers the new Treo GPS Navigator 2 as well as my still preferred TomTom Navigator GPS Bundle) Telenav is _extremely_ simple to install via a small PRC file on your Treo compared to the relatively complex installation process and 1GB+ that TomTom uses.

Basically Telenav (available for both PalmOS and WM Treo smartphones) works by storing all its navigation data at a central server and fetching it from your Treo over-the-air via a wireless connection as and when required (an unlimited data plan is therefore strongly advised) compared to TomTom Navigator which stores all the map data locally on your SD card.  Naturally this means that although it’s great that Telenav is ‘light’ on your memory it will _only_ work in areas where there is wireless coverage (I would therefore not have been able to be Ahead of Time With My Treo 650 GPS last year…).

Currently the Telenav navigation service requires an external Bluetooth GPS Receiver to be used with your Treo 650, 700p and 700w but it is possible (not confirmed) that both the Treo 680 and 750 may be able to work without one.  However, you can still use the Biz Finder and Map functions without one (but Google Maps is much better for this…).  I naturally would also recommend an Arkon Vehicle Mount.

In order to get started with Telenav you will first need to sign up to the service via the company’s website (there is a free 30 day trial) after which you will receive an email with a URL (http://ota.telenav.com/ota/tn) that will direct you to download and install the PRC application using the Blazer browser on your Treo.

The main Telenav screen (pictured above right) offers eight simple buttons:

Telenav Navigation
This first button allows you to navigate to any address in the US by either:

  1. Key in the address directly on your Treo
  2. Call in the address to Telenav’s IVR service center!  (You can use the button provided or save Telenav’s contact details in your address book to call directly in the future).  The address that you provide the IVR center will be automatically be added to the ‘Recent Address’ so that you can start your journey as soon as you start the application.
  3. Add address online by using the My Telenav webpage (see below) which has the further benefit that it allows you to add a Label to your address for easier future reference

[Note that TomTom only offers the option to key in the address…]

  

Additionally you can also navigate to an address by simply choosing a Recent Address, Recent City, Biz Finder, Airport or Locations.

The ‘My Telenav’ online service (image above) allows you to take full remote control of the Telenav GPS Navigator.  You can add an address, pick an address from Biz Finder, manage your existing addresses, change setting or get maps and more.  Additionally, you also have access to ‘My Address Book’ where you can easily import your MS Outlook or Palm data.

  

The actual Telenav navigation displays provide you with either a 2D ‘Moving Map’ above left (my preferred 3D view is not yet available for Treo smartphones but it should be soon) or a ‘Next Turn’ view which basically only provides you with a large red arrow indicating where you should turn next. 

In both instances, a clear voice will provide you with full details of what to do next – for example: “Prepare to turn right on NE 34th Avenue in 160 meters” followed by “Turn righ on NE 34th Avenue” as you approach the turn.  There is also an automatic rerouting if you should miss a turn as well as a route preview tool so you can see the total distance and estimated travel time.  I personally would have liked to see maps with a clearer and cleaner design such as those found on the TomTom Navigator. 

Biz Finder and Map
While both the Biz Finder and Map are convenient add-on features the fact is that I currently find the free Google Maps on my Treo to be a much better solution to find businesses and map locations.  Telenav does offer some unique functions such as searching for ‘Gas By Price’, ‘WiFi Spots’ and ‘Movie Theaters’ for example.

GPS Tools, Preferences and Support
The GPS Tools button provides a Compass as well as the ability to Record Location (for example the specific location of a car parked on the street) and the View Location allows you to pull up previously recorded locations.

Preferences are few and simple from Distance Unit (km or miles), Route Style (Fastest, Shortest, Avoid Highway, Prefer Highway or Pedestrian), Backlight (Always On or On At Turns), Navigation Screen (Moving 2D Map or Next Turn) and finally Bluetooth GPS (to select your choice of GPS receiver)

Service Pricing & Advantages
Telenav GPS Navigator has a number of different pricing plans depending on which wireless carrier you have – starting at $5.99 per month for 10 trips with Cingular to $10 per month for unlimited trips with Sprint.  Additionally you can cancel your subscription at any time so Telenav may prove ideal for those Treonauts who want the convenience of GPS navigation at only a few specific times of the year.

The main advantages that the over-the-air Telenav service offers over rivals such as the TomTom Navigator software is that:

  • Installation: easy, fast, light and constantly updated with latest version
  • Cost: monthly plans can offset $150 investment in standalone solution
  • Customer support: Telenav offers 24x7x365 customer service (TomTom is almost always absolutely impossible to reach)
  • Address Entry: supports Call In + Online Add
  • Points Of Interest: 10 million locations versus others’ 4 to 6 million

The main disadvantages at this stage for me are:

  • Navigation: lack of 3D maps (albeit the Treo currently runs v4.1 for now but v5.0 is already available on other devices and supports 3D maps), loss of navigation if outside cell coverage area, not very rich map graphics

Conclusion
I have really enjoyed using Telenav’s service during the past couple of weeks while in Miami but I haven’t yet entirely made up my mind if I prefer it over the TomTom Navigator software.  Telenav offers some extremely useful and unique features – I love the online integration and Call In services – and my single complaint is the lack of 3D maps which would make it significantly more appealing for me.

Having said this, if you’re looking for a GPS solution for your Treo in the US and will be using it exclusively in areas where there is wireless coverage then there is no doubt that I would highly recommend that you take the Telenav GPS Navigator for a spin – most Treonauts who get hooked on a Treo GPS solution always rave about it and I’m sure that you won’t be disappointed with what this one has to offer.

Additionally, IF the Treo 680 and Treo 750 are able to use Telenav _without_ a GPS receiver (as some other devices are already able to do) then this will without a doubt become one of the single most popular services for all Treonauts.  We’ll have to wait a little longer to find out about that though…

Treonauts are always the best navigators


Posted by Andrew on November 15, 2006 at 03:36 PM

Treo Accessories , Treo GPS

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Comments

1
by clee | Nov 15, 2006 4:22:05 PM

*YAWN* Is the GSM 750 available yet? *YAWN*

2
by Mike Hardy | Nov 15, 2006 6:49:30 PM

In my opinion, this is a singularly awful idea.

To be truly useful, and actually change the way you do things or create whole new possibilities, a tool has to be very reliable, so you can trust it.

How reliable is a tool that requires cellular internet to work? In the hills of Northern California? Remote regions (like for camping or bike races...)?

After a fair amount of testing, I finally *rely* on my TomTom GPS (with the Palm GPS fob) to get me places. That means I run without backup (maps or whatever) pretty frequently, even when getting lost isn't really an option, since it has shown itself to be very trustworthy.

I just can't imagine that this would stack up very well.

The one solution it does solve is the out-of-date maps problem. I wish TomTom would provide easy map updates. But

3
by Matt | Nov 15, 2006 10:56:12 PM

This is very interesting, I'll definitely be using the trial period on this one! This makes me glad that I haven't dropped any money on any other Palm GPS solutions yet. Mapopolis almost had me, TomTom is just too expensive especially since I already have a BlueTooth GPS unit. This might be just the ticket for me.

4
by David | Nov 16, 2006 1:07:15 AM

This appears to be a very interesting idea. I'm in an area where cell signal is very good for the majority of routes I travel. Though I have a B/T receiver and software, I've never gotten around to installing everything. What the heck - for a month, it doesn't hurt to play with it.

5
by waikikiTed | Nov 16, 2006 1:23:19 AM

been using this for about 6 months now. I also have a Magellan Roadmate 330 & 700 as well as use Neverlost often as well (business traveler here............) ANYWAY. I kinda sorta dig the Telenav EXCEPT as of late I have had terrible problems with it having difficulty syncing with Cingulars online dataservice which renders the thing useless. I've experienced this multiple times in the last month throught the west coast, WA to So CA. It even caused me to get lost and miss a plane last month as well as waste an hour tonite getting from SFO to some hotel somewhere.

What I'm saying is....... the more you rely on a single device ALA Treo to do too much, when it's down or experiencing problems ALL that you rely on is SNAFU!

Also, the more you do on the Treo, the less you can do meaning goodluck expecting to use Telenav on a roadtrip as well as talk on your bluetooth headset during the trip. Won't work.

Personally, after tonite...... Im diggin out my Magellan for all roadtrips.

FWIW...I was lucky enuff to get in on the purchase 6 months in advance and get the free bluettoth GPS device. So for $60 this was worth it, but otherwise, don't commit to a term contact and seek comfort tht in the investment of the GPS, it will also work with non-Telenav software GPS solutions like TomTom.

6
by Henry Lazarus | Nov 16, 2006 8:40:45 AM

You should also look at the free Earthcomber service which does much of the same stuff and loads free maps on your sd card

7
by Art | Nov 16, 2006 9:18:35 AM

I've been using TeleNav for a few months now and I love it. I have a few small complaints that hopefully will be ironed out in upcoming versions.

There is one thing I want to clear up though. Cell Internet service is only necessary when the route is initially plotted. Once on the road you can go in and out of service without any problems. All of the route is downloaded at the beginning.

This leads me to my main complaint though. If you answer a call or switch over to any other application in the middle of the route you lose your place in the route and if you have moved into an area with no service you have to wait until service comes back get the route back because TeleNav treats it as a new route. There should be an easy way to answer a call (etc.) and have TeleNav pick right up without downloading new maps.

8
by Federico | Nov 16, 2006 10:25:32 AM

I have an unlocked Treo 650 which I use on T-Mobile with an unlimited data plan. When I checked with Telenav, they told me that I cannot use their service as T-mobile only supports Blackberry for telenav, and not Treos. By contrast, Telenav supports only Treo through Cingular and Sprint. Does anybody know if I can use telenav on T-bolie anyway, as Telenav already supports a GSM Treo (with Cingular)?

9
by Andrew | Nov 16, 2006 12:46:06 PM

Mike - like you and many others I was also very sceptical at first about the Telenav service but now the more I use it the more I like it.

My main issue is not with Telenav but with TomTom who has completely wasted a huge opportunity to continue to refine its offering for the Treo and has apparently instead chosen to rest on its laurels... Hopefully the Telenav competition will push them to get their act together.

Cheers, A.

10
by Patrick | Nov 17, 2006 11:36:33 AM

I've had a very different experience with TeleNav. I ordered the service at the suggestion of this post (thanks Andrew!) but it never worked properly. After 2 calls with support I quickly realized the techs were simply reading scripts and hadn't a clue about how to troubleshoot a treo. I could never get the turn prompts to work while I know I had sound because it kept saying "new route" and "off route". It just wouldn't prompt the actual turns.

I've given up on it for now but LOVE the concept of always up-to-date information. I travel a lot and have to have a 2 GB SD to keep the various TomTom maps with me. I agree with the earlier posts about the shortcomings of TomTom but I really like features such as ETA and a selection of voices. Call me crazy but it's a blast having Burt Reynolds calling the shots...

Andrew - please let us know how your experience progresses with TeleNav. I'm not opposed to going back to the service but it's not robust enough for me at the moment...

Cheers...Patrick

11
by dave | Nov 21, 2006 11:12:11 AM

federico,

It should work fine on T-mobile.

12
by Bubba | Jan 15, 2007 4:58:09 PM

Andrew, in your review of GPS units, can you expand a little on how well the software itself works? I am a huge Garmin fan, but have found that the software (particularly the routing feature) tends to always want to push you to a major highway, and despite making all the changes recommended by Garmin tech support (outstanding, by the way) their software tends to ignore surface streets. If TomTom software is better at direct routing vs. pushing to major roads, then you've sold me.

13
by omar | Apr 27, 2007 10:25:33 PM

I have a unlocked treo 680 with no plan in the States and i would like to buy a GPS, do i need to have plan to use the GPS?

The comments to this entry are closed.

 
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