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Treo Smartphone GPS | Traveling with a Treo GPS In My Pocket

Without a doubt one of the single best experiences that I’ve had with my Treo over the past two weeks while travelling with my car rental across LA and SF has been testing various GPS solutions for my Treo 650 – in hindsight I wonder how I managed to get around foreign cities without one for so long.

This is the first time that I’ve ever tested a Treo GPS solution and I decided to select three different Bluetooth ones and compare them agains the bestselling : TomTom Navigator Bundle, Emtac + GPS (no longer available) and Palm’s GPS Navigator

I have to admit that I probably waited a little longer than I should have to test these and I think that it’s simply because the whole GPS thing seemed much too complicated, a hassle to install and use and possibly nothing more than an expensive gimmick for my Treo.  I was completely wrong and these GPS solutions saved me from getting utterly lost on numerous occasions but evidently I needed to take the time to get my head around the issue to finally realize this.

For starters, I had made some flawed assumptions about GPS solutions for the Treo.  I had always assumed that the hardware and software components of the GPS had to be made by the same manufacturer to work well so that, for example, the TomTom Navigator software would only work with the TomTom GPS receiver.  In fact the GPS software and hardware are fully interchangable and in much the same way that you can use any Bluetooth headset with the Bluetooth software on your Treo you can also use any GPS receiver once you have at least one GPS navigation software installed.

Two of the three GPS hardware units that I selected included the TomTom Navigator software and I quickly concluded that it was one of the best applications around – it took me a little longer to figure out all the settings and many options that come with it.  Before leaving, back at home in London I installed the TomTom Navigator application for my Treo as well as all the California maps on one of my spare 1GB SD cards (it used about 250MB of space).  Next I also paired the three Bluetooth GPS units with my Treo so that they would be ready to go when I arrived in LA.

My first opportunity to ‘test & drive’ came for the one hour journey from Marina Del Rey to Huntington Beach two weeks ago for the DEMOfall conference.  This being my first time in LA and LA not being exactly the easiest city to navigate, I couldn’t have asked for a better test environment as I was truly a tourist there.

To get started with this short trip, I accessed TomTom Navigator’s “Main Menu” (using the Treo Menu key) then clicked Add Favourite, then from the “Navigate to…” menu I clicked Address which is a three step process of City + Street + Number then Save.  I prefer adding destinations as Favourites because it is an easier and faster way to ‘navigate to…’ later but you can alternatively just add the destination manually every time you’re going somewhere.

With my destination to the Huntington Beach hotel where I was staying now added to the favourites I moved to the hardware side of things in my rental car.  Aside from my Treo I had a windshield suction cup vehicle mount (which in this case was included with Palm’s GPS unit), a lighter plug charger to power the GPS unit and finally the GPS unit itself (for this first journey I chose TomTom’s pictured below).

I turned TomTom’s GPS unit on and waited for the green light to flash intermittently (which indicates that the unit has picked up a satellite signal – a process that can take between 1 and 3 minutes).  Next I launched the TomTom Navigator software on my Treo, clicked the Menu and then Navigate To… selecting the Favourite that I had previously set for the hotel.  TomTom’s software then quickly calculates the best route, provides you with a map (below left) with an estimated trip duration and distance, then after clicking ‘Done’ I was ready to go.

You then get a bird’s eye view of your route with various route and status indicators just under this (above center and right).  The arrow indicates the direction of your next turn and the figure to its right the distance left to travel before that turn is required and at the bottom the name of the street to turn at.  Next to this is the distance left to travel and the estimated time to arrival at your destination.  Finally, completely to the right is the satellite reception status and the current time.

On top of the visual directions, the TomTom Navigator software also provides turn-by-turn audio prompts via the built-in speaker on our Treo – in my case I got a lovely female British voice telling me things like “Right turn ahead in 500 meters” and naturally the best one is hearing “You have arrived at your destination”.

There are dozens of options, settings and preferences that you can play around with within the Navigator software.  For example, you can choose daytime and nighttime colours, turn off the sound or even the maps.  There were at least two that proved particularly useful on my various trips and which further demonstrated how Navigator was a really great application.

The first is “Advanced Planning” (below) which allows you to plan a journey from point A to point B by simply selecting a “Depart from:“ and “Pick a destination:“ address which like before will provide you a quick map with estimated trip duration and distance (which I’ve used repeatedly).  You can even click on “Route” and view your trip as an animated demo (below right) which is one of five options.

The second is the option to easily navigate to built-in “Points of Interest” such as the nearest petrol station (this saved me yesterday as I nearly ran out) or museum (which added some culture to my trip), restaurant, hotel/motel and parking garage.

Another example of how TomTom’s Navigator saved the day (or the morning in this case) was when I overslept the day that I was due to fly out to San Francisco.  I only managed to make my flight because I managed to cut at least 20 minutes in my trip planning thanks to the fact that I didn’t have to figure out how to get to Hertz’ car rental returns at the airport.  I managed to get there in record time as the car was ‘remote controlled’ by the voice prompts telling me exactly where I had to go and all I had to do was press the accelerator…

Finally, as for selecting the best GPS unit of the three that I tested I can’t immediately say that one is better than the other.  TomTom’s unit ($299) benefits from the nicest design and includes the excellent Navigator software, Emtac’s proved to be the fastest at picking up satellites but lacks the Navigator software and finally Palm’s ($239) is the cheapest and the one that includes both the Navigator software and the most accessories (dual Treo & GPS unit charger + USB charger + vehicle mount).  Having said all this, I will personally settle for the TomTom GPS bundle because it is the slickest and most pocketable of all units.

One thing is absolutely for sure though – I am never again travelling without a Treo GPS unit in my pocket.  I cannot more highly recommend that you take your Treo and car for a spin with one.

UPDATE: A lot of people have been disappointed to find out that the TomTom Navigator 5 Bundle has completely sold out and will not become available for another 3 weeks.  However, someone else pointed me to the fact that the Bluetooth TomTom Navigator 5 + GPS ($279) is a similar unit which also benefits from the more advanced SiRF star III chipset (instead of the star II found on the others) and therefore provides more accurate and faster satellite readings.

Treonauts never get lost

Posted by Andrew on October 4, 2005 at 09:51 AM

Treo Accessories , Treo GPS

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» Treo 650 GPS solution comparison from Treo Today
Andrew at Treonauts has an excellent, in depth review of 3 GPS solutions for the Palm Treo 650 smartphone. He covers the TomTom Navigator 5 Bundle, Emtac + GPS and also Palm’s GPS Navigator. Follow along as he tests the above devices in real-lif... [Read More]

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I have had my Treo now since February. The first few weeks was Treo fever, but I haven't been playing around with the Treo too much lately other than getting a few cool apps like PSSH (an SSH client for the Palm). Somehow you just take ... [Read More]

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by Patrick | Oct 12, 2005 12:46:24 PM

For anyone who is interested, Palm seems to have the Palm GPS device in stock again. I placed an order this morning, 10/12/05.

Nice review, thanks!

by Kenny | Oct 19, 2005 2:49:27 PM

I saw Schwaydogg's post, wondering if there is a Treo GPS unit you can use for hiking. That is a question that I have as well. Could anyone shed some light on this? Thanks!

by ROBBO | Oct 23, 2005 10:31:00 AM


by Andrew | Oct 23, 2005 10:55:53 AM

Hi Robbo - that is a bit strange... Typically when TomTom is running on your Treo the screen will never turn off.

Have you installed the latest Navigator5 update? http://www.tomtom.com/support/index.php?FID=3411&Language=1

Cheers, A.

by ROBBO | Oct 23, 2005 11:04:52 AM


by Andrew | Oct 23, 2005 11:08:43 AM

Hi Kenny - you can easily use your Treo 650 + GPS for hiking because 1) the phone radio doesn't need to be turned on and 2) the GPS unit can be packed in a backpack once you have a satellite signal.

Cheers, A.

by Steve | Oct 28, 2005 12:16:29 AM

Could someone please tell me where I can get a GPS unit for the TREO 600?

Would greatly appreciate the help.


by Andrew | Oct 28, 2005 7:54:10 AM

Steve - unfortunately GPS functionality is only available with the Treo 650... Personally, I would suggest that you upgrade to the Treo 650 before investing into additional accessories for your existing Treo 600.

Cheers, A.

by ROBBO | Oct 28, 2005 10:56:23 AM


by twiki | Oct 28, 2005 3:33:37 PM

More questions re hiking. Can one use the Nat'l Geographic maps (TOPO) and if not, how detailed are the TomTom maps?

by Mike | Nov 1, 2005 10:15:17 AM

I just got a Treo650 and I have been using it non-stop for email, text messages and phone calls from my contact list... Its great. BUT I can't figure out for the life of me how to send a picture to another phone. Please help!!!

by Andrew | Nov 1, 2005 2:05:28 PM

Mike - you have two options to send pictures to another phone.

The first is via MMS (Multimedia Messaging): go to Messages, click Add and then attach your picture and send it to another Treo or MMS-enabled phone (also works with voice message and video attachment).

The second is via email from your Treo where you attach your picture and the recipient on another Treo or email-capable phone will be able to view it.

I hope this helps.

Cheers, A.

by Cindi | Nov 4, 2005 4:15:03 AM

i bought the IPAQ GPS receiver, model BT 308....then found out the hard way that software only supports Pocket PC, not Palm...therefore, i can't install it. the activeSync for the Pocket PC doesn't even recognize the Palm Treo.

Then i searched online for any mention of the BT 308 compatibility for the Palm, there were no mention of that.

searching further, i saw that there are other exact BT 308 model under different brands such as (Globalstats) that are compatible with the Palm.

i'm hoping and hoping that the same models have softwares for the palm, since it said it was compatible with Palm...the only problem is, i don't know what the software is or how to get it.

do you have any information on this?

please advise on what i should do.

by DAIGNEAULT | Nov 5, 2005 9:34:01 PM


by A | Nov 8, 2005 11:14:06 PM

I have the Treo 650 with the Tomtom Navigator 5, and it frequently goes off course. I can be driving straight and it will suddenly move over a street or the car will be stopped but it will show me gliding through the intersection. Has anyone else had this problem?

by BruceRiv68 | Nov 11, 2005 12:18:46 PM

If the Treo is shutting off after 3 minutes, perhaps you are not getting a connection through BlueTooth. Mine stays on all the time when Tom Tom is running. I love the Navigator software, the only complaint I have is that when you want to lookup a POI, you have to pick a category. You can't have it search through all categories for a specific name.

Regarding hiking, you wouldn't want to use Tom Tom for hiking. It's only suited for road navigation. There is a product for Palm called Outdoor Navigator by MapTech for $19.95. It says it has 58,000 Off Road maps. Haven't tried it yet, but I plan on it.

Here's the link:

by Jeff Fort | Nov 14, 2005 2:16:51 PM

regarding the hiking question/issue, has anyone tried this?:

"cotoGPS is a GPS program for Palm Powered Devices. It shows all important information and is useful for any Geocaching tours"

I was hoping that TomTom and Navigation would be what I need for the car, but cotoGPS could be used for hiking and water navigation.

What do you think?

by Bruce Miller | Nov 16, 2005 12:40:56 PM

I have cotoGPS. It does let you create tracks, and gives you all the gps information, but it does not display any maps. The Outdoor Navigator has topo and Nautical maps have you can download. The $19.95 for the software gives you access to all their maps.

by jared | Nov 20, 2005 9:30:48 AM

any news of a new treo with gps built in? that would be a cool item...jared

by Bob Sala | Nov 22, 2005 4:13:03 PM

I have the Palm GPS navigator,(tom tom 5.0), and it is great... But can I also do Marine Maps and TOPO maps. If so..How?


by Dave | Nov 22, 2005 9:55:09 PM

Tried the DeLorme for Treo 650 last week - not intuitive, hard to use, planning to try TomTom instead.

by Shwaydogg | Nov 25, 2005 1:40:07 AM

To Review the hiking with the treo discussion it seems there are three different options for software.

1. Maptech posted by bruce $20 (http://www.maptech.com/products/outdoornavigator/index.cfm?CFID=11265385&CFTOKEN=26229373)
2. Cotogps posted by Jeff (seems to be a very simple program) (http://www.freewarepalm.com/communication/cotogps.shtml)
3. Mapadvisor which I found $20

mapadvisor seems to be able to do it all but i have never used it.

I was wondering, has a anyone used any of these or other programs out in the field and knows how they work. And also how the gps units themselves work and which one would be best for offroad adventures in the great oudoors. Andrew, this could make a good addition to your gps reviews (driving is only half the game), it would be a good excuse for a trip too.

by carlos2 | Nov 26, 2005 12:44:31 PM

Quick question: If I can't use a BT headset while using the GPS navigation system, how do you typically answer calls?

It seems that the only option is to use the speaker phone. The built in speakerphone is quite bad. Do you end up buying something else? Do you use a hired headset?

Any ideas?

by duffer jim | Nov 30, 2005 11:52:57 PM

I've had TTN5+BT and when an incoming call is received I can answer it with my Treo BT headset. Only problem is that I've not had it "automatically" switch back to navigation at the end of the call, but it's simple enough to just re-initiate from the menu.

It would be nice if the TTN5 voice commands would come through the BT headset instead of the speaker. Anyone with thoughts or comments on that?

by softtop | Dec 2, 2005 4:49:38 PM

I have been unable to pair my Treo 650 with the TomTom Bluetooth Wireless MK II GPS receiver. Obviously some have successfully accomplished this feat as witnessed by earlier posts here. The TomTom support site sent me the following message:

"The Treo 650's Bluetooth stack does not accept any external Bluetooth requests. You can connect to external keyboards and ear pieces but it will not accept any incoming requests from other devices. This is why the Treo 650 is not on our compatibility list for our Go 300 and 700 units. We are currently trying to find a way around the Bluetooth coding but as of right now, it is not compatible."

For those that have been able to get this GPS receiver to work with your Treo 650, how did you do it?

I have been able to use the Navigator 5.12 software successfully with my Treo and the new integrated GPS/Car Cradle by Seidio, but I would like to have the Bluetooth capability also.

If TomTom's receiver isn't the answer, what Bluetooth receiver WILL work with the Treo 650?


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