Tuesday, August 24, 2010

NAVIGON MobileNavigator and Kensington Dash Mount - my reviews

At this time there are only two automotive GPS iPhone Apps worth considering: TomTom and NAVIGON MobileNavigator. Navigon originally cost about $80, but I bought the US/Canada version on sale for $40. TomTom is about $60 for the same app.

You can purchase real-time traffic and personalized routing services for an additional fee. There is no commitment from Navigon to provide any map updates and no information on map updates on their web site. 

There is no documentation for the MobileNavigator. It desperately needs documentation. Some users recommend the manual for the Navigon 8100T.

We've installed the app on two phones, so the per-phone cost was about $20.  Installation requires 3GB of free space, the installed product uses 1.5GB.

Navigon will not work on an iTouch, but it will work on an iPhone without a data plan. It needs a GPS, but since it has to work even when there's no cell service it's not data plan dependent. My son inherited my 3G but has no data plan, Navigon works on his phone (albeit slowly on startup). The lack of compass doesn't hurt once the car is in motion.

I have had only limited prior use of a traditional GPS device.

Very quickly, my impressions of this app are:
  • It feels quite similar to a traditional automotive dedicated GPS. This is not a feature. It is only a 2nd class iPhone citizen. Even Contact integration seems to be an afterthought.
  • There's no true search. We've grown so accustomed to search on iPhone Maps.app that we've forgotten how amazing that is -- and how complex. You can't simply enter a street name and choose from all the matches. It's very traditional GPS data entry. It's much easier and faster to find locations on Google Maps, Latitude or iPhone Maps.app than in Navigon.
  • The turn directions don't say "take the next exit", they say "right turn in 200 feet".  When approaching exits it may not be obvious whether than's the 1st right exit or the 2nd right exit.
  • I believe location services work only with the iPhone GPS. They don't have access to the cell tower triangulation or WLAN location services. So they don't work indoors very well.
  • Local "Point of Interest" data in Minneapolis St. Paul is very limited.
  • The map voice pronunciation is peculiar. Some local streets names were incomprehensible.
  • The graphics are acceptable and visible from a dashboard mount. I remember thinking volume control was a bit odd but I can't remember why.
  • Some of the routes we're given have been peculiar. It seems to be avoiding highways.
  • You really need a mount to safely use the iPhone as a GPS device. I have ordered the older $21 Kensington car and dash mount because newer models don't fit the iPhone 4. We wanted a device that works with both 3GS and 4. I'll review that separately.
  • Your phone gets hot using Navigon while charging. This can be a problem on a hot sunny day if the phone is beneath the windshield. Consider routing air flow to cool the phone.
Overall Navigon needs to be a lot more open about their map update plans. It is at best a 2nd rate iPhone app. The installation package of 3GB is going to be a problem for many users. I'm surprised their map data doesn't compress more than that.

It's worth $20 per phone, but only just worth $40 per phone. It's not worth $80.

Update 8/29/10:

My review of the Kensington dash mount ...
The big appeal of this car dash mount is that it works with both iPhone 3GS/3G and with iPhone 4. Very few devices can do that. 
There are two joints. If you adjust both (don't force it) you can mount this on a van windshield. It has stayed in place for days; the iPhone is a lightweight GPS. It will only adhere to glass or smooth plastic, not vinyl. For any other surface you need to use the adhesive mount, the suction cup will bind to that. 
It is lightweight, and so is the phone. So they'll vibrate, you may need to mount so the phone rests on something. 
The side grips spring out; the button and apparatus feel fragile. I try to only close them as much as needed. 
Works well with a standard Apple power connector. 
Note an iPhone will get hot when used as a GPS in this cradle. The cradle doesn't carry heat away, it is an insulator. You will want to let the windshield air conditioner run to keep the phone comfortable.
Also my route profile was misconfigured to "bicycle speed" and "scenic". I don't know if that was the default or the kids. It explains the peculiar routing
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1 comment:

Anonymous said...

You need the Arkon vent clip for iphone. I use with my 3GS without a case.


They are about $10 on Amazon and work great. The Navigon app has been updated 4-5 times since it came out. I really like the app.