Ipone as GPS, the good, the bad, and good again
This is the tale of how I almost stopped using my iPhone as a Car GPS unit and how the right app and a better idea of how to use it changed my mind. Here is what happened.
When the iPhone gained its GPS capabilities I was excited to use is for navigation. Using Google maps worked well enough but certainly was not a replacement for standalone unit. Then a host of new third-party GPS applications began to appear and I became more excited about using the iPhone as my only GPS unit. That didn’t last very long. I was heading to a wedding I was officiating in New York when things went more than a bit array.
I was using the iPhone as my GPS unit and all was going well enough at first. I had put in the location of the wedding venue, the GPS app had set the route and was giving my great directions. Then the phone rang. It was an emergency. I had to take the call. Unfortunately, since the iPhone does not permit background applications. As a result, the phone ringing kicked me out of the GPS application. I was on the call for seven minutes and during that time the highway split. I did not have the GPS app’s guidance so I had to choose. I chose wrong. But it got worse.
When I got off the phone I tried to relaunch the GPS app. The app launched but for some reason I wasn’t able to get a GPS lock. As a result I took yet another wrong turn. Two wrong turns turned into three wrong turns. Three wrong turns turned into seven wrong turns and by the time I was able to get the GPS tracking back online I was so far out of my way that it was going to take me double the time I had actually planned in order to get to the wedding. Fortunately the bride and groom running just as far behind as I was so when I finally got there they were just pulling up as well. The rest of the wedding went off without a hitch but on the way home I had more trouble locking in on a GPS signal. Once again I got lost but at least this time I didn’t have to actually have people depending upon me getting there at a specific time.
The experience was awful and I thought that I was completely and totally done using the iPhone as a GPS unit.
Then I decided to try it again.
This time I was officiating at a funeral that was taking place in Manhattan with the burial occurring out on the tip of Long Island. The Car GPS/iPhone combination doesn’t work well for me when a phone call comes in (due to Apple’s restriction on background applications- thanks Apple) but by this time I was using my Blackberry Bold as my phone and my iPhone as an “always connected pocket computer”. This allowed me to use the iPhone ONLY as a GPS unit. It worked beautifully.
The next time I began using the AT&T Navigator app instead of the Navigon resident app I had been using. I liked it but continued to have times when it seemed to have a hard time locking into a GPS signal. The Navigator app (powered by Telenav) not only has been providing me excellent directions but the rerouting feature is awesome and has saved me a number of times recently. Yes, it relies upon having an ongoing data connection but the fact that it doesn’t sit resident on your iPhone, easily updates traffic and seems to get a GPS lock with tremendous speed are all huge benefits. Check out Chris and my review first look from a few months back and his recent update post for more details. (My thanks to the folks at Navigon for allowing me to trial the app again.)
I’ve now been using the iPhone as my sole GPS unit for a while now. I’m back to using the AT&T Navigator app exclusively and it hasn’t failed me once.
So what lessons do I take from this? First, it takes the right app to make something work the way you need it to work. Second, the “right” app may be different for one person than it is for another. Third, until the iPhone can run an app or two in the background make sure that when using the iPhone as a gps you know what the next turn is before taking a cal.
Keep the eye on this site for the next few days for a chance to win an opportunity to check it out yourself!