You are on the road. In a strange city. Heading to an appointment. At a location you’ve never been to before. In heavy traffic. (And heavy rain). And you are running a little late.
To add insult to injury, add in a paper printout map – you not only have misery refined, you have a very good possibility of ending up in a ditch. (Or somewhere worse).
Times like this, GPS is seen for what it truly is: a Godsend. But not everyone wants to drop the cash for a unitasker GPS unit from Magellan, Tom Tom, or other companies well-known for making quality GPS units. The good news is that, for basic GPS functionality, you may not really need extra equipment — because it may be as close as the smartphone in your pocket.
More and more smartphones are coming with GPS receivers as standard components, which can really save your bacon in a situation like that listed above. And while such phones usually come with a GPS application installed, they sometimes leave much to be desired.
As a traveling Geek Squad trainer over the past 4 years, I’ve logged a lot of miles on the road, in places I’ve never been before. With my trusty Windows Mobile phone (and later a Blackberry), I’ve tested the following GPS applications:
Another in the neverending list of software apps that Google seems to be so good at, Google Maps — the web-based application we’ve used for years to print out directions — is also Mobile-based as well. Its My Location feature allows you to see where you are on the map, even without a GPS, and with integrated business listings, you can search for that all-night sub shop, and get turn-by-turn directions to it. A handy feature — transit & walking directions — gives you routes and schedules by public transportation as well. And with Google Latitude turned on, your friends can know EXACTLY where you are at any moment (on second thought, that could come off as slightly creepy.)
Similar in functionality to Google Maps for Mobile, Live Search Mobile has a slew of helpful options for the road warrior on the go, with traffic, weather, directions, map and categories as only a few of the options available. Built by Microsoft, its integration with GPS makes it a very handy way to find pizza, hotels, public venues, and the like on the go.
Both apps include traffic updates (really handy to avoid that 2.5 hour parking lot known as the 405), and are truly handy for traveling. The lack of auto-recalculating of directions (for when you accidently missed the freeway exit) and voice turn-by-turn directions makes these slightly less of a solution than standalone GPS units by TomTom, Magellan, and the like, but for the traveler looking to save a buck and not have to carry around extra equipment, These solutions will save your bacon — whether around town, or across the country.