Day 2: Navigating with Verizon’s Droid

Source: Motorola

Source: Motorola

One of the big news items surrounding Eclair and the Droid is the vastly improved navigation. I tried this out yesterday with some simple trips. Since this is something you will most likely use in a car, I was also interested in the Car Home icon. This is a nice streamlined menu that appears to be designed to access features while in the car.

The navigation provides turn by turn directions with a synthesized voice. All in all it is not a bad synthesizer. You can also use voice search to look for destinations.

Car Home

The Car Home screen displays large icons to access Voice Search, Navigation, View Map, Contacts, Search and a button to return to the Home screen.

Nav1

It even provides different suggestions on how to use the voice search. My first try was “Navigate to Habenero’s in Cincinnati”. After processing the voice command, it shows you what it thought it heard:

nav2

After a few moments to search it provides a list of choices:

nav3

After you tap on the one you want, it starts to load the directions, and indicates time and mileage:

nav4

Once it completes the route, it displays the beginning of the trip:

nav5

You can see the entire route with real-time traffic data from Google maps:

nav6

This is definitely a gee-whiz kind of feature. But it is not perfect. Voice recognition is not 100%. I tried another one with “Navigate to Fincher’s Barbecue in Macon, GA”. I got “Pincher’s bbq”, “Pictures bbq” and many other iterations. Some didn’t even get close enough for reasonable suggestions. Here is what a suggestion list looks like:

Finchers

After selecting the destination, I chose Route information, to see the map zoomed to the appropriate level, here is the 550 mile view:

Fincher's2

There is even an alternate route button that looks for similar routes with their associated mileage and estimated time:

Fincher's3

Notice again you see real-time traffic data. here is how the in-route graphic appears:

Fincher's4

By the way, if you want really good Barbecue, I’ve just given you the directions…

The end of the standalone GPS?

Maybe. Garmin and TomTom got beat up in the stock market yesterday. It is really hard to beat this combination:

  • Free
  • Always current maps
  • Real-time traffic data
  • Easy search for local attractions, gas, and food with current information (My Garmin has sent me to long closed restaurants)

However, it does have it’s weak points:

  • Screen size
  • Voice quality (recorded versus synthesized)
  • Data access

Let me explain the last. We used my G1 on a recent trip. The problem I ran into was T-Mobile reception. From Columbia, SC to Perry, GA there are some huge dead spots. I could get a great GPS lock that would show me where I was, only it showed me on an empty blue grid since it could not update the maps. Once I learned that, I simply zoomed the route while I had data connectivity, and made sure I did not scroll when I did not.

A nice fix would be for the navigation to load in all the maps for the route, so I don’t need to sweat the connectivity. Every network has holes, I assume Verizon has far fewer, but it is still annoying.

This is a fantastic feature for Android. It is hard to argue with free. I would expect the voice recognition to get better, but it is not a deal breaker, since you always have the option of typing in the search.

*Update*

In the comments, Tamara asked a good question. What happens when you get a call and you are navigating? So I tested it out. If you are in navigation mode, listening to your turn-by-turn directions, you will see the call, and have the option to answer. For the duration of the call Navigation will continue in the background, but you will get no notices of turns until you end the call. So don’t stay on the phone during that complicated series of directions. Once the call is ended you return to the navigation screen at your current location.

Posted in: Android related, GPS

25 comments… add one

  • Tamara October 29, 2009, 9:32 am

    Issues like that with maps are definitely one reason I’m not sure I’d want to use a cell phone for a GPS yet. Also, it would be interesting to know what happens if you take a phone call while using the GPS function.

    1
  • Bryan Sherman October 29, 2009, 9:55 am

    Good thought, I’ll try to test that. I expect it works fine, Android multi-tasks very nicely. I have been able to set up a route, go do other things, then come back with the route still there and ready to go.

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  • Tamara October 29, 2009, 10:04 am

    I’m the multi-tasking would work, but I do wonder what it would do if it needed to give you directions for the next turn while you were talking on the phone.

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  • Bryan Sherman October 29, 2009, 10:06 am

    Yes, that is EXACTLY want I want to test. I’ll be the guy talking on 2 cell phones while driving my car later today… lol

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  • Rafa October 29, 2009, 10:21 am

    Well, first of all you are not suppose to answer calls while driving unless you have a bluetooth. Plus they already said that you can be running applications while the phone is in use. If you have a bluetooth than there should be no problem.

    5
  • Fred October 29, 2009, 10:35 am

    So you have a FREE data plan for your Droid?

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  • Bryan Sherman October 29, 2009, 11:21 am

    @Fred I have a loaner Droid for just a few days. I am still unclear what the data plans will look like. According to their press release there will be a $39.99 450 minute plan that you can couple with a $29.99 data plan, but it is unclear what that all entails. I hope to find out at tonights event, and plan on posting about it.

    7
  • Sean October 29, 2009, 11:45 am

    You could knock about 8 hours off that drive and just head up to Big Arts. They get my vote for best BBQ in Cincinnati.

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  • Norberto Maldonado October 29, 2009, 12:08 pm

    I am a current iPhone user who has always been frustrated at the lack of features you’d expect from a state-of-the-art phone. Features I always had with my Razr 2. So many limitations but seemed like the best phone at the time. Without a jailbreak, iPhone is unbearable. Unless Apple makes DRASTIC changes by the time my contract ends in December I will be making the jump to the Droid for Sure! It’s gotten me really excited to see the available features on that phone and on Eclair!!

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  • Bryan Sherman October 29, 2009, 12:32 pm

    @Tamara
    I updated the post with the results of my experiment. Essentially, turn by turn directions are suspended for the duration of the call.

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  • j3ff October 29, 2009, 1:50 pm

    So, if you’re navigating with it in one of those Car Docks I’ve seen demoed, do you have to try to get the phone out of the dock to take the call? Or does it act as a speakerphone while docked?

    Great preview Bryan! I’m looking forward to this phone.

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  • Brian S. October 29, 2009, 3:38 pm

    So if you get a call it pauses the directions, but what if you are using a hands free device. Can you answer the call, and still visually see the directions? I can understand turning off the voice prompts, but since you can run more than 1 thing at a time, I would hope it could continue to show you visually where to go.

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  • SigSoldat October 29, 2009, 4:41 pm

    I have to disagree with your statement that this will kill GPS because it is a “free” service. While it doesn’t cost to use the GPS function, it does require a $200 phone and a two-year contract at a minimum of $60 a month. That’s a cost of $1640 according to my highschool education. That being said, the cost of the Droid includes many other features so I would be paying for much more than just a GPS. I just want to point out that you aren’t getting navigation for free.

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  • MicroNix October 29, 2009, 6:19 pm

    Sig, true, but if you have a smart phone with voice and data *anyway* the feature is free. So there will always be room for GPS devices for those that aren’t.

    I look at the Droid technology as the 2nd gen of smart phones whereas the iPhone is gen 1. The iPhone was clearly a revolution, but this device redefines smart phone once again. The only negative to the Droid is that it lacks something like iTunes though I’ve read about apps that will sync your iTunes playlist with Android devices. I’m sure the void will be filled soon as this is a prime opportunity for someone like Amazon.

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  • Donald Schoengold October 30, 2009, 1:01 pm

    The main problem with this as a Garmin killer is that you can’t talk and navigate at the same time. Garmin has a new smart phone out the enables you to do that as the maps are built into the phone.

    Unfortunately, the reviews I have read on the Garmin phone are that it combines a great GPS with a lousy phone.

    Bummer.

    DON

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  • Bryan Sherman October 30, 2009, 10:01 pm

    @SigSolDat
    I guess I wasn’t clear in my phrasing, I don’t know that I will kill standalone GPSs, I tried to list the weaknesses to that theory.

    I should have added something like “My Mom’s not buying an Android, so she is still in the market”. BUT it will take market share.

    @Brian S
    I don’t have the Auto kit to try. BUT, You could switch back to Nav while on the call. I did not try that. I will try it when I can be a passenger, not a driver (little too much to juggle).

    16
  • Phillip Mastroianni November 4, 2009, 4:19 pm

    I am assuming you are using the UMT’s variant of iDroid. Have you tried forcing the Data Connection to EDGE; Then while navigation have an incomming call ?

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  • donald butler November 8, 2009, 12:01 pm

    Will navigation work with just Bluetooth? I ride a motorcycle. Can I access navigation, give a destination, get turn by turn directions via my helmet bluetooth?

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  • Bryan Sherman November 9, 2009, 9:33 am

    @Donald
    I am not sure out that, I had no trouble pairing with my bluetooth headset, but I am not sure on the navigation info. Anyone out there used it with a bluetooth kit in a car/motorcycle?

    19
  • Sam Lee November 10, 2009, 12:05 am

    Does the Droid have to be mounted on the care (with a holder) to get the alternate route icon?

    Thanks

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  • Bryan Sherman November 10, 2009, 8:14 am

    @Sam Lee
    No, IF there is a an alternative route, it will appear, if not you will not get one. I have not had a car mount to test yet.

    21
  • Arjun November 30, 2009, 9:28 pm

    What if I don’t have data plan ? will I still get turn by turn navigation. ? I guess i will not get real time updates but what about turn by turn navigation.
    Please do let me know

    22
  • Bryan Sherman November 30, 2009, 9:48 pm

    @Arjun

    I do not think getting the phone without a data plan is even an option. But, if you could, you would not be able to navigate, it gets the navigation information from Google apps, it is not stored on the phone.

    23
  • Sam Lewis December 5, 2009, 1:20 am

    I just got off the phone with Verizon. You can have the Droid with the minimum data plan only, but not the voice plan only. You may ask, “who would want that?” Well, I have a no-frills voice phone for work with no data ability. This would work great for me. Turn-by-turn nav, net access, etc. The only downside is that text messaging requires a voice plan.

    24
  • Dishman March 30, 2011, 1:17 pm

    I need to take calls during my gps navigation, and like the fact that I can do both. The issue I have is when the Navigation voice talks, the person can hear it on the bluetooth head set. That means the voice is hitting the mic and headphone – which is a design flaw. If I’m using a headset, the voice should only hit the headphoe channel, so only I can hear it. Maybe there is an enhancement request out there for this.

    25

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