Review: TeleNav AT&T GPS Navigator
Cost: $9.99/month or $99/year
Free 30 day trial
As some of you know, I just got back from a nice vacation with my wife in Miami. The second I got into the rental car and turned on my usually trusty Mio c310x GPS, things started to get muddy. For some reason, it went on the fritz and refused to show Florida maps. Talk about a great way to start a vacation!
So instead of forking over $15/day to Enterprise for a GPS rental, I decided to get creative and give TeleNav’s AT&T Navigator a shot using my 30-day trial. I tried using Google Maps at first, but without voice notifications I would have gotten into an accident trying to read the directions while hitting the numbers 4/6 to move forward and backwards through the directions.
I will have to preface this shotgun review by saying that TeleNav did get me where I needed to go at the end. On the other hand, it provided practically no added benefit that I could not have gotten from a cheap $99 Garmin/Mio etc. Most of my issues would be solved by TeleNav just allowing for on device maps, but it does not look like they plan on doing that anytime soon. I gave AT&T Navigator a 7-star rating since it actually works, but I cannot recommend it in good faith unless you REALLY need a converged device.
So let me start by listing the features and how they played out. After my third screw up with TeleNav, I started keeping a log.
GPS on your phone so you do not need to carry another device!
In theory, this would be a great idea. Fewer devices to carry makes one a happy user. Right? Wrong! The current implementation of TeleNav requires you to have both a GPS and a cell tower signal at the same time. This may not be a big deal to you, but I lost GPS signal and sometimes even cell signal at least 3 times per trip while driving around Miami. The “GPS Signal Is Not Available In This Area” prompt gets really annoying when you are in the middle of an open road. Especially since it would recover the GPS signal then lose it again less than a second later every single time.
Up to date maps are available since TeleNav constantly has the latest maps!
Once again, this is a feature that would be great since the maps on my old c310x are from 2007. On the other hand, my experience with TeleNav was that many of the maps in downtown Miami were still old. I was still making turns onto roads that had been split with an overpass or just simply rerouted.
Traffic notifications are immediate since TeleNav has always-on connection!
Another great feature that I found useless. During my 4-day trip in Miami, I got a notification about traffic slowdowns or construction on my route 5 times. It asks you to press 0 to reroute around the congestion. The problem is that every time I pressed 0, it would either tell me that no other route was available or it would route me the same way again, and once again prompt me to hit 0 to reroute. I guess this may be useful if you just want to know that you will be sitting in traffic…
3D visual maps on your BlackBerry
The TeleNav maps actually look decent, but are not as clear and easy to read as those of Google Maps. The text is extremely small, but I guess they have to deal with that due to the Bold’s small screen. The problem is that my c310x has an antiglare screen that lets me put it in a dashboard mount and actually read it. With TeleNav, I had to have my wife, Kira, constantly keep an eye on it since I could not read it from more than 2 feet away while keeping my eyes on the road.
I have always wanted a GPS with voice notifications on my BlackBerry and was excited to try it out with TeleNav. Turns out that the voice notifications are decent, but lack in many ways. The biggest problem is that even on the loudest setting (Very Loud), I could not hear the woman speaking out the directions if there was even the smallest bit of noise in the car. The car had to be perfectly silent, and still I had to strain to hear it! On top of that, every time I closed the application and opened it again, I had to raise the volume again since it defaulted to a lower volume until I found the preference to change that.
Another caveat is that even though it does read the street name to you using voice to text, it is extremely finicky. For example, we were driving to Ives Dairy road and it pronounced it as “Visidary.” Also, we were trying to get to the Aventura mall through Country Club road and it called the street Country Country Road. I guess the maps still need to be updated…
On my old c310x and my newer Garmin 260w, it took the device about 2-3 seconds to set up a route and another 2-3 seconds to reroute me if I missed a turn. TeleNav takes an average 10 seconds to reroute since it requires a cell connection to get the information. For example, when I was returning the car and missed a turn.
Great POI database since it is constantly updated using the Internet
I was so disappointed at the TeleNav POI (Points of Interest) database that I resorted to Google searches and Google Maps most of the time. Things as simple as finding the nearest beach do not exist in their database! I tried searching for South Beach, with no luck. Even just plain Miami Beach did not warrant a listing from TeleNav.
Another feature I missed from my Garmin and C310x was the ability to start typing in the name and it would auto complete it based on its database. Sadly, that does not exist for TeleNav… I also had to search Google Maps for restaurants since 50% of them would not even show up in TeleNav.
Menu Shortcuts Galore
Another caveat I have with the application is that it adds 4 different items to your menu button that are useless in most situations. For example, the following items when you are looking at an email: “Drive To, Search Nearby, Map It, & Share address”, with no way to turn them off.
The cool feature is the ability to speak to the system and do searches or find addresses. The problem is that they usually require you to push a key on your phone to confirm or initiate the search. Not something you really want to have to do while driving. I found that a touch screen worked much better on my older standalone units so maybe this works better on the Storm.
A wonderfully slow device:
After installing the hefty 1.2 Mb installation on my Bold, I was surprised to see how slow the application ran. Even with 15 Mb of free space, the application was constantly showing 2-3 second loading screens and such. Even when you are just going to a submenu, it shows you a loading screen… Not sure why it cannot just load the whole menu at once (it is just a text menu, BTW). At least, once it loads the submenu the first time, it does not need to reload it until you close the application.
On top of that, you will find yourself missing quite a few turns due to the way the application updates. For example, after you make a turn, the device takes about 5-7 seconds to show you the next turn and about as long to tell you what it is. I missed a few exits that way that I would have never missed on my standalone GPS.
The one nice turn was that the GPS lock on the device was almost instantaneous as long as I was outside. Within 5 seconds of starting up the app, I usually had a GPS signal. On the other hand, trying to use many of the features without a GPS signal would cause it to lock up and say “No GPS, please move to an open area.”
- Voice navigation
- Text to speech
- Traffic alerts
- Runs on your BlackBerry
- Fast GPS lock
- Maps still out of date
- Regularly loses GPS signal or cell signal
- Traffic rerouting does not work
- Audio alerts not loud enough
- Missing simple POI like beaches
- Mispronounces street names regularly (even worse due to the low volume)
- Text is hard to read
- Takes too long to show you the next turn
- Sluggish application always showing loading screen
So all of this together got me thinking…
TeleNav / AT&T Navigator costs me $9.99 a month or $99 a year currently, while decent standalone GPS units can be had for anywhere $99-$300. I guess if you really do not want to carry around another device (and can not leave one in your car), then TeleNav may be worth it. In my experience, I will definitely be sticking with a standalone unit for now. (Any recommendations?)
On the other hand, TeleNav has a very simple way to fix most of my gripes with their software. Allow for on-device maps!!! This would negate the speed required for data and the data connection requirement altogether. You could then also use it in rural areas and it could recalculate much faster. On top of that, carriers would be happier with lower unnecessary data usage. They could also have an on-device POI database… In short, if they do not do it first, somebody else will.
I will conclude this shotgun review with a bit of wisdom my wife gave me. All in all, TeleNav did get me where I wanted to go in the end. It may not have been graceful or the best solution, but it did work. If you have any comments on how I could have improved my experience, let me know since I am curious as to how people use the application. I was even considering buying an AUX headphone cable so I could connect my BlackBerry to the car stereo to boost the audio navigation prompts…