Anonymous places, the case for PND’s 5


Last week I was trying to get from Stratford on Avon to meet up with my wife in Glaston, Rutland after GeoCommunity. No PND and no printer available to print out a map and directions but I wasn’t worried I had my trusty iPhone. Not quite so simple.

Thanks to Lawrence Whittemore

Lets start with the limitations of an iPhone and particularly an old 3G as an in car navigation device – battery life, lack of mounting, low volume on speaker, tendency to switch off display and autolock after a few minutes of inactivity.

Then there are the limitations of the navigation software. Skobbler sort of offers turn by turn navigation and spoken directions but the volume isn’t sufficient to overcome road noise and the OSM data is not comprehensive enough at the moment to guarantee to get me where I want to go, the last time I used Skobbler it tried to route me into the middle of a field! Left me less than eager to try it again. Skobbler will be a fantastic app in a while but the combination with the iPhone just isn’t dependable enough for me at the moment. But of course there is trusty old Google Maps on the iPhone, at least the maps are comprehensive and the routing is usually OK. But you can’t get an overview of the whole route or just the turn by turn directions and if you add to that the tiny fonts and screen space plus my need to put on reading glasses every time I want to read an instruction you can imagine how many times I had to pull over on the way. Good thing there are loads of parking lay byes on the route. Now add in the UK’s stellar quality 3G network which means that for much of the time that you are travelling through rural England, even on A roads, you are struggling to get GPRS let alone full 3G and that means no slippy maps underneath your blue GPS dot and a thoroughly unusable navigation device.

Next time I am taking the old PND, it doesn’t rely on a 3G signal, it has relatively comprehensive maps even if I haven’t paid for the data upgrade, it has a decent sound volume and a windscreen mount/power supply, if I miss a turn it just recalculates the route and gets me back on track and I can see the nice big direction symbols without having to get out my reading glasses. There is a lot to be said for a dedicated device that does just one thing and does it reasonably well.

And the anonymous places? We are talking metaphysics here, in the spirit of “if a tree falls in the forest and nobody is there,  does it make a sound?” or as someone asked at #W3G “if Google doesn’t index a website does it exist?” If a village is in a 3G dead zone so no iPhoners can find it does it really exist? I’m not sure, but at least Glaston was in the road atlas (remember those things?)


5 thoughts on “Anonymous places, the case for PND’s

  • Craig Moulding

    Steven, you echo my sentiments on mobile navigation. To many variables required. Horner I have relied on PND too much on recent times and have taken to leaving it behind and using an out of date atlas (there in lies a currency argument for another day) and my brain. The dedicated PND is here to stay in the short term in my opinion, but don’t forget about good old grey matter!

  • Graham

    Steven, your last paragraph is brilliant. Its hard to remember a world before Google and mobile signal. I remember the days of just looking at a paper map and working out how to get from A to B. That simple beauty that is a map got something working in my brain to enter the world of GI. Its a shame that paper maps are being devalued on petrol station forecourts but at least they are still there.

  • miblon

    In cases like this I feel blessed with communication skills, a good memory and sense of direction. Maybe a good old compass. Sometimes we seem to forget the beuatiful computer called “mind” the only companion that can never be replaced by anything digital. I challenge you to a roadtrip in a location unfamiliar to both of us, you testing apps and me looking at a map once before departure! Will technology win over human adventure skills?! 😉

    • steven

      Sometimes you need a little more than memory. I wonder how many turns that average person can remember?

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