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.
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?)