I thought I’d write a quick post to discuss the pros and cons of the iPhone 3G GPS capabilities. By now everyone knows that the newest iPhone does GPS. Though I have used it most to quickly search Google Maps for something near my current location, I really haven’t used it for any serious directions, having a more than capable Garmin 2720 in my vehicle.
But today, as I readied the Garmin to travel to an unknown location several hours from my home, the Garmin let me down. Even though I had the street address, the Garman had no clue. So I tried a search with the name of the business. Nada. Then I tried a neighboring business in the same town. Still nothing. This location was in a very rural mountainous area of Pennsylvania but I was still surprised at the lack of information from the Garmin. After all, it was not a cheap unit at close to $600 US, I’ve updated maps since the initial purchase and it has been a very faithful travelling companion for the past several years.
So why not try the iPhone. After bringing up Google maps, I entered the address. Sure enough it located the address instantly, complete with business name, phone number and even the business’ website address, either of which were a simple click away to call or visit.
I then clicked “directions to here” and “from current location” and Google returned the distance and time to the location with it’s list of directions.
Of course I could do all of this on my original iPhone, but following those directions would require close attention and patience. But with the 3G? What a difference. With it’s built in GPS, the new phone is as accurate as my Garmin in displaying my current location. I watched while traversing bridges and approaching intersections and it was dead on. And the simpicity of moving around on the map and zooming in (double tap) and zooming out (two finger tap) put the Garmin to shame.
The text directions provided with each turn also exceeded the limitations of the Garmin. And it was easy to see the upcoming turns as you approached them with the current location beacon flashing and the next turn identified by an easily discerned circle.
And yes, the 3G took me right to the door of the business with no missed turns, which I cannot always say for the Garmin due to it’s sometimes lagging warning of an upcoming turn.
While this is all good, there are of course limitations to the 3G as a primary navigation device.
First, since there are no audible turn by turn directions, you must keep a close eye on the map as you get close to each turn.
Next, unless you are in a 3G network, you won’t be able to take a call and have the map on the screen updating at the same time.
And forget about an easy answer to the common “how much longer” questions -you’ll find yourself doing math calculations you haven’t done in years.
Of course detours, multiple location routing, saving and organizing routes are also beyond the current capabilities of the iPhone.
And the final caveat is watching your battery reserve depleted in front of your eyes. Running GPS and 3G together for any length of time will require an adapter to tap into your car’s 12 volt supply. Fortunately, that is an inexpensive and easily acquired (might I say required) 3G accessory.
Just one more note – this post was written completely from the iPhone using the WordPress native application now available from the app store, and which I reviewed in another recent blog post. And while I will most likely enhance it with a picture or link later, it provides for a great use of idle time while away from my computer. John