Reviews: Software

Arkon MobiNavigator

      Arkon has been around for longer than I have been in the PDA community. Recently, it seems that Arkon is really going full force into GPS solutions combine with their PDA mount product line. Previously they introduced the Arkon Powered GPS Mount and now they are introducing Akron?s MobiNavigator software to go with it and their new Docking PDA GPS Mounts. MobiNavigator is a complete voice guidance solution for displaying moving maps with the GPS data. MobiNavigator is an easy to use solution that comes with a number of good features for a PDA solution.
     MobiNavigator is a two part solution. One part is for the mobile device and one part is for the PC. The major function of the PC software is to load data onto the mobile device. Map data can either be loaded by region (in the case of the US, it is by state) or by city. In the US, state maps range from 4 MB (DC) to 156 MB (California). For most states, at least one can fit on a 128 MB card, and in many cases you can fit two. But if you want to load the map simply onto the devices main memory, maps can be loaded by city and a radius can be specified of data to include. The maps can easily be exported to any drive (including removable) or directly to a mobile device (including an in-use storage card). One thing I need to note while talking about the PC version of the software is that you may have problems if you don?t install the software to the C drive. Hopefully this gets worked out in the next version as it was mildly annoying for my setup. The PC version also allows navigation by a laptop, but this review does not cover that part of the software.
     One thing that makes a great first impression with MobiNavigator is that when you start it up, the software is able to locate the maps and load them. Too often I install software and don?t start it up until I need it?so I don?t like surprises. It is nice when everything loads automatically. The maps are displayed with an orange background, white roads, red highways, and of course blue water (though colors can be changed). Maps are fairly simple graphically, but they are clear and easy to use. The first thing I noticed about the software was that there wasn?t much on the screen other than the map. This is a good but the key is to still have functionality accessible. A well places menu button allows for access to the software major functions, and it, along with the button on the menu screen are easily pressable by a finger. This is key. MobiNavigtor does include some options on the menu bar of the bottom of the main screen, but anyone that has used a PDA/GPS solution in a car knows that you need buttons can be controlled by finger presses.
     MobiNavigator does work by making a route/directions, it works by setting a destination and shows how to get there from where you are. That is really all you need because even if initially the route is created from the wrong starting point, a good mapping solution simply remaps on the fly. Destinations can be selected by address, intersection, city center, points of interest, contacts, favorites, or by recent locations you have navigated to. For address searches, MobiNavigator uses a wizard style entry. Personally I don?t like this. I want to just enter an address and the software to resolve it. A search can be done starting with the street or starting with a city. MobiNavigator also uses a custom input panel for entering an address which focuses on the input of numbers more than text, which is good and bad. Standard Windows Mobile input can also be used. I do like that if you are already navigating to an address you can simply select a new address to create a detour to that address or to create a stop over. Route options can also be set so that when routes are calculated the quickest, shortest, major, or most load methods are used, turns are reduced or not, ferries are included (which is a great idea here in Seattle), use of toll roads, and carpool inclusion.
     While navigating, the voice directions are defiantly a plus. It doesn?t really make sense to use a piece of navigation software that does not vocally announce directions. One nice thing that MobiNavigator does is that it flips into a special mode when you get close to a turn that isolates the turn on the screen, the turn direction, the street you are turning on to, and the distance. MobiNavigator can also help by keeping a watch of you speed in comparison to the expected road speed. Along with that, while you are navigating you can easily flip through speed, distance to your destination, time remaining on the journey, and expected time of arrival. Finally, you can also keep of watch of latitude and longitude for prescience navigation and you can even view the data that is incoming over the GPS connection.
     One interesting feature that I haven?t seen in other GPS applications is the ability to record your trip and play it back later. MobiNavigator simply logs what happens on your trip including where you go and how you navigate there, and the log can then be played back for viewing later. I could foresee this being a good solution for trying to show people directions on how to get somewhere. It is interesting features like this that make MobiNavigator a good software package. I would like to see the graphics updated in the package, but other than that a strong set of features are included that work well together. MobiNavigator is very easy to use on the road while traveling and is a great help in getting you where you want to go reliably. Priced at $100 for North America and $150 for Europe, MobiNavigator comes included with Arkon?s new Docking PDA GPS Mounts or can be purchased separately.

 

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