Mobile navigator

Kushan Mitra        Print Edition: December 16, 2007

No, we haven't mixed up our sections; we are reviewing the Nokia N95 8GB in the Drive section and before you ask why, let us explain. You see, we have contended that the Nokia N95 is the best phone on the market. Yes, it is better than the iPhone in terms of pure functionality.

Now, the updated version of the device gives users a little bit extra—a fully-working Global Positioning System (GPS) receiver. But, a GPS receiver is pointless without maps, so Nokia, which recently bought over map provider Navteq for the minor amount of $8 billion (Rs 32,000 crore), uses its maps in India, which are fairly detailed.

Mobile navigator
We travelled to Mumbai and Jaipur using the device, and were pleasantly surprised at the level of detail, particularly in the Pink City, down to even the more dubious hotels. Of course, out on the highway, the maps still have a way to go, but if you were to get lost in the maze that is Fort in Mumbai, you can use this phone to navigate your way out.

Then, there is the voiceassisted navigation system and the fact that the N95 8GB uses Assisted GPS (AGPS) instead of regular GPS. Okay, let us dejargonise that for you: there is no difference in how both systems figure out your location. The GPS receiver figures out where it is by using signals from at least three GPS satellites, but usually uses data from five to make sure.

Where AGPS has an advantage—and this is what makes this system potentially better than most other AGPS systems—is the fact that it uses your phone’s data connectivity. This helps it to get a lock on its location faster when you start up the GPS, and more importantly, allows the phone to automatically update maps by itself, and most importantly, it will allow Navteq to potentially transmit real-time traffic information to the device.

But, we said potentially, because the device does not have that layer just yet, so we were stuck with voice navigation. A warning will be in order here: we are not yet used to voice navigation systems in India, and the schoolmarm voice of the phone going, “At the next opportunity take a left”, is a bit strange. That said, whenever Drive programmed a route on the phone, it plotted out the shortest possible way to get from Point A to Point B, but as all drivers in India know, the shortest route is not always the best one.

So, we disobeyed the voice once in a while, and the moment you did that, the phone did not go crazy and scold you, but, instead, recalculated the route. Some of these new routes were a bit on the crazy side—one even tried to send us through a closed gate. But then again, that is a function more of the map than the Navigation system.

The N95 8GB costs an arm and a leg, at Rs 36,000, but if you think of it, it also has one of the best cameras on any phone, 8 gigabytes of storage; it comes with Bollywood classic Sholay preloaded, and it is a fairly good phone. The Navigation system is free for 90 days, and Nokia has not yet announced how much it will cost after that, but globally, annual navigation packages cost between Rs 2,500 and Rs 5,000.

The system isn’t a bad investment for those who are clinically awful with roads, but we would wait to see if the AGPS layer will support real-time traffic information. Now, that will be useful.

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