Introduction and Setup
I am a GPS junkie. I love GPS tools, and I especially love when I can use my PDA with a GPS Receiver. In fact, I wrote a HUGE review on TomTom Navigator USA for Pocket PC over at pocketnow.com that you can read here. It’s important that you take a few minutes and review that article, because instead of recreating the entire review here, I’m going to refer back to it on occasion. This article will concentrate on the good, bad and ugly of the Palm T3 system and some of the differences between it and their Pocket PC Navigation solutions.
A number of different items come with the receiver, including a software CD pack with State and Region maps, and a custom, powered cradle for your vehicle. The cradle is simply awesome, and is one of the best features of the whole package, in my opinion because you can use it to hold and power your device with or without the GPS receiver active.
My friends over at TomTom are some of the most accommodating I’ve ever known. When I called them and asked them for a review unit for this article here at Lockergnome, they were only too happy to help me out. My review unit came with the map of Tennessee and the GPS application and driver already installed on a 128MB SD card.
My experience in setting up the Palm version of the software was somewhat different than it was on the PPC side. With the software already on my provided SD Card, all I needed to do was set everything up on the device. The only thing I didn’t have to do was HotSync the software to the card (so, yes… TTN USA for Palm DOES support installation to an SD Card).
Please note that in July of 2004, TomTom released an update to the Palm GPS software. This update included a very important update to their GPS driver, which GREATLY sped up the time in which my T3 actually knew that it KNEW that the TTN GPS Receiver was there and that they were communicating. With the original program that I received, it could be 10 – 20 minutes before the GPS driver would start communicating with the Receiver and begin routing me to my destination. For short trips around Nashville, that didn’t do me much good. I was nearly to my destination by that time, and didn’t need the GPS System because I had found an alternate way of getting directions (like Map Quest… my wife always goes to MapQuest to get directions. She’s a little wary of GPS systems due to the last experience we had, as noted in the pocketnow.com review.)
When you first start the application, it takes you through ten configuration screens on the device. You pick a language, right or left hand orientation, units of measure, a voice persona for turn by turn directions, specify your home address (not required, but highly suggested during this initial setup), and then pick a GPS Receiver.
After you have the software configured, you’re going to need a map in order to be able to use the application. The main setup CD will give you the ability to identify the State or Region map you need. It will bring up Palm Desktop Quick Install and place the map in Main Memory by default. However, you can move it to your SD Card so that it actually copies there before you HotSync it to your device. No worries here, except for the size of your SD Card. If you take the Great American Road Trip this summer like I did last year (as noted in my pocketnow.com review, you’re going to need a large SD Card. Some of the Region Maps can nearly fill a 256MB SD Card. Provided you have the space, you can store both map and application on the same card. If you can afford one, I’d recommend a 512MB card. That will give you the most space for maps as well as any program updates.
If you’re new to GPS on your PDA, then you’re in luck. TomTom Navigator USA is one of the best GPS implementations around. I was overjoyed with their Pocket PC software, and I had every reason to believe that the Palm based software would be just as good. I was right. In a word, “wow.”
After configuration is completed and you have a map installed, the application wants to take you on a tour. Many Americans have this aversion to product tours and manuals. However, do yourself a favor and go through this product tour. You’ll be glad you did. That way, you probably won’t need the manual unless you REALLY get stuck, and have to jump to it as a last resort.
The Tour itself is pretty cool, it takes you step by step, through the entire layout of the screen and points out every item.
You’ll need to become familiar with the options screen if you’re going to get
any quality use out of the application. Fortunately, TTN USA provides users
with a brief explanation of each icon on the Options dialog.
Say "yes!" Trust me. It’s worth
Most GPS functions will start with this
Most journeys will use the Alternate
TTN USA is one of the most intuitive applications I have ever seen. Planning routes and side trips is easy with the application. TTN knows where you currently are once you have a GPS Satellite lock. It can use your current location as the origin (your dynamic A) for any trip (even if it changes mid stream, like it did in my pocketnow.com review.
The nice thing about this is that the software can intelligently route and
reroute you just about anywhere at any point in your trip to your destination
(your dynamic B). If you encounter a road block or detour you weren’t counting
on, don’t worry. The software can dynamically “get you there from here” no matter
where “here” might be (as long as its on your current map, that is).
Easily navigate to a favorite place from
any known or unknown location.
Tap this icon to change how the application
and device behave.
Turn off the sound (not recommended).
A word about the sound… unless you have a baby who sleeps very lightly in
the car with you, don’t turn the sound off. With the sound off, you won’t be
able to hear driving directions and may miss a turn.
Night colors are available.
Take the Map Browser tour. Also very
The Map Browser screen.
Night colors are very important if you’re traveling at night. Day color screens can be very, very bright when driving at night and can be very distracting, pulling your eyes from the road. The Night Colors scheme uses a lot of darker reds and browns, providing soothing night driving contrast to the T3’s clear, bright screen.
TTN’s Map Browser, used in conjunction with Points of Interest (POI’s) and
Favorites is a good way to get familiar with the area you are currently in.
You can tap and drag to change the point of view and then tap to have any POI,
street or Favorite identified. When you do, the blue stoplight with the cross
hairs (the GPS Cursor) will move to where you pointed. You can tap the GPS Cursor
button at the right-center of the screen to bring up an Options screen that
will let you Navigate to that POI, Center the map to the current cursor point,
Add the POI as a Favorite or find a POI near the POI you identified by tapping
on it and… OY! You get the picture…
Real World Use
TomTom Navigator USA is a stellar program on the Pocket PC side. On the Palm side, I was initially very disappointed with its performance. As I’ve mentioned in the past, the performance of the GPS driver to interpret communication between the device and the GPS Receiver left a lot to be desired. It often took 10-20 minutes for the driver to know that it was, in fact, communicating with the devices BlueTooth radio and the GPS Receiver. In some cases, I had already reached my destination just as the application captured 7-9 satellites. A good lock to be sure, but a little late to the party.
TomTom took care of this in July by releasing an updated version of their Palm GPS Driver. In order to get the driver update (as well as some other programmatic updates) you have to go to TomTom’s Find Answers page and choose TomTom Navigator for PalmOS from the Products drop down, and then either BlueTooth or Wired GPS from the subcategory dropdown. Then press the Search Button. You’ll be taken to a download page where you can get version 4.12 of TTN USA for Palm. This is an all in one update. You’ll need to update the app to get the driver.
After I installed the upgrade on my device, I noticed that the application was quicker to find the GPS Receiver and sync with available satellites. I was more than pleased with the performance of the application before the upgrade when it did finally recognize the Receiver.
If I had one criticism of TTN USA for Palm it would have been that the BlueTooth
GPS driver took forever to see the GPS Receiver. Now that the driver performance
has been greatly improved, it’s simply awesome.
TTN USA GPS status. Each blue dot is
a synchronized GPS satellite.
One of TomTom’s best features is its 3D GPS Navigation. Your car is represented by the blue arrow in the screenshot below. The map will reorient itself as the blue arrow “travels” through the display. You can turn this feature off and use 2D navigation, but if you haven’t seen or used this, you owe it to yourself to give it a try. If you’ve used other GPS packages before and are used to 2D GPS Navigation, you’re really in for a treat.
However, don’t think that 3D is merely eye candy. Nope. It’s a serious and very useful navigation tool that makes navigating to your destination much easier. The display will move and change with the geographic and topographic lay of the land (to an extent) allowing for easier navigation. If you get lost easily, like I do, you’ll have a hard time doing that when using TomTom Navigator. Its simply an awesome product.
TTN’s 3D navigation screen.
Instructions from my route.
One of the things that I like the most about my T3 is its native landscape support. TTN make use of this and does it full, extended screen, too.
TTN USA will make use of the T3’s full,
extended landscape orientation.
I am a HUGE fan of GPS on my PDA. I’ve always got my PDA with me where ever I go. Since I am probably the worst person alive for directions, TTN has saved my skin more times than I’m really comfortable admitting.
If you own a Palm Tungsten T3 and don’t have TomTom Navigator for your country of residence, then you’re probably missing out on a lot. The BlueTooth GPS kit is US$349.00, and the Serial/Wired GPS kit is US$249.00. Both kits are available for purchase online from TomTom.com. [Chris Spera]