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Pocket Map Drag Race 2.0!

About 3 years ago, I did an web page on my old site comparing PDA mapping software. Boy, have things changed in the short time since I wrote that page. The standalone PDA is pretty much extinct, as is the concept of mapping software for that particular platform(at least for now). The closest you get these days is laptop/GPS software. Delorme and Microsoft are the two players in that, and Delorme may be prettier, but Microsoft is by far the better software in accuracy and ease of use, and if the reviews are anything to go by, they actually listen to their users. Microsoft still has an option to export Streets and Trips maps to mobiles-though this may be limited to the Mobile Windows platform. I have a Windows machine, and S&T 2010 looks pretty good on the shelf, it may be worth the cash to have a look at.

There are oodles of Car GPS's, but most aren't really handy for toting around. So if you want maps that you can actually tote around in a reasonably convenient format, you're really looking at mobile phones. The iPhone/iPod touch has G-Map, which emulates an auto-based GPS, and is supposed to be coming out now. That would be the closest thing to a Mapololis-type programme available.

The iPhone/iPod Touch can access Google Maps(the latter via wireless with no GPS functionality), as can the Palm Pre, and Blackerry. The Pre and the iPhone have the programme already installed. You have to download the Blackberry app. The functionality of these are dependent on signal quality, with a good 3G signal, these will be fast and responsive; otherwise it's catch as catch can. Likewise with carrier-provided services.

As far as these go, if you have a good signal, they're close to the quality of an auto GPS. I've used the Verizon VZ Navigator on the LG Dare and Sprint's Navigator on the Palm Pre. Verizon has a subscription fee, Sprint gives you the service as part of the $99 everything but the kitchen sink plan that comes with the Pre. Verizon has very flexible routing-In my work I have to avoid parkways.. With a standard auto GPS, it will try it's damnedest to route you via a parkway. With VZ Navigator, if you block the parkway on the routing, it 'gets it', and reroutes around it accordingly. I have yet to try that on the Pre, but will upd*te that when I do. the Sprint Nav will also note the addresses of any contacts that you have stored in the phone. Both Verizon and Sprint offer search without nav-with reasonably Boolean type search, and search by postcode. Since the Pre has an actual keyboard, input is easier than on-screen keyboards.

The Blackberry experience depends on which model you have. The units with the actual keyboard are likely easier for input, but you sacrifice screen real estate. I don't see that as a good trade. I'd sooner have the screen. Blackberry has it's own mapping service-and the maps aren't as pretty as Sprint's or Verizon's, but you'll get the data you need. Blackberry's maps can be tied in with the Superpages app on Verizon, which is pretty handy. Again, as with any other phone based app, response depends on signal.

Blackberry via Verizon and Sprint/Sprint Nav are likely your best value for money, since they're free if you have an unlimited data plan. VZ Nav costs money, but the accuracy and utility are decent. The thing I like about carrier provided maps, is that you don't have to maintain files on your device-which saves space for moar important things like music and pr0n! Google is Google. The plus to Google is that you can see aerials, and there's Google Earth for the iPhone/iPod Touch. All free, of course.

One other thing worth mentioning is that the Pre and the Blackberry(and probably the iPhone) can also geotag the pictures you take with them. The Blackberry has direct uploads to flickr and Facebook, too. The cameras on both the Pre and Blackberry, while not fantastic are at least passable. The BB has external storage-which is another plus.

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