Droid Smartphone for Navigation

google-navby Chris Guld, www.Geeksontour.TV

It’s a rare RVer that doesn’t use some type of GPS device to assist in navigation.  When we sold our house and hit the road in 2003, we used the Streets and Trips software on our laptop with a little USB GPS receiver.  A few years later we bought a Garmin dashboard GPS, then a Rand McNally RVND, and now a Magellan.  Those are all great devices and we use them all, but I like using my Droid smartphone with Google Navigation the best!  Why do I love it?  Let me count the ways:

  1. It’s in my hand.  I am in the passenger seat – this is not a good thing for a solo driver – but for a navigator, it is so comfortable to hold the device in your hand to be able to adjust your view, search for locations, or change settings.  When I have to manipulate the screen on a device that is mounted to the dash, I have to sit up in my seat and contort my body in order to see the screen and be able to properly use the controls.  If we’re using Streets and Trips on the laptop, that’s easier than the dashboard units, but it’s big and awkward.
  2. It’s fast.  My navigation advice is usually needed when Jim is driving according to the dashboard unit and he says something like, “this next turn doesn’t seem right, what should I do?”  I need to quickly get a birds-eye view of where we are vs. where we’re going, and evaluate the choices of how to get there.  With a simple pinch gesture, the Droid responds with what I need – instantly.
  3. It’s clear.  Even though it is a tiny screen, the resolution is so good that I can read every description and see every feature.  I can even turn on satellite view and see the trees, rivers, bridges, and buildings.  Any of the other devices seem almost childish in their graphics by comparison.
  4. It’s Google.  I can search … and find … anything.  Any campground, park, store, address, restaurant, or service – this is Google, it’s on the Internet and up to date.  Traffic information is quite reliable within about 15 minutes.
  5. It’s my smartphone.  My email is on there, so I can look up the email for the campground reservation and touch the address to navigate there, or call the phone number.  Or I can use my Passport America App to find a campground, then just touch ‘directions’ and my Google Navigation takes over with turn-by-turn voice directions to the exact address.  Or I can browse to the website for the Presidential Museum we want to visit – see an address on the web page, touch it, and choose Navigate to there.
    Here’s a short video showing how I can touch an address on email and then go straight to navigation:

It’s not perfect – nothing is!  The main drawback is that the information is coming from the Internet, so if you lose cell signal – you lose your maps.  There are ways to download your route in advance, but that requires that you know where you’re going … in advance!  We will not be getting rid of our dashboard units any time soon – and we still think Streets and Trips on our laptop is the best way to plan our travels – but Google Navigation on our Android smartphones is the clear favorite GPS navigation device for Geeks on Tour!

Want to learn more?  Come to our Techno-Geek Learning rally in Bushnell, Florida April 22-28, 2012.