Review: Telmap MapQuest Navigator

We can remember when MapQuest offered the original Internet alternative to asking for directions. So with some lingering brand loyalty, we loaded up a BlackBerry Pearl 8100 with MapQuest Navigator from Telmap. The Pearl requires an external GPS unit (we tested an $80 model from Telmap), which connects easily to the BlackBerry using Bluetooth.

When the GPS is turned on-battery powered but charged by an included car-adapter-green and blue lights will come on, the blue one flashing and the green solid. That means it's ready for a Bluetooth connection.

Once you have purchased the software (rates are $50/year or $10/month; a free seven-day trial is offered) go to Set Up Bluetooth on your BlackBerry and enable Bluetooth. When your phone finds the available devices, choose the GPS and enter the code you've been given. Now you open the Navigator software, accept the terms and select GPS' Connect from the main menu.

Windows Mobile users begin by opening the software, then choosing Options and clicking to search for a GPS device. When it brings up the list of Bluetooth options, scroll down to the GPS and select it. Once you've connected a device successfully, Navigator will remember that device and look for it on subsequent launches of the application.

(Handhelds with built-in GPS functionality won't require the separate hardware.)

In-Car Navigation

From the MapQuest Navigator main menu, if you select GPS while connected, you'll see your latitude, longitude and elevation. It also shows you which cardinal direction you're facing, how fast you're going and how many satellites the GPS can see. To see where you are on a map, exit the GPS screen and from the home screen choose Where am I.

Now, you can direct the GPS to plot a path for you-walking or driving-to another location. We love that it includes walking directions, and testing some routes that we knew involved one-way streets, it did indeed navigate differently for walking and driving. It's great to see recognition that feet can be used for transportation.

One of the most intriguing and satisfying features of the program is "Find Gas Prices." Once your GPS is paired and the software is running, simply choose this option from the home screen and it gives you a selection of gas stations close by (we got those in a 5-mile radius), their current prices, their addresses and their distance from where you are.

Something we enjoyed was asking the software to add things to a map, such as the police station, which it found, and the fire station, which it didn't. When we typed in the name of a bookstore, we actually got back three bookstores on our route.

Pedestrian Navigation

When scrolling a map to see the locales identified, clicking on a green flag brings up the establishment's name, address, etc. If viewing the map doesn't give you a clear picture of how to navigate, choose Directions from the main menu and you'll see the step-by-step instructions.

The home screen also offers "AOL City's Best" (which doesn't require an AOL account). Choose it and choose a city from the list and you get recommendations for everything from bars and restaurants to date spots and singles scene. A spot check for a couple of cities brought up locally-owned restaurants from different parts of the city.

We liked that the lists weren't crowded with national chains. The categories varied by city, including Chowder and Comedy Clubs in Boston but not in Cleveland. Chicago offered Blues Clubs. Nearly three dozen cities or regions ("North Jersey") come up on the list.

Finding Places

We found that the GPS often needed to sit on the dashboard of the car to maintain a continuous signal, even though we were not in a congested or woodsy locale. Since the GPS is even smaller and lighter than the BlackBerry Pearl, this didn't pose a real problem, but it did seem unfortunate.

If your handheld comes with a built-in GPS, it's worth taking the Telmap seven day trial and comparing that service to whatever your carrier offers. You may find the functionality and special features are worth it.

If you'd need the external hardware, we'd recommend checking out stand-alone GPS units and comparing prices, size functionality and ease of use before committing to the Telmap system. While we certainly enjoyed using it, we're not wholly sold on this navigation option over others we've seen. We still have paper maps cluttering the car.


Blackberry, location-based services, mapping, BlackBerry Pearl