Review: WayFinder Satellite Navigation System
The big names in PDA navigation do seem to (so far) be concentrating on Palm OS and Pocket PC, almost exclusively, but there's still an excellent solution for owners of Symbian smartphones that comes very close in terms of functions. I happened to come across it as part of a feature that I'm doing for PDA Essentials magazine in the UK, and reckoned it was worth putting to the test.
WayFinder is a totally wireless navigation system for all Series 60 and UIQ smartphones, with remarkably small memory requirements. Rather than storing hundreds of megabytes of maps locally (you couldn't anyway, with the P800/P900, with their silly 128MB Memory Stick Duo limit...), all the data is kept on WayFinder's servers. When you buy the product, all you're really doing is buying a year's subscription to the service.
I have to say that spending *two hundred pounds* or so on a single piece of smartphone software means that you really, really must want it. It's expensive by any stretch of the imagination, and you'll have to pay again in 12 month's time. If you're reading this, WayFinder, why not halve the price and quadruple your sales? There's a 5-day downloadable version, by the way, so at least you can all have a go for yourselves.
In use, WayFinder works remarkably well. It talks to any standard Bluetooth GPS and connects without hassle. You tell it to search for an address or company (by default it starts looking in your locality, as determined by the current GPS position) and a few seconds of GPRS activity later it's up on screen. Tap on the 'Go there' icon and a route is calculated on the WayFinder servers, downloaded to your smartphone and it's off you go, complete with voice instructions: 'Turn left in 200m, then right in 100m.' You know the sort of thing.
There are a number of different modes, including 'Guide' (turn instructions and distances) and 'Map' (a traditional moving map, complete with optimum route and current position indicator).
Apart from the current pricing, WayFinder's main weakness lies in its rather non-standard interface. You quickly get used to the different modes, but some of the icons are confusing, to say the least. Other possible weaknesses are in its Bluetooth integration, as I discovered to the tune of a number of resets to restore proper Bluetooth operation on my P800, and in the lack of any really advanced functions, such as calculating alternative routes or avoiding black-spots.
That said, WayFinder works very well indeed for basic navigation, even automatically rerouting if you should veer from the original planned route (once you turn the relevant, well-hidden option on!) The voice prompts are clear and reasonably timely (if limited by the P800's speaker volume) and WayFinder's use of GPRS is superbly frugal. In two hours of intensive testing, planning, playing and driving, I only managed to use up 200K of GPRS bandwidth. So air-time cost shouldn't be a problem.
Don't get me wrong - it's great to see WayFinder on the market and working. I'm just not sure how many people can afford it.
Steve Litchfield (also planning an 'in-car with your P800' article on 3-Lib!)
Reviewed by Steve Litchfield at