Turn-by-turn on your (i)Phone

Electronista posted suggesting that TomTom might be hiring an iPhone dev to create a turn-by-turn app for the upcoming iPhone 3.0 OS/firmware/whatever. While I am pretty sure that if TomTom was building an iPhone app (and they probably are) they wouldn’t need to hire outside devs, the real issue is whether or not turn-by-turn on your cell phone is the best option. We have had the “all-in-one vs many devices” conversation a couple of times on the podcast with no real lead on either side, but I still lean toward one device to always have with you (the ever growing ‘swiss army’ phone approach) and a device that does the job well. My iPhone is great at being a phone and a pocket computer, but is mediocre at GPS, pictures, recording audio…and still can’t do many things like video. But I don’t need it to do everything well since I have a camera, an audio recorder, a video camera, etc that I take with me when I need them.

With GPS, especially when driving, it is handy to get quick directions if I am unfamiliar with an area. The problem is with screen size and text entry. Most cell phones still can’t be glanced at easily (safely) while driving because of their screen size, low volume, and lack on mounting. Admittedly smart phones are probably exceptions to this as many folks (including me) have their iPhone (etc) window mounted and connected to their car stereo, but that is a small portion of folks using their phones while driving. I understand that the $100 to buy an in-car nav device isn’t beating out bread and eggs on folks shopping lists, but is a cell phone developer’s time really best spent building a car nav app for the latest flip phone? Where are the apps to help me walk in a city or take pub transportation (yeah I am a fan of the iPhone Google Maps app) for flip phones? And text entry…1) don’t text and drive, 2) don’t email and drive, 3) don’t tweet and drive, 4) don’t enter a destination and drive…you get the idea. We are losing wonderful folks to their own (or sometimes the other driver’s) stupidity. There is nothing I need to know so quickly that I can’t wait for you to 1) pull over or 2) get to where you are going. Needless to say if you don’t know where you are going before you start driving, please don’t enter the address while you are driving (stop lights are probably OK).

As smart phones with large screens become the norm, I look forward to turn-by-turn apps. Until then I am not sure they are 1) really worth the monthly fee for the services charged by most carriers or 2) even usable in a real world (safe) driving situation.

OK. my post has turned into a rant… someone should stop me from writing late night posts. I am going to bed 🙂


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Jesse is Instructor in Geography and a PhD candidate in Geography focusing on the integration of phenomenology and geospatial technologies to study prehistoric cultural landscape. He is a GIS Professional and Registered Professional Archaeologist and holds an MA in Geography and a BS in Anthropology with a concentration in archaeology.