A smartphone and GPS navigation tool

I now own a smartphone which reminds me about daily meetings and important tasks to accomplish. It also securely stores all my passwords (over 50 of them). I can also listen to over 200 of the most popular songs whenever and wherever I choose. The phone has a fully customizable interface but before the true customization can begin, I need a turn-by-turn navigation solution.

The N8 is shipped with OVI Maps, Nokia’s turn-by-turn navigation solution. In December 2010, Nokia Beta Labs reported an update for OVI Maps. I then updated OVI Suite to the latest version I then tried to use OVI Suite to download the street maps for South Africa which is approximately 96 Mb in size. The first download attempt failed and so did the second. I then decided to use Nokia Map Loader which successfully downloaded the street maps and transferred them to the N8. I then downloaded and transferred the UK female English voice as well as Own Voice. I then used OVI Suite to confirm that the street maps and voice files were correctly loaded onto the N8 (all 111 Mb).

Own Voice for Ovi Maps has been updated and improved. It’s now available for the Nokia N8. Own Voice can be downloaded from the OVI Store. With Own Voice, you can add a personal touch to voice-guided navigation on the N8. It’s a free app that allows you to record voice guidance instructions for the free drive navigation in Ovi Maps. You can share different voices with other Ovi Maps users and you can also browse and download voices created by other people too.

I had used OVI Maps on my previous Nokia N82 and was familiar with how the navigation system worked. I connected my Garmin external GPS receiver (GPS 10x) via Bluetooth to the phone. I had forgotten the GPS 10x’s passcode and “Googled” it (FYI: 1234). I tested OVI Maps using both the internal GPS antenna and my Garmin external GPS receiver. The advantage of using an external GPS receiver, rather than the phone’s internal GPS antenna, is related to battery life. Powering the phone’s internal GPS antenna will drain your battery faster.

In the past, I had conducted tests using Nokia’s Energy Profiler application on my old N82. The results showed that the phone consumes approximately 0.6W of power with the internal GPS anntenna switched on (in assisted GPS mode). With the antenna switched off, my N82 draws half the amount of power (0.3W). Switching on Bluetooth consumes no power when there is no communication with an external device. Switching on my GPS 10x receiver increased the N82’s power consumption from 0.3W to 0.4W. In summary, there is a 33% increase in power consumption when the N82 uses the external GPS receiver (via Bluetooth), compared to a 100% increase in power consumption when powering the internal GPS antenna. The conclusion from this simple experiment is that I always use my external GPS receiver when navigating on long journeys and only use my internal GPS antenna for short trips. Besides prolonging the phone’s battery life, another advantage of using the external GPS receiver relates to accuracy (the external GPS provides a quicker and more accurate position lock compared to the internal GPS).

I tried to conduct a similar test on my N8 using Energy Profiler. However, the application reports that “The channel is reserved by another application”. Energy Profiler is not yet compatible with the N8. Battery Monitor (both Nokia apps) is also installed on the N8 and I think they are not compatible.

A turn-by-turn navigation system is useless if your destination cannot be located in the GPS’s database. For this reason, I do not like using OVI Maps. If your destination is a street address, then OVI Maps will locate it and navigate accordingly. However, if the address is unknown and all you have is the name of the establishment, then OVI Maps will be disappointing. OVI Maps does’nt even allow you to enter a GPS coordinate (obtained from web sites or Google Maps, for example). This frustration with OVI Maps resulted in searching for another navigation system that works on the N8. My previous N82 came preloaded with Garmin’s MobileXT navigation system for Symbian S60 v3. I “Googled” to find out if anyone on the Internet had tried to use MobileXT on the N8. I also checked the change log for the MobileXT application and reliased that Garmin added touch screen support in version 5.00.30 (without which the application would be useless on the N8).

This exciting news made me rush out and buy the latest version of Garmin’s streetmaps for southern Africa (version 2010.3). I updated my version of Garmin’s MapSource and MapInstall programs (free downloads off the Internet) and loaded the streetmaps onto my PC. I unlocked the maps in MapSource and created the GMAPSUPP.img file using MapInstall. The GMAPSUPP.img files contains all the street information in the format required by MobileXT. I then installed MobileXT on the N8 (internal mass storage), obtained the IDs of both the internal GPS antenna and the external GPS receiver. The GPS unit IDs are required to generate the unlock codes for the maps to be used on the N8. MobileXT for Symbian S60 v3 is now running on the N8. I tested the turn-by-turn navigation using both the external and internal GPSs and all works perfectly!

As mentioned earlier, a navigation system is useless without a reliable database containing points of interest (or POIs). Garmin have two websites called GARMAP and GTRIBE where they provide end-users with this support. Garmin provides the location (coordinates) of:

  • Fixed speed camera’s,
  • Mobile speed trapping sites,
  • Road hazards (for example, speed bumps),
  • Toll roads and toll fees,
  • Other road safety information,
  • Places to dine out,
  • Sea Rescue Institutes, and
  • National Parks.

The above list is certainly not complete. Most of the road safety information is provided by end-users and available for download here. All businesses are encouraged to capture their details (description; location; telephone numbers) on GARMAP’s website, thus strengthening GARMAP’s POI database. If, for example,  you need to find the location of all skydiving venues in South Africa, then just download this information. To access this rich POI database information, I downloaded a utility called Garmap_Custom_POI.exe, ran it and selected which points of interest appealed to me.  The utility extracted the required information and automatically transferred the .gpi files to the N8 (make sure the N8 is in Mass Storage mode, so that the internal 16 Gb of memory is accessible via USB).

Although my N8 has two turn-by-turn navigation systems (Nokia’s OVI Maps and Garmin’s MobileXT), I will always rely on Garmin to find my destination. One point to consider is OVI Maps is free for the lifetime of the mobile device (typically two years in South Africa). On the other hand, Garmin’s solution is not free, but well worth the money as the Symbian application is feature rich. For example, you can enter the coordinate for your destination and MobileXT will navigate to it.

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One Response to A smartphone and GPS navigation tool

  1. n8fan says:

    UPDATE: Garmin MobileXT version5.00.50 can be downloaded from:

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