Magellan RoadMate 2010

Author: Sven Rafferty
February 19th, 2010
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Ratings

Overall:

Ease of Use:

Features:

Accuracy:

POI:

Audio Volume:

Price:

Pros

  • Pleasant looking interface
  • Excellent iPod player
  • Google Maps integration for POIs
  • On-screen speed limit indicator
  • Logo-based POIs for easy identification
  • Superb traffic alerts and up-to-date information

Cons

  • Pop-up notifications takes GPS off-line
  • No Google or Internet search integration
  • Lack of podcast support in Music Player
  • Does not support suite numbers in Contacts and mis-routes

The Bottom Line
Magellan RoadMate ignores the iPhones sleek user interface in favor of its own look-and-feel which will help owners of Magellan’s dash mount PNDs jump right into the iPhone application. For first time Magellan users, the simply layout will be a quick learn for any experienced GPS user. Once on the road, RoadMate wraps up its well defined experience into a tightly knit package that will get your to your destination quickly, easily, and accurately.

Recommended
Yes

Full Review
Magellan went a, um excuse the pun, different route with its iPhone navigation application. Instead of using many of the familiar iPhone menu items and other common iPhone attributes, Magellan stuck with its interface from its Personal Navigation Device (PND) units found on the windshields of thousands of vehicles across America. This twist helps those going from the PND to the iPhone to minimize the learning curve while keeping the user experience satisfying.

Some have made issue with Magellan not instating the iPhone API in order to keep the familiar look-and-feel of the menus and navigation and before I put my fingers on RoadMate, I too thought little of Magellan ignoring Apple’s superb interface. Once loaded on to my iPhone, I tapped (not clicked as there is no mouse on the iPhone so can we all stop saying click folks?) the RoadMate icon and up came the start-up screen. I was impressed to see that the screen had a quick tip presented on the start-up screen which it gives a different tip with every start. Nice touch, Magellan. Like every GPS application I have reviewed, I noted a lengthy amount of time to get to my map screen but it wasn’t tremendously long, either. At the map screen, I tapped the bottom of the V for the clearly labeled menu. From the menu, I could chose to go to a specific address, points of interest (POI), previous address, an address from my contacts, an intersection, my home address, city center, saved trips, or an Emergency service such as a hospital. On the bottom in the middle one finds the settings icon which allows you to select map mode from 2D to 3D, show or not POIs, auto-zoom or not on turns, and show or not highway lane assist, a graphical representation of an off-ramp. The settings allows you to tweak voices, speed limit warnings, navigation preferences, as well as other standard settings for a GPS applications. Moving up or down within the menu is easy with a finger swipe. What I ended finding was that Magellan’s interface is a very good one and, well, if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.

Back to the map screen, I noticed the OneTouch to the right of the Menu button. OneTouch allows you to quickly tap on a predefined destination such as Home, Previous, Emergency, Nearest Gas, or the much needed and essential, Nearest Coffee. You are able to add your own OneTouch location, such as friends home, or a search term like Nearest Parking Lot. Basically, you can select any POI for the nearest aspect as a OneTouch icon which in turn uses that categories icon on the OneTouch menu. You can add up to 17 additional OneTouch places as well as edit Home, Nearest Gas, and Nearest Coffee.

Once you select a location, be it manually or through OneTouch, you are presented with the confirmation screen which includes the address, a phone number that is tappable for direct calling, along with the distance and ETA, all sitting next to one large orange GO button. When GO is hit, your map is brought up and the route outlined in green high-lighter along the roads before you. The end points checkered flag even waves in the virtual wind. Once at that end point, you can document where you vehicle is parked which is perfect for finding your transportation in sea of parked cars at something like the airports long term parking. Nice touch, again, Magellan.

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The map is very pleasant on the eyes and the panning of it is nice and fluid. There is no apparent jerkiness of the map as you motor down, or up, the road. The large blue triangle, you, accurately provides your current location only lagging behind your true position once in a while. On the map, you’ll find POIs along your route, if so selected in the settings, and if Magellan has the logo of the POI, it will appear on the map rather than a general category graphic. Logos always register better and quicker with our brain due to the constant onslaught of marketing so it just makes more sense to use them as POIs. I had to chuckle when I saw the logo for Carls Jr, the happy yellow star, showed Hardee’s under it which is Carls Jr’s east coast division of the fast food burger chain. If you tap on icon, up will come information on that point of interest, or if spot contains more than one place, a list of businesses appear with the ability to drill into each one of them for that detailed information including a phone number. This is such a no-brainer for me to have on any GPS but some navigation companies do not agree with me and do not include this feature. Thankfully, Magellan sees the power in it.

Magellan must have actually put some people in a car and had them test this application as the icons are legible from a distant while driving. While some of the POI icons can be a bit small from time to time, the highway markers, such as Interstate 5 (I-5), as well as J12 (county road) was easily identifiable from my car seat as I drove down the highway. Surface street names are also easy to read from a standard driving distance as well. When traveling on a highway or freeway, you’ll also be presented with the posted speed limit on the left side which is very nice to have if you’ve ever wondered what you should be driving at. Do note, however, this information does not seem to be updated often for as I zoomed through a section of California Highway 99 in Lodi, I was being warned that I was in excess of the posted speed for road work with a limit of 55 MPH. Thing is, construction was completed on that section of freeway over a year ago. But, better safe than sorry, right?

Entering your destination into RoadMate uses QuickSpell, that employes an alphabetical keyboard instead of the common QWERTY found on the iPhones keyboard, to help type your name. Magellan helps avoid mistakes by disabling letters that are not contained within the list of available cities or street names as you type. For example, when I typed Roseville, by the time I get to the S, most of the keys were grayed out since none of the towns in the US have those disabled letters. This is a nice feature for such a keyboard since I am a poke-and-type typist with this format as I am a touch-typist and know the QWERTY set-up much better. Of course, this idea fails when you search for a POI since nearly every letter in the alphabet is more common until about six or more letters into your search query.

As you travel to your end point, a nice sounding voice guides you through your turns, pausing the iPod if playing, at each prompt. I found little issue with the way it pronounced street names and the queues were good not being too late or early. The screen, if enabled in the settings, zooms in on your turn as well, which is very helpful at messy intersections. If you happened to be in a metro area, you’ll see 3D landmarks of the actual building on the map. This adds a nice confirmation to your whereabouts. Like landmarks, graphical representations help you as a driver to insure you are in the right place. Highway Lane Assist places a realistic highway sign above a graphic of the road and its lanes for your to drive into. I know this is a great help for places like LA (the 210 off-ramp from the 5 is brutal!) where complex freeway interchanges lay ahead of you.

So, how does it do with its main goal in life, navigation? In driving around Sacramento and the Bay Area, I found RoadMate to do a fairly good job in getting me to my place of destination; however, like all Navteq based map systems, for some reason, it just does not want to route me down the quickest way to my countryside home. Another issue I found, common to other iPhone navigation software, is the inability to handle addresses with suite numbers. In a previous edition, instead of warning you that RoadMate didn’t understand the extra “stuff”, it just took you to the city center! Way uncool the first time that happened to me. The 1.20 update now adds a warning asking you to select a different address or manually enter it. A fix would have been a better option, Magellan.

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Another issue I did find, was notification pop-ups disabling the GPS. Anytime a SMS indicator or any other pop-up appeared, the RoadMate went dumb in the background asking me to turn on my GPS (see screenshot). Even when mounted to the Premium Car Kit with its built-in GPS radio, RoadMate complained when I would receive a pop-up. For me, someone that receives a ton of notifications, this became so annoying that I labeled it a show-stopper for my personal use. Let’s get it rectified, Magellan, since other navigation software has figured out how to avoid this.

When navigation software first appeared for the iPhone, iPod integration was lacking. With updates or later entry, this slowly became resolved. Magellan’s iPod player is nice and similar to the rest of its easy to use interface. Much like other applications, Magellan omits podcasts from the selection play list. This is frustrating since it forces you out of the application and into the iPod app to find your desired podcast. Having noticed this in every navigation program I have encountered thus far, I’m beginning to thing this is a limitation in Apple’s API rather than a lazy programmer issue. Otherwise, the iPod use within RoadMate is nice and easy to use.

Version Tested: 1.2

Price: $79.99

Platform: iPhone 3G and 3GS; iPod touch (2nd Gen)

Website: Product Information


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