GPS on a UMPC: When Touch Isn’t An Afterthought

I don’t really have a huge need for GPS navigation in my work and life flow although every now and then it comes in handy. Given that the Asus R2H Ultra-Mobile PC came with an included GPS receiver, I’ve been trying it out on a few trips here and there. The R2H came bundled with Microsoft Streets and Trips 2006, and quite honestly that application offers less than a stellar ““touch” experience, so I upgraded to the 2007 version which promised a few touch enhancements. Emphasis on few. Not a satisfactory upgrade for reasons I’ll explain below.

DrivinginavI’ve been impressed with what I’ve seen about iNav’s iGuidance software so I thought I’d give that a try. (By the way you can see a recorded webcast of iGuidance at this link.) What a difference it makes when someone thinks of ““touch” from the beginning and doesn’t just toss it in as an afterthought. (Click on the thumbnails for a larger view. The pictures on the right side of this post are from iGuidance. The one on the left is from Streets & Trips.)


Streets & Trips 2007 does provide an improved driving gudiance screen that makes it Hiressteasier to use touch once you’re on the road and moving about. That’s about it for touch improvments. On an Ultra-Mobile PC you still have to rely on the traditional Windows menu interface to set up your trip. Now, if you follow all the warnings about caution while using these devices while driving this isn’t a huge problem. In fact it is recommended that you plan your trip before embarking. But if you do pull off the road to make a change in your drving plans it is less than convenient to do so and from a touch perspective it is really not convenient. As far as viewability, even using the zoom function to focus in or out on a particular map segment I find Streets & Trips too small to read with any real clarity regardless of screen resolution. Instead I rely solely on the voice commands. I also think the very large driving guidance pane takes up far too much screen real estate.

InavstreetiGuidance on the other hand offers a much easier interface to manipulate with touch and a much more pleasant viewing experience while you’re on the road. I can tell the program is built from the ground up as a GPS navigation solution. The screens remind me very much of the stand alone GPS systems I’ve used. Large keys on menus make entering info a breeze. 

Another nice feature of the program is that you only have to load the maps you might need as opposed to the entire map database. This helps save disk space on smaller devices. It also improves the loading time of the software. iGuidance also offers multiple ways of viewing your trip, including 3D views, and changing between them is a snap, or rather a touch or two. The application also loads much quicker than Streets & Trips and given that the GPS recevier on the Asus has been known to be flaky when it tries to receive a signal, it seems (in realtively limited usage) to grab a signal easier. All in all a nice package. With an appropriate mounting solution for the UMPC I could see this working well as a GPS solution if you’re not going the stand alone GPS route. If you attended the iGuidance webcast you’ve probably already received an email with news that there will be a new version of the application coming out around the beginning of June.


In my opinion, this brings into sharp relief the simple fact that if applications for Ultra-Mobile PCs are going to succeed, (and thus the platform) they really need to be thought of with the features (and limitations) of those devices in mind. Just adding on to an existing application doesn’t do the trick.


UPDATE: Follow this link to access the recorded webcast.