I was really excited to learn that Bing now has voice-guided navigation. I have a Nuvi GPS unit, but that just means one more tech device I need to carry around when I travel.

I installed the Bing update yesterday and took the voice nav out for a test drive seeing if it could get me to my health club about 8 miles from my home. Here is what I found:

1. Trying to input the destination address by voice failed several times. I had to add it manually.

2. Bing searched and locked on the destination within a few seconds and I was prompted to follow the highlighted route (by a very pleasant-voiced young lady).

3.  Bing directed me promptly and accurately from my home to the highway. Notably, Bing directed me with street names, not just, for example, “next exit on right.”

4. Bing prompted me every half mile as I approached my exit.

5. Problem: Several times during the short drive (and return), Bing recalculated and changed my route, telling me to get off several exits early (of course, I knew the route, so I ignored it). As soon as it sensed that I wasn’t following those new directions, Bring returned me to the original directions.

6. Problem: Bing was often late in giving me directions (e.g., I had already arrived at the juncture) or behind (e.g., I was already at the subsequent juncture). I assume that is because it wasn’t getting consistent cellular signal to keep up with me.

7. Problem: Bing didn’t indicate which direction on a road I should take (e.g., it told me to take San Pedro Rd., but not whether to take it east or west).

8. The directions that guided me on the screen were clear, in large font, and accurate.

9. Bing did get me to my destination and back, but I’m not sure how it would work with the above problems if I didn’t know where I was going.

Conclusion: Bing Voice Navigation is a potentially useful tool that may be accurate enough to get you places without having to lug around another device. I think a considerable drawback of these smartphone navigation apps is that they rely on cellular signals rather than direct GPS signals to get the guidance information. This technical difference presents two problems: 1) it won’t work if there isn’t a cell signal and 2) it will work inconsistently if there is spotty cell service. So, based on this initial test drive, I would use it if I needed directions and didn’t have my GSP unit with me. But I can’t say that I trust it sufficiently to rely on it when I have to get somewhere for which I have no familiarity.

What have you folks found in your test drives?

5 COMMENTS

  1. When you say these smartphone navigation apps I suspect most people reading that think Google Maps Navigation on Android, not just the Microsoft copycat and WinMo’s Waze and AmazeGPS.

    Not owning a car I haven’t had any opportunity to test it through a dead zone (though I did naturally fall in love with it the other weekend when I was out of the city), but the word is that Google Maps Navigation downloads the entire route along with a little extra on the sides so that in the event of cell service interruption, you only lose satellite view if you have that on (pretty sweet by the way), and provided you don’t deviate too much from the original route, you can sail through.

    I’m renting a car for a six hour drive up to and back from New Hampshire (I’m in NYC), a trip for which I bought myself Google’s Nexus One car dock (love it), and I think somewhere along the way, probably in New Hampshire (for damn sure), I’ll hit some dead zones and when I’m back I’ll be ready to comment on this with some authority. And I’d bet cash money the thing will work just fine without all those problems you listed including random rerouting and after-the-fact instructions with limited specificity.

    By the way, especially with that car dock, the thing’s awesome, so much better than TomTom either on my Tilt 2 or a standalone TomTom and by the way the voice recognition is impressive. Also nice how the thing looks up addresses you’re going to with AJAX as you type them in, matching them to Google Search-style guesses as well as addresses of any gmail contacts you’ve filled out with addresses. Ahh I’ll save all that for my article.

    But hang in there with your Bing, I’m sure Microsoft will catch up eventually to where Google already was. That’s their schtick.

  2. @Doug Simmons: Your Android smugness is sooo irritating! :->

    Enjoy your trip to NH and I look forward to your full report.

    BTW, I’ll be in CT and VT in early June and will test out Bing further.

  3. I got a chance to test Bing Nav against my wife’s phone (myTouch 3G) with Google Nav running next to it. It wasn’t a long drive, only 15 miles, but in that span we at least got a chance to see how each of them compared and here are my thoughts.

    Bing Pros:
    1 – I like the notification sound before the voice prompt, really helps to notify a user to “Pay attention I’m about to tell you where to go!”
    2 – More detailed prompts – Each turn was detailed with any details you might see on a sign, not just “Turn right” It was “Turn right on 300 South Cherry Lane”.
    Bing Cons:
    1 – The “In 1000 feet” prompts are retarded. I’m sorry, but I’m pretty sure that 99% of the population that drive, don’t have a gauge in their car that tells them how many feet they’ve driven. Just use 0.2 miles or kilometers for our non imperial friends so that you can look down at the dash and say “Oh I’ve gone .2 miles!” Retarded!
    2 – Map needs to rotate – There were a couple of turns that could be confusing. I love how google nav puts the arrow always going up and the map rotates. This is much less confusing and would be a great feature that Bing could add.

    Having said that, this is my only free option since I’m using winmo and google nav isn’t available for that platform, yet! Oh and Doc, it’s not the cell signal that tells it where you are, it uses GPS, if you’ve got a blue arrow on your screen telling you exactly where you are on the street, then it’s using GPS, the navigation feature doesn’t work without it.

  4. @Smitty: Thanks for the side-by-side test. Agree on all of your comments. But you didn’t say how Bing did compared to Google Nav.

    So the blue arrow means GPS? Great tip!

    But when I talk about cell signal, I don’t mean like the Locate Me feature (approximate location based on cell signal triangulation). I mean that the GPS signal gets channeled through the cell signal. But a previous comment on this post at FuzeMobility.com indicated that our phones have stand-alone GPS that can get an assist (aGPS) from the cell signal.

  5. My pros and cons were meant to call out the differences in the two options. Overall I think Google’s service still works better, but Bing has come a long way from it’s early Live search days. They need to improve the voice search feature, google still seems to beat them out most of the time on what I’m saying and what it searches for but there are so many variables that can affect it.

    The other pro for Bing is it still allows you to pull an address from one of your contacts while in the app. Where google has the ability but you have to open the contact in HTC’s contact viewer to get the “Show on Map” option. Bing should be incorporated into the winmo contact list, but I guess we’ll just have to wait for WP7 for that kind of integration.

    On the GPS signal, it depends on the phone, but I know with mine (At&t Pure or Touch Diamond 2) I can get a GPS lock without any cell signal, but with these OTA map clients, without cell signal you won’t have a map to look at anyway so GPS doesn’t help much.

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