Last week Dr. Jim Taylor had an underwhelming experience with Bing’s turn-by-turn garbage for WinMo (double garbage), talking trash about all navigation systems that use wireless service.

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.

Bad diagnosis, Doctor. While that and the rest of your list of complaints you built from a short field test of Microsoft’s slipshod copycat of Google Maps Navigation may be true of Bing, I drove over six hundred miles this weekend relying on Android’s navigation system from New York through Vermont and New Hampshire, encountering extended edge connections and sporadic zone deaths and have nothing but praise to report.

With regards to the main controversy of such navigation systems, that if you lose your signal you’re screwed, in addition to sailing through said dead zones without incident I did an airplane mode test of a forty mile leg, starting the software on my hotel’s wifi and shutting off wifi and cellular before driving. Google’s system does in fact download the entire trip in advance.

The text to speech is lovely, accurate, complete and on-time. Voice recognition is impressively accurate. If you opt to type in an address, the Google Search-like autocompletion makes it easy, knowing where you are and where you might want to go based on the first few letters you type in, and it also autocompletes addresses of anyone in your contacts and anything you searched for on a computer with Google Maps while signed in. Not bad.

The traffic data is fascinatingly superb and updated swiftly. It’s nice to know if you’re going to hit a jam, offering an opportunity to go for an alternate route which you may fire up in a couple quick taps; but if you decide to suck it up and make your way through the jam, no more mystery on where the jam will end and when you’ll be Oscar Mike.

Very fast and solid satellite lock, zero lag. Zero lag. You may overlay a satellite layer along with the usual points of interest flagging (gas stations, restaurants, ATMs, parking etc). Run Trapster in the background and you’ll get speed trap warnings (I spent most of the highway rides north of 80mph, no tickets thanks in part to the Trapster warnings and good luck). The Google car dock in the picture has a decent built-in speaker and the call quality on speaker is real nice. Voice dialing included of course. The interface is elegant and simple, no quirks that I could find and nothing anyone who managed to load up this website couldn’t figure out immediately.

Can’t beat the price obviously but the rule that you get what you pay for just doesn’t seem to apply with anything from Google, especially with Navigation.

Doug Simmons

17 COMMENTS

  1. OUCH!!! A bit harsh on me, don’t you think? :-> Your blownfuze persona is seeping out again (get back on your meds!).

    Bottom line is that WM users can’t use Google, so Bing is better for the simple reason that it is available.

  2. Doug is like the professional athelete that you loved so much when he was on your team. But now that he plays for the other side, you hate everything he does.

  3. Simmon’s abrasive personality aside, I will agree with him here. Google has saved some of its best features for Android phones, and whether its Bing or the Half-assed Google Maps they’ve been pawning off on WinMo since Android came out, they all kind of suck by comparison. Of course we’re also comparing the Nexus One to the HTC Fuze, so a 4 year old phone vs. a modern flagship device which is a weak comparison at best, but I’m fully expecting a lot of improvements coming to Bing with WinPho 7 and not a lot of dev love for 6.5.3 or otherwise.

  4. Bing Directions works great for me..I have the Tilt 2. The software isn’t perfect, but it does a great job and it It get to where i wanted to go…

  5. I tried Bing voice navigation for a trip that my car gps said would be 100 miles. Bing gave me directions that cut down 10 miles and saved me time too. Not bad at all.

  6. A couple of things…

    1. Google Maps is available for WinMo, and it works; however, Google is being a huge collective ‘nad and won’t provide Turn by Turn for WinMo likely to make WinMo appear less capable in the eyes of consumers. Along comes Bing and SHOVES Google aside(not a minor proposition) and shows them off for the ‘nads they are. It doesn’t hurt that Bing’s app also adds voice recognition and web searches with the ability to launch your browser(not necessarily IE, go figure…) and display search results as well.

    2. Bing Works. Self explanatory? If I had to be picky, I’d ask that they actually give us the ability to specify how far from a turn they provide a voice prompt, and whether a second one is issued before a turn is required. If anything, I’d say Bing’s turn by turn can be a little too helpful, but at least it occurs BEFORE a turn needs to be made. The distance to the next turn required counts down nicely on screen in one tenth mile increments, as well.

    3. Google no more loads the map background for the entire trip than does Bing, at least not in the WinMo version… If GM is loading the map background for the trip and caching it on the ‘Droid version it’s just one more way of twisting the knife in WinMo’s side. GM does load the entire course plot, just not the map background or other roads for reference.

    4. Microsloth may be slow and sometimes cumbersome, but they will grind you to a fine paste if you get in their way. I don’t think Google has a lot to worry about, but if MS gets their act together they may want to look out… MS’s operating systems control the vast majority of the machines that provide access to Google’s online “empire”. Why is it that Google can get away with what they’re pulling, but if MS did it, or merely made accessing Google Anything a bit more difficult a gazillion people would be crying “Anti-trust and Unfair Competition” at the top of their lungs?

    5. I LIKE Google, but their Map program won’t give me turn by turn on WinMO and they still won’t get Google Sync working properly so that WinMo users don’t have to continually dump all their Sync associations and then resync them. A major pain and hassle as they do not preserve WinMo’s Contact Management’s File As: settings. Frankly, I’m so sick of being caught in the middle, that I’d rather see what MS has to offer.

    Personally, I’d like to see Google and Microsoft playing it straight for a change.

  7. I just used Bing voice navigation the other day running around town. It worked just fine, giving prompts to turn and displaying accurate countdown data prior to course changes with adequate time. I don’t really see what the issue is. Maybe Dr. Jim forgot to turn on the GPS on his phone?… I do agree that the speech input capability needs to be tweaked as it appears Bing can’t understand your search request unless your immediate environment is fairly quiet. Newsflash, my Garmin Nuvi does the same in-trip rerouting and sometimes innefficient routing that he stated the Bing app was doing. Several times on trips I disregard the Nuvi route because I can see on the map there’s a more efficient way or traffic appears worse down the road for the given Nuvi route. Hence the need to stay on top of your device’s output and not blindly follow its recommendations.

  8. Well, I ran Bing again this AM, and it does have at least one little problem -it doesn’t like switching bands from 3G to Edge, and possibly vice-versa. It went the “La petite mort”(yes, I know the context is wrong) route several times this morning, nicely locking up my Fuze one time -the last time I might add.

    Still, the turn by turn is appreciated when it’s not having band switching related seizures.

    Frankly, this sort of thing makes me wonder if anyone even does Alpha Testing anymore, or if they’ve just forgotten that preliminary testing should be worst case testing?

  9. Mr. Simmons convinced me to try his Kool-Aid & so far I LOVE it… having a cellphone that actually works when I need it is just awesome and makes me very happy. But as for using my N1’s navigation function, well… I’m not too impressed: the device becomes frighteningly hot when GPS is in use; the audio prompts are nearly indecipherable; and the dock’s UI tends to freeze up when plugged into the car charger. Not very cool, yo. For any future roadtrips, I’ll be sticking to my trusty TomTom.
    Otherwise, I have zero complaints about my new phone. Thanks, Doug!

  10. jkrs: That’s true, it does warm up quite a bit. Between the screen, processor, GPS and cellular, and also being charged while doing all of that, that’s quite a few milliamps. I have yet to find any complaints around various forums and sites about the phone overheating and getting damaged, freezing or rebooting as a result of running this hot (roughly 40c I believe), but still, it is unnerving. I’d say it’s harmless but there is one downside to running that hot and charging and that is it may age your battery faster, running hot, which is way I stick to a spare for that, as I would for tethering (if I tethered).

    I’d be surprised if the Tilt 2 for example running Bing didn’t get just as hot on the inside, though because the thing’s much thicker than the N1, the heat might be sort of insulated from your hand when touching the thing but still just as hot on the inside, the battery and cpu.The N1’s pretty thin and light. And the heat from what I watched does seem to level off at <42c, a comfortable ten or so degrees from the danger zone. I've never managed to overheat my phone to the point that it froze up or had to reboot and I do overclock (for the hell of it).

    I'd be surprised if there was anything fundamentally different about the efficiency of the processor and other chips in producing such an online turn-by-turn navigation system on the N1 versus other phones to account for additional heat. And while that's not a perk of this versus standalone receivers, all the actual perks make this an easy choice for me.

    As for the audio, it sounded pretty good to me. On the other hand I was using Google's car dock which as speakers. But you were too?

    The dock's UI, among many other things including I believe the text to speech engine, got a revamp on Froyo. I recommend you install it if you didn’t get the over the air update already (might take another week or two if you wait it out). The OS somehow runs significantly faster so perhaps to do the same kind of math involved in Navigation the processor doesn’t need to think as intensely, might run a little bit cooler. Probably nothing significant if anything though.

    Thanks for putting that trust in me in buying this phone. Not cheap. A few issues with Navigation notwithstanding, glad you’re glad with the purchase.

  11. yupyup, I’m very happy. My old Fuze used to get crazy hot, too. I used it for a couple cross-country drives just last year & it never caught fire or blew up.

    And yeah, I was usin my Car Dock– which promptly went back into the box as soon as I got home. Maybe I’ll break it out again one of these days… like, when New England’s delightful winter weather returns. And I do have an extra battery, but the heat coming off of that little f***er was just too unnerving to continue using it for that purpose.

    Anyway, I’m gonna wait for the 2.2 update to come OTA, just to see how that happens. No worries, sir.

    –j.

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