Route 66 – Mobile Britain 2005 review

route planning for smart phones
Photo of Route 66 – Mobile Britain 2005
€399.00 (approx. £270)

Navigation software has been around for PDAs for a while now, as an add on, as part of a hardware and software bundle, and even in a couple of cases involving PDAs with a GPS antenna built in.

Several companies have taken the next step and are readying navigation software for smart phones, but the first we have actually tried is Route 66 Mobile Britain 2005, for version 6 of the Symbian operating system coupled with Nokia’s Series 60. We tried it on a Sendo X.

The first thing to note is that if you have any intention of running this software you’ll need 2.6MB of free memory for it. You’ll also need Bluetooth, for the provided GPS antenna. And it would be wise to opt for a recent phone with a fast processor. The software ran smoothly for us during testing, but we had to wait a while for it to launch and route calculation was a pretty slow and painful process.

That noted, the Route 66 packaging says the software is compatible with the following phones: Nokia’s 6260, 6600, 6620, 6630, 7610, N-Gage and N-Gage QD, Siemens’ SX1 and the Sendo X. The range will, of course, expand over time.

The software is supplied on a 256MB Reduced Size Multimedia Card, complete with adapter to standard size, and the card has just over 90MB free for your own data.

It was great to be able to work in a wires-free mode, and though every startup was painfully slow the software itself ran surprisingly well. Pairing with the supplied Bluetooth GPS antenna could be tricky if you’ve not done Bluetooth pairing before – Route 66 declines to provide any printed instructions.

The small screen of our Sendo X was used to remarkably good effect, spoken instructions are available (check the volume of your phone and consider using an earbud as few are up to delivering the kind of noise level you are likely to need in car), and the usual navigation software extras like night vision screen colours and 3D map views are present. There is even the required database of points of interest – 70,000 of them.

Setting up routes was fairly straightforward: your current position as identified by the GPS antenna is your start point, and you set up a destination. Being unable to tap the screen meant heavy use of softkeys was necessary, but things seem to have been implemented with ease of use firmly in mind.

During trips the software didn’t let us down, and it even delivers a rather eye-catching beep and flash if you exceed a speed limit which you feed into it. We’ve seen PDA navigation software with this feature before, but never found it as easy to set up.

We didn’t try the road traffic information service that Route 66 bundles, but remember that if you do want to use this you will incur GPRS data charges.

Company: Route 66

Contact: 01252 792862

Route 66 Mobile Britain 2005 certainly works, and for the most part does so well. We even used it on a few walking trips, though the software's lack of knowledge of non traffic-bearing tracks and paths makes it a poor substitute for a printed map here. Whether its price for vehicle-based travellers is justifiable is moot though, as many of us change our phones and phone operating systems on a rather frequent basis.