Telmap5 review

A free navigation alternative for smartphones
Photo of Telmap5
£FREE

TelMap is an old hand at satellite navigation. Undeterred by the success of popular free alternatives such as Google Maps and OviMaps, the company continues to update its software with useful features and improvements. TelMap version 5 offers full in-car and pedestrian navigation, along with a range of performance improvements and interesting additions such as the ability to send route data to other users and share locations via Twitter.

The software starts up quickly and, provided you have a strong signal, can establish a first fix in under a minute. Routes are calculated by simply “searching” for a postcode, address or city, or by entering keywords to browse points of interest, where it can return hundreds of possible matches in just a few seconds.

Route calculation and performance
Route information is then downloaded, and you’re notified with an audible prompt if any traffic problems are detected for this journey. A clear, but rather characterless 3D map is shown by default, with a large green arrow showing directions towards the next turn-off. This is backed up by a distance-to-destination meter, current road name, distance to next turn-off and an arrow symbol confirming the next move.

While the maps themselves are rather bland, all of this information is easy to read at a glance and it’s very clear exactly how far you have to drive and how to get there. A tap of the main screen brings up a menu with options such as muting the voice prompts, making a call, switching to night mode and stopping navigation. There’s also a handy overview map that shows the entire route from bird’s-eye view perspective, and from here you can access the route itinerary, which displays a list of directions along with more details on road name and distance. All of this works very well, and we were impressed by how quick and easy it is to access these sorts of features on the move.

Directions and location are also very accurate – something that’s particularly apparent when using the pedestrian mode, which updates your position every few steps or so. It also does a good job of offering shortcuts where possible, so you won’t always find yourself sticking to the pavement. In-car, the screen makes good use of road names/numbers and signs for visual cues, and offers text-to-speech for audible prompts, though when reading out roads it did sound rather muffled, and the clarity of the audio is obviously heavily reliant on the quality of your phone’s speaker.

Additional features
Outside of navigation mode are a handful of other useful features that elevate the software over simple A to B. Maps can be browsed and zoomed by dragging a finger across the screen and while it does take a second to refresh, it’s just about fast enough to avoid frustration.

When a location is selected or opened from the My Places windows, you can either choose to set up directions immediately to drive or walk there, or access a range of additional controls. These include the ability to save or share the location, and in the case of the latter it will be sent to a mobile number or stored contact and saved in the “received” category in the My Places window.

It’s possible to simulate routes to give you an idea of how you’re getting there in advance, and one curious inclusion is the ability to post messages on twitter with your current location, or view others that have done the same.

Points of interest
Satnav users who are fond of POIs (points of interest) will unfortunately find a rather stripped-down set here that includes gas stations, parking and shopping around the current location, though there are a few others accessible via the widget menu.

Speaking of which, this handy scrollbar offers access to a few more nice features that can be overlaid on the main screen, though only one at a time. These include traffic information, weather updates, tweets from other users in the immediate vicinity and access to further POIs. In addition to those listed above, ATM machines, tourist attractions, restaurants, airports and rest areas are also searchable, and there’s an emergency services category that lists police, hospitals and pharmacies. This toolbar is a nice addition to the software, but due to the small size of the icons and the fact that you only have a couple of seconds to choose one before the toolbar disappears, it can be very awkward to access on the move.

Other minor issues and availability
Though TelMap5 is a very capable satellite navigation alternative to other free software such as Ovi Maps and Google Maps, there are a couple of issues that take the shine off an otherwise polished product.

We found the points of interest rather difficult to navigate, as they are simply displayed on-screen with thumb-tack icons. While it’s possible to skip through these one by one or select them manually, we’d have preferred a standard listbox from which to choose the most appropriate. This can also be tricky to do while walking around, particularly in bright sunlight, since the white-backed maps reflect glare that can obscure the display. These issues don’t detract too much from what is otherwise a very solid navigational aide however, and one that’s certainly worth spending time with before resorting to an alternative.

TelMap5 works on a wide range of over 700 phones and all major platforms, and is installed by default on compatible devices on the O2, Vodaphone and Orange networks. Users experiencing problems or who don’t find the software installed as standard should contact TelMap technical support for a fix.

Company: Telmap

Website: http://global.telmap.com/

Positives
  • Fast and accurate navigation with a range of handy added features.
Negative
  • POIs are limited and can be difficult to browse.

Verdict

While TelMap5 still can't compete with most dedicated satnavs in terms of features, it's a very nice alternative for mobiles that's perfectly capable of getting you from A to B, either on foot or by car. The additional features are mostly well conceived and easy to access, and backed up by accurate and clear directions TelMap is certainly worth checking out.