Damn you, Indecision!

Actually, MotionX GPS Drive IS on sale for $0.99…here’s a first impression

So if you've been wanting to try it out, now's a good time to snatch it up.  I must've caught the App Store mid-price-change, since last night the app didn't appear to be on sale when I clicked through from the Top 25 list of paid apps.  Last night right after I posted my blog post, I checked the App Store, and the "glitch" was fixed, showing $2.99 in both the Top 25 list and the app page, so of course I felt annoyed that I seemingly jumped the gun when I posted the entry.  This morning I checked the App Store out of curiosity and saw that GPS Drive was, in fact, on sale for real now.  So, I quickly bought it, and was able to test it out on the way out to the Rt. 59 Metra station (I drive the hubby to the train station on the days he goes into the office) and back home.

The hubby set up the route to the Metra station, but I'm not sure if he was actually able to find the particular station we go to, or if he had to route it to the known address for the station.  Either way, it was incredibly slow and laggy positioning us while we were on our drive.  And it kept wanting to route us to Rt. 59 (since the address is on 59), even though we were taking an alternate route that avoids 59.  I'll forgive it for stubbornly trying to route us to 59 because a lot of GPS devices get stuck on a route like that.  However, what is unforgivable is that it was too slow in recalculating the route.  If I were relying on this to get me around a place I didn't know, I would miss a lot of turns.  By the time it figured out my new position and recalculated, I would be "off-route" again, having just driven past the street it wanted me to turn on.  Now I realize that sometimes GPS devices don't do well at figuring alternative routes once you've ignored the original route it calculated, so I won't hold this performance totally against it.  What I will hold against it is its performance routing me back home.

Now, I was initially impressed because when I told it to route to my home address while I was on my way back there, it actually knew where my home address was.  IIRC, MotionX GPS Drive uses NAVTEQ data, so it should know my address.  Google Maps, which uses TeleAtlas data instead, doesn't know about my home address, because TeleAtlas data, even after 4 years of this address existing (it was a new-construction home in a new neighborhood), STILL doesn't know what to make of my address, so I have to use an address that the hubby figured out is the closest nearby valid address. :-/  SO STUPID.  Anyway, GPS Drive had that going for it.  And it picked the correct route home.  Where it utterly failed was getting the timing right for each turn I had to make.  From the location I set up the route, I had to drive straight for 2.something miles, and then turn left.  Well, I was driving a normal speed towards the intersection where I had to take a left and GPS Drive didn't tell me to turn until I was already turning.  Actually, it told me to prepare to turn left while I was mid-turn, and then immediately told me to turn left.  The next remaining steps are quite close together, so the timing is crucial, and the nav app failed to give me directions in a timely manner.  I would've had to be driving 10 to 20 mph under the speed limit to match GPS Drive's timing, and I'm not even sure it'd be able to keep up then.

Keep in mind, though, that this is the very first time that I've used it, and I have no other nav app to compare it to beyond Google Maps.  And that's not a fair comparison since Google Maps doesn't have spoken turn-by-turn directions.  However, Google Maps does keep up with my current position, even if it does jump around a little bit due to the iPhone's relatively weak GPS antenna.  I've used Google Maps a lot as my nav app, even though it doesn't have voice guidance because it at least can show me where I am on the map when I'm in unfamiliar territory. 

I'll be playing around with GPS Drive more, but its sluggish performance at keeping track of my position is a huge strike against it.  After all, that's a major component of using a GPS device, at least it is to me.  First big thing is getting the route correct, which GPS Drive is currently scoring 1 for 2.  The second big thing is giving accurate voice guidance so that I don't have to look at the screen, for the most part.  GPS Drive is a big 0 for 2 there.  You may think I'm being harsh, comparing GPS Drive to something like a Garmin or a TomTom device, but I think that with the way all of these iPhone apps are trying to position themselves, the comparison is valid, since many people are going to consider getting an iPhone nav app instead of a dedicated device (as I am considering) because of price and convenience.  And while MotionX GPS Drive currently trumps the other nav apps in price, if it can't deliver on all aspects of navigation, then people aren't going to want to rely on it as their dedicated method of navigating, especially not in a place where they really have no idea where they're going. 

I should mention that I am running GPS Drive on an iPhone 3G.  So I don't have the compass of the 3GS.  And perhaps the processing power of the 3G compared to 3GS is a factor in GPS Drive's positioning.  If it has better performance on a 3GS, I would be curious to hear about this.  But if that is the case, and GPS Drive isn't optimized to work properly on a 3G, I would be quite disappointed to hear that.  We'll see if GPS Drive can redeem itself on future routes.


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