Name: Telmap 5
Type: Android sat-nav app
The advent of the smartphone has been heralded by many as ringing the death knell for the dedicated sat nav, as app makers increasingly build affordable software alternatives to costly mapping hardware. Telmap 5 looks to leverage the advantages of smartphones, offering on-the-go downloads of routes, rather than pre-installed maps.
This on-demand mapping system has both advantages and disadvantages. On the one hand, you don’t clog your handset up with loads of unnecessary data, instead only pulling up the maps and areas that you need. You also get the most up-to-date route information instantly, rather than having to constantly update otherwise static route information. However, despite Telmap’s decent attempts at compressing maps for quick access, you’ve still got a few minutes wait until your route is downloaded and ready. It’s worth noting also that unless you have a generous fixed data tariff, changing destinations away from a Wi-Fi connection is going to cost you.
Telmap’s turn-by-turn route choice (complete with voice guidance) is fairly comprehensive however. Despite downloading each route map individually, Telmap 5 intelligently takes into account every possible deviation you may take from the primary route given, and quickly adjusts direction accordingly, a smart move considering you otherwise face a map download at every deviating turn. The constantly updated maps also mean that traffic, speed cameras and roadworks are always taken into account with each journey. A solid pedestrian service is also included in the app, which takes into account shortcuts across parks, pedestrian bridges and other such routes otherwise inaccessible on four wheels.
Telmap 5 can also be used in tandem with the Web Companion, a web-based app that allows you the comfort of a PC and large screen to plan and sync routes with your mobile online, making notes of favourite locations and sharing them with pals before heading out onto the road. It’s a smart feature, and one definitely worth putting the time in with should you be planning a complicated trip.
The interface for Telmap 5 is relatively intuitive on Android; map, search and favourite/recent places buttons sit at the top of the screen, a GPS location finder to the right, while the map and zoom controls take up the majority of the rest of the screen real estate. Directions can be either set to fill a small area towards the top of the screen, or to take up the entire screen, removing the map altogether. A scrolling carousel of widgets pops out from the bottom right of the screen, which then can be set to provide information on traffic, route info, nearby points of interest, weather, tweets and emergency services.
However, we found that on our test handset, a HTC Hero, some elements of the interface were a little too small to comfortably select, particularly annoying when you’re trying to keep your focus on the road rather than frustratingly missing the button you’re aiming for. Also, unless you’re on a particularly high-end device, the interface can be a little sticky and not quite as slick as a dedicated device.
Telmap 5 stakes a good claim as an alternative to a single-purpose sat-nav, what with its social network savvy route sharing, intelligent, adaptive journey directions and constantly updated optimal routes. However a 3G connection is still not quite up to the task of providing these maps instantly; you wouldn’t want to be a bank-job getaway driver relying on Telmap 5 to get you out of a tight spot in a hurry, nor is its fiddly buttons particularly helpful for the chubby fingered amongst us. Not a bad attempt by all means, but still not quite good enough to get us to abandon our TomTom.