Can GPS software on your cell phone replace a standalone GPS device? I took Verizon's VZ Navigator GPS software for a test drive to see how it compares. My verdict? The small screen of a smartphone will never fully replace a GPS device, but this application is a solid alternative.
I tested the VZ Navigator GPS software on the Samsung Glyde smartphone. It's also compatible with various BlackBerry and Windows Mobile smartphones, as well as several LG models. A complete list of compatible phones is available on VerizonWireless.com.
A Very Small Screen
Your experience with the service will be affected by the phone you use. The Glyde features a 2.8-inch touch-screen; that's about half as big as the 4.3-inch screens that many entry-level GPS devices offer. That means it's harder to view the maps and read any text on the screen.
The phone's keyboard is another factor: The Glyde offers a full QWERTY keyboard, so typing addresses and commands is relatively easy. If you try to use a service like VZ Navigator on a cell phone that only has a numeric keypad, entering information is going to be significantly more difficult.
Verdict: Verizon does its best to make VZ Navigator easy to use on a small screen. The home page is nicely laid out and easy to read. It presents six options: Navigation, Local Search, Movies & Events; Messages; Maps & Traffic; and My Places.
Finding Your Way
Navigation is the key function of any GPS device, and VZ Navigator handled it very well. I typed in the address of my destination and I was off. The service provides turn-by-turn directions to get you where you need to go. If you're not behind the wheel, you also can look at the route map, which is displayed on the screen.
VZ Navigator makes it easy to interrupt the navigation to add a pit stop to a route. It also re-routed me relatively quickly when necessary.
Verdict: The directions it provided were accurate and sensible, and were delivered loudly and clearly. This is the most basic test of any GPS product, and VZ Navigator passed easily.
A Few Extras
The rest of VZ Navigator's features are more of an added bonus than necessary GPS features. You can use the Movies & Events feature to search for and navigate to a theater where a specific movie is showing, for example. The Maps & Traffic feature is a bit more practical: You can use it to search for traffic tie-ups in your area, and can change your route if necessary.
Verdict: These features aren't necessary, but they don't cost extra, and they can be fun to use. So I'll give them a thumbs up.
Worth the Price?
Verizon Wireless charges $10 per month for the VZ Navigator service, on top of your voice and data plan. Over time, the service could end up being more expensive than buying a dedicated GPS device. Many GPS providers charge a monthly fee for services like traffic information, though.
Final Verdict: This is an easy-to-use and relatively low-cost service that's well worth considering if you need help finding your way.