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Navicore GPS for Symbian

Take a trip with your smart phone

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Review Selling PDAs on the back of GPS-based navigation systems has proved so successful in Western Europe, it was only a matter of time before suppliers turned to phones as the next platform for their route-planning software. It's a slightly different proposition, of course. PDA-based navigation kits are sold as complete packages, with handheld, software, GPS receiver and assorted in-car attachments bundled together. Plenty of folk already have phones, so here the focus has been on combining software and receiver.

Navicore PersonalThe latest, but by no means the first, is Navicore's Navicore Personal (NP) offering. I looked at ALK Technology's CoPilot for Smartphones software last Autumn and bemoaned the lack of support for Symbian-based handsets. Since then TomTom has released a Symbian-oriented product, and now here's Navicore pitching at the same platform.

Like its competitors, Navicore packages a Bluetooth GPS receiver, Navicore's own route-planning application and street-level maps for the UK and Ireland, with the software pre-installed on a 256MB MMC. The code takes up around half of that space, so there's plenty of room for extra maps when Navicore gets round to selling them in a form that doesn't require a separate card, and for all the other content you might keep on a phone's memory card.

Pairing the handset with the Bluetooth receiver is straightforward - just select the Navicore icon. The software gives you the option of turning on the phone's Bluetooth radio - if it's not on already - and then it's just a matter of choosing Activate GPS from the Options menu. That runs a device search, allowing you to link the phone to the receiver.

Navicore bundles a SiRF-based unit that despite being both light and compact still managed to get a decent fix on the GPS satellite network from inside my top storey work-room, with a ceiling, wooden beams and slate roof between the receiver and a true line of sight. I've managed this with other receivers, but never consistently enough to use the navigation software.

Not that Navicore requires the receiver - its location-finding and route-planning facilities are all available offline to give you a heads-up before you travel. There are two modes: one plots a route to a chosen destination, the other allows you to create a more complex itinerary with any number of stops on the way to your final destination. Locations are chosen in the usual ways: by entering an address, choosing from the software's list of Places of Interest, entering latitude and longitude co-ordinates (good for ramblers, this), and picking locations you've already saved as a Favourite.

What it won't do is pull address information from the phone's own Contacts book. Navicore maintains this is because it's too tricky to ensure compatibility with all the various Symbian/Series 60 address book databases, and to be fair it's a feature that often lets down navigation packages as they struggle to interpret address fields correctly. Still, it's an odd omission.

Next page: Verdict

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