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Verizon VZ Navigator versus Standalone GPS

Updated on October 2, 2009

Have you considered purchasing the VZ Navigator application from Verizon Wireless? If so, you may want to read about my experience using this application. The VZ Navigator application offers some great advantages over a traditional stand alone GPS unit. Stand alone units do have their advantages though. My review is based upon two use scenarios: local metropolitan use and over the road use.

By way of disclosure, I am using the VZ Navigator and comparing it to an entry level GPS unit from Magellan RoadMate model 1212.

Feature and Performance Comparisons

The VZ Navigator seems to have all of the features I would need on a day to day basis.  In fact,… more than I would normally use day to day.  Those features include: General Navigation, Local Search, Movies and Events, Messages, Maps and Traffic and My Places.

Navigation provides you with the opportunity to get directions through a variety of approaches (e.g. recent searches, previously saved favorites, by address, airport locations).    In local metropolitan use I found that both units did an acceptable job at finding locations and identifying even what appeared to be “minor” roadways.   The response was rapid in both instances.

Local Search is another function that can come in very handy.  During my trial of the two units, I was in an unfamiliar area and wanted to find a local restaurant.  Both alternatives provided MANY alternatives.  One nice feature of the VZ Navigator is the capability to phone the establishment in question to obtain more information, reservations, etc.  Because the GPS functionality is “built in” on your phone, the call is automatically connected for you.  Obviously with a standalone GPS unit that isn’t an available option.

Navigation and Local Search are both great for local metropolitan use, but what about the over the road use?  This is really where I found the striking difference.  Verizon uses their cell towers and cell signal to “augment” the GPS capability.  What I found is that when I was “out of range” of cell towers that my phone would frequently give me a GPS signal lost message and would stop functioning.  I’ve even occasionally found this to be the case in certain areas within the metro area.  While this was a problem with the VS Navigator service,… I never had any lost signal encounters in using the Roadmate GPS.  Regardless of what I was encountering with the VZ Navigator service on my phone, the Roadmate GPS services continued to be available and on the mark.

Both services provide a voice based direction capability.  I have found that the VZ Navigator service has been very accurate.  There are a variety of male and female voices you can select from and they are all clear and loud enough to be heard while driving.  The Roadmate on the other hand speaks very softly and I found it difficult to hear.  So what does this matter?  I thought the same thing until I was driving in traffic and couldn’t look away from the road to check visual directions.  Having the voice based directions was awesome.  I could proceed with confidence knowing that I didn’t have to check the directions visually.  The advance notification of turns and such was provided in enough time to allow for changing lanes and maneuvering into position to make the turns.

Both services have notification visually of the total trip length, estimated time for the trip, length of the segment that you are on, and the direction of the next turn. There were no significant differences in this feature/capability.

Cost differences

Cost is an area of significant difference.  While the Roadmate and other standalone products have an upfront outlay to purchase the unit, there are generally no additional costs/charges associated with using them.  No air time, or data charges are involved in the service.  The exception to this is if your unit happens to have a traffic service or something of that nature that you must pay a monthly fee for.

The VZ Navigator has no upfront outlay for hardware.  It does however have a monthly service fee of 9.99 with Verizon.  In addition you will need to have an unlimited data plan in order to avoid having data related charges associated with connecting to the service during use.

Review Summary

Recommendation

As you can see there are pros and cons associated with each of these services. 

If you plan on primarily using your service in the city and you generally have strong cell signals where you go, then the VZ Navigator service is great.  Aside from the monthly service fee for use, I have been very happy with the service thus far.

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