Navigon MobileNavigator iPhone app review

I’ve been using a Garmin nüvi 1300 GPS unit since April last year and I am fairly happy with it. There are couple of things I’d love to have though:

  1. Ability to plan route on either Google Maps or Garmin software and send it to the GPS unit. (I can’t with my Garmin because it doesn’t support that. More expensive models do support storing routes.)
  2. Live traffic updates so I can, at least, avoid traffic jam. (Garmin has an accessory that receive traffic update via radio. It also requires an annual subscription fee.)

I ran into a 45 minutes traffic jam 3 weeks ago on my way to work that had really no reason being there and it became the impetus of searching for better alternative. After a bit of research on the interweb I settled on trying out the Navigon’s MobileNavigator for iPhone. To mount the phone in a suitable location in the car, I opted for ProClip mount which I’ve heard good things about it.

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Philadelphia Experiment

Leah and I went to Philadelphia on a weekend trip this past weekend. For me, it was two days of experiments. All of which are for our trip to Naples/Pompeii later in July.

Canon 50D
The 50D is a vast improvement over my old 10D, bought way back in 2003. The increase in pixel count is obvious, but it is other much more subtle features that impress me. First, the quick startup time from sleep mode. The 10D takes about 5-10 seconds to wake up, thus sometimes I would miss shots. The 50D wakes up and ready to shoot almost instantaneously. The LCD screen is of course larger but it is the colour rendition that makes me take notice. With 10D, the LCD is always too bright and colour too saturated. The screen is still slightly too bright but the colour is almost spot on so preview is actually accurate. The low(er) noise level on high ISO settings makes it, for the first time for me at least, viable to shoot indoor with ISO1600 without worrying about unusable image. Images are still noisy but at least it is manageable.
Kata DR 467
I've been using a camera hipbag inside my Oakley backpack on trips for a few years now. Mainly so it is not obvious that I'm carrying an expensive digital camera. While that worked fairly well, it was awkward to store and retrieve the camera as I have two bag openings to deal with. Alex Lindsay (from PixelCorp and MacBreak Weekly) on Twitter recommended Kata DR-467 for travelling with DSLR. I looked online as well as touched it for real in B&H before deciding to buy it. After this weekend, I was so glad I bought it! I can't believe I didn't get it earlier. The slide out compartment at the bottom for the camera and lenses are the best feature, making it very easy to store/retrieve camera on the go.
I've always wanted to geotag my photos so this trip was a perfect opportunity to utilise the built-in GPS in my iPhone to try that. I found on the AppStore this free app, GeoCoder, which claims to make geotagging easy. It was pretty easy to use and I just needed to remember to start a 'recording' in GeoCoder at the beginning of the day and stop it at the end. I was afraid that it would drain my battery quickly but it turned out not to be the case.
I was pretty excited about this whole geotagging thing until I got home and tried to use the GPX files GeoCoder produces in Google Earth. Turns out the iPhone GPS receiver is not sensitive enough to pick up GPS signal when the phone is in my pants pocket! So all I have are a handful of GPS locations whenever I took my phone out for a quick Twitter check or the iPhone happened to have enough signal.
So GeoCoder is out for me for the time being.
For the Naples/Pompeii trip, I have considered using one of my iPhone case and strap it to the Kata's shoulder strap in order to get decent GPS signal for the iPhone. Or I can purchase one of the cheaper GPS recorder and use that instead. I'd probably still need to expose the recorder to the sky somehow though.

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Day of upgrades

Eiron and I took a late flight to Houston, Texas last night for a friend's wedding. We landed at around 11PM and when we got to the car rental agent, we were first offered the SatNav (which I happily accepted) and then an upgrade from the intermediate size car to full size (which I declined). The agent gave me the car upgrade for free anyway so that was nice! (I generally hate American car but this Chrysler 300 Touring is pretty nice, for an American car! Handling pretty good for its size, and the engine and transmission is sporty.)

Then when we got to the hotel, it turned out that they were fully booked and there was no room for us. Apart from the president suite, that is! So we were upgraded to the president suite for our stay which we find out is about 20 times what we paid for our room. The suites is bloody huge! There are living room, conference room, two bathrooms, bedroom, and even a small kitchen!

Now all we need is for Continental to upgrade our return flight to NY…

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