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GPS moving-map/navigation on Symbian platforms (Psion, Nokia 9200/9500 series, Series 60 and UIQ smartphones)
updated July 2005

One of my hobbies over the years has been mapping on the handheld, starting with my own (now rather dated and in need of revision) Mapper project. On the Psion Series 3 version, this had support for plugging in a GPS receiver, to get a primitive moving map. I never did get this to work reliably on the Series 5 and the functionality got dropped. But no matter, as several others came along to fill the gap.

So, without further ado, platform by platform, here are the info and links you'll need to get going!

Psion/EPOC

TomTom CityMapsThe software you really need is TomTom CityMaps Europe, which comes on CD, has every street in Europe mapped out, with good route planning and full GPS support. It's no longer sold by TomTom, but people like Expansys still have copies left, and there's always eBay. Make sure the box looks like this (see notes below, under the 9210 section). As a last resort, its predecessor, StreetPlanner, will do just as well.

On the GPS side, TomTom used to do a dedicated Psion-connecting GPS receiver module, but again this is now only found on the second hand market. With a little patience, you can do just as well using any standard handheld GPS and the appropriate DIY cable. GPS signals are sent as the plain text, NMEA 0183 standard, and you only need two wire connections from GPS to Psion. So, if bastardising two existing cables/connectors, you've only got to handle soldering two wires. Making such a cable is beyond the scope of this article, try a Google search for pin info for your GPS.

Once connected, go into CityMaps and use 'Maps | Preferences | GPS' and use the settings:
Use GPS: Ticked (obviously)
Seconds between updates:2
Keep position on screen:Ticked
Map matching:Ticked
In 'Maps | Preferences | General', set:
Route indicator follows table:Unticked

CityMaps

With these settings, CityMaps will track your position on-screen, against the current planned route, with your next instruction counted down at the bottom of the screen. If you go 'off-track', just pull over, tap on the 'Set (cursor as)' button and press 'Enter' to accept the default of 'Departure'. A new route is quickly planned from your current position and it's off you go again.

Nokia 9210/9210i

TomTom CityMapsAt the risk of sounding like a TomTom advert, it's their software you need again, and again it's called CityMaps Europe. However, it's a totally different version of the package to the one mentioned above for Psion, you have been warned!

On the GPS-side, TomTom unfortunately never got round to writing drivers for generic NMEA-talking receivers (theoretically connected via the PC Suite serial cable). So your only option is the official Nokia GPS (model LAM-1), not officially available anymore but plentiful on the likes of eBay. The good news is that the GPS package also includes both the CityMaps Europe and RoutePlanner Europe applications, so you don't have to buy these separately. So, if you think about it, the GPS is better value than at first glance.

Nokia GPSThe Nokia GPS clips neatly onto the left hand side of the 9210 and is recognised instantly by the two TomTom applications (though note you can't run both at once). As with CityMaps for EPOC, it's easy to recalculate routes on-the-fly, with bottom-of-screen instructions as to what to do at the next junction.

For optimum usability (and mimicking the current Nokia 9500, Palm OS and Pocket PC Navigator products as far as possible), you'll probably want heads-up display, with real-time updating of both map and navigation instructions. Here are my recommended settings:
Map orientation: Heads-up
Color style: Greys (for best visibility in sunlight on the 9210)
Route indicator follows table: unticked
Keep GPS position on screen: ticked
Map matching: ticked

CityMaps 9210

In use, this solution works well. If you go 'off-track', you do need to pull over briefly though, pressing the 'Cursor' command button twice and then waiting while a new route is compiled and drawn.

Note that because the Nokia 9210 insists on auto-dimming its display after a while, you may want to invest in the shareware utility Smart Display, which will let you keep the screen at maximum brightness.

Nokia 9300/9500 (and Series 60) devices

TomTom again are the ones in the frame, with their MOBILE 5 product, which works on the Nokia 9300/9500 and all Series 60 devices built on Symbian OS 7 and upwards. This comes with a suitable Bluetooth GPS and the whole system is tremendously well worked out. See my full review of the Series 60 and Series 80 versions.

MOBILE 5

Other possible solutions include WayFinder, which works well in urban areas but falls flat when your smartphone is out of GPRS coverage, and (for all Series 60 devices) Route 66, which has the benefit of working on all devices, regardless of OS age but is slightly slow and clunky compared to TomTom MOBILE 5.

UIQ (e.g. the Sony Ericsson P800/P900)

WayFinderFor Europe at least, there's currently only one navigation solution for UIQ, with the comprehensive WayFinder service. In short, the application talks wirelessly to any Bluetooth GPS and (also wirelessly) to its home server on the Internet, via the wonders of GPRS. It's quite frugal with bandwidth, don't worry, your biggest cost will be in stumping up for the year's subscription to the service.

The upshot is that it can guide you from anywhere to anywhere else using both visual prompts and digital audio instructions. Being able to keep your eyes on the road and let WayFinder talk to you is extremely liberating and a big step forward.

For more screenshots (including maps) and more information, see my detailed review over on AllAboutSymbian.

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