Friday, 26 June 2009

Voice guided turn by turn for the iphone from Navigon.

Well, I said I didn't have the cash to try out any of the voice guided turn by turn software for the iphone 3gs just yet. However then I saw the British Isles version of the new Navigon app  for £37.99. The app can be used in portrait or landscape mode, and without an active data connection, which is pretty handy as you don't incur any more sneaky charges once you've bought the thing. Navigon say they will be updating the app with more features in the future, and there is an American version on the way. 

A session of googling the likely forums revealed this app has a pedestrian mode (as well as car, bicycle, motorbike, lorry - but no public transit yet). The price goes up on the 30th of June to sixty quid (all bar a penny) so I bought it on a whim, because I don't own any gps software or hardware already. And guess what ? The app is ninety nine percent (in my experience) accessible with VoiceOver. 

If I were to go through every nuance of the app I'd be here all night, and dear reader, you would die of boredom. The highlights include being able to set your home address and having the app take you home with a handy Take Me Home button right on the main menu. The ability to look up contacts from your address book and navigate to them by car, bike, lorry (heh !) or pedestrian modes. Let's be honest - the Shank's Pony mode is the one we're interested in as visually impaired people afterall. And being able to browse for Points of Interest such as atms and restaurants nearby.

The only unlabeled buttons I've found so far are in the search for point of interest section. However I expect I haven't explored all the in and outs quite yet so don't quote me on that being the absolutely only unlabeled buttons. There are three direct access buttons at the bottom of the search for p.o.i. screen which VO reports as "button", which one can customise in the options to search for your choice of p.o.i., such as atm, train station, shopping, whatever, for quick access. It becomes obvious that they are for this purpose when you fiddle with the options on this screen because you can set them up yourself. You'd just have to remember what you set them at.

As I expected, VO will not read street names when you pass your finger over the map. You can show a map rather than have to put in a route if you want to see what is round you, but VO isn't going to tell you any of the visual info sadly. This is going to be down to the map rather than VO - basically the map in this case is just a big picture afterall I guess. And we all know how screen readers treat pictures. 

But putting in routes via an address is ok once you get the hang of it - it requires a town or city first, then a road, then the number. Below the text field for inputting the info are choices it thinks you might want, for example if you put an N in the field when putting a city or town in, a selectable list of towns and cities beginning with N will appear below the text field. There's a Next button down on the bottom right of the keyboard to advance through this process, or picking one of the list choices advances you automatically.
Picking contacts to navigate to is a matter of choosing the contacts button from the main menu, and picking one out of your address book. 

Once the app accepts the address to navigate to there will be a More button at the bottom of the screen where you can pick what the app calls a Route Profile. A screen asking for a Speed Profile will appear - this is where you choose pedestrian, car, whatever (you have to do this to get the right mode, so to speak, if you're walking it). There's also a save as a favourite button for the address you've put in - a sort of customisable point of interest if you like. Once you've picked your route profile (you will only have to do it once unless you want to change it in the future, the choice sticks if it's not changed), go back to the previous screen and press Start Navigation (top right of screen). Then get going !

The polite female voice gives you accurate directions - in my test from my house to my fiance's anyway. She piped up to tell me to turn right and left as I was on the corner of roads (very useful), told me how many meters to walk and then turn, what roads I was turning onto, when I was on the road featuring my destination, and when I was approaching my destination, and when I'd gotten there. "You have reached your destination" rang out within about ten feet of my fiance's garden gate I'd say.
And when I had reached home again on the return, she informed me pretty much within two feet of the turn to my gate, as my fiance's guide dog indicated the turn. 

Unlike Trekker you can't browse the route beforehand (so far), and it won't tell you the roads coming up on the left or right unless they are on your route (so far). However in the map screen (Show Map from the main menu), the name of the road is displayed at the bottom of the screen - and this is read by VO. It's alot bigger an area to tap in too, than the current location button in Google Maps. So if you were to make a turn and wonder what road you were on, tapping there would cause VO to tell you.

Whether it's for you or not will depend on your own individual perceptions, but what I can say is that the app is accessible in all the right areas. There are no nasty blank areas that are vital to putting in routes or making choices. Once you figure your way around the app, I reckon it's a winner for the money personally when faced with other accessible choices. 
Your mileage, as ever, may vary - if you'll pardon the pun !


  1. how does this application compare to say, wayfinder access on my n82?

  2. Hi Will,

    Difficult to say really as I found Wayfinder Access bit of a faff to be honest. Both me and the fiance gave it ago (him on n95, me on e90), but after a week or so found it abit of tiresome to get the hang of - so we didn't bother to buy it when the trial ran out as it was so expensive. Sorry I can't be of more help.