Magellan eXplorist TRX7 Hardware Review

Magellan eXplorist TRX7 Hardware Review

Jun 30, 2016

It’s all about mobility in cars it seems, and with good reason, when one comes to realize how keyed in to our mobile devices society has become. Smartdevices are becoming more of a central processing unit that interfaces with every facet of life: at home, work and everything in-between.

As it goes, GPS solutions are obviously on the table, and the Magellan name is synonymous with this sector. Getting to formally checkout its eXplorist TRX Offroad Navigator, we didn’t pretend not to be too eager.

The review package Magellan sent us highlights the whole solution in its retail glory; one gets the navigation display, cabling/charging accessories, mounting pieces and documentation. The display piece is similar in looks to a mid-sized tablet, but with a relatively wide frame and telltale rugged construction, with a rubberized cornerings and sealed off ports. It’s fairly hefty in hand, larger in profile than a traditionally-sized standalone GPS unit, and looks somewhat refined in the all-black presentation. Yep, one gets a 7″ HD touchscreen which is protected by a rugged IP67 casing: made for tough business, as it were. The screen isn’t the most vivid, but it gets the job done.

If the aforementioned similarity to a tablet is intriguing, it’ll be cool to know that the tablet is actually an Android tablet with Android OS 4.2.2 under the hood. As such, navigation should be easy for anyone that has used a tablet, and especially intuitive for Android users.


Setting up is fairly easy. To use effectively, one must acquire the companion Magellan TRX application via Google Play, create and sign in with a account. Signing in with the same credentials on the hardware unit allows the unit and the app to sync.

So, this thing is built for the outdoors, so it got the treatment by way of the trusty 4×4 jeep (which admittedly has been begging for some 4×4 action). The big usability features are the ability to use crowdsourced maps, and to add/share tracks of one’s own. The crowdsourcing aspect is well done, allowing one to vet courses and what equipment one uses.

Frankly, at the end of the review, my biggest regret was not being able to go to more exotic locations; the unit does help enhance such travel that much. It is a bit of an investment, but for true off-roading enthusiasts, is is sure to be a hit.

TeleNav Scout GPS Gets Update, Adds Chat Functionality

TeleNav Scout GPS Gets Update, Adds Chat Functionality

Nov 13, 2014

Scout, the voice navigation utility from industry heavyweight TeleNav, is getting a pretty nice update.

Most notably, the update brings interesting collaboration tools; now, it is possible to chat with friends and family from within the app. Thus, meetups and more are easily arranged.

Chats can be initiated via the devices address book.

The user interface has been retooled somewhat. Now, upon opening the app, a “Me” icon is shown. In this, the app ties in even further to the username associated with the signed-in account. At the bottom, there are virtual buttons for Home, Chat, Meet Up and Me. the “Me” portion now houses the account and settings information. Here, one can download maps and such.

All in all, at first glance, the app feels cleaner and more streamlined. The changelog states the app is easier to navigate, and that certainly seems like it is the case.

We had an opportunity to review Scout a while back, and we mostly loved it. We look forward to checking out the new build more formally.

Scout is available for free (with optional in-app purchases) on the Play Store.

CoPilot Premium Review

CoPilot Premium Review

May 27, 2014

When it comes to mobile navigation software, the scene is packed; if there is one thing Google Maps has done, it’s to create an enviable situation for consumers: to compete in this space, developers have to come correct, or not bother coming to the party at all.

CoPilot is not a rookie piece of software, and as such, seeing how it stacks against competing solutions on Android is sure to be an interesting ride.

The interface has the bright-but-serious look that one might expect from a mapping solution, with default sky blue on white backgrounds making up the basics of the menu UI. The menu is a treat of sorts, revealing that the mapping interface can be tweaked with built-in themes that enhance the daytime/nighttime experiences. the entire theme can also be adjusted, with relevant and zany choices like breast cancer awareness pink or multicolored halloween. These “little” customization opportunities go a long way to increasing the usability of the product. Other settings give a glimpse as to other features contained in the app: language and gender choices for voice, ability to show local speed limits and proclaim warnings based on such, units of measure, sharing tools and more.

With regards to the app in action, the 3D rendering works well, and the overall smooth design of the menu spills co4over into the navigation. A search easily pulls up the location, and then the trip begins, with a screen that auto adjusts to he ime of day. There’s more good stuff here; using touch, it’s possible to tweak the information displayed (like speed and ETA) on the screen. 2D maps can be toggled here as well; the same handy menu pulls up trip summary, alternate routes, detours, points of interest and even walking directions. There is a lot of potentially useful information that can accessed on the fly.

In addition to searching (which works with Android voice dictation) one can input locations by coordinates, pre-entered “Places” and by the devices address book/contact list, which CoPilot interfaces with. The app allows for total trip control; it’s possible to plan by type of vehicle (car? Bicycle? Feet?) and avoid toll roads or to choose either the fastest or shortest route available. The app also offers a cloud feature for backup, and a year of free traffic monitoring service ActiveTraffic.

My biggest gripe with the app admittedly runs counter to my “complete mobility” rallying cry: I would love a web interface. A lot of times, for my needs, it is great to be able to input an address found while surfing on a laptop. Some folks might balk at the price when weighed against other options, especially since other vendors are getting into the offline side of things as well.

But for a full-fledged mobile option that packs in plenty of functionality, CoPilot is tough to get around.

Or get around without.

Scout by TeleNav Review

Scout by TeleNav Review

Oct 25, 2012

Scout is the newest, award-winning Android voice-directed navigation app from TeleNav Inc. Don’t call it a comeback…

Full disclosure: I am a fanatical advocate of device convergence. I want one device that does a lot of things very well. I want functionality in the palm of my hand. Since my phone is with me most of the time, it makes sense that it serves as the hub. Much has been made about the hastened obsolescence of secondary devices by smartphones, and Scout does make a strong case for the retirement of standalone GPS devices.

Scout seemingly shares the same engine with its older brother TeleNav GPS Navigator, but where the original is nice to look at, Scout goes for statuesque. The UI is sharp, with colors contrasting well, and it looked bright and inviting.

There is a clear effort to make the application more social. Billed as a way to discover places and get there, I thought Scout mostly succeeded in living up to its lofty self-imposed premise. I noticed that the app pulled in information about local weather on the Dashboard. The Places tab gave me GPS-generated locations categorized by type (like Lodging, Food, ATM and even wi-fi spots).

And, of course, there was the Drive functionality, which was really nice. I was able to set up my Home and Work addresses for easy retrieval later. Entering an address got the software going, and it quickly got me three color-coded optional routes, with estimated times and distance superimposed on a map which, allowed me to visually compare the routes.

The navigation “voice” sounded human. Fortunately, the dialogue wasn’t overdone, as can happen with some apps. The reminders were concise and timely, and the audio guidance could be set to directions, traffic, both or neither. The languages could be toggled between English and Spanish, and I had the options of picking metric units or imperial units. The voice input worked well for me, and I was able to switch back and forth between 3D and 2D. I also appreciated how, when set to auto, the device automatically gives a bright contrasting night-time mode at evening time.

As an additional feature, Scout syncs with TeleNav online, allowing me to trip plan from a desktop and backup addresses. The TeleNav website even has interactive mapping software, so it is the perfect cloud solution. The optional upgrades (speed limit, lane assist, red light camera and more) are available via in-app purchase.

Feature packed as it is, one gripe I had was a comparison I inadvertently made to an earlier iteration of Telenav Navigator: more voice choices would be nice. Also, any offline functionality, even partial, would be very welcome. Multiple transit (biking, walking, etc) modes could also be valuable.

With the industry giant (Google Maps) looming in the smartphone space, it takes a formidable offering to stay relevant. Fortunately for Android users, Scout casts a mean shadow of its own.

NavigationPro+ Review

NavigationPro+ Review

Oct 4, 2012

Navigation on smartphones is no longer a novelty. I have long since forgone standalone GPS units for the simplicity of Android-powered solutions. Having my navigation unit on my Android-powered device just makes sense.

At the root of it all, Google Maps is the software that sets the pace.

NavigationPro+ from jWhiteRabbit Software works to be the ultimate accessory to the ultimate accessory: a bridge to Google Maps and (as I soon discovered) even more.

I found NavigationPro+ seemed to revel in its simplicity. From the unassuming splashscreen to the minimalist settings screen, I felt NavigationPro+ just seemed tp want to get me out on the road. I appreciated the UI and the easy feel of the menu. And that pretty much brought me to what THE feature: it served to organize my contacts and travel locations.

As soon as I tapped one of the locations or travel destinations, NavPro+ invoked Google Navigation (or whatever program you have installed as default navigation app) with the address pre-populated. Now, where this is useful is for, say, a trip with several stops out of the way, or multiple stops. I found this to be insanely useful as a soccer coach that frequently goes to tournaments. Having the ability to have program to type or search locations in that worked with my navigation program was priceless.

I found the program did well with searching. It gave me the option of pulling info from the web and from the address book on my phone, and it worked well with Google Navigation and TeleNav Scout.

My biggest fuss is that because at least some of the features of NavPro+ are built into some navigation programs, some folks will find a reason to forgo it, especially if device never is an issue. Still, it is a great companion app, particularly for folks like me who want to keep navigation apps clear of one-time data. For the truly curious, there is a free trial that drops some premium features like cloud backup and which has ads.

For pre-planning trips (especially with Google Maps), it is a viable add-on.

Panoramondo Review

Panoramondo Review

Sep 13, 2012

Augmented reality apps for Android are becoming more popular. For the uninitiated, think of augmented reality as an overlay on real life. What I mean is, most Android apps will use the rear facing camera to view the world. On the Android’s screen, additional information is displayed about whatever is being viewed; kind of like a heads-up-display in a plane.

Panoramondo is a great augmented reality app for Android to use while traveling. While in an unknown area, simply start the Panoramondo app and let the GPS satellites find the location of the Android. What will happen is, names of different cities will start to appear on the screen as an overlay. If nothing is there, try to point the rear-facing camera in a different direction. There is a setting to choose a distance. What the distance setting does is limits the cities displayed on the overlay to the cities falling within that distance.

Imaging backpacking or being totally lost. Getting out the trusty Android and starting Panoramondo will be a sure fire way to find the path to the nearest town. Keep in mind, Panoramondo doesn’t just pick up the the big cities. There is a town near me with less than 500 people living there and that town was displayed. Even large mountain ranges will have their name displayed on the screen.

After finding a near by town, tap on the name of the city. A map of showing an “as the crow flies” distance from the location of the Android device to the town selected. That means, the distance does not take into account how far it would take to drive there following any roads.

If desired, a picture can be taken of the landscape with the overlay showing the town, current altitude, compass orientation and the altitude of the selected location. One thing to try if the locations displayed in the overlay are jumping all over the place is to adjust the Compass Noise Filter. Doing so should fix the problem.

KickStarter Spotlight: tōd

KickStarter Spotlight: tōd

May 16, 2012

Living with young children can be a nightmare in public. Most parents have that never-ending fear of turning around and seeing their child has vanished, and unfortunately as these children mature there is a second wave of worries; like what time did little Johnny come back home last night? There are plenty of creepy parent/child tracking devices available, but there are none that are intrinsically simple and come with multiple applications. Enter tōd, pronounced “toad”, a small Bluetooth 4.0 beacon that has a wide array of functionality which is not limited to merely tracking teenagers. The tōd app can be programmed to alert the user when a beacon has wandered outside of a specified range, when a phone arrives in a beacon’s range, or trigger a specified action once a beacon is sensed.

Beacons are designed to be both a permanent resident and something mobile. For example, by keeping a beacon in the car, texting can be automatically disabled from the moment the driver gets inside. Placing a tōd on a young one ensures that the moment they should happen to wander away out of a specified zone the parents will be instantly alerted. The possibilities are endless, and with a promised simple and intuitive app layout, designing custom commands and responses should be a snap. Imagine ending the headache of waiting up for a teenager by simply placing a tōd inside the front door; ensuring that their nighttime arrival is noted for later discussion.

The uses for tōd extend well beyond just personal and family use. Like most apps, social integration is a big goal, and the plan is to have vendors and stores offer promotional deals that are discovered whenever a tōd user walks into their shop. The KickStarter page offers a list of great uses for tōd including reminding a child to do their chores when they arrive home from school, finding a car in a parking lot, automatic social networking check-ins, and even delivering reminders if someone has a gift card to the store they are entering.

As of writing this, tōd has 17 days left and it’s very close to its goal. So, for anyone finding these possibilities exciting be sure to give tōd a look and possibly help push it all the way over the finish line.

Endomondo Sports Tracker Pro Review

It seems that these days we are living in a health-and-fitness awareness boom. You can get microchips in your sneakers to track your running for goodness sake! But not all of us have the money to throw into robot shoes, especially if we’ve already put the bulk of our money toward a smartphone. So it’s pretty natural then to assume that our phones would be willing to assist us in our fitness tracking, and we are not wrong. Endomondo is the second fitness tracker I’ve tried using, and I can say it’s a pretty tough act to beat.

I had been signed up with and using RunKeeper for a while, and while it’s nice to fall back on the familiar, I was also ready to take a look at the new. Signing up for an account was easy, and the app didn’t take long to download, although for the sake of testing it out I did hesitate for a moment over the $4.18CAD price. But since I’ve started using it I’ve been in love, and have even renounced RunKeeper all together.

The app’s main screen gives you your most basic options: Type of Workout, Music On/Off (with the option of some songs provided by the app, or of playing your own podcasts/music library), and the immediate Start or 10 Seconds Countdown options. GPS, unless disabled, automatically begins plotting out the route you’re taking and uploading it to your profile on the website. Further settings options give you an Audio Coach (giving you your time and distance values at set intervals), and even the option to allow your friends to send you Pep Talks if they see that you are actively exercising. Great for people training for marathons. There is also a secondary screen you can flip over to with a map showing your current location. Helpful to track yourself but also (if you get lost easily like me) to keep yourself on target.

Basic Workout gives you another host of options. You can set a goal to reach, set a goal against that of a friend’s time or a previous time of your own, or enter a route that you want to follow. During warm weather I’m an outdoor runner but during chillier times I resort to a treadmill/elliptical combo at the gym. GPS isn’t a viable tracking option then, so the final option of Manual Entry is essential for me. You can plug in Type of activity, Duration, and Distance Covered and it will all be added into your calendar of completed activities. Sweet and simple and covers all the bases.

It’s hard to praise the app without mentioning its parents site, so let me just say that Endomondo itself is wonderful. It has a very clear and intuitive display for your workout stats, as well as a constantly updating display of all of the other users who are currently out for their own workouts. It’s like Twitter, but for jogging. As well the option of sporting activities that you can chose from when embarking is stunning. Everything from the standard Walking, Running and Cycling, all the way to Pilates and Star Climbing to Yoga and Martial Arts. Plug in the time you spent on the activity and it will generate for you an approximate value for the calories you’ve spent. Those calories are then awesomely added up to give you values for Trips Around The World or To The Moon you’ve virtually completed, or more realistically how many Hamburgers Burned off. These stats are only viewable on the main site, but all of those sporting activities are options within the app itself.

In terms of cons, I feel a little silly reporting that my biggest complaint is that Elliptical (as I know it) is labelled as Cross-Training in the app and on the site. That term means something else to me, and so only the tiny icon of a person on an elliptical clued me in that it was the option I was looking for. otherwise it’s been smooth sailing. Which is, by the way, an activity option!

Code9 Mobile Keeps Those Misbehaving Kids in Check

Code9 Mobile Keeps Those Misbehaving Kids in Check

Sep 14, 2011

Children are not to be trusted. Even the good ones shouldn’t be completely trusted. I should know, I was one of them. However, with cell phones nowadays, it can be more difficult to tell when they’re up to their mischief. That’s where Code9Mobile steps in.

This service allows parents to monitor their kids’ phones and activity. The biggest feature is SMS monitoring; parents can set up alerts for specific content in text messages, whether they contain threat language, cursing, words that would suggest cheating in school, or other criteria. It is possible to set up specific words in various categories to monitor, with the ability to block messages containing certain content. Statistics on all words can also be tracked.

As well, parents can monitor the time that this activity was taken place at. Parents can set up curfews for certain contacts, so that their messages won’t come through until after the curfew period has expired, as well as whitelists and blacklists to accept and block messages from specific contacts. This is true with phone calls and MMS messages as well. Parents also can track which applications have been installed and uninstalled from the phone, as well as track the GPS location of the phone.

All these services are trackable through Code9’s website, accessible from any web browser. The app is free to download from Android Market, though the service costs $10 per month per phone, though the service comes with a 14-day free trial.

While the morality of this technology may be questionable to some parents as far as trusting their kids goes, there are some kids who should be kept an eye on. All of us adults were kids once, there are some kids who should have an eye kept on them. Should this technology be used with all kids universally? Not at all. But for some children, this could be a great service for parents who could really use the help.

Navigon Updates MobileNavigator to 3.6

Navigon Updates MobileNavigator to 3.6

May 13, 2011

Navigon have updated their MobileNavigator app for Android to version 3.6, bringing along a variety of improvements and new features. First up, and most notably, the app now supports tablets running Honeycomb. The app is now optimized for tablet screens’ higher resolutions. As well, the app supports a new feature called “Clever Parking.” As drivers come up upon their destination, an icon marked with a “P” will pop up, and the app will show nearby parking options, along with distance from the current location.

Also on the plate is a “Weather Live” feature, that shows real-time weather updates. This is designed to help drivers anticipate weather conditions at their destination. There’s also an option to see a 3-day weather forecast. A new Destination Information Screen is available to see a summary of information about their destination, including nearby gas stations, restaurants, hotels, shops, and more. This screen is customizable to only display certain information, as well. Route planning is now available, with the ability to enter up to 50 destinations for a route.

These new features aren’t just coming to the US version of MobileNavigator – a North American version covering both US and Canada is coming as well, though it is not available on the Android Market as of publication. This is in conjunction with the European and Australian versions available as well. The app comes with standard mapping features, NAVTEQ navigation features, an augmented reality feature called Reality Scanner that identifies points of interest through the phone’s camera and GPS. This is along with multiple orientation support, pedestrian navigation support, text-to-speech with multiple voices, lane and speed assistant features, and more. MobileNavigator is available now from the Android Market, for a sale price of approximately $39.95 for the US version. The 3.6 update is available as a free update for current owners of the app.