Is there a future in Internet-connected GPS navigation? We were bullish on the idea when Dash released theExpresslast year, but Dash recently exited the hardware business to focus exclusively on licensing. Stepping in to fill the gap is the $299 TeleNav Shotgun, which--on paper--sounds like it provides the same services. But the Shotgun doesn't deliver anywhere near the polish or usefulness of the now-departed Express.
The Shotgun, TeleNav's first standalone navigator, offers a 4.3-inch screen and black plastic casing that feels awfully cheap. The navigator has few external controls, but a blue light in the upper left corner flashes when you have an active network connection; the constant blinking is distracting at best and maddening at worst. The navigator also comes with a small but stiff suction-cup mount that we were never able to bend into the exact position we wanted.
The on-screen interface is simple enough for beginners, offering large icons for entering a destination or performing a search. Only one voice is included, but it pronounces street names.
Maps and Navigation
TeleNav's maps look at least a generation behind those from the major vendors: blocky, unattractive, and badly colored. They also provide poor access to the live traffic data. Whereas the Dash Express let you switch between 2D and 3D views with a tap to see either area conditions or turn information, the Shotgun sticks to a 3D view with an occasional traffic indicator on the screen. Tapping the screen reroutes you around the incident, but you won't know just where the problem was. For that, you'll need to call up the traffic incident list, which offers sketchy descriptions and no maps. We got one warning that there was traffic on Jersey Avenue in Jersey City "near DONKSTRAAT:DOT." We don't know that that means, but hearing the computer pronounce it was amusing. When we called up a 2D map and clicked to show all area traffic, the traffic indicators blinked on and off like Christmas lights, making them difficult to read.
The Shotgun offers a wonderfully large 11 million-POI database, but it's slow to reroute after a missed turn. We timed it at 16 seconds, and for half of that time the map was blocked by the large rerouting window.
The Shotgun's optional cellular connected services require a monthly or yearly subscription ($11.99 per month, $129 per year, or $239 for two years) to access live traffic data, perform network searches, and receive current gas prices. But save your money: While the Shotgun's subscription prices are similar to what Dash offered, you get far less. The live traffic, for example, depends on embedded DOT sensors and tracking devices on some commercial fleets. Individual Shotgun receivers don't upload traffic information as Dash Express models do, so the quality of traffic data is basically the same that you'd get with TMS traffic features found in many existing models, such as Navigon devices that offer free lifetime traffic. That TeleNav thinks this data is worth paying a monthly subscription for is shocking.
The Shotgun uses its cellular connection for network searches, but again the quality falls short of the Dash Express. While the Express used Yahoo for local searches, the Shotgun searches only TeleNav's network for updated listings.
Thanks to the Shotgun's Internet connectivity, users can send addresses to the device using their computers. They can log into the Shotgun section of the TeleNav site and enter an address, or they can load a Google toolbar plug-in (compatible with Firefox and Internet Explorer), which allows them to highlight an address on a Web page, then click on the toolbar icon to send it to their navigator. Both methods were easy and fast on our tests. Our addresses showed up as soon as we tapped on our Favorites list and hit Refresh.
Subscribers can expect updated maps and POIs quarterly, but these aren't downloaded to the Shotgun. Instead, they reside on the TeleNav servers, and the Shotgun checks for updates each time it creates a route or runs a search. This isn't as useful as downloaded updates, since you won't get the new information if you're outside your coverage area.
TeleNav has promised more connected services in the future, including restaurant reviews, address sharing, local weather, and e-mail traffic alerts for your commute, but hasn't given a time for their release.
The $299 TeleNav Shotgun is an interesting effort to provide business travelers with current traffic data, but it falls far short of being a useful driving accessory. We like the Web-based send-to-car feature and the vast POI count compared with other navigators, but the maps look dated and you don't get much more for $11.99 per month that you can't get for free on other devices.