Navigon MobileNavigator for Windows Phones Review

A few years back, I was a big fan of OnCourse Navigator version 5 running on Windows Mobile PDAs. The interesting things here is that OCN5 was really just the name for the North American release of Navigon MobileNavigator. And although OCN 5 wasn’t terribly stable, it was one of the best-looking navigators out there at the time. So then they disappeared from the North American market. OCN 6 was actually a rebadged iGo 6, not a Navigon product anymore. So now, on the heels of a successful iPhone product, Navigon have reentered the market with MobileNavigator for Windows Phones.  So where did they go?   What happened?  More important, however, how does the new version of MobileNavigator stack up?

OCN 5 was in the market at a time when mobile devices were dominated by PDAs, not smart phones.   GPS was done via a cable or Bluetooth to an external receiver, PDAs typically only 400MHz (with no separate graphics processors, really), and they had 64MB of RAM memory onboard (plus possibly some storage space).   Personally, I think that the product pushed the devices to their limit (mine used to get really hot running OCN 5), and that lead to memory and performance difficulties.   If you had a really high-end device, you seemed to have fewer problems.   I think the North American distributor may have found the problems to be a little overwhelming and the support from Navigon for the product to be a little slow (updates were VERY infrequent then).   So, eventually, the North American distributor chose a different product as it’s core.

So was that the end of Navigon?   Not even close.   They continued to update their product in Europe – it never really disappeared there – and they had several stand-alone devices appear using their software as the front end.   Last year they debuted their iPhone app and it has been very successful for them.   So now, a few months later, we see them reenter the Windows Phone market in North America with MobileNavigator 7.   And Navigon has kindly provided me with a copy of the Windows Phone (Windows Mobile) version to review here.

This version supports Windows Mobile 5, 6, and 6.1.  It also supports Windows Phone 6.5 (touchscreen).   Throughout this review you will see a number of comparison short.  The iPhone images (the smaller images) generally appear first, followed by the same thing on the Windows device.

It’s really interesting.  In many ways, this version bears a lot of resemblances to its predacessor, but also to the current iPhone version, but has many differences as well.  I’ll be looking primarily at the state of the program today, and, since they are functionally very much the same, I’ll talk a lot about some of the ways it compares to the iPhone version of the program and what makes this version a little different.  You should check out my review of the iPhone MobileNavigator and my Road Trip report (where I compare multiple applications) to learn more about the basics of this excellent navigation application.

You should note, that MobileNavigator for Windows Phone does go through an activation process so you will need use your registration code and if you ever change devices you will need to use it as well so hang on to that code!

As I mentioned, for the most part, the Windows phone version of MobileNavigator operates like the iPhone version.  So again, much of what I said in my iPhone review applies here as well.  The routes it generates are the same, and the basic map appears to be the same (allowing for minor differences in fonts, screen resolution, etc.).  The most obvious visual difference is in overlay pieces which are translucent in the iPhone version but solid gray in the Windows Phone version and the row of buttons that appears at the bottom of this version.  These are not big things, but the do make the screen appear to be a bit more cramped.   Also note, I found this arrangement to better operated with the stylus, not with your finger.

The buttons on the bottom correspond to similar buttons or taps that are in different places on the iPhone.  For example – the left arrow button corresponds to the “Cancel” button on the top left of the iPhone version.  The volume button is unnecessary on the iPhone version so doesn’t appear in that version, and the “Options” and the Magnifying Glass icons are spread between the “Options” Button in the top right corner of the iPhone and by tapping the middle of the screen in the on the iPhone.  So all the same basic functionality is there, but, again, the iPhone version is a bit more finger friendly in its arrangement.

In general, I have to say that the Windows Phone version ran very well, much smoother than its predecessors, albeit not quite as smoothly as the iPhone version.  For example, when I adjusted the volume while the app was loading, the volume slider became stuck on the screen until the next full screen refresh.  Little thing like that are typical in apps on this platform, however, and don’t really detract from the program.   The routes were reliable (all based on Navteq maps) and the voice announcements were virtually in lock step with the iphone version.  If you were making the transition from an iPhone to this version, you would find a few things in different places, but, in general, the transition would be comfortable.   This version is very capable and Navigon even offers a 30 day trial of the software (from Navigon’s web site only)!   Make note, however, although this version supports TMC receivers (used mostly in Europe), it doesn’t appear to offer the “Traffic Live” feature of the iPhone version, so if you really love that option, then this version might not be the best fit for you.

The display on my Windows Mobile device, being at a somewhat higher resolution than my iPhone, seemed crisper and sharper and generally showed a little more detail, but things like the translucency of the iPhone version overlays helps makes that version feel a little smoother.   Perhaps that’s related to the higher color depth available on the iPhone.  I’m not certain as to the reason for not having the same translucency in the Windows Mobile/Windows Phone version.

There is one odd difference I encountered.  There was a situation where the iPhone displayed the “Reality” view and the Windows Phone did not.   I’m not sure why this occurred – the Windows Phone version of Mobile Navigator does offer Navigon’s Reality View Pro feature.

In general, the Windows Phone version of MobileNavigator showed the POI items in more detail at the higher zoom level, whereas the iPhone version didn’t show those details until you were a little further zoomed in.   I’m not sure this was due to differences in the display algorithms or differences in the screen resolution (my Windows Mobile device was running at a VGA resolution), but I prefer seeing it as it appeared on the Windows Mobile device.  I wish the iPhone version would show that POI detail at the default zoom level.

I also ran into a situation where both versions of the program incorrectly reported the local speed limit – definitely a problem with the map data there – but they were very consistent!

What I Liked: I like the overall look and feel of this version of MobileNavigator.  I like that the look and feel is consistent across multiple platforms.  It is consistently one of the best-looking navigation applications for smartphones and PDAs out there.

What could Be Improved: I’d like to see the full “Traffic Live” feature added back into this version.  I’d like to see support for more languages in the North American version of MobileNavigator.  The European version currently supports 18 languages.   It would be nice to see this as at least as a download or add-in for the NA version (if space is a concern).

Overall: I like this version of Navigon MobileNavigator very much.   I wasn’t sure I would, but I do.  There are a few differences, but overall the quality and functionality of the core application is the same.  Navigon MobileNavigator for Windows Phone is available for $89.00 at PocketGear.Com. If you are in the market for a new navigation app for your Windows Mobile (Windows Phone) device, you really should take some time to give a closer look to Navigon MobileNavigator!

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About the Author

Christopher Gavula
Chris has been a COBOL programmer, a desktop support technician, network engineer, telecommunications manager, and even a professional musician. Currently, he is focused on deploying Voice over IP technologies in a large, corporate setting. He started working full-time at the tender age of 14, even before there were PCs, and will probably be working and trying to finish “just one more project” as he’s lowered into the grave.