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Navigate with your cell phone

by Larry Magid

Ever wish you had a GPS navigation system, perhaps when you’re out of town driving a rental car or walking around an unfamiliar city?

As it turns out you may already have a GPS in your pocket. Federal law requires new cell phones to have a GPS location finder so emergency personnel can find you if necessary, but the technology can also be used to help you find your way around.

TeleNav (www.telenav.com/) just updated its GPS navigation service that runs on some phones from Sprint, Nextel and, soon, Cingular. I tested it on a borrowed Samsung MM-7500 from Sprint.

If you have a compatible GPS-enabled phone you won’t need any special equipment, but you will have to pay $10 a month for the service and you’ll need a cell phone data plan. You can download the program from your service’s application menu.

TeleNav uses your phone’s GPS receiver to determine your location, but unlike traditional car GPS systems that store maps and other information on an internal hard drive or memory, data is quickly downloaded to your phone as needed.

Like most GPS systems, the service offers a database of businesses and points of interest, but because the data is downloaded over the network in real time, it’s far less likely to be out of date. In addition to categories like restaurants, hotels, gas stations, stores, theaters, hospitals and others, the service has a “find gas prices” feature that tells you the actual price of gas at stations within a five-mile radius.

A WiFi finder gives you the name and location of nearby wireless hotspots. You can also use this database to look up and dial a business’s phone numbers.

In addition to driving directions, you can use it in “pedestrian” mode which ignores such things as one-way streets and “right turn only.”

The newest version offers “3-D” maps that follow your vehicle as you drive.

The service doesn’t require a contract so you could subscribe prior to a trip and cancel as soon as you return and pay for just one month.

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