nDrive: Worldwide, on-device (and pricey) navigation comes to webOS 2.0 | webOS Nation
 
 

nDrive: Worldwide, on-device (and pricey) navigation comes to webOS 2.0 53

by Jonathan I Ezor#IM Wed, 27 Apr 2011 12:52 pm EDT

With all the controversy (we're looking at you, Verizon) and carrier-specific options for GPS-based navigation, one feature that has been missing from the webOS App Catalog has been full on-device navigation, where both the software and maps are stored on the webOS device itself. This capability (available via homebrew via Navit, although using open-source rather than commercial maps) would permit the webOS device to serve as a GPS navigator whether or not a data signal was available, as long as the GPS radio is on and the GPS signal itself is strong enough for a lock. Last night, after a long period of "coming soon" announcements on Twitter and beta testing, nDrive, a popular cross-platform choice, finally came to the webOS App Catalog (as nDrive USA for US users). Whether it's the right choice for you will depend on your particular needs, and budget. 

Read on for the full review!

nDrive is at its heart a basic point-to-point navigation app, providing spoken directions (although not street names) through the phone's speaker or via an audio device plugged into the headphone jack or connected via Bluetooth. Users input the destination or select it from a stored address book, and nDrive calculates the route (based on a few user selectable options) and leads the user through it, automatically recalculating if the user diverges sufficiently from the instructions. If no destination is inputted, nDrive displays the user's position, showing street names, direction and velocity. The app does a nice job of automatically adjusting the zoom level for readability on the phone's screen (either portrait or landscape), and can display user-chosen points of interest, speed limits (with optional alerts) and traffic cameras. It also adjusts its standard units based on the user's language selection (e.g. U.S. English gives directions in miles rather than kilometers.) If a data signal is available, the app integrates weather, Foursquare check-ins and Facebook Places and route sharing.

Although nDrive uses commercially supplied map data (such as the Navteq maps for the United States), the application is not without its quirks. In my testing, some streets (notably my home address) did not show up when I tried to navigate based on my town's name, although it did when I searched via zip code. Some features (such as Foursquare integration) are a bit confusing; I managed to disconnect nDrive from my Foursquare account, and could not figure out how to relink it. It offers a database of traffic cameras, but not the realtime traffic data provided by navigation apps like Google Maps and the carriers' own choices. While nDrive provides a Favorites option, it does not allow users to search for and navigate to addresses directly from the webOS Contacts app; happily, webOS' multitasking makes it at least possible to switch back and forth between the two apps to search for and enter data. It also shares the problems that many webOS apps have in waking the GPS chips on some devices; I frequently needed to avail myself of GPS Fix to get a usable fix for nDrive.

Where nDrive shines is its international scope. The app is not only for sale around the world, but the publisher offers a variety of (free) language choices and (not-free) maps. A user who makes a trip to another country can simply buy the relevant local map, and receive directions in her own language whether or not the phone is connected to (or compatible with) the local cellphone system. This can be a great boon for both frequent and occasional travelers.

We've been testing the nDrive beta for some time, and while earlier versions of the app were somewhat rocky and had not yet adopted webOS UI conventions (especially gestures), the app has come a long way. The release candidate, while still looking unlike most webOS applications, incorporates enough standard interface elements that it will be easy enough to use. Another potential challenge is file size. nDrive maps can be quite large (the U.S. map alone is 2.3 GB) and take a long time to initially download especially on a cellular data connection, and storage space used for maps will obviously be unavailable for photos, videos, music and the other types of files users may keep on their webOS devices. Then again, the same is true for the homebrew Navit solution; it's just the nature of an on-device versus streamed navigation solution.

What may not be so easy to accept is the pricing. In the U.S., the nDrive app itself sells for $49.99, quite a bit higher than most webOS applications (in fact, it may be the most expensive app currently available), [UPDATE: For U.S. users, this includes a feww download of the United States maps] but that's just the beginning. To use the application effectively in other countries as well, users must purchase additional maps for desired locations from the nDrive store; the map for Mexico, for example, costs €24.99, or about $37, and other countries are similarly priced.

On the plus side, the maps are licensed from some of the top commercial suppliers in each region. On the minus side, though, the pricing reflects it. In fact, adding up the pricing for the app plus one additional map, nDrive's cost is roughly comparable to that of lower-end standalone GPS units, which may offer (much) larger screens, text-to-speech for directions including street names, larger point of interest databases, and other features. On the other hand, the pricing for the other webOS navigation options, which may include per month costs (VZ Navigator) as well as data charges (Sprint Navigation, Google Maps, etc.), can rapidly swell far beyond the one-time payments for nDrive, and they almost certainly will not work outside one's home country.

nDrive is certainly a reasonable option for webOS turn-by-turn navigation. Whether nDrive will be the right choice for you, though, will depend on your particular needs, and what you already have available to you. For those who travel the world, or just frequently leave good data coverage areas, having an on-device navigation app like nDrive can be a huge plus. It also serves as a useful backup or even alternative to a portable GPS, and is probably less prone to being stolen from the car (a common occurence in some regions). On the other hand, nDrive's interface is more complicated and feature set smaller than those of carrier-provided apps like VZ Navigator or Sprint Navigation, and especially for users whose carriers provide free choices and who stick to areas with good data coverage, the app and map costs and storage requirements may be a stopper.

Pros

No data connection needed for basic use Spoken turn-by-turn directions in language of choice Integration with Foursquare and Facebook Wide selection of maps covering numerous countries Good customer support

Cons

Doesn't read street names Interface can be quirky High up-front cost No real-time traffic data

Score

3.0
Category:

53 Comments

Actually, Lexi-Comp is the probably the most expensive webOS app...the multiple medical databases will cost $200+/year...

It's great to see this come to be available on webOS. I don't know if the $50 price tag will encourage me to get it on my Verizon Pre Plus, with all the GPS issues, but I'm very glad to see this come out.

From my brief tests with the beta, you can be sure that NDrive turned my humble Pre- into a full featured, locally stored navigation device. Plus it has funky options for those "social" functions so trendy these days.

It makes one proud to have it on webOS, just as Angry Birds in the gaming space.

Actually, it's only downside is the existence of Navit, which costs nothing, but does less things, and isn't as pretty.

Actually!... Haha thanks for the fix there Kewl. I really want to have this app seeing as how I do sometimes have that "data coverage" issue. However, I cannot justify spending $75-$80 on an app when obviously a stand alone GPS would be much more sufficient.
I'll stick with Navit until this price drops CoNsiDerabLy.

Just to let you know that the total cost of NDrive with USA map is 49,99 USD. There is no extra cost to download the map. For additional details check our comment bellow. Regards

What about aditional maps of Europe? I actually don't need any USA map and just need European ones. Will you offer such bundles for us too? Can I buy additional European maps?

Oh and another very important question: Will this App also work if I will finally get to buy a Pre 3? I won't buy an App that will only work on my old device ;)

extra maps: essentially, the app is free and you buy maps. the app is useless without some maps, so the first order of maps comes bundled with the app - it's all phrased the other way around, but this is the real way it should be viewed.

it's like saying that your HP printer comes free when you buy the ink. a fairly good analogy i think, considering that printers themselves are now selling for about the cost of one order of ink (that comes with it).

as far as the pre3 is concerned, i would assume the answer is yes. same OS, same instruction set for the CPU, the app should be a PDK app anyways, so HP claims that PDK apps will run on pre3... you should be fine.

nDrive sounds like a good midrange solution for people who want the general benefits of a standalone GPS.

SprintNav drives me crazy just for the fact that my wife doesn't understand that it won't work in rural areas. She already has a navi we bought for $150 a couple of years back, spent $30 to update the maps 2 months ago and she hasn't used it once. It's too cumbersome to find it, make sure it's charged, plug it in if it's not, yada, yada, yada. So she just uses SprintNav and reads me the riot act when it's wrong/doesn't work.

For that reason alone I'll spend the $50 for nDrive.

So $50 for the app and default map pack versus $99-150 for a standalone device and default map pack? I think either way you have to pay extra for international maps, plus periodic default map pack updates. So having it all one one device at a lower cost is fine with me.

i've never used sprintnav (or any carrier provided nav, i refuse to pay monthly to turn on the hardware in my phone, so i buy unlocked versions that don't have legit access to those services anyway).

as far as getting a lock in rural areas, i'd be very surprised that you have issues with any gps. in urban settings i can see tomtom, etc failing you since the buildings block the sky though. aGPS benefits here, since the cell towers tend to be denser in urban areas (to support more users) and so initial correlation of tower ID with geolocation is more meaningful (better partial lock to aid in getting a fast lock when the gps actually gets a blip from the sky).

on my nokia devices (and i understand on android and iOS too) there is also wifi location. i don't know if webos does this yet, but since it feeds off of google location services, which can use wifi geolocation data, it should be possible. anyone know if this is already done or being planned? wifi location also helps immensely in urban areas. my nokia devices (N8, E7) can get a solid 3D lock within about 2 seconds of firing up the gps in an urban setting. really noticable when using their builtin nav (free, not carrier related) and driving through a tunnel: you lose the lock underground, but it comes back about the same moment that sunlight strikes your windshield.

Hi all,

Once again we are straying into an area that is a little ove my head...so excuxe me for asking a dumb, (or 2 or 3)question.

With this app can one have GPS fully functioning without haveing to pay a monthly service fee to the cell phone providers?

If so will it work as well as or nto as well as provider billed GPS service?

In other words, will his be the final kobash on V for not fixing their own problem?

Take care,

Jay

Well, the short answer may be yes...but the problems V creates with GPS might interfere with the effective operation of this program. At least I think that is the case.

So, this is the complete package, barring shenanigans Verizon may play with your ability to get a GPS signal lock.

It is a stand alone GPS app, that has a price of 49,99 USD with access to download the full map of USA (2 GB) to your device. This way you don't have any extra costs related with data connection and it will work even when you don't have network coverage (middle of the desert!).

So does the $50 I pay for the app include a map of the United States? Or do I pay $50 for the app, and then have to pay an additional $37 for a map of the USA?

And do we know if there is the option to only select PORTIONS of the USA map in order to slim down the map file from 2GB to something a bit more manageable? (i.e. East Cost only or something along those lines)

Ryan

It's $50 for the app, then $37 for the maps of US+.

I don't know about selecting portions of the data/map...I could do this with my old Garmin iQue 3600. I had one 2GB SD card with all of North America on it, then I had another card with only the East, worked better with a smaller data file.

Only a single pay for the full maps of USA. If you have any doubts please check our comment bellow. NDrive Team

$50 includes the USA maps. really you should look at the app as being free as long as you but some maps; the app is useless without the maps, and vice versa. they sell a bundle of app+map for tthe initial sale, then let you buy any additional maps you want (this is very common in the industry).

they don't advertise the ability to use only part of the maps package you purchase, but in my experience with other apps that use the same data sources (navteq, a nokia subsidiary, supplies nokia's ovi maps data which i use): it is easily done by manually trimming out portions of the directory structure. often the data is stored in alphabetical or geographically named directories: you can trim the files you don't want from those directories and leave the others. if you drive within any region for which you lack maps though, you'll have no POI data, routing would break down, and obviously you'd not see anything on the display as you drove through it. so trim the west coast from your maps, but don't try to navigate there :)

Your paying for the maps, do you remember how much tomtom software cost?

Wasn't there an app that did absolutely nothing that sold for $100? It could've been more, I don't remember.

Well, at least now there's a navigation app in the app catalog. If you don't want to set up Navit from homebrew, and want to pay $90, then you have a navigation app. I wouldn't pay that much money for software on a desktop anyway, much less a phone, but at least it's there.

At that huge price tag, I hope that they come out with some kind of "light" version.

Please note that the original version of the article was incorrect; the $50 pricing includes a free download of the US map. {Jonathan}

it is tough, since android (correct me if i'm wrong) and symbian (i know this to be true) both ship with 100% free and complete voice guided navigation without carrier dependancies. in the case of symbian, nokia's ovi maps use the same data backend as nDrive (navteq, a nokia subsidiary), so there's an interesting antitrust type question flotaing in my head as nokia ships the data for free on the one hand, but charges some part of that $30-$50/country on the other hand. and nokia's service is free world wide: every symbian device out there has world wide coverage and voice guidance with text to speech built in for road names in a dozen languages - pre loaded and on-demand maps that are constantly being updated... **** i just made myself want to move my sim card back to my E7... symbian still doesn't hold up at all in comparison to webos for use, so don't all this the wrong way: i just wish ovi maps were available on other platforms.

I believe that there is a small confusion with the costs associated with NDrive App in the App Catalogue. The final price that each user that will buy NDrive USA will have will be 49,99 USD. This cost includes our software plus the map of USA from NAVTEQ (it is a bundle).
If you are charged anything else that that, let us know through our support email: support@ndrive.com

NDrive Team

My apologies; I have corrected the article above. {Jonathan}

What about updates to the map?

i want the answer to this too - navteq has been getting lots of frequent map updates, along with some very cool google earth type features. but you can only access it all from nokia's (parent company to navteq) services. check this out: http://maps.ovi.com/3d - zoom into any major city and look around, it's fantastic. and that's all navteq data. where is this on other platforms? there are so many infrastructure improvements around my area right now due to the stimulus package that i would fear my maps being out of date after only a month.

Hi, thank you! This is why V's great customer service is made null & void, by the fact that is splits hairs and disables as much as it can just to make us pay them more and make us crazy! Take care,

Jay

great customer service?
http://www.customerservicescoreboard.com/Verizon+Wireless

i don't know from experience, but the interwebs make me doubt their customer service is any more beneficial to customers than their existence is to the industry (VZW = bad for the industry as a whole. just my opinion, but an educated one).

as far as **** you on monthly payments for gps services etc: that is their modus operendi. that's why they disabled the core bluetooth functionality on every phone for years and years (can't transfer files via bluetooth = user pay $3 per ringtone. now america thinks ringtone is something other than simple audio file and that bluetooth = handsfree).

bleh, everything about vzw makes me want to spit, i'm done.

Can't wait for the first car to be released with an in-dash GPS/display running webOS!

All we need now is a control panel app that would allow controls for sound balance, bass/treble, AC & Heat, and we're golden. Add to that a touch point so that you can sit down, dock your pre3, and have the address/contact info you were looking at just slurp into the car GPS... Awesome.

they might need to get invloved with the CE4A like nokia did (though i doubt nokia will participate further, so now might be a great time to get in there!): http://www.nokia.com/terminalmode

Are map updates free?

Will NDrive provide auto updates? Or will we have to buy map updates every few years?

NDRIVE,

I was trying to reply to your specific post above, but for some reason I was not able to do that...I mentioned that Verizon plays havoc with our ability to get a gps lock. Following that post, you posted regarding the bundle question (app plus map for $49.99) and mentioned that even without a data connection in the middle of the desert, the program will operate. I understand it will operate in the sense that it will have the maps on board, which is great, but if Verizon is preventing me from getting a GPS lock, then the program won't "work" in that it won't be able to tell me where to turn when, because it won't know where I am...in fact I won't know either since Verizon might leave me in the desert to die! Oops, that was a bit over the top, they wouldn't mean to do that but that would be the outcome...lost in the desert.

See if you can find HP's Clue Stick while you're stuck out there.

Thanks.

M.

As much as I understand, even the most buggiest thing that can happen to you with the Verizon GPS is, that you can't use aGPS and that it takes much longer to get a lock, but you WILL get a lock eventually.

Aren't the issues with Verizon already worked out on webOS 2.1 anyway?

nDrive can't make the gps work any better than the device allows. if VZW crippled your device, it's crippled. that doesn't mean nDrive wouldn't work, but that it wouldn't get a gps lock any better than any other non-vzw app on your device.

it's possible that they could implement similar functionality to the gps-fix preware app, but from other comments regarding that app helping get a lock in nDrive, i'd say that they haven't done this (yet?).

We're not sure of V's restrictions, but in the end you can remove a SIM card and still NDrive will work.

Without A-GPS, it can take some minutes to fix satellites, still it will happen, sooner or later. I'm just from outside of office, it took 1 (One) minute to fix on my Pre 2 without SIM.

I just wanna say about time and this is freakin awesome. i didn't buy this app yet but so far most(please dont be mad devs) apps on the palm pre are cool but there are only a few that are useful, cool, and very productive. the rest are stuff you show your friend and then say look at this, then delete the app. Finally we are getting awesome new apps with functionality that should have been there since day 1. My iFone friends have yucked it up to me forever on tomtom while i use sprints shitty telenav. Navit is an awesome solution but this is only for preware users. The rest of the world is gettinb beat by VZs gps blocking and just the lack of any other gps stuff besides BFGMaps and a few others. I remember in 2008 I had my windows mobile phone all hacked up with tomtom on it and it was freakin awesome. when the pre came out i sold my winmo phone on eBay and been using the pre since. ever since then i wish i just kept that damn phone to use TomTom and nothing else. Since then i been dying for some tomtom or route66 or even navit to get in the game on app catalog. Its lovely to start seeing these choices.

When i see apps like carbon, photomania, sql client reader etc... these are the productive apps. these are what we have been lacking and its finally coming in. Just makes me smile knowing the bad old days are behind us. Let the good times Roll!

Is there an Ndrive Europe out soon ??? I would gladly pay £40 to have it

UK & Ireland, Iberia, Italy, France, DACH, Mexico, Canada - submitted to the Catalog yesterday.

This seems like a great deal if updates are free. $40 once vs $10 a month for VZ Nav = WIN!

Too bad the Pre+ GPS stinks. Will have to look at this for my future Pre3.

my pre+ gps works great, what's wrong with yours? granted i've doctored mine to webos 2.1, but the hardware certainly hasn't changed.

i doctored mine about 3 hours after i bought it on ebay, so i've never tried the gps on 1.4.5, maybe it would have been bad then? software glitch then?

or perhaps a VZW related issue, in which case you can't blame the device at all. anyone who buys a verizon branded device has to accept that vzw mucks around with the insides to make it less usable in order to facilitate selling you worthless or otherwise free services. that's just the way they do business. vote with your wallet if you hate this: boycott vzw. their network is no better than at&t, i dont care what ppl say. sure, in isolated areas at&t may have service where vzw doesn't, and vice versa; but overall at&t is just as complete as vzw. and if the iphone feedback on vzw means anything (dropped calls are just as frequent on vzw iphones) network reliability isn't much different either.

take all that from a guy with 4 gsm devices, one at&t sim, one t-mobile sim and one truphone sim (works on t-mobile usa) - who constantly has to hand a phone over to coworkers on vzw when they can't seem to get a connection, but they love their network(?!?).

I am amazed at the cheapskates who populate the webOS forums. $50 is not a large price to pay for something as powerful as this. I own a TomTom portable, as well as an in-dash touchscreen system. One cost $200 and the other was part of a very pricey package on the car. I can tell you, both can be wonderful and both have instances where they can frustrate the heck out of you. Money paid doesn't seem to have a lot of correlation, here. My point here is, for $50, I can take this same system with me, inside of what I am ALREADY carrying in my pocket! This is a bargain.

As for updates, why in heck would updates be free? I can see if you are referring to NDrive's application, but the maps come from Navtec, and they most certainly will NOT be free, nor should they be. Sadly, the map companies have to make money also, those damn capitalists!

people don't typically spend more than a few dollars on app for their phones, that's the issue here. niche apps like medical references are different: the potential market is smaller and focused and therefore more willing to pay bigger price tags. look at macosx apps: people tend to be willing to spend more money on apple products and apps (forget iOS, i'm talking about the long history of niche market buyers that were apple's only revenue source for a decade).

then look at navigation: everyone can use it, everyone kind of wants it. if it was free, just about everyone would eventually at least download it. it's one of those value adding apps that makes the phone cooler and can actually be used, especially when on vacation or traveling for work. the market is now broader, less focused, and therefore less willing to tolerate prices outside their typical spending habits.

again, their spending habits are base don a few dollars for an app they might run a dozen times and delete, or might keep forever (after a long time they'll say, "wow what a bargain this app was"). so to those users $50 is expensive. if they want navigation, they're already trained to think of external gps devices like tomtom.

give it some time. back in the day i had a nokia n95 and nokia maps was not free. i paid $135 for a 3 year subscription. at the end of my 3 years, nokia made the service free for everyone forever. that was nice, but wasn't necessary, i would have paid for a new subscription: after all, my maps were constantly being refreshed, the POIs were always updated, and the app was actively developed with new versions coming out every few months.

i'd pay the $50 for nDrive in a heartbeat if i didn't have nokia's ovi maps on my E7 already for free. as it is, i just pop my sim over to the E7 whenever i'm out for a long drive and use that for maps. it's nice to be a gsm user with multiple phones: you get the best of several worlds :)

THANK YOU NDRIVE!!! It is about time!!! I can hardly wait to pick up a Pre 3! NDrive, I just want you to realize that there probably won't be many purchases until the Pre3 starts selling so hang in there and keep developing this app! You have brought a MUCH-NEEDED app to webOS. I can promise that once I pick up a Pre3, this will be one of the very first apps that I will purchase. I got spoiled on Nokia Maps for my E71 and when I upgraded to a Pre+, I quickly came to the realization that there were pros & cons to the switch - using VZNav was definitely a Con! After 2 weeks of pure h*** with Verzion's GPS and application, I decided to wait for the solution that I knew would come to webOS. Your app is that solution. Thank you, again!

Ditto, I'll buy it as soon as I can (either HP allow me to buy apps or I get a new device and use Impostah).

Thank you, we'll hang in there as long as needed :)

I for one am excited for this! Ever since the demo video got posted ive been chompin at the bit..
The pricing analysis has luckily already been posted. Cheaper than vznav/att or a stand-alone unit. More expensive than anything free or open source. Yes itd be great if google nav comes, as it sounds hot, maybe if the myriad alien dalvik comes through thatd be cool. Til then..

For me, the facebook places and foursquare integration is massively valuable. One because 4sq often has places in it that vznav lacks. Also because loading up and checking into fbP and 4sq .. Just adds plenty of time to the process. This is valuable.

I'm really concerned that it doesnt integrate w fb contacts though. Thats one clear advantage vznav has over gps softwares Ive used on android in the past. One of them required me to use some syncing function, I forget what the other did. But this has neither? Thats pretty weak.
it would also be nice if they offerred maps from other areas cheaper, or discounts for upgrades (to reward loyalty.) maybe this is coming, especially with promotion codes coming, but they havent seemed to say anything about any of this.

No credit card, sorry nDrive :-(

buy a visa gift card with cash, then use that.

i have a friend going through bankruptcy who can't use their credit cards at the moment, and this is how she pays for services that require credit cards. works like a charm.

What I wanna know is, who took that screenshot and were they on their way to the Cherry Valley Deli? :D

Why do i have to pay €49,99 and not $49,99 through the (German or UK) App-catalog? Preware shows the Dollar price-tag, App-Catalog the Euro's !

something wrong with valuta conversion?
And are Benelux-maps coming soon? Or whole west-europe?
Thanks,ZZ

I would rather pay for uninterrupted map navigation through NDrive than paying through my nose on 3G.

I have been using NDrive and loving it.

Hi!
One question that bugs me: is there a way to purchase maps outside In-App system that provides only Credit Card purchase?
I don't have CC and I don't really sure if I will ever have/need one.
But I would like to buy Your Map(s).
Is it possible outside Credit Card system (PayPal maybe)?
Thx,
-pretoo-