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PDA Travel & GPS Navigation Products

    by Douglas Dixon

If you are traveling, you can use a Palm or PocketPC handheld as a convenient portable device for accessing maps and directions. You can take several different approaches, depending on your needs and desired sophistication and cost.

Download Free Map Images
Download Structured Maps and Routes
Tracking with GPS
Dynamic Navigation with GPS

Download Free Map Images

If you are traveling to a major city, you can download map images from the Web, and use free image viewers like FireViewer ( to scroll and zoom through them. You can also use free aggregator services like AvantGo ( to select and download images from MapQuest. However, map image files can use up lots of storage.

Download Structured Maps and Routes

Instead of an image of a map, you can download a map database, and use software to view regions at different levels of detail. The free Vindigo city guide ( includes maps of New York City. Microsoft Pocket Streets, bundled with PocketPC handhelds, can download portions of maps, display points of interest, and search for places or addresses

On the Palm platform, you can use the Rand McNally StreetFinder City Centers software ($9.99) to download detailed maps of 35 major U.S. cities, or StreetFinder Deluxe ($29) to select and download your own map regions and route maps ( Rand McNally also recently announced the Road Atlas 16 MB expansion card ($39) for the Palm handheld. It contains map information for the 48 contiguous United States, including 12,000 cities and 640,000 miles of highways and major roads.

Similarly, DeLorme offers the Solus map and route direction software for the Palm ($49, Solus interfaces to other DeLorme products to calculate travel directions and download maps. The DeLorme products include AAA Map'n'Go and Street Atlas USA for street maps and listings, Topo USA for topographic maps, and XMap Business for small business routing. On wireless-enabled handhelds, Solus can also access maps from the DeLorme website for a yearly subscription fee ($29).

Tracking with GPS

These mapping products can also interface to a GPS receiver to display your current position on a map and display real-time directions along your pre-defined itinerary. Products for the Palm include the DeLorme Earthmate GPS receiver ($159) Rand McNally StreetFinder GPS ($199 with software), and NAVMAN Handmap (

Dynamic Navigation with GPS

TravRoute Pocket CoPilot goes beyond mapping or route display to recompute your route on the fly. Instead of following a pre-planned itinerary, you can turn off the path to avoid congestion or to just to explore, and be confident that CoPilot can adjust and guide you back where you need to go. The Pharos StreetNav product ($249), also for PocketPC, is another product that can recompute a new route from your current location ( However, it requires a separate operation to do so, instead of updating the route automatically.