Jan 13, 2009

A Street Directory on your Handphone

When I bought the latest Street Directory many many weeks ago, it came with an unexpected surprise.

No lah, they didn't give away free mobile. That would be the sun rising from the west.

The Street Directory was more than a book. The whole package consisted of the street directory ($12.90), a consumer guide ($7.00) and a CD ($30.00). I think I paid only $12.90, so the guide and CD were supposedly free.

The gem was the CD itself. There was a digital street directory software for the PC - nay, nothing to rave about, just an electronic version of the paper book. There was also another version for Pocket PC, PDA and SmartPhone. Oh!

If you're like me without the luxury of a mount, a street directory for your mobile will come in useful and I mean indispensable. Out there, you wouldn't want to bring a big street directory along. You rather save the space in your bag for food, water and insect repellant. Of course you don't want to get lost.

Image from Know Your Mobile - Plan a route using Maps on the Nokia N95. I don't own the newer Nokias with GPS maps, can't comment on their usefulness. For you lucky owners out there, maybe you can enlighten me on the state of the art.

The mobile street directory is truly a no-frills version, no more than a collection of map images with basic search function. Such software may be passe with the advent of GPS-driven navigation software, but its simplicity may be a boon rather than a bane in everyday usage.

Let's have a quick look at the search function. You can search by Places of Interest, Road and by using the free-form search.

Example of searching by Places of Interest. Select POI -> Bus Interchange -> Ang Mo Kio.

Example of searching by Road. Select Road -> A -> Abbotsingh Road.

Example of free-form search. Select Search -> (type any text). Ignore the Chinese 'pinyin' input. There is no Chinese search functionality. I have been sms-ing my Mainlander subordinate too much.

There is also a bookmark function which is quite neat. You can do research before the trip and save the result as a bookmark.

Bookmark function. You can go to a saved bookmark, add current location as a bookmark or simply remove the current bookmark.

The maps are actually images of the paper version. You can do directional scrolling on this 'map of Singapore', unlike on a book where you have to manually flip the pages.

Unlike Google Map, this is not a true map software. You cannot zoom, for starters. Neither can you drop placemarks. The software has no online component, so you cannot share your work with others. Of course there is no GPS functionality. If you are the kind who is hopelessly lost on the street, this is not for you.

To me, the software is a replacement for the paper street directory. It is good enough for my usual heritage exploration. At least I know the bus stop location, street layout and surrounding landmarks. If I'm on a wild trail, I prefer using my superbly lousy navigation and bashing skills.

Finding direction the old fashioned way is also nostalgic. Before we have in-car GPS navigators, the human navigator sits beside the driver with a map on the lap. If it comes to the "uh-oh-I-think-we-are-lost" situation, the back passengers are activated to look for landmarks as well.

This is a rather compelling reason for me to continue using the mobile street directory. You cannot afford to be complacent since you are an active participant in the navigation. The participatory role makes you more aware of your surrounding - the buildings, the roads, the streets, the river - our heritage.


Lam Chun See said...

Looks impressive but not sure if it is of any use to oldies becos the map is so small.

Victor said...

I have a Compasseo 600 GPS. Just the other day, I depended on it to get to a colleague's condo at Parc Vista. I followed the instructions and it brought me into an HDB carpark. I realised that I was at the perimeter fencing of Parc Vista and there was no way to drive into it. In the end I had to go on a roundabout way (extra 2 km) to get into the condo.

Lam Chun See said...

I always felt that Spore is so small. What need is there for fanciful gadgets like these that do not add much value.

oceanskies79 said...

Cool. This looks for me to use that I need to have a new phone. My current phone is slightly more than six-year-old, from the date of purchase.

For now, I shall read maps and remember them in my mind.

Icemoon said...

Chun See, I think the in-car GPS navigator quite value-add right? Can even highlight traffic jams.

Victor, I'm not sure how detailed are the instructions. The waypoints should have been plotted and brought you to the Parc Vista carpark.

Icemoon said...

PY, your memory must be pretty darn good. :)

Adelin Lok said...

it's good game when the phone battery dies.

Icemoon said...

Adelin, when you see 'low battery warning', let the fun begins. hehe