What's hot in handhelds?
Senior Editor Yardena Arar checks out the latest personal digital
assistants and apps.
Yardena Arar, PC World
Thursday, February 10, 2005
Doesn't it seem like this
is turning into the GPS decade? Once found primarily in military
and commercial aircraft, Global Positioning System technology is
slowly but surely trickling down to the masses via in-car
navigation systems, mobile phones, and now PDAs.
Garmin, a powerhouse in
GPS hardware, pioneered the use of the technology two years ago
in a Palm OS device with its IQue 3600, which was followed last
year by the more affordable IQue 3200. Now we have its Pocket PC
sibling, the IQue M5. It's designed to serve as both a
traditional PDA and a mobile navigation system--primarily for
people like me who resist getting a new car with an expensive
in-dash GPS receiver. I took the IQue M5 out for a spin and was
impressed for the most part, although I did have some
As Pocket PCs go, the IQue
M5 is pretty much state of the art--and it should be, for the
$750 you must shell out to get it. It runs Windows Mobile 2003
Second Edition, the latest version of Microsoft's OS for
handhelds; and it's powered by Intel's 416-MHz PXA272 Xscale
processor, one of the most powerful available for these devices.
To make sure the GPS overhead doesn't detract from the PDA
functionality, there's also a dedicated 48-MHz ARM7 GPS
coprocessor. There's even a Bluetooth adapter for those who've
figured out how to use a Bluetooth-enabled mobile phone as a
The 3.5-inch, 320-by-240
resolution transflective display looks terrific. In fact, the
pewter-colored PDA itself looks great. It's svelte; it weighs
less than I expected (under 6 ounces); and it's generally
attractive. If you didn't know any better, you wouldn't realize
it was more than just another pricey handheld.
GPS in a Jiff
But check out the back of
the IQue M5, and you see a hinged square (about an inch and a
half on the diagonal, flush to the case) that pops up when you
push on a small adjacent slider. This is the IQue M5's built-in
antenna, and popping it up automatically puts the device in GPS
After a few minutes,
during which the GPS receiver detects satellite signals, you see
your position on a map--provided you've installed the
appropriate maps from the included MapSource software. You're
prompted to do this during setup, after you install Microsoft's
ActiveSync desktop software.
To get the maps you start
by installing the MapSource desktop software, which lets you
pick and choose which ones to install. You've got all of the
continental United States and much of southern Canada to choose
from; you're limited only by the available storage space on the
handheld, which comes with 64MB RAM and 64MB of ROM. Maps for
most of the San Francisco Bay Area took up about 25MB. for
example. If you want to put a lot of other apps on your
handheld, you can keep maps on a Secure Digital Card in the
IQue's media slot.
These maps aren't just
about streets and highways. They come with a searchable database
of useful locations for travelers that includes lodging,
restaurants, points of interest, and even ATMs. The IQue's
software lets you use these points (as well as street addresses)
to create routes, which you then follow with the help of
friendly voice directions.
The software has some nice
touches; for example, the routing application lets you specify
directions for pedestrians, in which case the software
disregards one-way streets. The QueTrip application lets you
track your travel by heading, average speed, distance traveled,
and other metrics. You can send an address in your Contacts to
Que's My Locations--although I found I had to edit the data in
order for the Que software to map the location.
Also, realizing that a
driver may not want to be holding a PDA, and that battery life
may be an issue on a long trip, Garmin thoughtfully provides a
windshield mount with a cigarette-lighter charger.
What's Not to Like?
I did find some tasks more
difficult to do than I would have liked. While it's possible to
pinpoint specific coordinates on a map, doing so is neither easy
nor intuitive. Working off any point in My Locations (you can
create those from street addresses or from a database entry),
you click on Details, then go to the Change Location menu entry,
click on Use Map (which brings up a map of the point you began
with), and then click on Edit Coordinates at the bottom of the
map. Once you've entered the coordinates you want to locate, you
end up at the Details screen. Now you can now change the name,
so you don't wind up changing the coordinates of the original
location. Like I said, it's doable--but complicated.
I wanted to map
coordinates to try out geocaching, a sort of Internet road
rally: People post coordinates where they've left, or cached,
a log book and sometimes other items for subsequent visitors to
find. Check out Groundspeak's Geocaching Web site for more
Also, by default, mapping
and database information is far more plentiful for major urban
areas such as San Francisco than for more rural locations.
Again, you can remedy this by changing the default settings to
display more detail--something I'd advise doing only when in a
rural area, because at maximum detail city maps become very
difficult to read.
Mastering all of the
features of the IQue M5 (and the MapSource software) does
require a time investment: The learning curve is on the steep
side. But for Pocket PC fans who'd like some navigation help
without having to invest in a separate dedicated car system,
Garmin's IQue M5 may be a great traveling companion.