I wrote about xGPS a few days ago basically saying that the app needed some work. It seems that I was heard as xGPS got its 1.2 update earlier today.
What’s new in xGPS 1.2?
- Wireless transfer of your map files
- Google Terrain Maps
- GPS information
- English voice instructions
- Night mode
- Access to GPS traces on your computer
The most exciting feature here is of course the voice instructions. Some unreported bugs were fixed too. Before, using the “current location” as starting point simply didn’t work. You had to type in the full address, which could be cumbersome. Now, you can use the “current location” feature without any problem. It seems that you can also type partial addresses, instead of the full address (ie. 1657 Neptune Avenue Encinitas; instead of 1657 Neptune Avenue, Encinitas CA 92024). That’s great improvement.
I was so excited about this update that I had to try it. First things first, I downloaded the map of my area (San Diego) to avoid having to rely on data tranfer too much. Then I hopped in the Audi and entered the address of where I wanted to go. I turned off the radio to hear the voice instructions and started my trip.
After driving a few hundred feet, the voice “talked” to me to tell me I had to turn right on Del Mar Street in 290 meters. Even though I had specifically set the app to give me the information in feet, it kept giving me meters (which is fine too since I mostly use the metric system). That’s a little bug that will probably be taken care of in the next update.
xGPS also gives you the ability to display your current speed on the screen. I found this feature very accurate, and although useless while driving, I am sure some people could make good use of it.
The volume on my iPhone was at its max and I could clearly hear the instructions but I decided to plug my iPhone in my tape deck. I usually use my tape deck to listen to my iPhone’s music in the car (the sound quality is far better than a FM transmitter). Once the iPhone connected to my car stereo, it felt like I had a co-driver sitting next to me to give me directions.
That was the pros… Now let’s have a look at the cons…
First, the voice navigation is very good but still needs some work. The voice sounds like a robot speaking to you, and there is no flaw between each word. It works well as is but there is lots of room for improvement.
Another issue I have is when my iPhone is plugged to my car stereo using the tape deck. When I am not playing music, it’s fine. But if I play music on the iPhone while requesting voice instructions, the music covers up the sound of the instructions. A great feature would be to pause the music everytime the voice speaks. This feature is already available when your iPhone is playing music, connected to your car stereo and when you receive a text message. The music will pause, you get your new text message notification, then the music starts again.
If you don’t have a car charger, xGPS will kill your battery in no time. Remember it is constantly checking your GPS coordinates, which I believe is the most data intensive feature on the iPhone 3G. For my little experiment, I didn’t charge my iPhone in the car but when I got home after trying xGPS, my iPhone was really hot! I would not recommend using xGPS on long distances as it might just overheat your iPhone.
All in all, this is probably the most exciting application I’ve seen this year. xGPS clearly needs some work but the current version will do the trick for now. Besides, you can’t ask too much from a FREE application. Yes, xGPS is free, so try it while it lasts!