GPS for Under $200

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Getting lost seems so quaint now, with the friendly voices of GPS ready to calmly recalculate our routes—and for less than $200. That's a breakthrough price for navigation devices that are good enough for daily use in a car, including a new model from Mio that I've been testing.

Stick-at-home slugs might dismiss navigation devices as a luxury, even at today's low prices. Then again, they might fork over $3 to get directions on those rare times they get lost. That's the starting price for access to VZ Navigator from Verizon Wireless, one of a number of locator services offered by cell companies on many of their phones.

VZ Navigator works surprisingly well, offering turn-by-turn directions that are delivered by a woman's voice and are usually accurate and timely. The service can also find nearby services and products, such as restaurants and gas stations, that again seem surprisingly thorough. The service works on about 15 of Verizon's current handsets—typically those with a GPS chip and equipped for Verizon's add-on software, called Get It Now.

My take: I'm not sure I'd want to depend on it for regular use, as it's a bit of a pain to call up the GPS functions from the add-on services, which I think are more accurately called "get it soon." I think all of Verizon's services will be more appealing when they're better integrated with the phones, perhaps with one-button access.

Also, using the service can be trying on a phone with a standard keypad; typing a single letter can mean hitting a key several times. I had the luxury of trying VZ Navigation on a phone with a full QWERTY keyboard, the LG VX9800.

VZ Navigator costs $3 for one-day access, or $10 a month. One big caveat: You'll burn a few contract minutes each time you use the service, unless you also subscribe to Verizon's unlimited data plan, which costs $15 a month. To be fair, the data plan also includes access to music, video, and the Internet—but it's hard to imagine they'll appeal to homebody hermits who are too cheap to buy a GPS device.


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