Review: TeleNav Shotgun internet connected personal navigation device

Last week TeleNav announced their new Shotgun personal navigation device (PND). The Shotgun takes the tried and true TeleNav navigation software (found on many carrier phones as AT&T Navigator, Sprint Navigation, etc.) and places it on a very nice piece of hardware. I was sent an evaluation unit to check out and wanted to offer a few first impressions, along with plenty of device pics and screenshots in my image gallery and the video below. The TeleNav Shotgun is available now for US$299.

Last week TeleNav announced their new Shotgun personal navigation device (PND). The Shotgun takes the tried and true TeleNav navigation software (found on many carrier phones as AT&T Navigator, Sprint Navigation, etc.) and places it on a very nice piece of hardware. I was sent an evaluation unit to check out and wanted to offer a few first impressions, along with plenty of device pics and screenshots in my image gallery and the video below. The TeleNav Shotgun is available now for US$299.


 Image Gallery:A walk around the TeleNav Shotgun personal navigation device.  
Image Gallery: TeleNav Shotgun retail box
 
Image Gallery: 3D moving maps
 

Garmin I checked out last year, but these are just one way communication devices and the Shotgun can support two-way communications like the Dash Express. Then again, other dedicated GPS devices also offer more features than what you currently find in the Shotgun, but that could change with future software updates.

In the box: TeleNav includes everything you need to get up and running with the Shotgun including the device, a solid window mount, car charger, wall charger, USB cable (let's you charge it up via your PC), Transcend 4GB microSD card, Getting Started and Setup poster, and plain white SIM card. The microSD card and SIM card are preinserted into the device. I simply popped out the SIM card and put it into one of my unlocked devices to discover that the wireless service is provided by T-Mobile. T-Mobile has quite a strong signal is the area I spend most of my time and is setup quite well along major roads (which is where you want to get traffic data).

There was no slip case or carrying case included, which would have been nice to let you slip the Shotgun into your bag, purse, or glove compartment while offering some protection for the large display.

Specifications: The TeleNav Shotgun is based on the Windows CE 5.0 core operating system, which makes a lot of sense seeing that their software already runs on Windows Mobile devices. Other key specificatons include:

  • 4.3 inch 480x272 pixel, touch screen display
  • SiRF Atlas III 396 MHz processor
  • microSD card slot
  • Internal battery (no capacity stated) for 2.5 hours unplugged operation
  • Dimensions: 4.9 x 3.1 x 0.75 inches, 4.32 ounces

Walk around the hardware: The first thing I noticed about the TeleNav Shotgun after opening up the package was the fantastic soft touch, rubberized material covering the entire device. The Shotgun is quite thin for a dedicated GPS device, especially compared to the monster Dash Express device (shown in a couple of my photos). On the front you will obviously find the large and bright 4.3 inch display with just a small 1/4 inch bezel around the display. The display is very responsive to touch and the device seems to have very little lag, unless searching through a big city for information.

There is a flush mounted power button on the right side of the top and a small indention along the left that is used to help hold the device in the car mount. Looking at the left side you will find the covers for the SIM card and microSD card. On the right side you will find the miniUSB port and 3.5mm headset jack. I'm not quite sure why you would need a headset jack on the device, but if you are using it to walk around the city then maybe you want to hear the directions rather than just viewing them.

There are two more small indentations along the bottom that are used for keeping the device secured into the car holder. The battery is non-removable and the only thing you will see on the back is a speaker grill for the mono speaker down towards the bottom right side.

One MAJOR aspect of the device hardware that drives me crazy is the wireless status indicator light. There are two lights on the left upper side of the device, one for charging status and one for wireless connection status. The charging indicator glows red while charging and then green when it is fully charged. The wireless indicator constantly flashes in super bright blue while you are connected to the TeleNav network. I thought the police were behind me the first time I saw these flashing blue and solid red light out of the corner of my eye while driving at night. TeleNav should either reduce the wireless connectivity light to flash once every 30 seconds or else turn it off at night since it is VERY distracting. If I was to buy a device I would actually put black tape over the indicator lights for night time driving.

Walk around the software: As I showed in photos and my video, the TeleNav software on the device is very similar to the software found on the HTC Advantage device (and other Windows Mobile phones). The main display shows large (and very finger friendly) icons to let you setup the route you desire, search for destinations or adjust settings and options on the device. I prefer to setup my known destinations on my home computer and then send them to the Shotgun wirelessly, but you can also manually enter destinations. Unfortunately, the Shotgun doesn't perform any kind of "smart filtering" of locations like I have seen other GPS device do where it will narrow down the available names as you enter text. For example, there are only so many cities in Washington that start with P-U-Y so I should only have to time three letters rather than the entire Puyallup name to find this city.

Tapping on the Drive To button takes you to a display with several options for finding a destination. If you preplan your route online and send it to your device then it will appear in the My Favorites folder. Tapping the Search icon brings you to a display where you can see categories to help you narrow your search and find your destination faster. The are 11 million POIs loaded onto the device (WOW!) so your destination should be included.

The one rather problematic issue on the Shotgun at this time is that it will not accept an address or destination without you first having a GPS signal. If you didn't send a destination from your PC before your trip, you will now have to wait until you get into your car and have a GPS signal to enter an address. This can actually be a bit of an issue because many rental car agencies are located in garages or under covers and you may have to drive out of the lot and away to a safe parking spot to enter your destination. It would be nice if the Shotgun let you enter a destination and save it as a Favorite and then when you get the signal you simply select the favorite and get the route to that location.

Available tools and preferences include a compass mode, managing traffic alerts, setting up your units, controlling the backlight (there doesn't seem to be an automatic adjustment here), and more as shown in my video and photos.

As you drive along your route and next turn are clearly shown and spoken. The speaker is on the back and if you have the radio playing it can be hard to hear the voice. I found turn indications to be timely and accurate and it even told me if my destination was on the right or left side of the road, which was very handy for finding house numbers on dark roads.

The ETA is nice to see in the bottom left corner, but I would also like to see the time of arrival similar to what I have seen on the Dash Express. Otherwise you have to look at a clock and then see if you are going to make it on time. I use these all the time for my daughters' soccer games where we travel to different locations and have to be there by a certain time. The Dash Express shows me what time we should be there and I can quickly see if I need to speed it up a bit or not.

Usage experiences: I was extremely pleased with the near-instantaneous response observed on the device as I tapped through all of the different menus and options in the software (my video clearly shows this too). I tested out a few of these portable navigation solutions before and I was pleased to see that TeleNav stayed focused on the navigation aspects rather than adding a useless MP3 player, photo viewer, games, etc. I like the Bluetooth speakerphone option that some units have, but with the rather low volume speaker on the Shotgun it really wouldn't help much to have that feature anyways.

You cannot setup multiple destinations on the Shotgun so after a stop you can continue on your route or else setup multiple routes for known stops. The Shotgun does automatically reroute, but I wasn't quite sure the first time it happened because it occurs too far after a missed turn. The first time I actually missed the rerouted turn because it took so long to reroute me and I would like to see this functionality sped up.

It also doesn't appear that the Shotgun dynamically zooms like I have seen on other GPS devices. I had to physically touch the screen and zoom in and out at times and prefer to have the software know when a turn is coming up that needs to be zoomed in on and then zoom back out for a broader view of the route.

The device is quite compact and there is a pedestrian mode so you can easily use the Shotgun for walking around town.

I think TeleNav needs to add the capability to collect navigation data from users, like Dash does with the Dash Express, as that would provide real-time traffic updates on major roads and also give some kind of traffic status on minor roads. With the TeleNav software on BREW, Windows Mobile, and BlackBerry devices there should be a large number of available sources for collecting this anonymous navigation data to provide some of the best traffic information around.

Internet connected services include traffic, "fuzzy searches" (Intelligent matching allows you to search for businesses even if you only know part of the name or can't remember how to spell it.), gas prices, online pre-routing and sending to the device, and automatic updates. TeleNav is also working on commute alerts (sent via email), business listing reviews, popular business listings, address share, weather, and more (maybe movie times).

The TeleNav Shotgun is a very nice piece of hardware, improvements could be made in the indicator lights and speaker, and the software is quite good. I do think there is room for improvements, but with the wireless connectivity and capability to update the device (along with their stated future plans) I think we will see the Shotgun improve quickly. I will continue to use my Windows Mobile devices with TeleNav service (you can't extend that service to the Shotgun), but will also continue to keep an eye on the TeleNav Shotgun as it evolves.

Pricing and service options: You get three months of service for free when you purchase the TeleNav Shotgun at US$299.99. Other plans available include US$11.99 for one month on a month-to-month plan, US$129 for 1 year (saving you US$14.88), and US$239 for 2 years (saving you US$48.76 over the monthly plan). If you choose not to continue after your free 3 month trial, you can still use the device with the 11 million POIs and navigation, but you won't get traffic updates, ability to pre-plan and send routes, obtain gas prices, and perform other "connected" functions.

Other reviews: For more detailed experiences and information on the TeleNav Shotgun I also recommend checking out the following reviews: