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This post is going to tread into geek territory, sure to cut my readership further (Holly likes to kid me that her blog now gets more visits than mine.) But I don’t care. I’ve actually got a free minute and since Holly’s handling most of the family updates now I’m going to go ahead and wax geekily.

After about 6 months of ownership I finally got the first major firmware update for my Sprint Touch. Among the major features added was the activation of the phone’s gps chipset. Sweet! I can finally see what all the gps hype is all about.

Except there’s one main thing. I don’t actually travel all that much. Sure we’ll visit out of town family a few times a year or maybe take a trip to the beach. But I already know my way around most of those locations. And even when I am visiting a place I don’t know well I rarely need any assistance. My father’s side of the family has a well established genetic gift – an impeccable sense of direction and memory for location. You can pretty much take me back to any major place I’ve visited over the course of my lifetime and I can probably take you around as if I were just there yesterday.

So I’m probably not the ideal candidate for gps. Still, it’s electronic and it’s on my phone so that’s enough to get me tinkering with it. Since I have no need to actually use paid software, I instead opted to try the two major free players – Microsoft and Google.

Google is of course the golden child of most of the last decade, especially in the world of online maps. And their Google Maps certainly doesn’t disappoint. It loads fast and quickly gets a lock on the gps. It can even give you turn-by-turn directions (although without voice prompts, forcing you to look at the phone from time to time.) For the most part I’ve been fairly pleased with it.

However, this is one area where I was pleasantly surprised by Microsoft’s offering. Windows Live Search does all the things Google Maps does and more. It’s got a ton of built-in search features that are far easier to use for things like finding restaurants, gas stations, etc. And I personally find the maps more legible. I also really like the traffic overlay data. It’s startlingly accurate on my drive along I-65 and has become a staple on my evening commute. Google offers this feature as well, but seems to get its traffic data from another (slower, less accurate) provider . . . at least along my route.

I’ve also tried a couple other free 3rd party services with voice-prompted turn-by-turn just for fun (Amaze and Nav4All.) But for the most part, they definitely feel free and will likely rarely get used.

Either way its been fun to mess around with and has given my phone a chance to do something other than the usual chores of taking calls, answering emails . . . and streaming TV to my office.

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