Infogation Odyssey Mobile v4
NOTE BY GPSPASSION : Here's a review of Infogation's Odyssey v4 by cgavula, a member of GpsPasSion since 2002 (#125 !) and experienced PocketPC GPS user who recently reviewed Route 66 Navigate 7, TomTom Navigator 6 and iGO USA 2006. Odyssey has been used on various onboard systems for several years, and made its first appearance on the PocketPC platform earlier this in July 2006 as v3, see the related news item
If you have questions or comments, you can use this thread of the forums.
1. The Highlights / 2. Basic Routing Using Odyssey / 3. Navigating Around / 4. Wandering Through Some of the Menus / 5. A Few Technical Snags / 6. A Few Wishes / 7. Let's Wrap It All Up
Odyssey has been around for a little while now kind of bubbling under the surface behind the biggest players like Tom Tom, but it’s definitely had it’s following. The latest incarnation, version 4, continues the growth and development of this package.
Odyssey is a fairly straightforward navigation package that uses Navteq maps as a basis. It’s not as feature-rich as some of it’s competition, but that seems to be slowly changing as the product matures and it does what it does pretty well overall. Additionally, Odyssey offers a couple of interesting and innovative features not found in other navigation programs.
Let ’s start by looking at some of the most interesting features of the program. Among them are:
- The option to toggle the bottom road name display between the current road you’re on and the next cross road along your path. It's very nice to be able to quickly double-check where I ought to be and being able to tell some one “oh, I’m just coming up on Main.” It gives everyone a better, more personal sense of where you are than saying “I’m 5.2 miles from my next maneuver”
- The program performs route calculation and recalculations very quickly. I can't say how exhaustively it searches for the optimal route, but in my testing, its route selections were generally pretty good. I had a couple of odd routing anomalies (more on that later), but in general routing was good.
- I also find that I like the choices an details in POI (Point of Interest) icons rather than the generic markers used by some applications. Also, when you toggle the display from navigation to browsing mode, you can click on a poi icon and detail about that POI, including phone number in many cases, appear on the bottom of the screen. This is a very helpful feature. Still on the on the subject of POIs, let me add that Odyssey seems to have one of the richer selections of POIs that I’ve seen in a navigation program. Often this is a sore point in these programs. For people who find this important, you might want to take a look at this program and see if it doesn’t have a little more of what you’re looking for.
- On the topic of generally evaluating this program, it's a good time to point out that Odyssey is one of the few programs that offers a trial version. You can use the program, for 3 days. I believe the only limitation is that you can only use 1 map, but that should be more than sufficient to get a sense of the program and it’s capabilities.
- Odyssey, like many of the newer navigation programs, offers automatic GPS detection. The detection is pretty solid, as is Odyssey’s ability to recover from a BT GPS being turned off an back on (like when the battery runs out and you suddenly realize you need to plug it in to charge it).
- While we talk about the GPS capabilities, I’ll point out that Odyssey has a nice feature that lets you auto-update your clock from the GPS satellite.
- Odyssey has the ability to use skins and Infogation has a number of them available in both portrait and landscape mode for the application. Skins are also how the program switches from portrait to landscape, so the switching option isn’t entirely automatic at this time, but they are planning that for their next revision.
- Lastly on my list of highlights, is the option you have while in navigation mode to toggle the right hand instruction display to show your next route maneuver – not in text, but rather in a live split screen. As you approach the point, you will suddenly appear in the maneuver screen as well until the maneuver is complete – then the next maneuver will appear. It’s a little disconcerting at first, especially since the main screen tends to fall a little behind as it tries to keep both displays up to date, but it’s a neat feature that’s likely to improve over time.
Basic Routing Using Odyssey
Now that we’ve covered the highlights we have to look forward to, let’s talk a bit about the basic process of setting up a route and navigating using Odyssey. When you launch the program, you will first see the splash screen, which, after a few seconds, take you to the main display of the program. This display serves as the screen you use for both navigating, and for browsing the map,
Once the main display is up, you press the MENU button (in the lower right corner of the display) and you are greeted with a number of options:
- GOTO leads you to your submenus where you will choose your destination.
- HISTORY shows you the last few places you set up routes for.
- NEAREST POI lets you choose the nearest of a given “type” of POI (like an “airport” or a “bank”).
- GO HOME will immediately create a route to your home (if you’ve set up your home location) – as a note, you then have to tell the program to “Go” or “Save and Go”. I think this options should just “Go” and not ask you for what is essentially confirmation.
- SAVE TO FAVORITES will allow you to save the current position on the screen to your favorites list.
- SETTINGS is actually a hodge-podge of both setting and functions (like the program EXIT).
Pressing GOTO will take us to a screen where we can choose exactly how we want to route to our destination. You can do it by address (starting with Region and narrowing in), by POI, by crossroad, or you can select one of your favorites (or an item in your history).
If you choose to route by address, you then need to choose your region (if it isn’t already showing the region you want). Then you can start your address selection with a city name or a street name, It also lets you choose to route to a given city center or directly start choosing an address in the city you last routed to.
Whether you choose to start with a city or street, you are greeted with a keyboard. You’ll note that some items are appearing, while others are blank or greyed out. This is because this program, like a growing number of program, will eliminate characters that are not a part of the available selections in the data base. Which characters are available will change as you narrow down your selection until only your selection (or a few with very similar names) remains to be chosen. This method is pretty nice and intuitive and, once you are used to it, actually does improve the ease and speed with which you make your selections. This program highlights some letters in specific colors and arranges the letters/numbers differently as you proceed through your selection to ease your data entry. Again, it’s a little odd, at first, but it works very well once you become accustomed to it.
When your selection is complete, you press the OK button at the bottom right of the screen.
Next you are greeted with a screen that you’ll find at the end of every type of route you build. It’s kind of a confirmation screen. You can choose to “GO” and build the route and move back to the navigation screen, “SAVE AND GO” where you save the route first (as a favorite – there is no separate “load” function).
There’s an option to change the type of route from “FAST ROUTE” to “SHORT ROUTE” to “AVOID FREEWAY” to “AVOID TOLLWAY”.
Lastly, there’s an option to set this destination instead as your origin. There is no real “reverse route” option other than this one.
Navigating Around the Program and the Streets With Odyssey
Once you’ve chosen your route, you're off and navigating. Let’s take a look at the navigation display and the options from the main screen.
On the top of the display is the street name or exit of your next maneuver.
Just below that, on the left, is the status of your GPS as well as your viewing mode- north up, heading up, or 3D. Clicking this icon will toggle which viewing mode you are in.
Below that are zoom in and zoom out buttons.
Below that is the current time.
Back to the top and on the right hand side of the screen is the sound/volume control (which will automatically disappear after a few unused seconds).
Below the sound controls is the main maneuver screen. It shows the type of maneuver as a large graphic with the distance to the maneuver listed directly below it. Below that is the total distance to your destination. This object, when clicked will repeat the audio prompt telling you what the next maneuver is.
Below that are 2 buttons – ROUTE VIEW, and MENU. We’ve already talked about the menu and the choices appear, but what happens when you press the ROUTE VIEW button?
The ROUTE VIEW button will toggle what the maneuver screen shows. Click it one and it will toggle to a view of the actual maneuver point and it gives you arrows to toggle through all the maneuvers. Note that this window is actually live and will change as you approach the maneuver that is displayed. It’s kind of like watching yourself in stereo, but with slightly different perspectives.
Press the ROUTE VIEW button again and you’ll see a text-based list, that takes up the whole screen showing all the maneuver points on your route and the distances to each.
Pressing the ROUTE VIEW button a third time toggles you back to your normal maneuver display.
At the very bottom of the display is the name of the street you are currently on. Clicking on this will toggle the display to show the next upcoming cross street (denoted by the icon with a street crossing it to the left of the cross street name). Clicking again returns to the current street you are traveling.
The other important feature on the main display happens when you click anywhere else in the map display. This puts the program into “browse” mode. The upper-right of the screen will pop up a box telling you how far you are from your current position and will also allow you to close the browse mode and go back to the navigation.
While in browse mode, you can drag the map around. If you click on a street the name of the street will appear at the bottom of the display with the “I” bubble. Clicking on the bubble will also display what city/state the street is in.
If you click on a POI, the name of the POI will appear on the bottom of the display with an “I” bubble. Clicking on the bubble will bring up the address and phone number of the POI. Again, you click the close box in the upper right of the browse display to return to navigation.
Wandering Through Some of the Menus
Let’s take a quick look at the SETTINGS menu. From this menu you can:
- Set up your map settings where there are options for north up/heading up, day or night (or auto) mode, 2D or 3D view, and turn on/off viewing of the POI icons.
- Set up your Route settings where you can use Imperial or Metric measures and choose your route type: fast, short, avoid freeway, or avoid toll way.
- Set up your GPS setting including auto-detection, port/speed settings, auto connect to Bluetooth, and update your clock settings from the GPS satellite.
- View your GPS status gives you a text view of your GPS tracking – LAT and LON, number of satellites seen/tracked, altitude, as well as your speed and heading.
- Set your route origin sets your current position as the origin of the route.
- View a demo of your route.
- Choose “About” and see the program version number and copyright information.
- You can cancel your current route.
- You can exit the program from this screen.
A Few Technical Snags
Now that we’ve covered the basics, I’d like to talk a bit about some of the technical issues I ran into and have also been reported by other folk using this program. I should note that I primarily ran the software on an HP hx4705 - a VGA-capable device (although I ran the app in QVGA mode). In reporting problems, tech support indicated that the program had issues with VGA devices (and apparently doesn't run at all on Dell Axim VGA devices), but I also tested the software on a non-VGA device and, although the display issues disappeared, the performance issues did not disappear. Since my device is listed on the Infogation website as "supported" I would have hoped better behavior and support. I am hopeful, that VGA support (or QVGA support on VGA devices) will be improved soon. Infogation seems to be VERY responsive and I believe they will resolve this soon.
Having said all that, some of the glitches I ran into are:
- At times roads will simply disappear from the display, leaving only the POIs and background items. All other information on the display will update correctly. I can usually correct this situation by performing a soft-reset of the PDA, but it really should happen at all. Additionally, the roads will frequently disappear for 2 or 3 seconds and then reappear. It behaves as if the display is trying to “catch up” to what it happening with the route navigation.
- Overall, the program exhibits on again/off again slow display and tracking performance. It is frequently a few seconds behind your actual position and there are frequent pauses, especially at maneuvers, where the display will slow down and almost pause, then rush to catch up to where you actually are. I have tested this using at least 3 different BT receivers and I always get the same behavior. I’ve email with Infogation and they believe the problem is related to using a VGA device even though the program is only running in QVGA mode (a VGA version is promised). I don’t entirely agree with this assessment since other navigation programs don’t suffer from this same affliction and there should be little program overhead since it believes it’s operating in QVGA mode (the OS is supposed to handle the pixel doubling as necessary). In any event I suspect it will improve as the program, which was only released a couple of weeks ago, is tweaked. Interesting that this should be slow, though, considering how quickly routing calculations occur.
- When displaying both the main screen and the maneuver point, the main screen often behind the maneuver screen. In other words, the maneuver screen is updated first, then the main screen. It’s a little odd, and it’s only off by a second or two, but it’s enough to seem a little awkward.
- There’s no option to keep the backlight lit or override the sound/backlight settings of the PDA. Although it’s not a technical glitch, I think that this is a very important omission.
- Addtional reports seem to indicate that the program doesn’t run at all on Dell Axim X50v/X51v devices. This is supposedly, again, due to the fact that they are VGA devices, but the program does run on the HP hx47xx, but with some performance issues (as I mention above). The Infogation web site claims that all of these devices are supported and while I don’t fault Infogation for not offering native VGA support (many apps still don’t) I will raise concerns that a QVGA program should be able to run correctly on any WM 2003 or WM5 device that supports that resolution.
- There were a couple of times where the routing selection was completely odd. In at least one case, the program didn't want to recognize that a road went completely through, even though the program displayed it as contiguous. In this case it wanted me to take a U-Turn to avoid turning onto the road. When I took the road anyway, it kept wanting me to turn around. Eventually, however, it recalculated my route based on staying on the road.
A Few Wishes
I’d also like mention some things that aren’t necessarily bugs, but involve things I’d like to see, perhaps, done a little differently, added to, or generally improved on in future versions of Odyssey:
- VGA support – the big boys have it, this program should offer it too (it's available in version 3, but not 4).
- When you start the program, you don’t have the option to cancel at the license agreement screen and quit the program. Your only choice is to agree.
- Improved performance and smoother screen flow.
- When navigating, the maneuver window (next step, etc) is large and takes up much of the right half of the screen so your current position is often right up against that box meaning you have no idea what is to the right of your position. Perhaps making the maneuver window/overlay a little smaller or moving your current position slightly to the left of the display would help.
- There really should be a route to contact option.
- Waypoints or via-points as an option.
- Personally, I thought the 3D display was a little too “high” and too similar to the 2D view. I’d like a little lower perspective (at least as an option).
- There should be way to bring up POI details/popup while navigating rather than having to go into browse map mode first.
- The are a lot of non-setting time options that appear on the “settings” menu. I’d like to see that menu renamed or settings separated from these other functions. The “Exit” function I’d like to see available from the main screen.
- Night colors need to be a little higher contrast. They’re attractive but some things are hard to view in a darkened car because there isn’t enough contrast.
- There is no option for segment avoidance. This is becoming a more common feature and I think it would be good to see it available in Odyssey.
- I like to see the close button that appears when browsing the map be a little bigger. It’s hard to press with your finger.
- Icons for north up / heading up aren’t all that clear or obvious as to their function. Maybe a little “N” for north up would be a little clearer.
- When searching for a POI, the listed POIs don’t appear to be in any order. I’d like to see them listed by distance from your current position, or alphabetically, or maybe allow me to choose the sorting option. As it is, it is difficult to select an appropriate POI sometimes - especially if a lot of names match the criteria you've given.
- In general, I found the installer application and licensing are VERY hard to use. The version 4 application is definitely an improvement from the version 3 process, but it was still cumbersome. I’d like an alternate route to obtain the program/license via the web WITHOUT having to use the specialized installer. For example, when I want to grab an application update. I found the installer doesn’t work in a secure or semi-secure environment (it must use something other than port 80 for it’s process). In other words, there are some barriers to installation, especially in a corporate environment.
Let's Wrap It All Up
There’s an awful lot to like about Odyssey Navigator. It calculates routes/reroutes very quickly. The navigation display, while a little cluttered, is very informative and the split screen/maneuver display has a lot of potential. The cross road toggle is easy to use and very handy. The program suffers a bit from a somewhat unpolished feel, and the performance issues detract from what should be a nice, easy to use application. The biggest problem I see, however, is that there are competitive products at a similar price point that generally offer more features than Odyssey. Additionally, Odyssey isn't completely stable on VGA devices - not even when run in QVGA mode. To stay competitive, I think Infogation should work hard to smooth out the rough edges and performance problems and try to include some of the commonly asked for features, like routing to a contact, and waypoints. This together with some of the interesting and innovative features already in Odyssey would make for a very strong contender. One note, however: according to their user forums, the license you purchase isn't transferrable between devices. I hope this will change sometime in the future, but, for now, if you install it, you can't move it to a different device without repurchasing a new license.
Odyssey is available at long-time site partners Semsons and Deluo, with various bundles and discounts, and at Infogation for $79 for a one year, unlimited, all US and Canada, or $149 for an Unlimited (no time limitation) DVD. Single region maps are available for a lower cost as well.
If you have questions or comments, you can use this thread of the forums.