There is yet another application available for GPS enabled mobile phones to use for turn by turn directions, AAA mobile. While the AAA Mobile application is a new brand, the service itself should have quite a bit of familiarity to it. AAA utilized Networks In Motion (NIM) to build the application for them, and that application is also the application behind products like Verizon’s VZ Navigator. So what will AAA Mobile bring to the table beyond the capabilities of existing phone based navigation systems?
The most obvious is that users will have access to all of the quality data AAA has for hotels, restaurants, and car repair facilities. There are about 200,000 POIs where AAA has additional detailed information for that will be offered on these devices, similar to what is offered in the AAA information on certain Magellan Maestro devices.
Perhaps a more interesting, though not surprising feature is the ability to send your location to roadside assistance crews when you are in need of help. With the AAA Mobile service you can pick up your mobile phone and call for roadside assistance. In the process of doing that your location is transmitted to AAA so that they can dispatch a nearby crew as well as giving the crew your exact location. No more “well, I’m not sure exactly where I am, I passed a Starbucks a few miles ago, does that help?”
“With this service, AAA’s more than 50 million members don’t need to know where they are when their vehicle breaks down because the phone will send their GPS location to a AAA call center,” said Doug Antone, president and CEO, Networks In Motion.
The service is currently available on about nine different Sprint phones. It isn’t currently available on PDAs, smartphones, or Blackberrys. While representatives declined to say what other carriers would offer the service, documents they provided indicate Verizon will offer the application in the future. Representatives also wouldn’t say who is providing the road database, although NIM has worked extensively in the past with NAVTEQ, and their FAQs reference NAVTEQ for reporting road errors. Pricing is left up to the carriers, but it should be available at about $9.95 per month, with Verizon reportedly offering options for $2.99 per day for people who less frequently need the service.
Sprint is offering a 14 day trail option, and Verizon will reportedly offer a 24 hour demo. You can also view and online demo here.
For those new to the mobile phone based navigation services, they offer a few advantages and a few disadvantages over PNDs. The advantages are that the road databases are typically updated more frequently (quarterly) than most people update their PND devices. The same can be said for POI items which AAA says they will update on a weekly basis. The disadvantages are the much smaller screen, and that you need to be in a phone coverage area for the services to work. In addition, most phone screens are significantly smaller than PND screens making them dangerous to try to view while navigating. Near where I live many of the roads don’t have cell coverage which would make services like this difficult at best. Another downside is that if a phone call comes in while you are navigating, navigation will be suspended during the call. It can’t do two things at once.
AAA Mobile is available to AAA member and non-AAA members alike, but AAA members don’t get any discount on the price of the service. Instead they have the ability to transmit their location when calling for roadside assistance and the benefits of “Show Your Card and Save” discounts. Non-AAA members don’t get access to those features.
As for navigation features, AAA Mobile features automatic re-routing, the ability to change voices, routing by fastest, shortest, or simplest, truck routes, bicycle routes, and pedestrian routes. You can also opt to avoid highways, HOV lanes, and toll roads.