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Verizon’s VZ Navigator and Motorola v325 Review

January 1, 2006

in All Articles,Cellphone reviews,GPS

What is Verizon’s VZ Navigator?

The simplest definition of VZ Navigator is that it’s a GPS on a cellphone. You see a detailed map, updated in real time, of where you are and directions to where you’re going. While that’s the easiest way to describe it, it doesn’t do VZ Navigator justice. There are plenty of additional options and features that go way beyond the capabilities of a conventional GPS.

The version I tested was VZ Navigator, which I was told was pre-release beta code. However, it was impressively and happily bug-free, and performed fine. Currently, the service is available on the Motorola v325, though I’m told it will soon be available on all new Verizon phones with location tracking capabilities. A picture of the Motorola v325 is on the left.

How does VZ Navigator work?

VZ Navigator consists of five main menus. Each menu and sub-options also have context-sensitive help.

1) Navigation

Find Destination: A frequently-used menu, this allows you to find your way to location from your current location. Available presets allow you to quickly browse through recent searches, favorites, and specified addresses, airports and intersections.

Plan Trip: Give VZ Navigator an address, start location and preferences like fastest route (versus shortest route, or routes allowing bicycles and pedestrians) and you’ll get step-by-step instructions for getting there.

Home and Work: These two menus allow quick access to editable Favorites. Set these to your own work and home addresses, and you’ll save button presses when navigating to those locations.

2) Local Search

This is a powerful search tool, going beyond the capabilities of a basic GPS. It’s what you’ll use if you want to find a place by subject area or partial name, but don’t know the address. From ATMs to gas stations to restaurants and emergency services, you can search for types of locations by name, category or both. For example, you can ask for local Chinese restaurants containing “buffet” in the name. You can search for categories like:

ATMs and Banks
Attractions and Recreation
Business Services
Eating and Drinking
Government and Public
Health Care
Personal Services
Places of Worship

If you want to search for even more detailed specifics, all the above have subcategories. For example, within the “Eating and Drinking” category, you’ll find American, Barbecue / Southern, Bars & Nightclubs, Bistro, Brew Pub, British Isles, Cajun / Caribbean, California, Chinese, Continental, Fast Food, Filipino, French, German, Greek, Grill, Hawaiian / Polynesian, Indian… And 19 more types in addition to these.

3) My Places

Here you’re given quick access to frequently used locations: You have menu options leading to recent searches, user defined favorites, and home and work locations.

4) Maps

Find your location, or the location of a specified location, and view it on a scrollable, zoomable map. Use the “Follow Me Map” to get a map of your current location, and have the screen continually update as you move around.

5) Options

Here you can change certain GPS options, from metric unit display, download options, and changing the voice and detail of the VZ Navigator voice announcer. Also use this menu to tweak, customize and skin (to a very limited extent) your interface. This is also the location of a “Check for Updates” tool and basic “About” information.

I couldn’t find any problems with VZ Navigator. It works great, whether you’re navigating across the city, or going from state to state. The response time depends on your reception. In good areas, response time was less than 15 seconds. In poor reception areas, response took up to 45 seconds. Generally, this initial query and response only needs to be done once. First, you get your route, and must wait while the phone downloads information. Afterwards, all applicable information is contained on the phone, and your location is continually updated as you move around.

The VZ Navigator screen shots below are pictures of what you’ll see as you use the service. Give it a location, like a street address, and sit back. VZ Navigator will give you real-time updates that change and speak to you as you travel.

First, I told it to tell me how to get to a destination. In this case, it was my local Olive Garden restaurant. (I didn’t even need to know the address – I used the VZ Navigator’s “Local Search” tool to look for nearby restaurants with “Olive” in the name.)

After the phone downloaded the trip information (this took about 40 seconds, as I was in an iffy reception area). The trip instructions began. I was near Rosewood Avenue at the time, and I was told to turn left on that street:

Once I turned on the street, the phone detected I had done so, and moved on to the next phase of the trip. I followed steps like this as the phone led me down streets and through intersections, giving instructions, mileage and turn information the entire way. When I got near the place, I saw something similar to what you see below:

Note that if VZ Navigator is turned on and is in navigation mode (telling you where you are and where you’re going), it’s getting constant updates to update your location, and is sucking battery life the entire time. Just remember to turn off VZ Navigator when you’re done with it. Battery consumption, however, was very acceptable. The Motorola v325’s standard battery is a 880 mAh 3.6v Lithium Ion unit. Fairly small and tiny, but so is the v325 itself.

Particular things I liked:

The volume is great. I’ve gone through many cellphones in my relatively short life. The Motorola v325 is probably the loudest so far. This is a very good thing. Some phone speakers are pathetically quiet even at full volume (yes, I’m talking to you, Audiovox 6700!), making listening frustrating or impossible depending on environment. But the v325’s speaker can crank up pretty loud, allowing you to easily hear spoken GPS directions in a moving car with ambient noise.

What does VZ Navigator cost?

The Motorola v325 is $80, and the VZ Navigator service is $10 per month, or $3 per day.

VZ Navigator problems, limitations or drawbacks

I was pretty impressed with the service, and never had any unexpected or problematic behavior. One limitation users should be aware of is the coverage area. VZ Navigator will only work within Verizon’s digital coverage areas.

Note the “CLR” button is used for canceling a function. This isn’t documented anywhere, but is extremely handy. When I started using VZ Navigator, I sometimes chose the wrong option, and instead of waiting for the GPS to finish communicating with Verizon, I hit the call end button, and had to restart VZ Navigator. Instead just use the “CLR” button, and you’ll be taken back to where you were previously in the VZ Navigator menu.

I do have a comment about the price. $10 per month may seem high to some people, particularly when you can purchase a handheld GPS with limited mapping capabilities, and pay no subscription cost at all! However, if you look at everything VZ Navigator gives you, it’s justifiable. You’re not just paying for static information, but real time street navigation updates, and access to categories which can be individually searched on demand. Some of the more expensive car-mounted GPS units have this capability, but the information is usually not updated, and they’re also pretty expensive (compared to $10 per month). Hopefully the day will come when this technology will be as prevalent and available as the taxpayer-maintained GPS satellites, and the price will then be cheaper. Until then, $10 per month is certainly affordable for people who really need the service.

The keypad entry. Okay, I’ve seen those whiz-bang messengers who can enter data at lightning speed using the various alphanumeric entry programs available on cellphones. I’m not one of them – I need a keyboard. And I certainly wouldn’t try this kind of data entry while driving a car. So, if you’re like me in that respect, and you’ll constantly be typing in different addresses, at least try the phone out before buying, or wait till it’s available on a model with an integrated keyboard. Otherwise, there are still solutions: Practice your cellphone typing. When you get the phone, spend some time at the beginning to enter and save your locations. Or if you only need to input addresses infrequently, or are willing to spend the initial effort programming in locations (called “Favorites”) when you first get the phone, this shouldn’t be an issue.


I liked VZ Navigator a lot. It’s a great tool, and when packaged inside of a cellphone, provides greatly increased functionality for zero investment in additional gadgets: Do more with less. Yes, you can get free GPS connectivity from a handheld unit, but VZ Navigator also gives you great features you won’t get in handheld units. Yes, if you have an Internet-capable phone, you can use Mapquest or Google Maps for navigation instructions. But VZ Navigator gives you real time location info, destination lookup by name, address or category (menued and categorized easier than what’s online), and the VZ Navigator interface is designed specifically for phones. You get an easily readable display packed with appropriate information, a clear voice speaking to you so you don’t have to look away from the road, and more information (down to latitude, longitude, and elevation) is available by the touch of a button. For those interested in such things, or those who need GPS, mapping or navigation services, I’d recommend Verizon’s VZ Navigator.

Also see the shorter column review of the VZ Navigator.

Readers Respond

Saul asks:

I have the phone and there is nothing in the manual about its use or how to start the VZ Navigator subscription.

First, make sure you have a VZ Navigator-compatible phone, like the Motorola v325. Next, you’ll find it available for download on your cellphone’s “Get It Now” virtual store, for $9.99 for unlimited monthly access, or $2.99 for 24-hour use.

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