Sunday, December 23, 2007


Disappeared streets--TomTom GPS not too useful in Hawaii

by Larry Geller

Or parts of New Jersey, either.

Hawaii has addresses that look like 94-nnn Kamehameha Highway. New Jersey has some also. In fact, there are so many of these addresses here that they might be in the majority.

So what's the problem? The  problem is that one of the best-selling GPS navigation brands, TomTom, does not have a hyphen on their keyboard. That's right, no way to enter most Hawaii addresses.

The TomTom One is a best-seller and a top choice of Consumer Reports. It works fine if you want to go somewhere on King Street, or to an address in Hilo, for example. Heck, I don't need an expensive GPS unit to find those. If I want to visit an office in Kaneohe, though, I can't enter the address.

Believe it or not.

This brand is widely advertised in Sunday ads. It gets good reviews from on-line sites. I scored a TomTom GO920 at a reasonable price the day after Thanksgiving. It was the only one Office Depot had at that store, and I got it! Yay! Now I know why. It worked fine, except of course when it's needed most.

TomTom customer service is as useless as the unit was. After a phone call and an email, they advised us to fax the main office. So I did. Nothing. A second fax. Nothing.

After about a week I had an idea, I'll fax their headquarters in the Netherlands. I'll also tell them that faxing their USA office did not good. They should know about that. This did bring a reply in a couple of days. But no good news.

I'm supposed to subscribe to their newsletter to find out when the fix is in. They won't even drop me an email.

So back it went, reluctantly. I don't know if I'll find as good a bargain any time soon. The other brands (Garvin and Magellan, anyway) have no problem with Hawaii addresses, but their voice quality wasn't as good.

We just liked the TomTom and can't believe that it has this problem.

So be warned. They are still advertised everywhere. Try one before you buy it. If you just need to navigate on center-city streets, you'll be ok. If you want to get out of town, though, see if the TomTom will actually take you there.

Good thing I didn't buy one from CompUSA which has a no-return policy.


BTW, I have a property manager friend in West Maui who uses a marine GPS to identify exact locations where he catches game fish. He says there are all kinds of neat capabilities that handheld GPS can be used for. For example we discussed that you can aim a GPS at a moving object, like the Superferry going through the channel between Maui and Molokai and record the exact speed it is moving at. I figured that would be a neat way to independently verify what speed the Superferry is going particularly through the Whale Sanctuary. Two gadgets on my wish list: Apple Touch iPod and a multifunctional handheld GPS. ;) Aloha, Brad

I think you can use the TomTom and perhaps others in a similar way. There are add-ons that do all sorts of things including playing videos. I wonder how you can point at something and tell the speed, though.

I am thinking now maybe not about the point and speed thing. I think the device would have to have the location of the ship and of where the device is being held to make that calculation. Brad

The GPS unit probably has to be on board the ferry to display location and speed.

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