Wireless Maps on Cell Phones
Not long ago, it was common to see cars stopped in the road, their lost drivers searching an accordion-like folding map for clues. Stopping to unfurl one of these monstrous maps (that could never be re-folded properly) was like consulting a scroll of ancient hieroglyphics.
Fortunately, new mobile technology makes finding our way around easy with our cell phones. Cell phones offer distinct advantages over paper maps or even other electronic media. You don't need to pay for a separate system like a GPS, and you don't need a laptop. With the push of a few buttons, you can get directions or find a restaurant or hotel. You just need the right equipment and expertise.
Online maps may be accessed on your cell phone two ways, depending on your phone and your service plan:
- Online, using a mobile Internet browser.
- Offline, by sending text messages to your cell phone.
Using the text messaging map feature will give you an excellent map and directions. But you will not have as much access to other information as you would with an Internet-capable cell phone. With Internet access, you'll have these additional features:
- Up-to-the-minute traffic and accident reports.
- Alternate route options in case of road closures.
- Ability to map a route while you are on the road.
- Road closure information, due to weather, construction, or repairs.
- Instant access to current weather conditions.
Before attempting to access Internet maps on your cell phone, make sure that your current cell phone is up to speed. Here's what you need in a cell phone unit to access online maps:
- A Mobile Internet Browser.
- Internet access capability. This must be activated ahead of time for an additional fee; check with your carrier.
- Graphics interface for map legibility.
Using a cell phone Internet browser is as simple as using it on your computer. The keyboard's a lot smaller, but sometimes your phone has shortcut buttons to help out.
Most Internet search engines, like Yahoo and Google, now provide mobile maps. Many also offer one touch recall, storage of frequently-used routes, automatic road and weather updates, and more. Some, like Mapquest are dedicated to maps and offer many services. Check them out before you get on the road so you become familiar with their services.
Keep in mind a few safety basics before you begin searching for a new address while whipping along in the fast lane:
- Don't search a cell phone (or paper) map while you are driving (it's unsafe and may even be illegal!) Wait until you can stop to search, then save the map for reference.
- Consult any additional services, including weather, road conditions, traffic, etc, while stopped.
- Use your headset to call your home or office and ask someone there to text message the map, but wait until you're safe to look at it.
Back in the 1970s, people predicted that we'd be paper-free by 1980. Now some people say we don't need paper maps. But don't throw out your paper maps just yet. You may lose the link to your map or suffer any number of misadventures with your cell phone, so having a backup is never a bad idea. If you'll be traveling out of town, map your route in advance on a computer and print it out to take with you.
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