The Verizon GPS system works great. I love the idea of always having a GPS any time I'm carrying my phone.
Al Fasoldt's reviews and commentaries, continuously available online since 1983

T e c h n o f i l e
Verizon's GPS cell phone: Low cost, good GPS functions, and it's always with you if you carry your phone

Feb. 25, 2007

Revised on March 7, 2007
By Al Fasoldt
Copyright © 2007, Al Fasoldt
Copyright © 2007, The Post-Standard

   On a drive to Iowa and back last month, we took along our GPS. When it rang, I said "hello."
   If this seems like a non sequitur, don't blame me. Just before we left, I discovered that our new cell phone had a full global positioning system inside. I didn't know the phone could act as a GPS when I bought it, so the discovery of Verizon's VZ Navigator GPS system nearly hidden in a menu on my phone was a delightful surprise.
   Let's get to the main point first. The Verizon GPS system works great. I love the idea of always having a GPS any time I'm carrying my phone -- and that means just about all the time. This part of the deal is a no brainer. You simply press a few keys to activate the navigation menu and let the phone tell you where you are or how to get where you'd like to go.
   It also can tell you how to get to restaurants, gas stations and other important destinations. We used it to locate the nearest Cracker Barrel restaurant while we were hungry travelers on Interstate 80 in Pennsylvania, and we verified our location a couple of times during a blinding blizzard. We found it quite pleasant that Verizon's GPS service talks to you -- in a clear, easy-to-understand voice, telling you where you are and where to turn -- and also shows you maps that you can zoom into for more detail.
   Verizon's GPS service doesn't even cost much. Or, rather, it doesn't cost much if you use it only when you really need it. Let me explain.
   First, VZ Navigator only works on certain models of Verizon phones, not on all of them. You have a good choice of models, but you'll probably have to trade your current phone for a GPS-equipped model if you bought your phone more than a year ago.
   Here is a link that shows all Verizon GPS models. The list includes nine LG phones, six Motorola phones, four Samsung models and one Nokia phone.
   If you have to buy a new phone to get Verizon's GPS service, print the list of GPS-equipped models and watch for promotions. I got my GPS phone for free -- and got $50 in addition as part of a rebate. That same phone, the Samsung SCH-A870, was available in late February for $50 after an online discount.
   Second, you can add the VZ Navigator service to your Verizon bill for $9.99 a month. You pay no other costs except airtime minutes that exceed your allotment. (Any time the GPS part of the phone does a position fix or grabs a map from a central database, the minutes can add up.)
   But a better idea is to limit the cost to those times when you actually use the GPS functions. In this kind of "a la carte" pricing, Verizon charges only $2.99 a day for the VZ Navigator. You can pay the $9.99 monthly fee the same way, limiting it to a month when you're on vacation, for example.
   Technically, Verizon's GPS cell phones use Assisted GPS, not standard GPS. This allows the phone to establish its location indoors, when satellite signals might be blocked, and in any outside location where sightlines are limited. It's my understanding that Verizon's phones also are able to use cellphone-tower triangulation when the GPS assistance server is not reachable.