Routis Vs. Mapopolis: The Debate Continues…
Harish K Malhotra

It all started with my recent trip to Las Vegas where I rented a Hertz car fitted with their famous NeverLost GPS option.  I was immensely pleased with its performance and on returning, thought of having a similar system in my car.  However, I was deflated when I came to know its price tag of $999.  In the present world where the car windows glasses are broken just to steal much cheaper car stereos (in fact as per one posting in Aximsite, Arkon PDA car mounts are also a target), I did not want to jeopardize my car’s safety and its content by installing an expensive gadget like it.

In May of this year, I bought a Dell Axim basic model for my academic purposes and after visiting Aximsite and reading glowing reviews of Deluo universal GPS system along with Routis navigation software, decided to take a plunge.  There were many hiccups in its installation and while I was working with their customer support to fix them, I downloaded Mapopolis trial version and tried it out.  This gave me a chance to test two big competitors in the Pocket PC category and my review is based on my hands-on experience.  For many of the points discussed by me later in this review, I myself drove taking verbatim route on both the systems and recorded my observation.

Comparing Routis or Mapopolis is like comparing two different word processors.  Both are designed as the software’s tools bringing roadside navigation to the users.  Both of have their positive and negative points and a newbie is always confused to pick up the right one.  Many times a product is bought only to regret later as majority of times returning a product is a big headache as the purchases are usually made through internet and involves shipping blues.  In this review, I am trying to analyze the strengths/weakness of both of them.  I am also giving marks (0-10) for every feature based on my own experience.  I have tried to be impartial in awarding numbers and have given 0 only when the option doesn’t exist at all.  My review is confined to Microsoft PPC2002 version for the Pocket PC.  I have used Dell Axim basic and Deluo Serial GPS as the hardware devices. Routis version 1.00.1880NA and Mapopolis version 4.21 have been compared.

The entire process of navigation hinges on four major components

1.               GPS receiver- it is a hardware device which detects satellites signals and uses them to give the position of an object e.g. car in terms of longitude and latitude.  There are many different types of them available e.g. serial mouse, Compact flash card type etc.  This information forms the basic input to the Pocket PC.  Fortunately, the satellites signals are free to use (how so nice) and require no monthly subscription etc.

2.               Pocket PC- the necessary handheld running Windows CE.

3.               Maps- Special digital maps are required for roadside navigations.  They contain more data and are much bigger in size.

4.               Application Software e.g. Routis or Mapopolis etc.  Their role is to accept the signals from the GPS, look into the maps and convert them to readable road names or locations.  Their role is also to guide you during the journey and provide turn-by-turn instructions.  Incidentally, it is their output, which makes them useful to us directly.

Though both Routis & Mapopolis along with the necessary GPS achieve this goal, however, there are significant differences between them.  Routis comes as a bundle, which includes maps as well as the application software.  Mapopolis is essentially a company, which has been more in maps for a pretty long period of time.  They provide free application software, which uses their maps.  As we will see later this is a very important feature.

1                 Size of the Application Software
Routis takes roughly 3.6 MB to install. Mapopolis takes less than 500KB.  Besides, bigger software also needs more RAM to function. It is a very big plus point for Mapopolis as both storage capacity and RAM availability is at a premium in Axim (for that matter any pocket PC).  This is clearly demonstrated by the minimum RAM required to run the application (32 MB for Routis and 8 MB for Mapopolis).  Dell basic Axim comes with 32 MB RAM, which is just sufficient for Routis but provides four times extra RAM for Mapopolis.  This is a very important point to be kept in mind particularly if you have Axim basic.  On my basic Axim, many a times Routis just doesn’t come up and I keep wondering whether RAM is an issue.  Moreover, I had to remove all my other useful software’s to create room for it.
Routis 3, Mapopolis 10

2                 Future Upgradeability
In Mapopolis, application software is free and you pay only for the maps while in Routis both are sold as a bundle. With the release of PPC2003, the application software may require some changes while not the maps. So again Mapopolis has an advantage, as application software anyway is free, thereby, protecting the investment.  Though eventually Routis will come out with a version, which will support PPC2003, but whether it will be a free upgrade, is a million dollar question. 
Routis 0, Mapopolis 10

3                 Ease of Installation
Mapopolis allows you to install it directly from your Pocket PC, which is helpful in troubleshooting installation blues as it bypasses the host PC, active sync issues.  I personally had a tough time in the installation of Routis primarily because of less than perfect installation/uninstallation documentation as well as lack of any error messages.
Routis 4, Mapopolis 10

4                 Trial Version
Mapopolis has Trial versions, Routis does not. It is very useful that you see all the features of software including its ease of installation before you take a plunge.
Routis 0, Mapopolis 10

5                 Maps Availability
Routis has complete maps for North America and skeletal maps for Canada.  Mapopolis has maps for North America, Canada and Europe.
Routis 7, Mapopolis 9

6                 Maps Accuracy
Maps are probably Mapopolis bread and butter and as expected they win hands down over Routis.  The road on which I live by Routis doesn’t exist in that city but in a neighboring city.  It is very small road probably only a mile long and I do not see any reason for it to be classified with that of the neighboring one.  Once again this is very important for the users as you will see later on, this requires me to have different address in my contact list (more on this later).
Routis 5, Mapopolis 8

7                 Maps Design
Mapopolis maps have nice visuals about parks, rivers etc and are closer to the conventional paper maps with which we all are very familiar.  Routis maps have only roads.  Many times the visual are very helpful in real life navigation.  In Routis, minor, major and interstate highways (there numbers are displayed on a standard blue shield) are easy to differentiate but not so well in Mapopolis.  If you are driving under a bridge, which has a major highway on top of it, in Routs it is displayed with red color.  Besides, its insignia and number is also displayed.  This is helpful in having an idea about the region.
Routis 6, Mapopolis 8

8                 Maps Inclusion
The way new maps are included for navigation in your route is easy to understand in Mapopolis as each map file is different.  The file names of maps follow standard naming convention, which is very simple to understand.  Routis masks the entire procedure in a dozen odd files and lacks transparency. 
Routis 5, Mapopolis 10

9                 Maps Loading
Routis maps only be loaded through its map loader application running on a desktop/laptop.  This means that on a cross-country drive where you can’t keep all the maps in your compact flash (CF) card because of storage limitations, you need to carry your laptop too.  This may be a big problem for users like me who have only a regular desktop.  Another troublesome thing is every time while using map loader you have to use both of the CDs to do any maps installation even though the CDs are categorized as East/West zone, thereby, wasting time and causing inconvenience.  Besides, the process is identical whether you want to add or delete the map.  I hate when I have to spend the same amount of time even in deleting a state map.  Storage requirements for Mapopolis maps are comparatively less as you can load the maps of only counties where you are going to halt and the highway maps of the state you are traveling.  Unless you have an exhaustive iterinary, a feel a common 256 MB CF card should be enough.  Alternatively, you can carry multiple CF cards with necessary maps on them and include them as you move on.  You can manage the entire show without needing your big laptop.
Routis 5, Mapopolis 10

10             Maps Granularity
Routis includes either whole state maps or by city.  Mapopolis uses county as the building block unit.  One of the major problem with counties as the building block is that you may not be aware in which county is your destination.  In fact recently when I thought of visiting my friend who lives 1 hr drive from my house, I had to call him to know in which county does his address lie.  Though feeding the state and destination city, it is possible to get the required county name on Mapopolis website but usually it comes out with more than answer.  I personally feel a simple county finder based on zip codes can be designed by Mapopolis.  Routis always adds the necessary highway layer while in Mapopolis, the user has an ability to include it.  Many times the highway layer in Routis becomes too big for the application to handle and the application software just does not load and as is a typical of Routis it does not tell the real problem to the user e.g. insufficient memory etc.  I understand they are working on it to reduce the size of it but once again expecting it to be a free patch is an extremely optimistic guess.
Routis 8, Mapopolis 5

11             Maps Characterization & Mixing
I have been made to understand that Routis does not allow mixing of State and City maps.  No such problem with Mapopolis as each map has its own distinct file name and can be easily selected by the user on his PDA. 
Routis 6, Mapopolis 10

12             Maps Updates
Mapopolis buy its maps from NavTech which apparently is the nodal agency providing the updated maps.  NavTech, hence as expected, controls the frequency of updates (last year, there were 3 updates). Updates are available as a download and are charged at discounted price.  Routis updates its maps yearly and a new CD costs approx. 70$ (sorry, no web updates).  Currently both Routis and Mapopolis display the installed software version only.  My suggestion to both will be to display the maps version/ maps-date-of-creation too.  Their website should indicate as to which maps have changed since the earlier version.
Routis 8, Mapopolis 10

13             Maps Size
Out of curiosity, I tried to find out the maps size for NY state (Why NY state only? Well, I live here).  Routis size 57 MB (includes POI (Point of interest) database). Mapopolis 36 MB for maps & 13.4 MB for POI database (Total 49.5 MB).  For Mapopolis I went to their web site and painstakingly noted down each county maps size and POI maps sizes in excel spreadsheet and after lot of labor, I came out with the statistics.  There is also highway map of NYstate map as well roughly 800 K.  I believe if you add all the maps of individual counties in a state, it is included anyway (my presumption) and hence I am not adding twice.  With an exhaustive POI database as well as inclusion of geographical boundaries and yet having a 15% smaller map size, Mapopolis has a clear edge over Routis.  My analysis is restricted to NY state only with a belief that other states will follow similar trend though I encourage users to check for their own state.  Since storage capacity is at a premium in all-handheld devices, I consider it to be an important plus point for Mapopolis.
A suggestion here for Mapopolis.  The algorithm to compress a file in a zip-format is well known.  Why not add a function in your software, which can read your state zip file and extract the required county map on a fly?  This will slightly increase the application software size and RAM requirement but will be helpful to the end users.  CF cards prices are falling and shortly we may be able to squeeze entire US maps on a CF card.
Routis 8, Mapopolis 10

14             Maps Zooming
Routis maps can be viewed from 25 miles distance to 100 ft.  In Mapopolis, the minimum is still 100 ft but maximum is much higher 1000 miles.  Because of the limited screen size of Axim, watching the display from a large distance serves little purpose.  At large distances, the roads are masked by much larger size geographical objects in Mapopolis.  This does not offer much more roadside navigation but an idea about the terrain in which you are driving.  A look from 25 miles height on a Routis maps (which do not have any geographical landmarks) as shown in their web-demo contain only the roads which without any geographical information looks more like a spider’s web and appears more like a marketing gimmick.
Routis 6, Mapopolis 8

15             3D Maps Display
Both lack it and nobody gets points here.  As per my knowledge, presently Destinator and TomTom USA have this feature and as per the postings on the internet, this novelty wears out pretty fast and people go back to conventional 2D maps.  I have seen the snapshots of such maps and was personally not impressed enough to open my valet.  Besides, I am skeptical about its additional contribution in real life navigation.
Routis 0, Mapopolis 0

16             Night Color scheme
Both have night color display scheme.  In Routis, it changes automatically while in Mapopolis you have to change it manually (I could configure one of the Axim button for it).  I presume that Routis gets the local sunset time from its Almanac and accordingly switches the color scheme.  The color scheme in Mapopolis is customizable but not in Routis.
Routis 8, Mapopolis 8

17             User Interface (UI)
Routis user-interface is optimized for fingers (ideal for car).  There are nice extra-large Icons for selecting almost all options.  Coupled with their Routis keyboard, which is much bigger, attractive and easier to use, the UI literally stands out.  Mapopolis User-interface uses standard windows screens with standard Pocket PC keyboard, which are better optimized for stylus entry.
Routis 10, Mapopolis 5

18             Error Messages/User Input Validation
One of the biggest problem, which I have noticed with Routis, is that there are hardly any error messages if something goes wrong, which keep you guessing whether the problem is in the application software, GPS receiver, maps or the hardware limitations e.g. RAM.  I have noticed Mapopolis does a better job in it.
Routis 3, Mapopolis 8

19             Outlook Contact Address as Input
Both Routis & Mapopolis support Outlook contact address to pick up a destination.  However, I have noticed that the Routis does not always uses the addresses in the same way keeping you wandering whether the maps are old or if there is some other problem.  For example, my friend who stays at xxx Saddlebrook can only be located if the address is in the Outlook be written as xxx Saddle brk.  Though somebody may argue that once you change it the way Routis likes it, problem will be solved. However, it means that you need to keep two copies of address book (one for your regular post & other for GPS navigation) something, which I personally hate because of updating headaches.  I did notice similar problem with Mapopolis too, though it was less common.
Routis 3, Mapopolis 8

20             Route from Anywhere to Anywhere
Both support it, however, it is very simple and clear in Mapopolis.  Routis does have an undocumented workaround.  It is an important feature, as I prefer to do all my routing and changes etc. within my home rather than sitting in my car.  This allows me to spend more time in feeding the destination data and fine-tuning the route.  Once every thing is up to my satisfaction, I switch off Axim but keep the application running.  This way I do not have to hear oohs-aahs of my family members impatiently waiting for the car to move.
Routis 7, Mapopolis 10

21             Route Listing
When a route is generated in Routis, the route listing option displays the turns directions graphically, name of the road and distance in tabular format (similar to while taking directions from yahoo-maps, which is visually very appealing and hence I like).  However, it neither tells the distance to destination as well as estimated time of arrival, ETA on this screen.  This information is extremely helpful to the user to change route options (e.g. inclusion of toll roads etc.) if necessary and rerun the routing accordingly.  You have to flip to Map screen to check distance as well as ETA.  Since speed, distance & ETA share the same spot on the screen you need to tap repeatedly to get these two important information’s.  Mapopolis route listing is a plain vanilla text messages and does not show graphical direction arrows but shows the distance and ETA at the end of the listing, thereby, giving a chance to the user to change route options.  Unfortunately in both of them, route options are controlled through global settings and it is not possible to change them on a fly like in Mapquest.  Mapopolis, however, does allow this route listing to be saved as a file.
Another important thing, which I noticed in Routis, is that during route listing it for small distance, it uses feet’s. However, its use should be restricted to distances up to 500 feet’s only. Mapopolis uses a single unit of mile or km depending on the setting.
A bit of suggestion for Routis development team, currently speed, ETA & distance to destination occupy the same slot (essentially two rectangles, the top showing the Caption while the bottom showing the value) and one needs to repeatedly tap to change the display.  How about removing one of the Caption and show both ETA & distance to destination value together.  Speed warning should just change the background color of the above rectangles to red with an audible alarm.  The actual speed anyway can be read on the regular speedometer.  This will provide all the useful information at a glance without touching Routis screen.  In Mapopolis, the last line nicely shows the time to go, remaining distance and ETA.
Routis 8, Mapopolis 6

22             Accuracy of Estimated Time of Arrival (ETA)
I have tested the same only on local routes (essentially driving to my office, a 15 mile distance on each way) and have found to be within couple of minutes with both of them.  I will later on update it with information about my long distance visits.
Routis 10, Mapopolis 10

23             Route Optimization
The routing options (Highways/freeways/toll roads inclusion/exclusion etc.) in both are pretty rudimentary and have global settings.  If you have little familiarity with the area, you may like to further optimize the route manually as per your preferences e.g. you may like to route to include/exclude certain specific roads (there may be construction activity going on a particular road or the road may not be passing through a nice neighborhood etc.) etc.  This is an area in which both have to work on.  I have couple of suggestions here.  In the global route settings, there should be an option to minimize the number of turns in a route being generated.  Essentially every turn requires slowing down the car and worst, there may be a Stop sign requiring a complete stop.  So routes having a large number of turns, which are less than a mile apart essentially, increase the journey time.  Another thing which I will prefer is to quickly jump from various route options (fastest, avoid highways, shortest etc.) using tabs, just the way it is implemented in Mapquest with an additional Tab of user defined.  Clicking on User-defined should open-up all the calculated three routes (shortest, fastest etc.) in a tabular format including a column for User defined.  Just pick and drag the roads, which you prefer into your user defined Route column.  The software than shall use these roads to come out with the final route.  Alternatively, once a route has been calculated and you are watching the directions (not the map) on the screen, tapping on any particular road should pop up a menu to avoid that road and program should find alternative or make available alternate roads to pick.  Similarly users should be allowed to select favorite road for a route where majority of the journey should be planned.
Routis 5, Mapopolis 5

24             Multi-Point Routing
If you want to go from A to C but would like to touch B in between is essentially multi-point routing.  Routis supports it through Stopover option and workaround exist for Mapopolis.  In my case, I store all the destinations in my contact list, which allow categorizing options etc.  First I put B as my destination and run route from A.  After reaching B, I run a route to C.  Though people have used favorites as well but they can’t be assigned a name, which sometimes may cause confusion (read more about it in contact list).  I understand that Mapopolis is working on multi-point routing and is expected soon and I presume, will be a free download as well.
Routis 10, Mapopolis 7

25             Routing Map Display
In Routis, the bottom line of the screen contain the name of the road on which you are driving while the top line contains the name of the road where you have to take a turn.  The next turn graphical indication and its distance is shown in a square towards the left hand corner of the screen.  This screen arrangement is perhaps the best as it gives necessary information without hiding too much of the map details.  In Mapopolis, usually a thick rectangular band (navigation pane) with white background at the bottom gives all the necessary information with top line giving the name of the road on which you are driving and the bottom line gives the name of the street where you have to take the turn (reverse of Routis layout).  It, unfortunately, takes a sizable chunk of screen and hence the map details (even with large navigation pane option unchecked).  The problem gets worst if your route requires a sharp U-turn in which case a major part of your route might get blocked.
In Routis, the GPS trail stands out as it is thicker than the normal road.  In Mapopolis, I can change the color of GPS trail but not its thickness (I wish, I could) and accordingly is little hard to view.  In Routis, the position of your car is a circle and a nice arrow in it indicates the direction of motion.  In Mapopolis, the position of your car is defined by a circle.  Only when the vehicle is in motion, an arrow pops-up in front to circle indicating the direction of motion.  In majority of times, I will be able to view my present position or review the route when I am waiting at a red light and the absence of arrow at that time sometimes causes confusion particularly if you are driving on a zig-zag road.  An alternative will be to change the color of the GPS trail, which has already been traveled. 
Routis 10, Mapopolis 8

26             Routing (Local & within State)
I have found both to be equally good with comparable routing for local and within the state routing. 
Routis 10, Mapopolis 10

27             Routing (Non-Continuous States)
For cross-country travels, Mapopolis routing can be easily configured without loading too much of unnecessary maps.  Starting county map, destination county map and only the state highway maps (very small in size) for in between states are all that what you need.  In a real cross-country route test, I ran I route from NY state to that in California adding all the state highways maps, starting county map and the destination county map.  Within no time I had a route extending 2805.8 miles with an ETA of 44 hr 4 minutes.  In Routis, I loaded the maps of NY state, Connecticut and Southern California.  I understand in case of non-continuous states, Routis adds the necessary highway layer automatically.  The Software did not even load.  This has already been acknowledged by Routis team.  A suggestion for Mapopolis, how about coming out with the entire US state highway map as a single downloadable file?  My personal feeling is that the entire US state highway should not take more than 20 MB and I will be happy to allocate the same on my 256 MB CF card as this way I will have only one file to worry about.
Routis 3, Mapopolis 10

28             Quick Successive Sharp Turns guidance
Many a times, one has to take successive sharp turns.  It is an acid test for a navigation system.  In case of Routis, the voice prompt warns you ahead of time about the same, the direction arrow, however, points to the first turn and updates the direction arrow as soon as the first turn is completed.  In Mapopolis, both the turns are shown together on the screen ahead of time.  Unfortunately, these instructions mask a good part of the screen and hence the underlying maps.  In such complex turns, I expect that the name of the roads where you have to take a turn is also spoken.  Presently both of them do not support it.  This is important as in complex turns I would like to keep my eyes exclusively on the road.
Routis 8, Mapopolis 7

29             Rerouting
Routis will try to bring you back on your predefined route.  Most of the times it will be a plain U-turn, though, eventually it will do rerouting.  Let me try to explain it with a help of an example.  Let us suppose Routis has designed a route in which your destination requires driving 1 mile straight on your present road followed by a right turn and driving another mile.  Let us also assume that there is another road using which you can take a right turn and drive for a mile, take a left turn and drive another mile upstream (essentially both are viable routes).  If you decide to take the second route by ignoring Routis directions, it will calculate how much far you are from you present position with respect to its intended route.  Initially you will be closer to its old route and so it will keep on telling you to take a U-turn.  If you ignore its messages and keep on driving on the same road, you will eventually reach a situation from where you will be nearer to destination from your present location by taking the alternative route (which is in your mind).  Now only Routis too will pick it and show you the revised reroute.  Rerouting in Mapopolis is pretty intelligent and I am yet to see a request of U-turn.  My feeling is that anytime you miss a turn, Mapopolis reruns the entire routing using your current position and the destination.  Even on a basic Axim, it is pretty fast.
Routis 5, Mapopolis 10

30             Guidance Screen
Routis has a guidance screen which zooms in at an intersection to help in taking proper turn.  It is useful in making complex turns but I have found the guidance screen available in Hertz cars (Hertz NeverLost) best as a quick glance can give you the complete picture.  Mapopolis does not have this feature.
Routis 7, Mapopolis 0

31             Safety Features
Routis has two nice safety features, which include speeding alarm (essentially based on road class definition, it knows the speed limit and will warn you if are speeding).  However, I have noticed that it is not always accurate particularly in those areas where the road has different speed limits at different stretches.  Similarly, at night it can give you a warning about upcoming 4-way intersection.  Since at night, many of the 4-ways intersections may not have good lighting, this is a good safety feature. None of them are present in Mapopolis.  Mapopolis does have a uniform speed limit alarm setting, which probably is best suited for highway driving only.
Routis 10, Mapopolis 5

32             Voice Prompts
Routis has a female voice for prompting, Mapopolis has a male voice.  I am not a MCP (male chauvinist pig) and find both acceptable.  The voice prompts should be crisp, clear and small and accordingly I feel saying  “Right turn in point two mile” is easier rather than saying “Right turn in two-tenth of a mile” as is in case of Mapopolis.  This is a case of individual preference and I do not give much weight to it.  However, the frequency of such prompt is customizable in Mapopolis but not in Routis.
If any body from Dell Axim side is reading this review, can anything be done to improve the speaker output in Axim?  Though I can feed the output of Axim into my Cassette player using a special cassette, I personally hate to do that because of two reasons, first I loose all the music and second that I want to connect minimum wires to my Axim, thereby, facilitating quick connection and removal (my Axim is removed at the end of every trip).
Routis 7, Mapopolis 9

33             Miles or KM
Both allow you to select the unit of distance measurement.  Well, I live at the border of US and Canada and is a good feature when I have to drive in there.
Routis 10, Mapopolis 10

34             Point of Interests (POIs)
Mapopolis has separate maps of them, which are very exhaustive.  Routis contains both together but the content in them is very small.  They, however, contain the telephone numbers of the POI (a really good feature).  Surprisingly, both do not have a category of shopping centers/malls.
Routis 5, Mapopolis 8

35             Creating your own POIs
Mapopolis has a nice feature called maplets, which allows you to define your own POIs with neat categorization options.  Unfortunately, the maplet entry is only through stylus and hence the inaccuracy associated with it.  I wish I could use one of the addresses from my outlook contact list for it.  Routis lacks this option and user is restricted to define them as Favorites only, which is also available in Mapopolis.  However, the favourites, which are also called as geomarks, lack categorizing options.  Personally I will prefer that Favorites be allowed to be stored through a nickname, which is much more appealing and easier to remember rather than an address.  A categorizing option here will be a big plus too. On a bare minimum, it should be possible to export them in contact list so as to allow user to use its own customization based on the features available in Outlook.
Routis 3, Mapopolis 8

36             Cross-Platform Portability
Routis can be used on a laptop as well (though with mouse GPS).  Mapopolis is available only for the pocket PC environment while their Palm version is on the way out.  I used Pocket PC Controller to run Mapopolis even on a regular notebook, which worked fine.  However, as the name suggests, the controller merely controls Axim using desktop PC resources (mouse, Keyboard etc) and the display size remains very small.  Thus, you need both an Axim as well as the laptop and personally I was not impressed at all.  I am not sure how many such users are there who will utilize this option because of the associated problem of mounting a notebook PC in a car. 
Routis 10, Mapopolis 6

37             GPS Information
Both can receive signals from up to 12 satellites and do provide information about the number of satellites fixed/locked.  Routis does provide additional Almanac information but I am not sure in which situations, it will be useful (probably to know sunrise and sunset timings and hence plan start/stop in a journey).  Whenever you are panning a map, the GPS gets disabled in both of them and may need manual restarting.  In such type of case, I will prefer an icon right on the same screen to enable the GPS.  Time required for a fix was also found to be comparable and yes, the car need not be stationary to get a fix though it is quicker if it is not moving.  Please note that the time required for a fix is a function of a GPS receiver and not the software and has not influenced the ranking.
Routis 10, Mapopolis 8

38             Customization Options
Mapopolis allows literally everything to be customized according to individual taste including the colors of the maps.  Routis allows minimal customization.
Routs 5, Mapopolis 9

39             Customization of Axim Hardware Buttons
Mapopolis allows assigning Axim hardware buttons in a very simple way.  This is again a very useful feature in real life navigation eliminates the need of tapping the screen with/without stylus.  Routis does not allow this customization and comes preconfigured with some options on Up/Dn button and Rocker button (which in my case is useless as my Arkon vent type mount blocks it).
Routs 1, Mapopolis 10

40             Using USB Card Readers
The maps are pretty big and regular transfer to Axim through active sync usually takes lot of time.  A better alternative is available in the form of USB card readers.  I could not make Routis recognize the maps after transferring through it (though it is supported as per the documentation) and had to rely only on slower active sync.  I faced no problem using card readers with Mapopolis.  Moreover, a relatively smaller size of Maps in Mapopolis can even be handled easily with active sync without taking too much time. 
Routis 2, Mapopolis 8

41             Context Sensitive Help
Both are equally good though I have found Routis help to be more exhaustive and is definitely better than their printed users manual.  In case of Mapopolis, users’ manual is more exhaustive than the context sensitive help.
Routis 10, Mapopolis 8

42             Users Manual
Routis has a 12 page small format booklet while Mapopolis covers its user’s manual in 30 A4 size pages all filled with useful information though the last 5 pages are devoted to licensing agreement.  Has even some trouble-shooting tips sorely missing in Routis manual (though covered in context sensitive help).  I personally like reading on a paper rather than on a small screen of Axim.
Routis 5, Mapopolis 9

43             Website
One of the most confusing thing about Mapopolis is its website with variety of choices of maps, clear navigation etc.  Newbie should first head towards SupportàFAQ just to get an idea of it.  The choices available with maps are pretty baffling initially (navigator maps are the only one useful for auto-routing).  Routis web info is pretty good and the demo of Routis is really impressive.  However, Routis doesn’t has anything to offer as to buy/update maps from its website.
Routis 8, Mapopolis 5

44             Ease of Web Buying
Directly from Deluo Electronics web site.  Very simple.  Except their map packs, Mapopolis site does not allow direct purchase from them.  Their GPS bundles are sold through PCMALL while CD-maps through Amazon.  Personally I prefer to deal directly with the parent company as it avoids a middleman and also because of warranty/support issues.  Luckily Mapopolis does a wonderful job at both the above issues.  I personally do not know much about Itransact & Paypals payments options, as I have never used them though I hope they are safe and secured too.
Routis 10, Mapopolis 7

45             After Sales Support
Based on the postings on Aximsite, Mapopolis support is legendary.  I am not their customer and yet they have been very prompt with replying to my queries within hours.  Routis support as per my personal opinion is also acceptable though there are many postings on Aximsite where people had problems.
Routis 8, Mapopolis 10

46             Pricing
Both are comparable approx. $100 (Routis comes on 2 CD’s while Mapopolis has a map pack available online allowing unlimited downloads for a year).  Mapopolis ver 3.x is also available on CDs while ver. 4.x CDs are in making, however, maps on the CDs can’t be updated.  I understand that the exhaustive POI maps of Mapopolis, by default, are not the part of their map-packs and are available either on outright purchase per county or on a payment of around $25 for one year of unlimited download.  (Technically, one can buy even regular navigator maps from Mapopolis of each county separately).  This makes the cost of the entire navigation solution (GPS receiver, navigation software and mounting brackets) exceed the cost of my basic Axim.  Since I am a dollar wise guy, I am restricting 6 marks to both of them in this category.  Since softwares can be mass-produced at small prices, I wish in future we may see lower prices for both of them. 
Routis 6, Mapopolis 6

Since accurate maps are a pre-requisite of a good navigations system, keeping them up to date requires additional recurring expenditure.  For a typical home user, yearly updates should suffice though even for that a yearly expenditure of 70-99$ is on the higher side.  Compare it with that of anti-virus softwares which we all use, initial cost is more but the cost of updating the virus-dat files is essentially a fraction of the total cost.  If the same concept is introduced for map updating (updating cost a fraction of initial cost), it will be beneficial to the end user.  I have been thinking of economical ways of managing even that and have an idea.  Presently there are 44 million AAA members worldwide with around 1 million in US alone.  As a part of regular membership fee (around 45$), members are provided free paper maps by AAA.  If there can be an arrangement between AAA and say Mapopolis/Routis whereby an AAA member can have an option of updating his digital map, the price of which is included in the membership fee itself (or slightly high for digital maps updating), probably will be the best.  Such a arrangement will be beneficial to all the three parties (AAA, Mapopolis/Routis and the end-user), AAA will save on expensive paper maps, Mapopolis/Routis will find a wholesale corporate buyer and will be willing to have a special rate for him and the end user will always have an access to latest maps.  Such an arrangement will facilitate a quick acceptance of navigation systems in mainstream.  Going by the sheer numbers of AAA members, a huge business opportunity is waiting to be tapped.  Chairmen’s of Mapopolis/Routis, are you listening???  Jump in, before Bill Gates does, barricades all the roads and claims roads always belonged to him (just kidding).

The POI database can not only pay for itself but can also subsidize the updating of regular maps as well.  For this Routis/Mapopolis need to approach major corporate giants like McDonald, Pizza hut, Wal-Mart, Best Buy, Hilton Hotels etc.  For a yearly fee, their location as well as phones can be inserted in the POI.  Here I have included major players only as approaching them is much easier, they have large chains and won’t mind spending little more (after all it may mean more business for them).

Personal Navigation systems help in warning the driver much ahead of time about the impending turn.  This gives the driver ample time to change lanes, thereby, helping in his and the car safety (no last minute risky, nasty turns).  I do not know for sure whether Car Insurance companies will acknowledge it as nice safety accessory and may be willing to lower the insurance premium.  This area may be worth probing and if we succeed, it will be a big incentive.  Again Routis/Mapopolis are in a better position to convince them, thereby, increasing their business as well as better penetration of their product.

I seem to have gone off-track from my main topic (Routis Vs Mapopolis debate) in my above couple of paragraphs.  I am sure that the readers will understand that the issues raised are of general interest which if properly handled will result in better and cheaper services for them.

Coming back to the main topic, I am summarizing the above analysis in a tabular format below with an additional column, which provides information about the overall impact of the compared feature in either selecting a product or in real life road navigation.  Following conventions have been used by me, A+ means very important and desirable, A means important, B means Good to have, C means Cosmetic value only, X stands for user’s preference.

Sr. No.

Feature

Routis

Mapopolis

Importance

  1.  

Minimum RAM Requirement

3

10

A+

  1.  

Future Upgradeability

0

10

A+

  1.  

Ease of Installation

4

10

A

  1.  

Trial Version

0

10

A+

  1.  

Maps Availability

7

9

A

  1.  

Maps Accuracy

5

8

A+

  1.  

Maps Design

6

8

A

  1.  

Maps Inclusion

5

10

A

  1.  

Maps Loading

5

10

A+

  1.  

Maps Granularity

8

5

B

  1.  

Maps Characterization & Mixing

6

10

B

  1.  

Maps Updates

8

10

A

  1.  

Maps Size

8

10

A

  1.  

Maps Zooming

6

6

B

  1.  

3D Maps Display

0

0

C, X

  1.  

Night Color scheme

8

8

B

  1.  

User Interface (UI)

10

5

A+

  1.  

Error Messages/User Input Validation

3

8

A

  1.  

Outlook Contact Address as Input

3

8

A

  1.  

Route from Anywhere to Anywhere

5

10

A

  1.  

Route Listing

8

6

B

  1.  

Accuracy of Estimated Time of Arrival (ETA)

10

10

A

  1.  

Route Optimization

5

5

A+

  1.  

Multi-Point Routing

10

7

A

  1.  

Routing Map Display

10

8

A+

  1.  

Routing (Local & within State)

10

10

A

  1.  

Routing (Non-Continuous States)

3

10

A+

  1.  

Quick Successive Sharp Turns guidance

8

7

A

  1.  

Rerouting

5

10

A+

  1.  

Guidance Screen

7

0

A

  1.  

Safety Features

10

5

B

  1.  

Voice Prompts

7

9

A+

  1.  

Miles or KM

10

10

X

  1.  

Point of Interests (POIs)

5

8

A

  1.  

Creating your own POIs

3

8

A

  1.  

Cross-Platform Portability

10

6

X

  1.  

GPS Information

10

8

B

  1.  

Customization Options

5

9

A

  1.  

Customizing Hardware buttons

1

10

A+

  1.  

Using USB Card Readers

2

8

B

  1.  

Context Sensitive Help

10

8

A

  1.  

Users Manual

5

9

A

  1.  

Website

8

5

A

  1.  

Ease of Web Buying

10

7

B

  1.  

After Sales Support

8

10

A+

  1.  

Pricing

6

6

A+

 

Result (out of 460)

286

364

 

There are two important conclusions to be drawn from this analysis.  First is that, none of them get 100% marks implying there is a scope for improvement in both of them.  Secondly, it is very much evident from the above statistics that for dollar to dollar, Mapopolis is a better buy and wins by a handsome margin.  However, I hasten to say that I do not own Mapopolis and my experience with it is limited to its one-week trial version.  I wish I would have more time to review the same in much more depth but the trial version has since been expired.  Another important thing, which any other user can do, is to change the numbers based on his/her personal requirements.  For example, I live just couple of miles away from Canada and so the miles to Km conversion as well as Canadian maps were an important feature for me.  For somebody living in Texas or California, this may not be an issue at all.

There have been two compelling reasons for my writing this review.  First it will provide a GPS newbie an opportunity to gain from my experience in making a judicious decision.  In the past, I have been greatly benefited by others experience and expertise at Aximsite.com and felt it obligatory to contribute something useful to this extremely live, vibrant and helpful forum. The other goal has been to provide a useful feedback to the companies making Routis & Mapopolis about their product’s weakness and to let them know what an average user is looking for.  If even 10% of my comments/suggestions are acknowledged and corrected, I will feel happy and satisfied that my time (much to the dismay of my wife) has been well spent in writing this review.  I also wish to state that the purpose of this review has not been to credit/discredit any product or company and should be taken only as a constructive criticism.  It is a big world and people’s choices and tastes vary and one-man food can be another man poison.

I have been bitten by a GPS bug and eventually would like to extend this review to include other pocket PC navigation softwares also e.g. TomTom USA, Destinator etc. if they too have a trial version for evaluation or are willing to provide a copy.  I also would like to update it periodically as soon as new versions of Routis/Mapopolis come out provided I get an evaluation copy.

With the hardware prices of Pocket PCs falling with Dell setting a trend with Axim, their popularity will grow in coming future gradually encouraging mass acceptance of personal GPS systems.  Accordingly, I see a bright future for both the reviewed navigation systems.  This debate, invariably, will continue…

References:

1.               Routis Users manual

2.               Routis demo at http://www.deluo.com/

3.               Mapopolis Users manual

4.               Various postings at http://www.aximsite.com/

Acknowledgements:

1.               Jake Rich, Aximsite

2.               Deluo Paul, Customer Support, Deluo Electronics

3.               Cheryl Kuenzel, Customer Support, Mapopolis

Date of Initial Posting: 08/17/2003
This page was last updated on: 08/20/2003
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