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Pocket GPS Navigator with Bluetooth from Pharos
  - posted Nov, 2003 by Tong Zhang, Senior Editor and GPS guru

Named after the infamous ancient lighthouse in Egypt and inspired by the tradition of navigation technology, Pharos Science and Applications, Inc. has been developing location-based technology since 1998. They were one of the first PDA GPS vendors to sell their GPS packages through local electronic stores at an affordable price. Combining their feature-rich navigation software Ostia with Tele Altas US map data, the Pharos GPS solution offers a complete package for driving and walking navigation and guidance. If you are new GPS technology, read our GPS FAQ. If you need help evaluating a GPS solution for your PDA, read our GPS evaluation guide.

Pharos Bluetooth GPS

Above: the GPS in Bluetooth dock

Pharos Bluetooth GPS

Above: the GPS removed from the Bluetooth dock


Pharos bundles the Ostia software solution with three types of GPS receivers to fit most of the Pocket PCs on the market.
In-vehicle mouse GPS receiver- currently supports iPAQ 3800, 3900, 5100, 5400, 5500 and 2210 series; Toshiba e330, e740 and e750 series, Dell Axim X5, Pocket PC Phone Edition, Jornada and Casio models, and more.
CompactFlash Card GPS receiver- currently supports any Pocket PC with a CF option, including iPAQ, Toshiba and Dell models.
Bluetooth GPS receiver- currently supports all Bluetooth enabled Pocket PCs. This GPS receiver can be removed from its Bluetooth “dock” and used as CF GPS receiver or connect directly to your handle with serial cable. If you want to learn more about Bluetooth, check out our primer and BT reviews here.
We tested the Bluetooth GPS packet on an iPAQ 1945 with built-in Bluetooth.

What's in the box?

You will find a Pharos iGPS-360 receiver which is a square puck that can be plugged into the included Bluetooth dock or the Pharos CompactFlash adapter, iGPS-BT dock with Li-Polymer rechargeable/user-replaceable battery (720mah), AC battery charger, car charger for the PDA, a vent mount kit and a friction pad for the GPS, and a travel carrying case. Pharos GPS packages also include 4 CDs that have Ostia software. The map data includes street-level and highway maps for all of the US states including Alaska and Hawaii, as well as street-level maps of Canada. Pharos does not have maps outside of North America, but it does support the standard NMEA-0183 protocol at a baud rate of 4800 which means you can use other NMEA compatible maps. The Pharos GPS package also comes with an iGPS-BT user manual and an Ostia User’s Manual.


The installation process is fairly simple and painless. Put your Pocket PC in the cradle and pop in the Installation CD and you will see the Pharos Ostia Setup window. You can install both navigation software and the MapFinder utility software via this window. You can also launch the User Manual here as well. To install the navigation software onto your Pocket PC, click on the Install Ostia button. The navigation software takes just a little over 1.1MB. After installing Ostia navigation software, you will need to install the MapFinder onto your desktop. The MapFinder utility software gives you an interface that will help you select and download the map data. If you wish to read the manual, check Read User’s Manual and click on the Finish button.

After you’ve successfully installed the software, you can launch MapFinder on your desktop. You will see a very nice visual map of the US with each State broken down into small areas so that you can download the maps covering only the areas you need. You can download one or multiple maps to one of the three destinations: Pocket PC, desktop/laptop PC and a card reader. The visual map and all the options listed above the map provide you with all the information you will need for selecting and downloading maps. When you move the cursor over the map, you will see a pop-up window showing the area of this particular piece of map, the size of the map, which data CD it’s stored on, and more. You can simply use this visual map and double click on the areas you wish to download, or type in a city name or a zip code to find the area you are looking for. Once you’ve selected all the maps you wish to download, hit the Execute Map Copy button on the top right hand corner. The application will detect all the storage locations, and the amount of the space available as well as the size of your maps. You will need to insert the CD that has your map data. All three map data CDs have a list of States on the cover. Once the map data is installed, you are ready to map out routes on your Pocket PC and drive with your GPS.



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Planning Routes on Your Pocket PC

Planning your trips on the Pocket PC is equally easy with Pharos Ostia software. You can find an origin or a destination by searching you Outlook Contacts database, Favorites, addresses on the map, POI database (using Smart Finder) or an intersection. If you have searched addresses before, you will see a Recent Destination list and can reuse these addresses you’ve searched before. Once you have found an Origin and a Destination, you can calculate the route and get the directions. Ostia allows multiple waypoints (up to 10 stops) in your trip planning, so if you need to stop somewhere along the way, you can get directions to those places as well. There are three route options in Ostia: Fastest, Shortest and No Highway, but you can only select one of these options. The routes I have mapped out seem on target with the right choices when it comes to using local roads vs. highways.

If you are planning your trips ahead of the time and don’t have your GPS turned on yet, you can play your planned routes in simulation. There is also a reverse route function for return trips.

screen shsot

Driving with Pharos GPS

Turn on the Bluetooth GPS by pushing the On button located on the right side of the BT dock and your Bluetooth radio on your Pocket PC. Discover and pair the Pharos GPS on your device and you’re ready to go. The Pharos GPS receiver gets very strong signal in the Silicon Valley area, consistently tracking 5-7 satellites with 8-10 in view. There are two GPS views, one that shows the satellites positions and signal strength and the other which shows the compass and your location information. It takes less than a minute to initialize the GPS and only a few seconds to warm start it.

The Pharos GPS comes with several guidance systems. Text driving directions, under View in the main menu, gives you turn-by-turn driving directions in text, with icons and a summary of the trip. You can also get single turn view, which displays your next turn in larger fonts and icons, as well as a split screen that displays both the map view and the single turn view. Routes are color-coded on the map view with small icons marking the origin and destination as well as stops you’ve planned for the trip. There are also options to choose daytime map view or night map view. To move the map on the screen, you will need to use the D-pad on your PDA.

You have the option to turn on or off the voice guidance. The voice guidance seems on target. Though doesn’t come on as often as some other GPS solutions we’ve tested, the voice guidance does come on for every turn and at the start and end of a trip. The alert sound uses the same sound as the one you hear when you reset your Pocket PC. It may take you a long while to get comfortable with that!

Smart Navigator

Pharos has added some special features in their package to stand out from the growing number of GPS solutions for PDAs. Smart Navigator allows their GPS users to access the Pharos Traffic and POI servers. While real time traffic info has existed for quite a long time in road navigation technologies, Pharos is the first one to offer it in a GPS package for PDAs. While the Smart Navigator is built into your GPS, you do need to purchase the services and sign in when you need to get up-to-date traffic info and road conditions. The POI database is also updated on these servers. This real time traffic update combined with route planning and recalculating features in the GPS provides users with a great solution to deal with ever-present uncertainties on the road. The Smart Navigator is however not available outside of the United States.


The design of this GPS is a big winner. Having a Bluetooth Dock and the ability to covert the GPS to CF card and serial cable formats will make this a dream GPS receiver for those who have multiple devices or upgrade their Pocket PCs often. The strong signal strength and short starting time make this wireless and ultra portable unit even more attractive. The 720mAh Li-Polymer rechargeable/removable battery has good run times.

The Ostia navigation software gives you enough features to map out routes and follow driving directions, yet is not to complicated to use. The ability to search and input destinations from Outlook Contacts, other databases and on the maps makes the navigation quick and easy. The voice guidance and alert system have good timing, although the alert sound needs a desperate replacement. The real time traffic feature could be a huge factor for urban drivers even if it costs additional money.

Price: $339
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