What’s on your checklist before you take a drive? Cell phone, wallet/purse, keys. And then come the little extras: iPod, Bluetooth, applicable chargers, etc. For most people, checking traffic conditions is not on that list. Yet, doesn’t it make just as much sense as the first three item? Your iPod might be a nice luxury, but it isn’t necessary to get from Point A to Point B. Traffic conditions, on the other hand, can greatly affect your trip.
Previously, the only way to check on potential congestion was on a local news channel. Even then, you have to check at the right time for the update. Now, though, we’re seeing a number of applications for the BlackBerry which can greatly aide your travel time and frustration. Today, we look at traffic applications for your BlackBerry.
It’s quick, it’s simple, and best of all it’s free. Of our short list of BlackBerry map applications, Google Maps was definitely on top. They might not hold the same spot on this list, but for those who need basic traffic information and don’t want to pay for it, this one provides a viable solution.
First, go download the application over the air. Second, run the application. Once you have the map view, hit the Menu button and select Show Traffic. The roads on the map will then light up green, yellow, or red. Anyone who has seen a traffic light knows what each means. You can then plan your trip accordingly.
One downside is that there’s nothing on local traffic. Then again, you’ll find few applications which do cover local streets. In my hometown, there are two county highways which carry heavy traffic. During rush hour, there’s always a build-up before the intersection on both roads. Thing is, no one knows when it’s going to break up. Could be 6, could be 6:30, could be 8. Just depends on the day.
The other is that it predicts the traffic rather than using cameras and real-time data. As many in the New York Metro area know, traffic changes day by day, month by month. So while Google can give you a good idea, it’s not 100 percent accurate.
e-Mobile GPS Traffic
Getting real-time traffic can be of the utmost importance for your trip. While Google Maps works well as a free solution, sometimes you want live updates rather than an estimate. Unfortunately, that will cost you a few dollars, but we’ll get to the price later. First, let’s talk about e-Mobile’s GPS Traffic application.
GPS Traffic works as a mapping application, adding in traffic information relevant to your trip. In addition to the color-coded highways, GPS Traffic tracks “incidents” — by which they mean accidents — ranking them by minor, moderate, or severe. You can also choose to have the program reroute you around the more problematic incidents and areas of congestion. So not only will you save time, but you’ll reduce the frustration of the ol’ gas, brake, honk.
Unlike many traffic applications, e-Mobile charges a flat rate of $24.95 for their application. It is recommended that you have an internal or external GPS for optimal function, but it’s not necessary. You can still get all of the updates, just not driving directions, if you’re stuck with a GPS-less BlackBerry. Or if you have one through Verizon (which is my favorite BlackBerry-related thing to complain about).
If it’s real-time traffic information you seek, look no further than Traffic Vizzion. It uses real-time traffic cameras to provide indicators on your route. However, this application takes things one step further. In addition to a plotted map, Traffic Vizzion gives you real-time access to the very cameras they use to gauge the traffic.
No GPS is required. You can just punch in your current location and get a map view of all available traffic cameras. Click on the red dot, and you’ll watch the cars flying by — or crawling along, whichever the case may be. You can also browse cameras by region, which are listed by intersection. Traffic Vizzion allows you to save your favorite cameras, too, so you can access them quickly at any time.
If you do happen to have a GPS unit, you can take advantage of other features. Traffic Vizzion will track your route, allowing you to find a quick way back on track if you happen to veer off. It will also give you options on your route, so that you can avoid toll roads if you so choose. Another GPS feature is Watch the Road Ahead. This pinpoints your location, then goes to the next camera on your route. So you can make on-the-fly adjustments if there’s some congestion. Other nearby cameras are available, so you can be sure there’s no traffic on your alternate route.
(The coolest thing they list here is “Find out how far a jam extends, and what’s causing it.” After careful assessment and years of rush-hour driving, I’m convinced that all traffic jams start because of one person driving too slow. Or in the case of multi-lane highways, two or more cars driving too slow, right next to each other. But I digress.)
You can get Traffic Vizzion free for a two-week trial. If you decide to hold onto it, you can pay $5 per month, or $29 per year. Not a bad deal for such a comprehensive service. It is available as an OTA or a desktop ZIP download.
TrafficGauge advertises themselves as “the only BlackBerry application that provides reliable and accurate traffic information. Unlike other providers, we don’t use historical data or educated guesses about traffic – we only use actual real-time data to guide you around traffic.” I suppose they haven’t heard of Traffic Vizzion. In any case, it’s good to find another true real-time traffic application.
Another feature they boast: “you can launch the application with one press of the convenience key (side button) by following a simple setup instruction.” Well, if they read BBGeeks, they know that you can set your convenience key to launch any application. So if you had Traffic Vizzion, you could launch that with the convenience key, too.
Beyond their weak marketing points, they do offer the basic color-coded traffic indicators: red for stop and go, yellow for slow, green for medium, and light green for fast. They claim that they only report traffic for cities they can verify. So if you’re interested in the application, you should be in one of their available cities (listed on the right).
TrafficGauge is a bit more expensive than the other applications on this list. A one-month trial is $4.99, six month is $23.94, and a full year is $35.88, working out to $2.99 per month. It is available as an OTA download.
Do you use anything else to track traffic in your BlackBerry? Any websites which provide quality traffic assessment?