Android Maps, Navigation and Easy Map For Bikers (EMFB):
"How To Everything". .. by "wingwing" ..
aka Dennis .. a GL1800 rider

An FAQ Summary:
Everyone started "new" at one time or another.
I often receive and answer these same questions a lot so I thought it might help if I organize my thoughts and answers (with some pictures for reference).

What am I talking about?
I'm talking about using your Android phone as your primary Map, Navigation, Weather Station and automatic text responder on a Goldwing motorcycle (or any motorcycle actually).

Some of this might sound a bit confusing, but just read it again and it starts to make sense.

The "target audience" is for Android intermediate users but advanced users might pick up a trick or two.

The point: it no longer makes sense to carry around separate "tools" when you ride.
New generations of Android phones can and will do a very good job of multi-tasking (doing several things at once). The current generation of the Android OS (operating system called ICS for Ice Cream Sandwich ..circa 2011) makes it even easier.
("ice cream" for Goldwingers... how perfect is that? .. ;-)
(Update: June 2012.. new version is "Jelly Bean")


What you need:

1) An Android Phone: any will do but a dual core processor makes everything run really "snappy" (and a quad core is even better) . I like Samsung, HTC and Motorola (soon to be "google"). A good phone without a buy down (new service plan) will cost upwards of $400. With a new contract, the same phone might cost a dollar or two. "Cheapie" phones are usually old models and although they may work, they will be so painfully slow you'll never get the "oh wow" factor. You'll be scratching your head wondering what all the excitement is about because you will not be excited, you will be frustrated.

It's about this: When you tap a button you want something to happen "NOW", not two minutes from now.

2) A data plan. Don't skimp here.
(Update: June 2012.. rate plans)
Buying a nice phone without a generous data plan is like buying a really fast computer and not having any internet access; what's the point of that? The information you want is "out there", it's not on the computer or the phone. You want fast access to it. A "smart phone" has very little to do with "the phone". It is all about information access. Think of the phone as just a "freebie" they include. Personally, I use very few "talk" minutes each month (200 or less). Spend your money on the data plan (anyway, you don't even need a talk plan; you can "talk" over your data plan for free..but that's another topic for another day).
Calling these things "smart phones" is wrong. These are really "shirt pocket wireless computers". They have more processing power than what we used to call main frame "servers" just a few years ago.

You should get at least a 2 GIG data plan (it almost goes without saying: more is better). If you catch some service providers when they're having a holiday sale (Verizon) you can get 4 GIG for about $30 per month. If you can't afford $30 per month to have 10,000 years of the entire collected "knowledge base" of western civilization in your shirt pocket, well you probably don't need any of what I'm talking about.
We're not talking a house payment here..That's equal to about one tank of fuel PER MONTH!


Once you have the phone and the data plan, given enough time you can figure out where all the tiny buttons are and which ones you need to press and which ones you should not press. So why do you need EMFB?.. well simply, it is designed to shorten the learning curve.
It knows which buttons to press for you. You just tell it what you want.. you speak to it.

What you'll need: Google Maps and EMFB..
.. huh?.. that's it?.. YES that's all you need.


The Signal:
THE most often asked question is "what happens when I lose the service provider signal?"
THE answer is: you don't always need a signal. Sure, it helps, but you don't always need it.
If you plan a route while you have a signal, MAPS will automatically "cache" the map information you need for the trip. (cache = temporarily store data on the phone).
If you're going someplace you KNOW won't have a signal (the fun places like North Georgia and Tennessee mountains) then you can manually pre-cache maps for those areas ahead of time. Now your phone works just like a regular GPS and, again, you don't need a signal.
(Update June 2012: Google announced that shortly it will be taking MAPS "off line". That is great news! .. that means you'll be able to load EVERYTHING you need on the phone before you leave on a trip. Worrying about "losing signal" will no longer be an issue; you won't need a signal)


How to mount the phone:
I like mine front and center. It's easy to see and easy to pop off and put in the side pocket if the weather gets really bad. Some of the really new phones are waterproof but mostly the current generation are not (Update: Sony has announced the new Xperia..waterproof) . But actually waterproof is not the really big deal many think. While riding, most of the time I'm not looking at the Navigation, I'm listening to it. So, if I have to pull it off and put it in the side pocket; nothing changes, I'm still listening to it
(Bluetooth is great and getting better all the time!).

A $25 car phone mount from Best Buy works great.
I just use the base. You don't want to stick the phone to the bike. You want to stick the mount to the bike and then just pop the phone in an out with the touch of a button.

Here is my current mount:

I put some extra foam padding on the sides and top. I've used this type of mount for over 75,000 miles now and not once has it ever even come close to coming off.
The mount is just stuck to the bike with Velcro so I can remove it to wash the bike. The little button on the side opens the "jaws" to pop the phone out. I bring out the power and AUX AUDIO connections under the mount. You REALLY want the phone powered while you're riding! Running MAPS will drain the battery down in no time if the phone is not powered. A 2 amp charger (also from Best Buy) is best to run the phone and charge it UP at the same time. Those 400ma USB chargers (ma: 400 "milli-amps" is less than 1/2 an amp) are no good. They will just charge the phone when it's not in use. If the phone is in use, 400ma won't keep up; it will slowly discharge as you ride.

The view under the mount looks like this



The view of the back of the mount looks like this:

Don't put Velcro on the phone!


How to use the phone:
You have to put some effort into this; not a lot, but some.
And you have to do it BEFORE you try and use it on the bike.
A few hours at home on the couch works great.

Although MAPS and EMFB prefer the GPS it does not NEED the GPS when you're home or at the office. When you don't have a view of the sky MAPS will locate you by using the service provider network and/or your Wi-Fi connection. The only difference is accuracy. With the GPS "on" and able to see the sky MAPS accuracy typically gets as good as 5 meters (+ or - about 15 feet). Without being able to use the GPS, the network can locate you to with one or two miles and often within a few hundred feet. That is fine for -pre ride planning and seeing the weather around you.
(Fun Tip: While viewing your current location in MAPS, turn off (one at a time) WiFi, then GPS. You will see the little blue circle get larger and then move over to the nearest cell tower as your location resolution gets less. That Blue Circle represents how accurate your location information is)

Buttons on the phone:
Ah grasshopper, like many things in life, much debate about this there is..

In my opinion, you must learn to use the "buttons" (virtual places to tap) within the MAPS and EMFB "applications" ("application" is an Android program, hereafter called "app"). Sounds obvious? Well it's not. Too often new users get into the habit of using the "BACK" key on the phone (a hardware button; or now with ICS it's also a software button). The BACK button IS very handy but I call it "the hammer". If you don't take the time to learn how MAPS/EMFB works, you'll instead use "the hammer". It will work, but more often than not instead of getting where you want, you'll be dropped out of the app and back to the home screen.

Yes, there ARE many legitimate uses for the BACK button but "getting around" inside the app is not one.

An example of when to use the BACK button:
If one app opens another different app you'll want to use the BACK button to exit the second app. But if the first app takes you to a screen within itself, there should be "button" there someplace to get back to where you came from. If you use the BACK button to get back, you'll get dumped out of the program and have to start over. Read this section again, it's important.

The BEST way to get around on the phone is using the "buttons" within the app and using the TASK MANAGER to switch between apps. Don't use the BACK button unless you're lost and have to hammer your way back out.
(Tip: Find and learn to use your HOME or TASK MANAGER button. New phones with ICS have a task manager button that lets you task switch between open apps. THAT is the best way to use your phone. Older phone with Gingerbread and earlier have the same function but you "tap and hold" the HOME key to bring up the task manager.)

Ok, one last bit of confusion and then I'll take a break:
When using Google MAPS, don't use "the map".
.. wait wait wait... don't leave yet, that sounds nuts but I'll explain.
Many of you have some other MAP or Navigation device and you're accustomed to seeing small "primitive" maps.They look more like something from a PAC MAN game back in the 70's:


Well, with MAPS/EMFB you can become a member of the 21st century.
You can ALWAYS have HI RESOLUTION actual satellite pictures as you ride.
The difference is incredible.

There is an option within MAPS. It's in the "menu" in the section called "layers". Basically, that's where you turn on and off what "layers" you want to see.
So back to the part where you almost left..
.. the default layer is "maps" but an optional layer is "Satellite".

When you're using MAPS to Navigate, ALWAYS USE "SATELLITE" AND NOT "MAPS".
If you do that, the "view" is like flying down the road in a helicopter instead of riding your bike through a "PAC MAN" maze.
If you've ever used "GOOGLE EARTH" to virtually "fly" somewhere, you know what I'm talking about.

With Satellite turned on, you get to "fly" the bike. A picture or two...

Why would you want to look at this when you're riding:


When you could "see" this instead:

Another example..
This:


or this:


Any questions?.. ok more pics

Here I am riding down the road; up ahead is an odd left turn.
Having the "real" picture sure helps..


How about a "real" view of intersections and not just a PAC MAN view:

This is how it's looks all the time while you are riding.

One last thing.. for now...
I often get asked "I like your weather display but I want to run Navigation instead".
Well the answer is simple. You run them both at the same time and "toggle" back and forth as needed. "Toggle" using the task manager.
The new phones have a virtual button that looks like one small square beside another.. the idea is one app behind another.

So, you just tap the TASK MANAGER button and small icons display that represent the open programs..and you pick one:


For me, if the NAVIGATION says something like, "stay on this road for 20 more miles" I usually tap the TASK button and switch to the WEATHER view:

From this:


To this:


BOTH PRORAMS are running at the same time.
EMFB is not just a weather app, it is itself a "task manager". Use to quickly open MAPS to different locations that you have previously stored.

Actually, it's even better than that.
My usual setup is to have four programs running at the same time.
1) Music, always music in the background
2) Easy Map (everything I need at the touch of a BIG button)
3) Navigation (usually, I'm not looking at it, I'm listening to it)
4) MAPS .. yes... maps..

Most people don' realize that you can have both MAPS and Navigation running at the same time and displaying different things.

Navigation is great for "take me someplace". It does all the work for you.
But with MAPS, I can preplan some places I want to see and then watch my progress on the MAP while Navigation is running in the background. Sure, it's always rerouting but it's always close to what I've preplanned ahead of time.

I'm listening to Navigation but looking at something like this with the little blue navigation triangle updating as I ride. You can't plan a route like this with NAVIGATION. You pre-plan it  with MAPS on line by just dragging the blue line where you want to go.

Navigation will NEVER take you like that but you can pre-plan a ride like that ahead of time on your old trusty PC at home.

Well, that's probably enough confusion for now.
Hope that helps and I hope you'll think about joining the 21st century.. if you're like me, you don't have too much time left to waste.

Thanks to all who have joined the Easy Map For Bikers club and continue to support my efforts to make Navigation and weather while riding more fun and safer for all.
;-)
Dennis
http://www.fogbog.com

Update June 2012:
You've probably experience the "re-routing" announcement on your old "pac man" GPS. Well the other day I was out riding and the sky let loose (aka really really heavy downpour with embedded "hail" warnings) so we ducked under the nearest shelter. After a cup of coffee and waiting for the storm to pass there was the usual head scratching "ok, now which way did we come in here". I opened up MAPS and this is their version of "re-routing".. it just does not get any better than this.
We were on the road in the direction of the "red arrow". MAPS showed the easy way to get back on route.