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Great Communicator: Apple iPhone 3G

Apple iPhone 3G brings maps and downloadable GPS software to your fingertips.

Mobile access to Google Maps and the web make this next-gen phone–with WiFi and a 3.5-inch touch screen–the perfect tool when you need instant directions. After forgetting a map, our Colorado tester found a Front Range promontory with cell reception and, in less than five minutes downloaded a map of a loop hike. The iPhone is not intended for serious backcountry navigation (there’s no go-to feature), but with third-party software (GPS Kit, $10), hikers and adventure travelers who stick to trails can collect waypoints, tracks, and trip-speed details. You can also geotag photos (the onboard 2-megapixel camera has a slight shutter lag, making it best for scenic shots). The best part: a growing list of free software like Weather Bug, which delivers forecasts, views of live radar, and local-weather webcams. Note: You need cell service for phone and web functions, but the GPS Kit works with satellite reception alone; signal acquisition is adequate, but not as fast as you’ll get with dedicated GPS units. Reader service #102

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