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Garmin StreetPilot iPhone App Review - Road Testing StreetPilot

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Garmin StreetPilot GPS iPhone app

The Garmin StreetPilot GPS app turns your iPhone into a very competent Garmin navigator.

Garmin

The Bottom Line

Garmin entered the iPhone GPS navigation app party late, but has introduced a strong contender in StreetPilot. The $39.99 app includes many familiar features that will please those who like the well-thought-out Garmin GPS interface. The Garmin StreetPilot app downloads maps on-the-fly, rather than keeping them all on your iPhone. This has its pros and cons, which I'll cover below. Overall, Garmin's first app is a well-designed, and turns your iPhone into a highly competent street navigator.

Pros

  • Intuitive Garmin Nuvi-style interface.
  • Takes up little memory on the iPhone - 8.4MB
  • Good iPod controls integration.
  • Free map updates.
  • Free traffic detection & avoidance.

Cons

  • Needs cell tower or WiFi connection to download maps.
  • No Garmin charging car mount available (yet).

Description

  • Price: $39.99.
  • Size: 8.4MB.
  • Text-to-speech, turn-by-turn directions.
  • Works in landscape or portrait mode.
  • Compatible with iPhone 3, iPhone 3GS, and iPhone 4
  • Works in "compatibility" (not HD) mode on iPad.

Guide Review - Garmin StreetPilot iPhone App Review - Road Testing StreetPilot

Garmin has finally jumped into the iPhone app fray with StreetPilot. There are already a number of very good car navigation apps on the market, so Garmin had to bring its best product to market, and for the most part it doesn't disappoint.

When a GPS-maker gets into the iPhone game, one of the biggest decisions it makes is whether to store all of the maps and points-of-interest database on the iPhone's memory, which takes up a hefty 1.5GB or more, or download maps on-the-fly, resulting in an app that takes up only 8.5MB, plus modest additional storage for downloaded maps. That's a big difference, and with iPhones totaling between 8GB and 32GB, it's an issue to consider.

When I first started using iPhone GPS apps, I favored the all-maps-on-board approach, mainly because of the assurance of having maps available even when out of cell tower range. However, two factors now have me leaning towards downloading on-the-fly. First, my iPhone is just about out of memory, so the big GPS databases look like memory hogs, stuffed with maps I'll never use. Secondly, when iPhone apps that keep map sets on board require an app update (surprisingly frequently), you need to download the entire 1.5GB all over again. This can take quite a while, depending on the speed of your Internet connection.

Garmin has attempted to mitigate the disadvantages of downloading maps on-the-fly by downloading and storing maps along your route (if they weren't already stored from a previous trip in the region) when there is cell tower or WiFi coverage. My on-the-road experience is that I've received maps quickly and haven't experienced a lag. For now, I'm favoring the maps-on-the-fly camp.

Beyond the map storage issue, the Garmin StreetPilot app has most of what make Garmins outstanding navigators. The startup screen will look familiar to Nuvi users, including "Where To?" "View Map" icons, and icons for traffic, weather, and settings. In addition to the usual address and POI destination searches, StreetPilot offers Google Local Search. You may search by category (gas station, ATM, etc.) or by typing in a search. The app will work in portrait or landscape orientation, by the way.

The Garmin StreetPilot GPS app feature list includes text-to-speech, free maps and map updates, free traffic detection & avoidance, lane assist (really helps by showing which lane to be in for an upcoming turn) and junction view, iPhone address book integration, integrated iPod controls (the iPod icon is handy - on the map screen), auto-music-fade for directions, multitasking (call and navigate at the same time), weather icon and weather current/forecast, and call-from-search-listing.

All of these features worked as expected, and I especially like the iPod controller, which pops up as a mini-panel over your map, or expands to full iPod control with a touch of the menu icon.

Overall, the Garmin StreetPilot GPS app is a terrific navigator and especially worth considering if you don't want to store maps on-board.

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