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Top Ten iPhone GPS Navigation Apps

Compare Features of Best GPS Navigation Apps for the iPhone

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GPS navigation apps are among the most popular apps for the iPhone. They are economical, and they provide terrific mapping, search, and turn-by-turn navigation features. Navigation apps for the iPhone fall into two categories: on-board maps, and maps-on-the-fly. The former stores an entire map and points-of-interest database on the iPhone (1GB or more). The latter downloads maps as you drive. I prefer maps-on-the-fly because it takes up less memory on the iPhone and is easier to update (no 1+GB download). Click on images to enlarge them.

MotionX GPS Drive ($0.99, $9.99 per year for voice guidance)

MotionX GPS Drive iPhone Navigation App
MotionX

MotionX was an early entry into the iPhone GPS navigation app market, and that experience is reflected in a powerful, full-featured app. MotionX has also become popular because of its $0.99 initial price, but keep in mind that the app is most useful with the "optional" $9.99 per year voice turn-by-turn directions in-app purchase. MotionX GPS Drive features include:

  • Free, ongoing map updates.
  • Turn-by-turn voice guidance for iPhone or iPod (when the iPod is GPS-enabled).
  • Ability to cache maps and routes.
  • Unique "wheel" menu screen showing current location and multiple search and nav options.
  • Free traffic detection & avoidance.
  • Address book integration.
  • Share current location, destination, ETA via e-mail.
  • Maps-on-the-fly.

Garmin Viago ($0.99 plus in-app purchases)

Garmin Viago
Garmin

Viago differs from earlier Garmin app releases on both price (other Garmin apps have sold for up to $50) and feature set. Viago features include:

  • Turn-by-turn, spoken-street-name directions.
  • Lane assist, showing you which lane you need to be in for the next turn.
  • Photo-real junction views for a realistic look at the turn ahead.
  • Displays current street, speed, and speed limit.
  • Customizable with optional upgrades.

With Viago, Garmin also does a good job of balancing pros and cons of on-device map storage vs. online storage. Garmin's solution is to let you browse the latest maps online, and to keep maps specific to your region on your device, while also letting you select and download maps from outside your region as needed - kind of a navigation map buffet. This is a welcome departure from the traditional costly practice of buying $80 overseas map bundles.

TomTom US & Canada ($45.99)

TomTom US & Canada iPhone app
TomTom

The on-board maps (1.4GB) TomTom US & Canada iPhone app is one of a family of TomTom apps that include European and South American editions. Features setting this app apart include:

  • TomTom HD Traffic.
  • Maps on-board, no mobile signal needed.
  • Free map updates.
  • Turn-by-turn directions while multi-tasking other apps.
  • Lane guidance.
  • Automatic music fading.
  • Navigate-to-photo.
  • Address book integration.
  • Optional celebrity voices (Example: Homer Simpson. Available as in-app purchases).
  • Works with iPod Touch 2nd generation along with TomTom Car Kit.

Google Maps for iPhone (free)

Google Maps app for iPhone
Google

After Apple's Maps app disappointed, consumers welcomed Google Maps back to the iPhone in the form of its Google Maps app. Google Maps' feature list includes: address and business/points-of-interest search using Google's powerful Local Search utility; ratings and local reviews; sync searches and favorites (with Google login). Directions features include voice-guided, turn-by-turn directions, train, bus, subway or walking directions, and traffic detection.

Google Maps also has Street View and imagery, with street-level imagery and touch-controlled panoramas of places around the globe. See inside 100,000 businesses worldwide. High-resolution global satellite imagery. Close connectivity with Google's earth-spanning imaging and mapping app, Google Earth.

Last but not least, you get Google's years of hard-won experience and all of the research and fine-tuning it has done on a global basis to present the most accurate map and points-of-interest data possible.

Shortcomings include no Siri integration, no Apple Contacts app integration, no lane guidance, and no route preview with change-route capability.

Waze GPS & Traffic (free)

Waze iPhone GPS navigation app
Waze

Waze is a different type of iPhone GPS navigation app that includes plenty of user-contributed information. Its "social layer" lets users contribute traffic jam, road hazard, speed trap, and other information to the overall database. If you opt in, Waze detects when you are traveling well below the speed limit, contributing to real-time traffic data for all users. Users may accumulate points for entering new roads, adding points-of-interest, etc.

  • Maps-on-the-fly.
  • Communicate with other Waze users and share reported road hazards and more.
  • Add a photo to road reports.
  • Top contributors ranking.
  • FourSquare, Twitter, and Facebook integrations.

AT&T Navigator (free app, with $9.99 required monthly subscription fee)

AT&T Navigator iPhone app
AT&T

The maps-on-the-fly AT&T Navigator app uses a different payment model. The iPhone app itself is free, but a $9.99 per rmonth subscription fee is required to use it, and the amount is billed to your AT&T mobile bill. The app is not available via other iPhone carriers (however, there is a similar Verizon app covered here). Features include:

  • Ability to cache maps and points-of-interest data.
  • Spoken street name turn-by-turn directions.
  • Traffic detection & avoidance.
  • Free map updates.
  • Gas prices search.
  • Integrated iPod controls.
  • Full iOS multitasking support.
  • Spoken commands.
  • Annual subscription option ($69.99).
  • Pre-download and cache entire portions of the country (eastern U.S., for example).

TeleNav GPS Plus ($0.99 plus $2.99 monthly or $9.99 yearly)

TeleNav GPS Plus
TeleNav

TeleNav is one of the big players in the GPS navigation market, providing the vast underlying databases and other technology for other big-name GPS makers. TeleNav has its own set of products, also, one of which is the GPS Plus app. As you might expect, GPS Plus is a solid, spoken-street-name, turn-by-turn navigation app. Features include:

  • Gas price finder.
  • Traffic detection & avoidance.
  • Mileage tracker for easily logging business and other mileage.
  • iPod controls (iOS multitasking).
  • One-click direct dial.

Verizon VZ Navigator (free, $4.99 required monthly subscription fee)

Verizon VZ Navigator app
Verizon

Verizon's VZ Navigator, available only to those with Verizon as their carrier, has a monthly $4.99 subscription fee that is billed to your wireless account. VZ Navigator is know for its extensive 3D imagery. It also features audible traffic alerts. Its "SmartView" also lets you select among multiple views, including list, dashboard, 3D, virtual city, and sky views. Also featured are:

  • Roadside assistance based on your GPS position.
  • Facebook integration.
  • Gas price search.
  • Place messaging - share your location.
  • Automatic day/night mode.
  • Full multi-tasking.
  • Spanish-language support.
  • Simulated views of major interchanges and exits.
  • Speech-recognition address input.

Navigon USA ($49.99)

Navigon MobileNavigator iPhone app
Navigon

Navigon's USA app is also available in a USA & Canada version ($59.99). This on-board-maps app (1.6GB) includes free map updates, but does not include free traffic detection and avoidance, which is a $19.99 in-app purchase. The latest version includes a "Reality Scanner" which provides augmented-reality based search for your location. MobileNavigator is known for its no-frills interface that provides detailed information, such as turn-by-turn route lists, and live weather information. Other features include:

  • Multi-tasking and fast-app switch.
  • Parking spots near your destination.
  • Lane Assistant (see photo).
  • Multi-language support.
  • Single-click "take me home" function.
  • Spoken street names.

Magellan RoadMate USA ($34.99)

Magellan RoadMate USA
Magellan

Magellan RoadMate USA (also available for US & Canada, $49.99), includes information from the popular social rating service, Yelp (see photo). Yelp can be a reliable and honest source of restaurant reviews and reviews of other destinations. Yelp ratings are searchable and browsable from within the app. This on-board-maps app (1.2GB) includes free product lifetime map updates and traffic detection and avoidance service. Other features include:

  • Spoken street names.
  • Turn-by-turn background navigation while using another app.
  • Highway lane assist.
  • Address book integration.
  • In-app music control.
  • Find your car.
  • Pedestrian mode.
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