Best iPad 4 And iPhone 5 GPS Apps of 2013
There is no question about it, owning an iPhone 5 or iPad 4 in 2013 demands a good GPS app. Not so long ago dedicated navigation devices ruled the GPS market; more and more people started to rely on them to find they way when lost. Don’t get uswrong the PNDs still have a piece of the market pie (the percentage is constantly dropping though) but a lot of GPS producers shift their attention to mobile apps to increase their revenues and stay afloat. Many of the most popular navigation developers like Garmin or TomTom are constantly updating their mobile apps for revenue.
Many high-end smartphone users expect a reliable built-in app to find their way on the road but sadly none of the top producers like Apple, Samsung or Nokia offer such an option. I am not talking here about Apple Maps, Nokia Maps or Google Maps. They are good, but they can’t be of real help when you travel a lot and you are in the need of a native GPS app. The purpose of this article is to present you a range of native GPS apps that you can rely upon. After analyzing the Navigation section in the App store, we decided to also let you know what to look for:
- Updated Maps: Purchasing a GPS app from a developer that has not updated its map database will always mean trouble. We all know what a huge disappointment Apple Maps was ever since its release. Maps also get older. And always keep in mind that purchasing maps for a particular region does not mean that updates will come for free. A couple of reputable app makers require a user subscription in order to receive monthly updates.
- Information that is clear and precise: another important thing to look for. A high-end GPS app offers text-to-speech features and very concise map and traffic instructions. The best example here is the Magellan app which comes with a wide variety of voices. Traffic information is also vital as no one wants to wait and lose precious time while in a traffic jam. The best iPhone GPS apps will offer you very useful tips on how to avoid these jams and arrive at your destination faster. Please note that with some navigation software makers a subscription is required for this type of information.
- Hidden fees: Having to pay again after a while for certain features is certanly a thing to stay away from.
- Safety: Some navigation apps come with some very useful safety feature that can be of real help while driving. Lane assist and speed waring are just two of them.
- Clean user interface: the simpler the better. A good iPhone GPS app will show you the way in no time. Remember that you may want to change some settings while driving. Would you like a cluttered UI that distracts you longer while driving? I do not think so.
Some GPS apps drawbacks worth mentioning
Maps tend to have take up a lot of disk space. You may have to free up some memory before downloading the latest maps. The most iPhone GPS apps I have tested used between 1.3 and 2GB of storage memory.
Maps are getting outdated very fast. In fact this may be the biggest problem of any GPS app. Due to the constant change of traffic signs, routes or construction of new highways, bridges and so on, a map update is considered outdated after just six months.
Using a GPS iPhone app while driving can be distracting. Take this as an warning. You should always pay attention to the road ahead and let a passenger handle the GPS app.
Those being said let’s move forward and present you the best iPhone GPS apps we have tested.
Top 10 iPhone GPS apps
With TomTom for iOS you never have to worry about outdated maps, ever. TomTom updates maps automatically, free of charge. It works like this: You get a notification that a map update is available, and then you can download it over a 3G/4G cellular connection–say in your car, just before driving. This is a huge deal for a storage-based GPS app.
Another plus: the iOS app uses TomTom’s IQ Routes technology to recommend the fastest route. In the U.S. and Canada, IQ Routes estimates travel time based on actual anonymous user travel times collected not only for the route, but time of day and day of the week. This gives you a more accurate travel time because things like rush hour, pedestrian crosswalks, and traffic lights are factored in along with the speed limit. If you want to up your game even further, IQ Routes works in conjunction with TomTom HD Traffic, a $19.99 annual subscription service you can buy in-app. HD Traffic delivers live and comprehensive traffic information every two minutes.
Navigating with TomTom for iOS was a stress-free experience. Advanced Lane Guidance, another feature for U.S. and Canada driving, tells you which lane you should be in when approaching a tricky juncture. I’ve not missed an exit or interstate transition yet, thanks to this system with its pulsing green arrows and photorealistic images. I also liked how the software displayed my actual speed vs. the speed limit–e.g. 50/45 mph–in a corner of the screen.
At $59.99, not including $19.99 for a year of HD Traffic, TomTom for iOS is one of the most expensive navigation apps here, but it’s a really great choice. It works not only with the iPhone’s internal GPS receiver but with most external receivers as well.
TomTom for iOS
$59.99/$89.99 (maps included)
2. iGO primo
iGo primo has decent graphics, including both 2D and 3D navigation displays. My iPhone 4S had no problem getting and retaining a decent GPS signal in testing and my onscreen location was very accurate, generally matching my actual geographic position.
There is a free, maps-only “lite” version of iGo primo that lets you search for points of interest near you. The full app, which I looked at, provides unlimited navigation including an on-board map.
Using text-to-language technology, iGo primo correctly pronounces city, street, and highway names as it guides you to your destination. It can also read out a summary of the planned route, traffic events, and relevant country info after crossing a national border. Choose from seven different languages: English, French, German, Italian, Spanish, Portuguese, and Russian.
Another standout feature is its realistic junction view capability, which provides true-to-life images of motorway junctions. This is a huge boon, especially if you’re making the “great American road trip” and driving places you’ve never been. Knowing exactly what the exit you’re supposed to take looks like can be a big deal.
One of iGo primo’s other advantages is its optional Live Traffic add-on software. Live Traffic lets you see road congestion and traffic jam information in real time, and iGo primo automatically generates alternative routes based on this up-to-date info. You don’t have to lift a finger. In addition to North America (an extra $37.99), Live Traffic is available for Europe, Italy, France, Scandinavia, Benelux, Brazil, and Russia.
3. Skobbler GPS Navigation 2
For a 99-cent app, Skobbler GPS Navigation 2 has some nice features. For one, it’s the first navigation app I’ve seen that uses both storage- and connectivity-based navigation. This hybrid approach ensures you have both the app responsiveness you get from having maps on your device, and the up-to-date data that you get from connectivity-based navigation. You’ll still need a reliable 3G/4G cellular connection, though, for the app to work.
Although the navigation screens are rather plain–downright ugly compared with TomTom or iGo primo–the menus are visually stunning. Moreover, they should be a breeze to use for both U.S. and European drivers. After nearly 10 years of reviewing navigation apps, I’ve noticed that Europeans use navigation apps differently than U.S. drivers do; for example, few Europeans make extremely long road trips–they tend to use public transportation such as rail instead. But Skobbler seems to have cracked the menu navigation nut and has pulled together an application that should work well for both major markets.
Unfortunately, the app has some navigation problems. For instance, even though the app indicated that it had a good GPS signal lock, its position of my vehicle vs. the actual location was inaccurate, off by what seemed like 30 to 60 feet. If I could not follow the documented route, it took the app about 20 seconds to acknowledge that fact and recalculate its route to match the new starting point or location. Even then it seemed as though the app was determined to route me through its originally calculated path. It led to a lot of unnecessary route recalculations and illegal U turns.