It’s happened to all of us: You’re meeting your friends at a local bar that no one’s been to before, and you’ve gotten yourself a bit turned around. Luckily, you’ve brought your trusty GPS-enabled iPhone along with you. You know all you have to do is type GPS into the App Store search bar to find something that’ll have you sitting at that private table with bottle service in no time. But wait — the results list goes on and on forever, and many of results aren’t related to driving. Other than the star ratings and listed price, how are you to know which one will get you where you want to go with the least hassle?
There are a vast number of GPS apps listed in the AppStore, and not all are created equal. To be honest, some free apps are just as good if not better than several of the large-cost alternatives. We’ve tested some of the most common in order to see which app is best suited for getting you back on track once you’ve lost your way.
1. Google Maps
Download: Preinstalled on your iPhone
Google Maps was likely your first foray into mobile GPS apps on your iPhone. Considering the power and resources Google has, its iOS app leaves much to be desired. You’re stuck with a top-down view of the route, even though we all know and love street view.
The biggest annoyance with Google’s Maps app is that there is no option to read the trip summary in one screen. In order to find out what to do next, you must push the arrow buttons on the top of the screen, which makes traveling without a passenger to help navigate just about out of the question. If you get lost or make a wrong turn, Google will not automatically reroute you, but you can press the edit button on the top of the screen and let Google start over from your current location.
Also, the overhead map will help you see your position in relation to your destination. If you’re familiar with overhead maps, you’ll find your way relatively easily, but if not, you want another option.
—Directions for driving, walking and public transportation
—Finds almost any business or address easily
—Detailed traffic info
—Navigate to contact
—Must manually advance the directions
—Top-down map view only — no street view
—No route summary
—Lack of voice guide
Download: TomTom USA for iPhone or iPad
TomTom is one of the biggest names in GPS, and it delivers with a very solid app. In fact, most of the other GPS options base their features off of TomTom’s. TomTom offers voice-guided navigation assistance, 3-D maps, and our favorite feature, Lane Assistance. The Advanced Lane Guidance images help you discern which lanes to take at those complicated freeway transitions. When we intentionally got lost and opened TomTom to lead us home, it found our location and destination faster than expected. We even made several more wrong turns, and the reroute feature put us back on track in no time.
We do, however, have a few grievances with this app. The $19.99 per year charge for HD traffic info is odd, as it is a feature several of TomTom’s competitors provide for free. Also, the points of interest database is still very limited and won’t find many small businesses. We ended up using the included Google local search to find our destinations when we didn’t have an address.
The biggest issue we’ve found is that TomTom is simply too robust. In order to access its other useful features, you will have to navigate through several layers of menus — very difficult to do when you’re traveling alone. We’ve still got to hand it to TomTom here for releasing a sturdy and reliable app, though, that provides a model for the smaller brands to challenge. If you’re willing to spend the cash, this app is a solid buy.
—Lane selection assistance
—Local search via Google (great addition)
—Fast and accurate rerouting
—Fee for live traffic info
—Full address required for default navigation (city, street, address)
—Included points of interest severely limited
—Can’t interact with map while driving (besides zoom)
3. Motion X GPS Drive
Download: Motion X GPS Drive for iPhone or iPad
Motion X GPS Drive is the most downloaded GPS app available, and it’s easy to see why. Not only does the price tag look amazing compared to the big names, upon opening it, you are greeted with a beautifully simple interface. All search options are displayed in a wheel with easy-to-recognize icons.
A cool feature not found with other apps is the Wikipedia button that will give you a summary of, directions to, and a link to an article about locations of interest that are near you — not so helpful if you’re lost, but great for learning more about the history around you.
When we intentionally got lost using MotionX, we found out about its limitations. MotionX has no live traffic data to speak of. It is something we didn’t think would be a concern for this particular test, but when it rerouted us to our destination, it directed us right into a traffic jam with no way out. We did look up and receive alternative routes, but MotionX failed to tell us that all but one way had been closed due to construction.
—Simple interface Wiki links
—Quick switch between maps and text direction summary
—Hidden fees (turn-by-turn navigation with voice guidance ends after 30 days; must make an in-app purchase for either 30 days or a year)
—Predictive traffic info
—Provides nonoptimal routes
—Limited local search results (fast food restaurant search displayed results for the McDonald’s 4.5 miles away but missed the In-N-Out half a mile away)
4. TeleNav GPS
Download: TeleNav GPS for iPhone or iPad
TeleNav GPS is another popular option people are using. Since most of TeleNav’s best features expire after 30 days on the free app, we’ll be reviewing the paid version. TeleNav includes some Facebook integration with its newest version, allowing you to check in to your wall and mark locations for your friends to meet.
The avatar representing your vehicle is way off scale, causing some difficulty recognizing the distance to the next turn while traveling. When we took a few wrong turns to see how well TeleNav would get us back on track, TeleNav gave us the option to reroute. This is where we found that the app lags a bit, and by the time it provided new directions to us, we were already off course.
One saving grace here is the a button on the navigation screen called Summary. It will provide you with the option to check either the text directions or an overhead map similar to one you’d find on Google. In summary, if you get lost using TeleNav, you must pull over for a moment to allow it to catch its bearings and get you where you need to be.
—Easy-to-read street names
—Auto rerouting lags
—Traffic guided routing is predictive, not live
—Price: $2.99/month $21.00/year
Download: Waze for iPhone or iPad
Waze 3.0.1 is another free option that is currently picking up a following. Waze seems to be attempting to revolutionize the navigation experience by adding a bit of social networking to the mix. We know, other apps link you into Facebook or Twitter to share your destination for meet-ups and such, but Waze takes it a few steps further. Instead of linking into an established social network, Waze is building its own.
With the exclamation button on the bottom right of the screen, you can report traffic accidents, speed traps, and more. The map on the navigation screen is clear and simple to read, allowing zooming, scrolling, and (unlike the others we tested) rotation. This helped immensely when we intentionally made wrong turns in an unknown neighborhood, as we were able to look behind us and see exactly where we had gone off route — not that that mattered much, as Waze rerouted us back to our intended destination in under five seconds.
Waze enables you both see and communicate with other people using it in real time. Just to see if it would work, we messaged a user in close proximity to our destination and asked if they would help us get back on track. The user replied by sending a snapshot of our destination as they drove by, so we were able to recognize the building when we got there. Super bonus points for that feature.
—Community-sourced traffic and road info
—Voice-guided turn-by-turn assistance
—Live, real-time rerouting
—Call from search feature
—No text directions summary
—Tediously repetitive voice assist (you’ll likely turn it off)
—Downloads map as you drive
—Road condition reports that pop up too frequently
Guiding you home
Every app we’ve listed has the ability to get you to where you want to go in decent time, provided you don’t miss a step along the way. In regards to getting you back on track after you’ve lost your way, both Waze and TomTom have to share the prize. Both reroute you quickly and efficiently without a hassle of menus and button pressing. We’re still sore about sitting in one-lane traffic thanks to MotionX. TeleNav is still a respectable competitor, but if you’re going to spend the money on a GPS app, you’re way better off with TomTom. Waze still has a way to go until it is completely on par with TomTom, but the community aspect makes it almost equal.
vi 5 great GPS apps for your iPhone – USATODAY.com.