back to article Group Test: smartphone satnav apps

Unless you spend serious time behind the wheel of your car and regularly need to drive to places you have never been before and couldn't locate on a map if your life depended on it, a satnav application for your mobile phone may well be all the guidance assistance you will ever need. Apart from being cheaper than a standalone …

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  1. Xtreame96
    Alert

    Um not to point out the obvious but you forgot to put Garmin in this review

    Whats up with leaving out the industries biggest and probably most consitent GPS prodivder.

    Also I find my tom tom devices (gf's car nav) takes very odd routes compared to Garmin, Ovi Maps and Navigon.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Paris Hilton

      Um

      Do Garmin make navigation Apps for smartphones?

      1. Argh

        Garmin on mobile

        Yes. I've used Garmin on both Windows Mobile and Symbian. Provided free (other than network data) location driven Panoramio, Google search and petrol prices a few years ago.

        I don't know what's changed since then, if anything.

        1. This post has been deleted by a moderator

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Boffin

      @Xtreame96

      All of the examples use Navteq map data. Except TomTom.

    3. Anonymous Coward
      Alert

      Probably because

      They don't have any good up to date software that you can buy and run on a current smartphone.

      They have their own shitty smartphones, but they are really grim (there was a review of one recently on here, I think)- specwise behind the times, and hobbled by Garmin software.

      Actually, I have no great love for them, their receivers are good, but their software is fricking useless. I have one of their bix expensive standalone units, paid a fortune for detailed street maps, and it calculates terrible routes, often twice as long as the one I'd use, completely borked. Also, slow and ugly, glacial redraw and clumsy interface.

      I suspect that Garmin are somewhat behind the curve now.

  2. Lan ser

    Ovi Maps

    Maemo doent have the latest version of Ovi maps so Sygic is the only option

  3. Danny 14 Silver badge
    Go

    tomtom

    I am still using tomtom 6 on my winmo omnia pro. I will probably move to copilot rather than get another map for tomtom. As an ebay purchase it was fantastic and has done me proud for a few years.

    I tried ndrive on the wife android and it was fecking awful going round newcastle. In the end it was easier for her to open google maps and tell me where to go.

    For an impromptu mount you cant beat a lump of blu-tack either.

  4. Mike Cardwell

    T-Mobile UK PAYG

    "Android users on contract tariffs with bundled data, but will raise issues if you are on PAYG or roaming abroad. "

    T-Mobile UK PAYG does a really good data deal. I pay 20 quid for a 6 month booster which gives me 1GB of allowance each month. That equates to £3.33/month. You don't get charged if you exceed that limit, but they will warn you about it. You're not going to hit 1GB a month unless you're downloading videos every day or doing a lot of tethering. Perfect for navigation+web browsing+email though.

    I'm not associated with T-Mobile other than as a customer.

  5. Tigra 07 Silver badge

    U can't beat a free Nav on a phone

    Never had a problem using Google Maps in the car, although the voice is irritating.

    I prefer it over Wisepilot anyhow.

  6. Fred 5

    On device map data

    Maybe I missed it, but a summary of which apps have the map data stored on the device and which ones download over your data connection would be handy. Otherwise a very useful review.

  7. Matt_payne666

    Copilot iphone...

    Im not sure how the iphone and android versions differ, but im surprised your not annoyed at the way copilot handles motorways and junctions... 'Just ahead' is used WAY too much, im a big fan of '500meters, 200 meters, now!!'

    and multipule choice lane filtering.... 'Keep Left' actually means 'Take the Exit' which sometimes isnt obvious and can be very confusing especally when you have the chioce to keep left OR take the exit!

    But, all said and done, its my satnav of choice, and I do find the M&S woman rather soothing as she guides me about!

    1. Paul Naylor
      Thumb Up

      Agreed

      I use CoPilot for iPhone and my Android chums use it too. Not had chance to take it out on the motorways yet, but for the country roads around Yorkshire, it's never failed me. I'm very impressed with how quickly it recalculates the route if you decide to take a detour.

      Woman's voice is calming and places pronounced accurately but, like you, I find that the 'Just ahead' instructions does become a pain after a while. Still, you cannot beat this application for the money.

      I even bought the US version when they offered it for a tenner. Never going to drive over there but a tenner's a tenner!

  8. Anonymous Coward
    Thumb Up

    Tried most of the offerings here.

    And Google Navigation and Navigon are my favorites.

    I use Google Maps for UK navigation, and Navigon when abroad (as I don't want to enable roaming data).

    Google is apparently working on offline caching for Google Maps/Navigation on Android, and when this arrives, there won't be any need for anything else.

  9. TJ McVickers esq.
    Coffee/keyboard

    Slightly Sygic...

    I recently purchased the Sygic maps for my HTC Touch Diamond 2 (which incidentally I bought after reading an El Reg review and is absolute pony..) for a cycling holiday in Brittany. I found that it drains the battery like hellfire and the cycle mode is almost pointless (admittedly it kept us of the motorway, but certainly did not take the cycle routes or back roads into consideration.

    I did, however, have lots of fun changing the voice to the American lady... especially as the roundabout foibles are greatly exaggerated when it is referred to as a "traffic circle"...

  10. Al Taylor
    Alert

    @Fred 5

    The apps that require an active data link to download map data on the hoof are Google Maps, Wisepilot and Skobbler.

  11. Tech Hippy

    Google Nav & CoPilot - Android

    I use both Google Nav and CoPilot on my Nexus One.

    Google Nav has much better integration with contacts etc (unsurprisingly), but CoPilot proved vital when holidaying in Spain earlier this year - I bought the Iberia map pack to add on to my UK version.

    A couple of important things to bear in mind with CoPilot on Android:

    1. Support is email only after an initial period, and responses are slow.

    2. They still haven't implemented AppsToSD for Froyo based users, and have failed to respond to numerous queries from myself and others about when / if they will implement it.

    3. A major plus for Android users is that you can carry your licence to your next Android phone - it is very fiddly to do but can be done..

  12. Patrick Weber
    Megaphone

    You missed out NavDroyd on Android!

    It's based on OSM, which makes it a good thing in my view as its only 4 pounds on the market. Been out now for a couple of months, there are constant updates and its made by Germans!

    Simple, but gets the job done and the best bit its completely offline, ie. you download the map data on your phone, and then you can use it without needing data transfers. Perfect for when your roaming, which is when you most probably will need navigation!

    1. DaveyDaveDave

      No he didn't...

      "Navdroyd, which as the name suggests is an app for Android, uses the same free community maintained maps as Skobbler but isn't as developed."

      1. Patrick Weber
        Thumb Down

        I would hardly call that a review!

        Altough based on the same dataset, its a completely separate application and approach (offline, vs online) than Skobbler....

  13. Rob
    Thumb Up

    CoPilot convert

    I used to be a hardcore TomTom fan, but quickly got cheesed off with paying a lot of money for maps/regions only to be forced into paying that cost again at full price when the software was updated. No such thing as customer loyalty? My AV gives me 40% renewal discount each year.

    After getting fed up of being ripped off by them I tried CoPilot, love it, probably use it's features more than I do TomTom's and I've forked out for the traffic which is v.useful. Another thing I like about CoPilot is the ability to update the speed camera database for free whenever I like (although judging by the financial pressures of today's councils might not be much of an issue for much longer).

    Prefer the overall look of CoPilot as well, find their map interface easy on the eye.

  14. Nick Kew Silver badge
    Flame

    They vary widely by platform!

    Just one datapoint: I have two instances of Nokia/OVI maps. On the N900 (maemo) it's very annoying and barely usable. On the E71 (symbian) it's great, despite the much smaller screen. Wouldn't surprise me if some of the others showed big platform differences too.

    I've no idea why the maemo version should be so f***ed up. Particularly annoying given there's no google maps app for maemo either.

  15. Fogcat
    Badgers

    Google Maps Navigation needs work

    For me it makes so very odd choices on the home to work route, wanting to direct me towards the town centre, round the ring road and then back to the motorway junction. It seems to have a thing for "major roads" that doesn't lead to the most efficient route.

  16. Magnus_Pym

    Fast route recalc

    I use N-Drive on a Satio and, apart from the roundabout voice over oddness, have been impressed.

    As with most people, I guess, I only really need it for the last few miles of the journey. I know where Birmingham is thank you. It just when I get there the trouble begins. So if I don't like the route N-drive has chosen I go my own way and it will virtually instantly re-calc until I zero in on the destination point. If I miss a turning or choose not go through an industrial estate between two a roads, again instant route re alignment

    On my dad's Navman you get two or three minutes of 'make a u-turn' before it realises you were right all along.

    I'm thinking that a smart phone based app is going to have more computing horse power to throw at this than a stand alone sat nav and a definte advantage to this option.

  17. soulrider75
    Thumb Up

    Vodafone SatNav

    I have a Nokia E71

    with it came bundled a Satnav package, am not sure whose it was. I have since downloaded googlemaps and ovimaps and tried to use them both for Satnav.

    However, by far the best Satnav I have used on the phone was the Vodafone's own branded SatNav - I generally only use it when I am heading into a city I do not know very well.

    The first time I used it was heading from Peebles to Perth. as I approached Edinburgh, a Traffic announcement on the Radio told me that Edinburgh bypass was totally blocked due to a few accidents.

    I headed into Edinburgh, a city I have never driven through and do not know well at all.

    I turned on the SatNav told it I was going to Perth and let it go as I continued heading into the city.

    it quickly established my location and my route. - the first thing it told me was 'Updating route due to Traffic'.

    The route then took me through the centre of Edinburgh quickly and easily on a friday late afternoon.

    I arrived at the Forth Road bridge without any problems.

    Arriving at the Girlfriends 10minutes later than I expected.

    A great tool, that I would only replace when I change to an Android phone (will stay with vodafone especially if they have created similar for the Android).

    The best part it is Free.

    1. ScissorHands
      Thumb Up

      "Vodafone SatNav"

      It's Wayfinder Navigator. Vodafone just closed the business and open-sourced the code. Too bad, it was the only real option for J2ME.

  18. Flenser
    Gates Halo

    Research fail

    "All but the latest generation of monster Android handsets have screens frankly just a little too small for easy satnav viewing."

    So the 4.2 inch screen on my WinMo powered HTC HD2 is too small then?

    Such a shame.

    1. jonathanb Silver badge

      Re: Research fail

      The HTC HD2 is a Windows Mobile phone, not an Android phone.

  19. Neil_
    Thumb Up

    Googlemaps route planning

    You can use GoogleMaps on the web to plan your route in detail - dragging the little markers to add waypoints or avoid particular roads, then save it to 'My Maps', open it in GoogleMaps on the phone and then navigate it.

  20. Anonymous Coward
    Thumb Up

    OVI

    I've got Ovi maps on my E71, it's very good but I still prefer a dedicated car based sat nav. This is beacuse I like a big screen in the car, and any phone with a big enough screen is bigger than I want to carry about as a phone.

    However I'm torn, I have to pay for map and safety camera updates with Tom Tom but not with Ovi. Also I can download any of the world maps for free with OVI, and use them on holiday. (I do use my E71 when navigating on foot. It picked a location within seconds of exiting the tube last time I was in London, and was very good in helping me reach the right address.)

  21. Anonymous Coward
    Black Helicopters

    Just to be paranoid...

    On my smart phone I have to give permission to Google to get data from my handset in order to run Google Maps.

    Now I can understand if my phone asks for a map centered around my coordinates, or to provide map and routing information to point X with my starting position Y.

    Except that well... its Google. So as I use their maps and routing, what are they doing with that information? I mean, in theory... they are tracking you, know your destination, they know who you are... What other things are they tracking?

    Paranoid? No, but just someone who values their privacy and recognizes that in a google world you have no privacy.

  22. Lloyd
    Badgers

    Google Navigation

    Don't forget that with Froyo it's now voice activated (albeit a bit clunky), I had a fiddle with it the other day and it does seem t work quite well.

  23. Oliver 7
    Thumb Down

    CoPilot

    I find that CoPilot consistently drops the GPS connection at some point on any significant journey - circa 30 minutes or more. Perhaps it's my Hero but I find I have to power cycle the phone before it will get a fix again.

    Not good!

  24. david bates

    Can I ask a silly question?

    Why are Satnavs always Landscape? I use my Nexus in Portrait, as Im more interested in what is coming up than what is going on to the side of my route.

    What am I missing?

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Go

      Rush hour

      Rush hour traffic in a city you don't know. Side viewing becomes insanely useful to see the back streets to that next round about.

      But that's no reason not to be given the choice. An orientation sensors costs what? a few quid at most?

  25. Anonymous Coward
    FAIL

    STILL no TomTom on Android?

    Don't understand why Tom Tom are dragging their dutch clogs with the release of an Android version. It's the only thing I use these days on WinMo.

  26. Bassey

    Orientation

    I'd choose my phone over a dedicated Sat Nav every time - and for one very simple reason. Dedicated Sat Navs are all widescreen. Why on earth would I give a damn about all the things to either side of me when I'm driving? I want to see as far ahead as possible so I put my phone in portrait. I've always found it baffling that everyone produces Sat Navs in widescreen.

    For the record, I've used TomTom, CoPilot and NDrive quite a bit. They all seem to do the job. Don't use TomTom any more because of the awful licensing (as mentioned above). Not a lot to choose between NDrive and CoPilot except the contacts integration is better on CoPilot - although I think my NDrive is now one version out of date so that might have changed. The NDrive roundabout instructions are a little weird but on a recent holiday driving quite a bit around Paisley, East Kilbride and Newton Mearns (none of which I knew but appear to have been designed by someone with a roundabout fetish) it did a great job.

  27. JPatrick
    Thumb Up

    CoPilot on HTC Magic (Vodafone)

    CoPilot on my HTC Magic is excellent (okay I had one or two crashes, but I think that could have been my car charger playing). I used it in Germany and the Netherlands as well and it didn't steer me wrong!

    For the price it's very reasonable.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Coat

      "one or two crashes"

      If my satnav had caused me to have 1 or 2 crashes I'd be disinclined to recommend it.

      Then again, maybe I wouldn't blindly follow instructions such as 'in 200m turn left into the large brick wall'.

  28. That Awful Puppy
    Thumb Up

    Ovi is nice

    I used iGo on a stand-alone satnav and it wasn't very good, very prone to crashing. Mind you, the satnav was Czech in origin, and the only things they seem to do well is girls and beer. Not an insignificant contribution towards making the world a better place, to be sure, but that doesn't make their satnavs any less rubbish.

    Navigon I tried on the iPhone 3G and it works reasonably well, but is prone to crashing. Also, it seemed quite dear for what it did. So then my contract was up for renewal and I bought a Nokia E72.

    Ovi Maps, daft name notwithstanding, does the job well, although the maps for my particular region seem to be quite old, but they are very precise. The user interface is nice enough, and the guidance is generally spot-on. All in all, the phone is awful as far as the software is concerned, but the keyboard is great for texting and the satnav works well enough. I'm not buying another S60 phone again, but give me a nice featurephone with a QWERTY keyboard and Ovi Maps, and I, an iTard of the highest magnitude, will happily use it as my second phone.

  29. Hoe
    WTF?

    I think you SatNav is broken, it cannot find Garmin!

    No Garmin, no point. Anyway for me, providing data is not an issue Google Maps is the way, especially with the useful integration with Layar!

  30. Al Taylor
    Alert

    Garmin

    Folks, unless I am very much mistaken Garmin only currently sell a mobile navigation app for Blackberry along with its Garmin-Asus satnav phones. The general idea behind this roundup was to look at satnav apps that are available for a selection of platforms (yes I know TomTom is currently iPhone only).

    If Garmin's Mobile XT software for Windows had still been available to buy at the time of writing I would have included it.

    http://www.garmin.com/sites/uk/products/mobile-phones/

  31. Avatar of They
    Thumb Up

    Interesting review, shocked you recommend OVI at all.

    Ovi maps is like a dead dog for the N900. It doesn't have voice at all is barely supported and isn't on the list of free OVI maps they advertise, it can't find you most of the time. I stood on oxford street in london (that well known central road in a world capital), 25 minutes of waiting and half my battery and it showed me a beige map with no roads. Couldn't even find the streets I was on. I wouldn't touch Ovi maps with someone elses barge pole.

    Sygic however works well (version 10 is far better than version 9 which is still around)

    Then again I use tom tom on my 2 year old winmo tytn 2, far better and less CPU hungry than the N900 offerings. (The phone that is, not just the map software)

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Ovi Maps3

      N900 only has Ovi maps V2 and given that Maemo is to be superceeded by Meego I'm guessing it won't get V3. Ovi maps V3 is way ahead of V2 but only on Symbian as yet.

  32. Anonymous Coward
    Boffin

    Route 66

    You forgot about Route 66 Maps - the software is to be found on Samsung Wave under the name Samsung LBS and is shipped also with other Samsung devices (WinMo or Symbian).

  33. R 11

    iPad

    When can we expect some decent satnav options for the iPad?

    I don't want to squint at a 3" screen to see where I'm going, I want to glance at a huge screen and get a good clear visual representation.

  34. Neil 44
    Alert

    CoPilot

    I am using CoPilot on Android (Froyo) and whilst it works pretty well it does have some issues:

    - They don't seem to be using the keyboard driver correctly so you can't input numbers by the push and hold mechanism that is the standard way of doing it - you have to go into the alternate number keyboard (really useful for entering postcodes!)

    - When you have entered a postcode and go back to it from history it doesn't seem to go back to the full postcode location correctly

    - There's no ability to paste into the address field (maybe down to non-standard keyboard handling again?)

    - You can't move what is a comparatively large application onto the SDCard to free up phone memory

    - ALK are saying they have no map updates coming for Europe on their support channels - its soon going to go out of date. They claim this is down to their provider - I suspect they just didn't get the right agreement with their map provider...

    It might be best of breed, but its a long way from perfect

  35. Anton Ivanov
    FAIL

    Ovi

    I recently travelled across EU using solely Ovi for navigation. It is barely tolerable and does not deserve the outrageously high score given by elreg.

    If you are travelling in Shengen you need to subject yourself to a voluntary border control. Instead of happily traversing borders at 75mph you have to stop and reboot the phone. Some imbecile has coded the map reading task as realtime so when it has to load a new country map too fast it crashes one or more of the other realtime threads on the phone. Bluetooth is nearly always the victim, though the entire phone may go limp. Same for germany and province borders.

    Key routes are not present - like ex-Yugo ring roads around cities. So you end up sitting for 2h in a roadworks traffic jam in downtown belgrade blessing the map quality. Search indexes are also pretty flimsy.

    Overall, its only saving grace is that it is free and the free price tag is well deserved if you want to travel anywhere further than your local supermarket.

  36. Gary 24
    Pirate

    OVI Maps

    I know it's 'Cool' to hate Nokia right now with all the Lemmings going for iTarded devices and throwing all their personal data away to google. but...... I have a N900 & a N97

    N900's aren't really designed for mass market usage and they haven't upgraded OVI Maps on there for some time so don't even bother.

    N97 .. OVI Maps is absolutely brilliant, it gets me from Manchester to Frankfurt without a glitch what-so-ever, the only downside with it is that it can lag sometimes but other than that it's certainly the best Phone based satnav out there in terms of features and quality AND i didn't get a huge bill because my maps are loaded onto a microSD Card :-)

  37. paddy carroll 1
    Thumb Down

    Copilot experiences

    ALK Copilot Live is certainly usable and good when it works but mess about with it, change your device and try to restore it on Android and expect hours of harmless fun trying to get the damn thing to work again......

  38. Anonymous Coward
    FAIL

    DId they actually test some of these for REAL?

    As the Google Navigation review on Android claims that it "lacks an automatic re-routing facility".

    ReRouting works just fine for me, if I drive off route, it recalculates and continues as it was...

  39. Samuel Penn
    Unhappy

    Google Nav and CoPilot

    I've tried both GoogleNav and CoPilot on my Streak (Android 1.6) recently, and both seem to have the same problem of not handling phone calls well. I've only tested this whilst stationary, but both have the SatNav screen completely replaced by the incoming phone call, and after the call (using bluetooth headset), it returns to the home screen rather than navigation. This isn't exactly ideal, and if I was the sort of person that got lots of phonecalls, then it would render the mobile close to useless for this purpose.

    What I'd expect, is a subtle on-screen indication of a phone call which doesn't block the navigation view.

    My other problem with CoPilot is that I can't find a way of displaying estimated journey time (apparently it's possible, but I can't find a way of making it work and anyway, it should be there by default). Most of the time, I know roughly where I'm going and use the SatNav for deciding whether I have time to stop off at a service station before my meeting. Not having this feature makes me want to stick with Google Nav, despite it's lack of other features.

    The 5" Streak however is definitely big enough to use as a satnav.

    One last thing - the option to switch between overhead and 3D view is really nice (my old SatNav, a PSP, has it). It switches to a large scale (configurable) 2D view if the distance to the next event is greater than 3km. Generally, if all I'm doing is travelling along a road, being able to see how far along it I am is far more useful than seeing the turnoffs I'm going to be ignoring. Especially useful on the M1, where I can be on the same road for 3 hours+.

  40. Danny 18
    Pint

    Cheap GPS/Phone Mount

    Bluetack is the cheapest and best way of mounting your smartphone on your dashboard. I do it al the time. Just stick a blob on any bit that sticks out a bit (like one of the vents) and you're away and can spend your money on something else.

  41. mp1963
    FAIL

    CoPilot on Android 2.2

    I used CoPilot extensively on my Hero. Worked reasonably well. I not use a Nexus One running vanilla 2.2. CoPilot does not install properly never mind actually run. CoPilot support is non-existent beyond the usual canned responses. I have requested a refund as i am unable to use the product but, so far and as expected, they are totally ignoring me. The comments on the Android Market are very similar. I really would not recommend this product to anyone, even my worst enemy.

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