Tested – sat-nav apps for the iPhone

With the right app on your iPhone, you’ll have a sat-nav with you wherever you go. We review what’s available in the UK Apple Store


SmartNav

4.0Mb

Free (plus £3.99 a month or £34.99 lifetime)

iPod control: No

Speed alerts: Pending

Trafficmaster’s SmartNav works differently to other systems. Instead of the mapping data being stored on the phone, it is pulled from a central database (hence the small file size), so it’s always up to date. It also takes into account live traffic conditions so that you receive the best possible route.

It’s easy to use; enter an address or postcode, or you can call a Personal Assistant who will find the destination for you if you don’t have a full address.

SmartNav doesn’t display a map, instead relying on spoken commands (which are surprisingly clear from the iPhone speakers) and simple onscreen directions.

You can’t review the route planned, although the system does speak it out at the start of the programme, which can be hard to take onboard, so you’re effectively working blind, which may put some drivers off.

If you choose the lifetime subscription, SmartNav is great value for money if you can manage without maps but do want live traffic rerouting.

 

Mobile Navigator

384.6Mb

£52.99

iPod control: Yes

Speed alerts: Yes

A fully featured sat-nav from Navigon which is let down by the fact that you have to pay extra (albeit only £1.19) for full UK postcode entry, which should be standard.

That apart, the system works well and has an attractive interface, although it is slow to respond at times when programming a destination.

The 3D mapping and audible instructions are very clear, and the screen automatically adjusts to night colours when light levels fall.

The system allows you to look up addresses from the iPhone’s address book (so long as they are correctly configured), and has a useful ‘Take me Home’ button plus the option of entering coordinates as a destination.

An expensive choice and not perfect, but it is well featured.

 

Co-Pilot Live 

268Mb

£26.99

iPod Control: Yes

Speed alerts: Yes

At about half the price of its competitors, Co-Pilot Live is great value for money and, generally, works well.

The controls aren’t as polished as that of the others, though, and look rather clunky. Get onto the mapping, however, and it looks fine, with attractive maps and clear instructions.

Occasionally, the routing isn’t as clever as we’d expect, with the sat-nav not choosing the obvious route to a destination. The app is also slow to start up.

There are lots of nice features, including a quick-to-access iPod controller and a link to your Address Book.

Co-Pilot Live may not be the slickest sat-nav app but it’s certainly worth considering if you want a budget set-up.

 

Total 911’s choice

TomTom 

316Mb

£59.99

iPod control: Yes

Speed alerts: Yes

If you’ve used a standalone TomTom, you’ll be familiar with the appearance of the iPhone app. It’s clear and simple to use, with a choice of voices and plenty of options.

The various screens are clearly displayed and simple to navigate through although, unlike the Navigon, the ‘Home’ button isn’t as quick to get to.

TomTom offers Advanced Route Planning, which lets you set departure and destination points in advance (as opposed to departing from your current location) and also choose whether you want the fastest or shortest route, and your maximum speed.

You can also select whether you are in a car, on a bicycle or walking, and the route and times will change accordingly.

For ease of use and efficiency of operation, TomTom has the edge on the other systems.

 

What about Maps?

The iPhone comes with Apple’s Maps app which hooks into Google Maps but is not ideal for use in the car as it doesn’t provide turn-by-turn directions. Maps is better suited to finding your way around a city by foot if you’re looking for, say, a local coffee shop.

Power source

All sat-nav apps suck battery power so, for all but the shortest trip, you’ll need some form of charger for your iPhone. Ideally, a cradle-type that also holds the phone within sight. You’ll also benefit from one that pips the sound through your car hifi – the volume from the iPhone’s speakers is limited.

GPS reception

For optimal GPS reception, your iPhone should be positioned under the windscreen, which means using a cradle, such as that sold by TomTom. You may manage with the phone sitting on the passenger seat, but the car’s steel roof can affect reception.

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