Apple’s recent apology over the updated Maps application in iOS 6 highlights just how important mobile navigation has become for smartphone users. From directions to finding better sightseeing routes, map information is a basic expectation of any connected mobile device. While built-in applications on major smartphone platforms tend to do a fairly reasonable job, there are some free alternatives that users may prefer.
Mapquest – Having come a very long way from the early days, Mapquest is once again a legitimate player in on the navigation scene. Mapquest can be used via mobile web right at their site or to get more features (including voice-guidance) you can install their iOS or Android app. Users report that maps are more accurate in some cases than Google. Other service features include free real time traffic information with traffic camera video streams and built in points-of-interest.
Google Maps – While Android and iOS 5 users have Google maps by default, iOS 6 users can still use Google maps via mobile web. Google maps does lack voice-guided directions on iOS 5 and via mobile web, however its depth of information, accuracy, and satellite imaging make it worthy. There continues to be a Google maps native app for iOS rumor, but details and timing are still hazy. Per the tech news outlets, it was the lack of voice-guided navigation for iOS that lead to Apple’s departure. So, it will be interesting to see if that is a feature in its next iterations.
Waze – A community-based GPS traffic and navigation app, Waze is available for both iOS and Android. Waze is unique in that it uses current, user-provided information to report problems and even display them so alternatives may be chosen. Additionally, Waze gauges user speed to determine traffic flow. If a user slows to a stop on a highway, Waze will open a dialog asking if the user is stuck in traffic. Once traffic starts flowing again, Waze will process such by sampling the user’s improved speed. Should a user pass by a location where something had been reported, Waze will ask if the issue is still there. Obviously, Waze is most useful in busy areas where there are lots of active Waze users.
In addition to these free alternatives, there are lots of paid navigation apps available on all platforms ranging in price from $0.99 to $25 for some of the more advanced navigation company options such as Garmin and TomTom. Whatever your specific needs and price range, there are myriad options from which to choose.