Mobile // Mobile Applications
11:29 AM

Top 5 GPS Apps For The iPhone

Find your way around town or across country with one of these navigation applications for your iPhone.

Magellan RoadMate North America

Magellan is an acceptable GPS app--if you can overlook a less-than-perfect interface and some quirks.

The app provides smooth voice-guided navigation with subtle chimes at turns or direction changes. However, of the three storage-based apps, I found Magellan's displays to be the least helpful. Unlike iGo primo and TomTom, which display your actual speed, Magellan instead shows a road sign graphic that displays the current posted speed limit. When you go over the speed limit (by a configurable amount--the default is the posted speed), the road sign changes from black on white to red on white. This is less-than-helpful compared with the other apps' actual speed display.

Traffic alerts come up as a green square with a hazard sign inside it, prompting the driver to tap, read, and interact with the app while driving. Not a good idea.

I found the way Magellan handles point-of-interest icons distracting as well. The icons grow (or get smaller) in size based on your distance away from the gas station, restaurant, etc. I found myself squinting to make out what an individual icon might be until it became recognizable. Both TomTom and iGo primo display their point-of-interest icons at a static size.

The voice-guided navigation was fine, although at times the female voice sounded either intoxicated or like someone with marbles in her mouth. Every time she pronounced "twenty" as "dwendy," I half expected to hear a followup "hic!" Voice-guided navigation also is available in Spanish and French but I don't know if it's as funny in those languages.

The biggest disappointment, though, was the iOS app's lack of integration with Magellan's Premium Car Kit for iPhone, which I recently picked up (a video review for BYTE is in the works). You would expect that when you pair two, same-branded products together with Apple's most current, top-of-the-line smartphone that the experience would be breathtaking. It wasn't. I expected both app and the hardware to recognize that the other was there, and provide me with some bonus goodies--say, an enhanced navigational screen, an improved GPS lock, or some kind of Bluetooth phone enhancement. Nope. I found no compelling reason to pair Magellan's software with its car kit, over any other combination of navigation software and Magellan's car kit.

If funny navigation voices aren't your thing, Magellan RoadMate North America offers additional voices for 99 cents. Magellan includes basic safety alerts via PhantomAlert (red light cameras, fixed speed cameras). You also can buy Premium Safety Alerts (combined cameras, speed traps, rail road crossings, dangerous curves or intersections, etc.) via the controversial PhantomALERT for an annual subscription of $29.99.

Magellan RoadMate North America
$59.99 (maps included)
iTunes — North America 


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