Developer: Garmin Wuerzburg GmbH
Price: $59.99 Download on the App Store
Navigon MobileNavigator - One of the big deals about Apple’s iPhone 3G and 3GS iPhones are their built-in GPS. With the right app, any 3G flavor can become a fully-featured GPS unit. Make the app cheap enough, and the iPhone as a way-finder becomes a better option than the real thing.
Unfortunately, for some of us cash-poor types, the steep price for top-of-the-line GPS apps from Navigon and TomTom is a bit hard to swallow, especially since you can buy the real thing for close to the same dough.
In the interest of fair disclosure, I prevailed upon Navigon to give me a review copy. Otherwise, I would have probably bought a Garmin Nuvi GPS or something similar for about $125.
So, what I finally discovered is that the iPhone 3G and above make very good GPS units. All the right features are there: intuitive interface, portrait and landscape modes, speed and signpost display and all the other features you would want. The difference is the iPhone does the work of both without the additional cost or hassle.
Audible turn-by-turn and text-to-speech are requirements for any GPS in my book and MobileNavigator has them. One thing I don't need (and you don't either) is having to keep an eye on the map displayed on the iPhone or GPS’s screen. At the 3.5 to 4.5 inch screens most GPSes have, there's not much to see any way. You should hear where you're going.
In what would become a well-developed experience with Navigon's MobileNavigator there's not much to hear unless you want to rack your brain for days and days. One of MobileNavigator's most coveted features, I think, is text-to-speech, which audibly announces street names at strategic points on the way to your destination.
No matter what I tried—resetting, reinstalling, resyncing and rueful regretting—I couldn't get audio of any kind: no turn-by-turn, no text-to-speech—not even static. Then. Eureka! Problem finally solved. I went to TomTom’s site and found a clue that help me get MobileNavigator working: Turns out that too much digital junk in your iPhone's storage trunk keeps the app from unpacking an installing completely. After deleting some apps and music on my device MobileNavigator ran with text-to-speech as promised on Navigon’s iTunes description page.
I didn't have a chance to compare this app with TomTom's, however. I don't have the 90 shekels the app costs. From what I can tell from the feature lists and buyer reviews, the MobileNavigator has an edge but don't take that to the bank. You'd probably be happy with either of them.
The next step for GPS apps for the iPhone is traffic reporting, which requires a fee, and relies in part on crowd-sourcing.
Finally, as a reminder, the quality of the your GPS-low-riding depends on the quality of the signal. There are several optional mounts available, which sell between $20 (Kensington) and $100 (ouch, that one is TomTom's).