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User Review Of The Navigon iPhone GPS App
One of the really great things about the iPhone is that on AT&T's network the GPS feature is not locked out. With Verizon users must pay a fee to use Verizon's navigation services. Because your iPhone has an unlocked GPS receiver inside, applications like the new Navigon GPS navigator can function much like the stand alone dash-top versions they sell. Because of the huge success and high profit margin of the Navigon iPhone app they have decided to pull out of the US market entirely, when it comes to selling stand alone units loaded with NAVTEQ maps of North America. Having owned a Navigon GPS before I was intrigued that I could get a full blown navigation system on my GPS. What are the pros and cons?
Minus a Few Features
With the Navigon GPS Navigator app for iPhone you get almost all the features of a standalone GPS Navigator. You won't get quite the sound quality from your iPhone's tiny speakers though. Also, when you are outside of cell phone coverage areas the unit will revert to very basic maps. Latency of the map or turn by turn directions is noticeable, possibly due to the smaller GPS receiver unit in the iPhone, as compared to a stand alone unit. The unit seems to have a hard time finding it's location when your turn off the road into a parking lot, etc. Because the GPS antenna in the iPhone is small it may not acquire a signal as easily in areas where there is forest, etc, around you. I noticed that it would show a red bar, labeled "GPS" in some areas with overhead trees, where my stand alone Tom Tom was still navigating.
One feature that I miss is being able to view a turn by turn profile of my planned route. So far I have not found a way to do this, unless it is hidden in some obscure menu. You can browse a map, but expanding and waiting for detailed highway info do appear takes time. You can switch to a call and back to the GPS Navigator, but you can't switch apps, such as checking the weather, without having to start it up again. That's not a problem for short trips, but if you rely on it for cross country travel, you probably will want a stand alone GPS navigator.
The iTunes download of the Navigon GPS Navigator is a huge file. You will need to connect your laptop to a high speed connection since the file is too big to download over the cellular network. The 1.3 Gig file might take a while, depending on your connection speed. This large app will take up much of the memory of 8 gig phones.
Despite the drawbacks mentioned above, having a full blown Navigon GPS navigator on your iPhone is awesome. The NAVTEQ based map system provided excellent routing information on a combination of rural and urban destinations were it was used near Dallas, Texas, Austin and Midland Texas. Although the latency, or speed at which the map updates seems a bit lacking it was surprisingly reliable.
Navigon has had a good reputation for making high end GPS Navigators for years and the real life display, including actual road signs is a nice feature. You don't have to worry about chargers, theft, etc, by having it on your phone. If you jump in another vehicle you still have your GPS navigator with you. That in itself is worth putting up with a few shortcomings. At a price of less than $70.00 you can't buy a good stand alone GPS navigator, especially one with text to speech. The speech used by the Navigon iPhone app is surprisingly easy to understand by the way.
My Rating: I give the Navigon iPhone app four and a half out of five stars.
What The Future Holds
As the storage capacity of the iPhone evolves we should expect to see more detailed preloaded maps and more features. Smart phones seem destined to replace almost every gadget we like to have with us, including cameras, GPS Navigators, MP3 and Video Players, and so on. Navigon may have fired the first shot in the iPhone GPS Navigator app war. TomTom now has a new iPhone app. If companies like Garmin and Magellan want to keep market share as smart phone sales rise, they might want to consider joining the app party.
For information on how to get better reception on your iPhone see: How To Boost Your iPhone Signal