A closer look at Apple iOS 6 Maps and eight alternatives (comparison review)

A closer look at Apple iOS 6 Maps and eight alternatives (comparison review)

Summary: Apple's iOS 6 Maps works well for many people, but Tim Cook did issue an apology and offered up some alternatives. Let's take a closer look at Apple Maps and some of these available choices and don't forget to check out the 110+ screenshot gallery.

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3rd party GPS navigation solutions

The iPhone has never had native turn-by-turn voice navigation so 3rd party developers were free to come up with solutions and there are several available. I remember paying $99 for software when they first launched on the iPhone and today you can purchase one of these solutions for less, although purchasing all of the in-app options may get you close to this figure. They each seem to have their strengths and are different enough from each other that you should be able to find one that meets your needs and works for you. Let's take a bit closer look at these 3rd party solutions. Keep in mind that there are even more options available in the App Store as well.

Navigon

Navigon is a Garmin company with a reputation for solid navigation solutions. They make apps for iOS, Android, and Windows Phone 7 so if you are a multi-platform user then you may like the consistency of the user interface across clients. One of the main features of Navigon that has proven to be valuable for me over the years is their lane assistance capability where you see realistic layouts of the roadway with specific lane directions. I still remember using Navigon years ago on a business trip where there were left exit lanes that I would have missed without the software. When you are driving in new areas, functions such as lane assist are very important. Navigon was one of the first to launch with support for the iPhone 5 and full longer display in version 2.2.

In addition to the excellent Lane Assistant Pro functionality, you will find real road sign support, speed assistant to help you from getting a speeding ticket, 2D and 3D map views in portrait and landscape orientation, text to speech playback of street names, and more. There is support for mass transit, walking, and driving, but as listed next some of this functionality comes at more cost to you. Navigon uses NAVTEQ map data, which is owned by Nokia, so the data is quite comprehensive.

The user interface is easy to use and appears in just a few colors to keep the focus on functionality of the software. You can download one state at a time, really saving you on space for offline navigation. For offline navigation needs, Navigon is one of the best available options and supports worldwide maps too. There are quite a few settings, but they are not overwhelming and once you have the software setup how you like it then you should be good to go.

Navigon is sold in the US in four variations; all of North America, East, Central, and West. If you don't travel around the country, you can save some money by purchasing specific regions. The full North American version (iTunes link) is $59.99, Navigon USA is $49.99, and each region (East, Central, West) is $29.99. Unfortunately, Navigon doesn't make it a one stop shop with several available in-app purchases for added functionality. For example, traffic live is another $19.99, panorama view 3D is $9.99, USA speedcams is $4.99, cockpit mode is $5.99, urban guidance (transit) is $4.99, and many more available fee-based options. I could not get the panorama view 3D to ever download and noticed this same comment in the customer ratings so that is an issue. Navigon is one of the most expensive options, especially if you add the extras. With iOS 6 Maps being free and onboard the iPhone, it may be tough to justify the cost of Navigon unless you need serious offline navigation.

CoPilot Live

CoPilot Live, from ALK Technologies, is another one of the applications I purchased for my Windows Mobile device way back in the early days of mobile and it has continued to evolve over time. The current version is extremely full featured and offers a nice UI with a great option for alternative routes. CoPilot Live has also been updated for iOS 6 and the iPhone 5. You get offline navigation, 1 year of traffic, and much more.

CoPilot uses more color than what you see in Navigon and the main menu is a bit busy, IMHO. You can choose from different places to travel to, including an address, favorite places, points of interest, contact, browse the map, coordinates, and even where you previous took and geotagged a photo. Routes can be planned in advance and include options for traffic (additional cost) and vehicle preferences. Offline map support, including maps around the world, is provided along with the ability to download maps by region, or the entire US (1.2 GB) to save on storage space. Washington and Oregon is a 70.4 MB download.

CoPilot Live has a ton of settings, what appears to be more than any other GPS application I looked at, so you can really setup the software to your optimal preference. Weather is integrated and I personally love the parking utility that lets you mark and save the location where you parked your car quickly and easily. An integrated music player is provided and you can also check in to Facebook from within CoPilot.

CoPilot Live is priced MUCH less than Navigon, but again there are also in-app purchases. The Premium HD USA version (iTunes link) is $12.99, the Premium USA version is $9.99, and the Standard version is only $3.99. There are several options for locations around the world too. You need the Premium HD version for full iPhone 5 support. In-app purchases include ActiveTraffic for $9.99/year, fuel prices for $7.99/year, and more.

Telenav Scout

Telenav Scout (iTunes link) is a very focused application and works well on the iPhone 5. Unfortunately, it does not yet take advantage of the full longer display. Scout is FREE and for a limited time they are offering their Scout Plus version ($9.99 value) for free as well. Even at $9.99 per year, this is one of the cheapest voice guided navigation solutions for iOS.

When you launch Scout you are taken to the Dashboard and not to a large view of a map like you see in most other apps. This is OK though since Scout is designed to help you get somewhere with quick options to drive to work or home, along with common places. The next tab over, accessible at the bottom, gets you to the map where you can search quickly or find where you are now. Voice control is also a major deal with Telenav and the center button lets you control your navigation experience with your voice.

I love the POI support in Scout, in particular the Movies support that shows me what movies are playing at the theaters and what the reviews are on those movies. You can find gas (including prices), coffee, parking, WiFi hotspots, and much more with Scout. Extras include the offline maps, traffic rerouting, speed traps, and lane assist. You can download maps for the US in zones (one only allowed on your phone at a time). West is 834 MB, Central is 1565 MB, and East is 1323 MB in size. WiFi is needed for these downloads. You can also change the icon for your car within Telenav Scout.

I liked that Scout gave me up to three alternative routes and performed quickly every time I navigated around. I look forward to full iPhone 5 support and continued improvements.

MotionX GPS Drive

Motion X is another navigation solution for the iPhone and iPad and has millions of active users that are quite happy with the software (ratings show it at 4.5 stars for the latest version. It is an interesting GPS navigation solution thanks to the search user interface. MotionX-GPS Drive has not yet been updated to support the full screen of the iPhone 5, but that is surely coming in a future free update. It is inexpensive at 99 cents, but again there are quite a few in-app purchases. At least with this application they are less expensive ($9.99 for a year of Live Voice Guidance) and it does come with a free 30-day trial.

I like that INRIX provides the traffic data and that you get a handy parking spot marker (similar to CoPilot Live). The Search wheel is interesting and gives you a fairly quick way to search for destinations. Tap the Menu button on the right to bring up menus on the right and left for quick navigation around the app. A compass is one of the utilities, along with the settings option that gives you access to a number of settings to customize the software.

MotionX GPS Drive stores your most recently used maps (you can set the limit on how much is stored locally), but you cannot selectively choose regions for advanced navigation planning. Offline storage is used for speed and improved performance, not really for full offline navigation.

In-app purchases include 99 cent voice modules so you can change up who is guiding you in your car. I could not find an public transit routing, but they do have pedestrian navigation capability. Visual lane assistance, local speed limits, social networking, and more are supported in MotionX GPS Drive.

Waze

One of the applications Tim Cook mentioned in his Apple Maps apology letter was Waze (iTune link) and this is one application that is very heavily focused on the social experience. Waze can be used hands-free and is focused on the community helping out others to get the best navigation results. There is no support for offline maps that I could find, but then again this application is completely free so you can't really complain.

Like most of these GPS navigation apps, Waze is not yet updated for the full iPhone 5 display so the experience is letterboxed. It is VERY highly rated by users and does appear to be quite useful in daily usage. There are quite a few customization settings and as people see things on the road they can report it. This means traffic jams, police, accidents, cameras, gas prices, and more. Foursquare checkins are also supported by Waze. Waze learns your driving and traveling habits to help optimize your route and alerts and is quite intelligent.

NEW ENTRY: MapQuest

One of my readers suggested I include MapQuest and even though that was one of the first mapping solutions I ever used on my computer years ago I didn't even consider checking them out since I thought they went the way of the dodo. It turns out that MapQuest was actually in the Tim Cook Apple Maps apology letter and it is still a current service. The MapQuest application for iOS (iTunes link) is solid and while it does not support the full display of the iPhone 5 yet it does offer FREE voice navigation, very easy toggling of POI categories and both driving and walking directions. 

MapQuest provides traffic status, contact integration, and more. There are ad banners and the display size is limited, but for a free solution it is definitely worth consideration.

Can you get by using free Safari-optimized websites?

 

Topics: Mobility, Apple, iPhone, Reviews, Smartphones

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16 comments
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  • Okay Matt, one question...

    5.0

    Can I make these map apps the default for iOS? If not, then it is gimped!
    slickjim
    • Nope, that is why I covered Apple Maps too

      Sorry, I cannot find a way in iOS to change the default mapping solution. You can copy and paste an address in to other GPS software and in some cases you do get the option to send the address to other software. As I mentioned, I find Apple Maps to be just fine in most cases.
      palmsolo (aka Matthew Miller)
      • well

        5.0

        I am not saying Apple Maps is good or bad but, the lack of ability to change the default apps in iOS is the number one reason why I will never again own an iOS device!
        slickjim
        • Sorry

          Get use to it, Android does the same thing.
          KBabcock75
  • Apple's iOS 6 Maps works well for many people

    That's not what I hear.
    bb_apptix
    • Try it out, it's free on iOS 6

      It's what I hear from regular users on a daily basis and what I personally experience too. I know we can believe everything we read or hear about, but the best method is to try it out for yourself, right?
      palmsolo (aka Matthew Miller)
  • My only problem with Maps 6.0 is...

    6.0

    The smaller roads (light grey) don't contrast enough with the background (light tan) to see easily when zoomed out. Other than that it seems accurate where I live.
    rynning
  • Mileage Calcs

    Had to update my mileage log the other day and used i6Maps to look up route distances. I'm in Southern California and so, other than Bay Area - LA antipathies (I kid), have fairly good expectations that the data would be good for me. Though we did hear stories and there was an apology.

    Here's what I think I noticed, the display and route calculations seemed faster, but, the switching of start and end points for new routes was noticeably snappier, as compared with the pre-iOS6 Maps. Some of this may be a perception of exceeding low expectations but a lot of it relates to vector graphics which I think means the cache may store more results as the data is more efficiently encoded.

    I'm not discounting others who have found the new Maps useless. Like essentially everything, it lies on a spectrum somewhere between sliced bread and utterly useless. Sliced bread, of course, is exactly as great as sliced bread.
    DannyO_0x98
  • CoPilot is my favorite

    8.0

    Like Matt, I have used CoPilot ever since I had a Win Mobile 5 device. Great software and much more accurate than other systems. I also like the option to load US regions rather than all the US as this does save space. Support for walking directions is great for getting around big cities on foot. Submitted map updates are quickly included in the free quarterly updates.
    mryanaz
  • Big step backwards on iPad

    4.0

    On the iPad, for me, there was a big loss of functionality.

    As a biker, I found the terrain maps very useful to understand what I was getting into for a particular route. The new map provides no terrain view and it is not offered by Google Maps either.

    I also am interested in exploring the routes - looking ahead at various turns. The old maps allowed me to tap any of the turns and it zoomed in to that point and I could zoom out to provide the detail I want. The new app shows the list but I tapping has no effect.

    I typically do not want turn by turn navigation and that seems to be my only choice.

    Finally the maps are so empty. Lots of stuff is missing in comparison with the data from Google maps. I used that a lot to find where places to shop or eat are as I am traveling.
    brianmnhanson
  • TomTom?

    6.0

    You didn't mention TomTom's iPhone app at all yet I've been using that for a long time and am quite happy with it. Is it no longer available or maybe just not yet available for iPhone 5? I've gotten recent updates to mine on my 4S.
    JoeFoerster
  • Regarding Maps and GPS

    6.0

    A map should be a graphical representation of a geographic area including vehicular byways and human communities. You don't need to be a cartographer to read a map, nor do you need a GPS or GPS function to get from point A to point B.

    The sole criterion of a map's quality should be accuracy.
    Iman Oldgeek
  • MapQuest - free with Turn by Turn voice

    5.0

    I am surprised that you did not mention MapQuest. I have used the mapquest app I think since my first 3GS iphone. It has had turn by turn voice navigation since the beginning too. And best of all, it is and always has been FREE!
    I tried Apple's maps with turn by turn, but I have gone back to MapQuest for the same reasons everyone looks elsewhere. Much more developed.
    smileyjared
    • Great suggestion, just tried it out

      I honestly thought Mapquest went the way of AOL and haven't used their service or even considered them for years. I did go and load it up on my iPhone 5 and while it doesn't yet have an update to support the full screen of the iPhone 5 it is actually a pretty nice piece of software. I like the FREE voice navigation and ease of toggling on and off the POI categories. Great find and suggestion, thanks.
      palmsolo (aka Matthew Miller)
  • Free Turn by Turn is a Norm Elsewhere.

    Funny how free things are emphasized in the iWorld. Normally anything from them is not free.

    What's this noise about turn-by-turn? I've always had turn by turn navigation from my old devices like Nokia and now Samsung Galaxy S2 (Android Gingerbread).

    I sometimes feel that Apple fans just make noise about things which are already available freely elsewhere.
    touchScreen
  • Clipclock

    CLIPCLOCK mobile app. is the best social hub with its new features. Lets discover and share the best video moments!!! Check it out... Here is the link: http://www.clipclock.com/download/4849
    Blue Outmost