Garmin Viago: Feature-rich iOS navigation (with a few potholes)

Most people use the include Maps app or Google Maps for navigation on the iPhone, here's why Garmin's new offering is worth a look.
Written by Jason D. O'Grady, Contributor on
Garmin Viago for iOS - Jason O'Grady
Image: Garmin International

Up until recently, there were two categories of navigation app: free apps like Apple's first-party Maps app (which is included with iOS) and Google Maps (free, App Store), or you had to pony up some hefty cash for a premium navigation app like Navigon ($50, App Store) or TomTom ($25, App Store). 

Garmin changed all that recently with the launch of Viago for iOS ($1.99, App Store), which lands squarely between the free offerings and the higher-price navigation apps. And it may have found the sweet spot at the same time. 

Garmin's Viago is a happy medium that allows you to customize it with In-App Purchases (IAPs). If you need more features than those included with the free offerings (i.e. downloadable maps, and traffic re-routing) you now have an option – and you don't have to spend $50 to get it. 

Instead of bundling a bunch of features and charging $25 or $50 for the app, Viago includes a core set of features for $2 that will suit most of your needs:

  • International map browsing: search addresses and POIs anywhere in the world
  • Turn-by-turn navigation within your region
  • Lane assist with photoReal junction views
  • Displays current street, speed and speed limit
  • Customize your experience with optional upgrades

When you need more than the out-of-box offering, Viago offers a plethora of premium navigation features as IAPs, including:

  • Downloadable Maps to Go allow you to navigate without a data connection and avoid roaming fees 
  • Choose full or regional coverage maps
  • Traffic Live provides real-time traffic information with automatic rerouting
  • Directions with spoken street names and 3-D building representations help you with your orientation
  • Garmin Real Directions guide using landmarks, significant buildings and traffic lights, such as, "Turn left after the clock tower"
  • Mobile Alert Live provides alerts for mobile speed cameras as reported by fellow drivers (not permitted in all countries)
  • Safety Kit helps you avoid trouble with speed and safety camera warnings (not permitted in all countries), active lane guidance and alternative routes
  • Panorama View 3-D shows you the surrounding terrain, including mountains, hills and valleys
  • Urban Guidance helps you navigate major cities on foot or by using public transportation

Viago gets its maps data from market leader HERE maps (formerly Navteq) and you can browse and navigate to any destination globally with free turn-by-turn, voice-guided directions:

Garmin Viago: navigate to any destination with free turn-by-turn, voice-guided directions - Jason O'Grady
(Photo: Garmin International)

One of Viago's best features is its lane-assist and photo-realistic junction views which help you decide which lane you need to be in to make your next turn. This isn't trivial, especially when traveling in unfamiliar, densely-populated urban centers. 

Garmin Viago includes lane-assist and photo-realistic junction views - Jason O'Grady
(Photo: Garmin International)

Viago also includes a standard green/yellow/red traffic overlay on top of the map and a helpful speed limit display, which could help you avoid a costly speeding ticket in unfamiliar terrain. If you need more than the standard traffic overlay, you can upgrade to Viago's Traffic Live ($10 IAP) to get advanced warning of traffic problems and be automatically re-route around them. 

Screenshot 2014-07-14 12.12.53

Here's a list of some of the most popular IAPs available from the Garmin Shop within the Viago app:

  • Maps to Go North America – $9.99
  • Traffic Live North America – $9.99
  • Sound & Buildings – $9.99
  • Safety Kit – $9.99
  • Garmin Real Directions – $9.99
  • Maps to Go Europe – $9.99
  • Panorama View 3D – $9.99
  • Urban Guidance – $4.99
  • Mobile Alert Live North America – $9.99
  • Maps to Go Middle East – $9.99

As a bonus, the iOS version of Viago includes a free option that lets you customize the look of your app with various map themes and vehicle icons, a nice touch if you're tired of looking at generic chevron/arrow icon for your ride.

It's not perfect though, Viago is suffering from a couple of issues typical of a 1.0 (or in this case 1.0.1) app. Some features carried over from Garmin's purpose-built GPS receiver days don't make sense on a smartphone. It would be nice to be able to download Maps To Go for individual states instead of having to download a massive 1.66GB file for the entire Lower 49 U.S. States, for example. Also, Viago desperately needs the ability to create and modify a multiple-destination trip from a desktop browser, it's inconvenient having to plan an entire trip on a small screen. 

Overall, Garmin's navigation UI is one of my favorites and familiar from years of using dedicated Garmin GPS hardware on my dash. While Viago 1.0.1 definitely has a few potholes, the deep feature-set and dizzying array of premium options make it a powerful tool for anyone who does a lot of driving. It isn't prefect, but I can't wait to see where Viago is headed. For now anyway, Viago has earned a spot on my iPhone's home screen and is my go-to navigation app.

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