While the iPhone’s Google-based Maps app can certainly help iPhone owners get where they need to go, it’s not as cool as having a full-fledged GPS in your car–which is odd, since the iPhone certainly has that functionality.
The trouble is that GPS software costs a lot to develop, and Apple to this point has not implemented features like voice notifications and points of interest to the iPhone. Two major GPS manufacturers, Tom Tom and Navigon, have stepped forward with third party apps that deliver all of these features–for a hefty price, of course.
Here’s a look at how the Tom Tom and Navigon iPhone apps shape up as GPS devices.
Voice Notifications – Both Apps support voice notification, though they won’t speak street names, just left, right, etc. That’s OK though, as the voice functionality works well and doesn’t give turns after the fact or commit other errors that might stop you from reaching your destination. The voices are clear and very easy on the ears, but the iPhone’s speaker is small, so plan on plugging this through your car stereo if you can.
Points of Interest and Other Features – The points of interest on each app leave a bit to be desired, as they don’t seem to be quite updated enough to handle even my trips around St. Louis. Nevertheless, they’re serviceable, though it’d be nice to see future features like listings of local gas prices (which mounted TomTom units offer). The TomTom app offers a cool feature called IQ routes that pools data from GPS users to find the fastest route from one point to the next depending on the time of day and other factors.
Bugs and Left Out Features – While both apps provide serviceable GPS for driving around, there are some left out features and bugs that stop them from reaching their full potential. TomTom doesn’t allow you to change voices, as you can with its car-mounted units (perhaps due to data storage issues), it has some outdated information for points of interest andoccasionally loses track of the GPS.
Navigon has similar problems with GPS stability, and a few issues pulling address information from your contacts list, which can be bypassed by entering the address manually.
Overall, both apps are suitable as a GPS, despite their problems, and it’s certainly better to use your iPhone as a GPS than to have a separate unit, even though speaker volume is lower than the in-car units and the GPS is jumpy at times–hey, it’s a bit jumpy with in-car GPS units, to be honest.
Buy whichever one is cheaper, as they provide nearly equal features with perhaps a slight edge going to the TomTom app.
Do you use Tom Tom or Navigon? What do you think? Share your thoughts in our comments section below.