Perhaps the coolest of all the things our phones do for us is their ability to point us in the right direction – getting us from A to B with GPS technology (forget about how they’re slowly replacing our cameras, mp3 players, newspapers, and wallets). Sat Nav devices used to cost an-arm-and-a-leg, involve bulky panels that were hardly portable, and create eyesores on the dashboard. Now they fit in our pockets, can be taken anywhere, and don’t require much more than a download. Better yet, being so portable means you have a hard time becoming lost, and can lend assistance to the less-than-stellar navigators amongst your friends. Here’s everything you need to know about using your phone as a Sat Nav:
One of the best features of the latest smartphone Sat Nav apps is their ability to function without Internet access. Most of the new programs store a map database on your phone to cut down on lag time and improve usability. Anyone who’s ever been tormented waiting for Google Maps to load over 3G will understand how valuable this improvement is. And speaking of the ineptitude of Google Maps, Apple recently signed a deal with Tom Tom to replace the iPhone’s default GPS service. iOS 6 will reportedly be coming preloaded with one of the most powerful mobile Sat Nav technologies on the market.
There are many navigation options out there for the Android and iPhone, but when it comes to massive databases of highway information, it is best to stick with well-known companies who have the resources to compile the best service. Some might say to skip the free knock-off versions, which tend to be sloppy, inaccurate, and quite limited. Sat Nav apps can be fairly pricey (between £25-£50), but when compared with traditional GPS units, the expense is well worth it – along with knowing you’re less likely to be led the wrong way down a one way system.
- For iPhone: Tom-Tom or Garmin
- For Android: Copilot, Navigon, or Sygic
- For Backup: Google Maps
The primary difference between the services comes down to location. Some are better in certain areas than others, so do a bit of research before downloading to find out which one is best for you. We’d recommend having Google Maps installed as a backup – especially since they rolled out offline navigation.
If you frequently use your phone’s Sat Nav in the car, and (besides endangering your own life and the lives of those around you) staring down at your phone in the cup holder just isn’t cutting it, there are a number of inexpensive car holders to make life easier. For Tom Tom users, we highly recommend their iPhone car kit, which boosts the GPS signal, doubles as a stereo adapter, and has a nifty suction cup that works on almost any solid surface. Otherwise, keep these questions in mind when picking out the holder that’s best for you:
- Does it swivel for landscape and portrait viewing?
- How and where does it attach? (Permanent dashboard glue-on, windshield suction cup, Velcro, etc.)
- Does it include a car charger adapter? (GPS apps are notorious battery drainers)
And that is, more or less, all you need to know. What makes smartphone GPS technology so convenient and effective is its simplicity. You don’t need much more than you already have. A quick download (and perhaps a car adapter if you want to get really fancy) and you are ready to go––and with your new mobile sat nav, you’ll know exactly how to get there. Just watch where you’re going.
Thanks to Sixt for sending this handy guide into IPAC. Did they miss out any apps? Do you think it’s worth spending money on a specialist app, or do you trust in the all-knowing Google on your travels? Let us know below.