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  1. Carrbone's Avatar

    Many applications on the iPhone take advantage of knowing where you are. But despite GPS (and other location-based technologies), it's only relatively recently that apps have appeared on the iPhone that promise to turn it into a true car navigation system. Meaning turn-by-turn directions via voice.

    Navigon out of Germany claims to have the first "professional" solution for the iPhone 3G and 3G S, the Navigon MobileNavigator I've been testing. But the app is fraught with potholes, from sound issues to imprecise routing.

    The $70 app ($100 after Aug. 15) covers the U.S. (including Puerto Rico), Canada, and the Virgin Islands. Navigon also sells a European version for $100 and an Australian version for $55. The Navigon app carries no monthly subscriptions, as is the case with the $10 a month you have to fork over for the AT&T Navigator (through TeleNav) iPhone app. The AT&T app is otherwise "free."

    The field is about to get more congested. TomTom is readying a voice-navigation app for the iPhone that is due out later in the summer. Networks in Motion sells a $10-a-month app with real-time traffic called Gokivo + Yahoo Local Search. Other programs include Mobile Maps America ($80 from Sygic) and various regionalized $20 to $35 voice-guidance apps from Xroad called G-Map.

    I tested the Navigon app in and around New York City and as far south as Maryland. Though I always made it to my destination, I was often frustrated en route. Sometimes, verbal instructions kicked in too late for me to make a turn, and sometimes I didn't get any verbal directions at all, an issue that a "soft reset" of the iPhone seemed to resolve.

    Moreover, without "text-to-speech" technology — saying, "turn right on Main Street," rather than just "turn right" — it wasn't always obvious whether I had to turn at the block I was about to come upon or the one after that.

    It's not all Navigon's fault. The iPhone doesn't let you run third-party apps in the background, so you can't take a call and continue to get directions. The app shuts down when a call comes in, and even though you're taken back to the route in progress when the call ends, you have to wait for Navigon to boot up again. Not a speedy process. If you don't know where you're going, heaven knows how many critical turns you might miss?

    You're also out of luck if you simultaneously want to use Navigon and, say, a radio app such as Pandora on the iPhone, again an Apple restriction. You can play music through the iPod while continuing to use Navigon. But the volume of the music doesn't decrease when Navigon's female voice speaks, making directions hard to hear. Navigon says a free software update will address the problem. Of course, you can boost the volume of Navigon's voice by connecting the iPhone to your car's speakers through an auxiliary jack. But then you couldn't use the car stereo for any other purpose.

    A closer look:

    •The basics. Navigon relies on the same Navteq map database as many other GPS systems do. You can alternate between 2D and 3D maps and search for points of interest by category (gas stations, lodging, tourist attractions, and so on). You can change the display when driving at night.

    In some ways, the app is nicely integrated with the iPhone. You can tap an on-screen button to choose a destination from among your iPhone contacts. You can also choose a route based on recent destinations or from a favorites list. And there's a handy "Take Me Home" button.

    •Reception. The app was sometimes slow to pick up a signal from the satellites, though that's a common issue with GPS handhelds. Navigon says GPS reception might improve if you remove any protective cases on the iPhone, especially ones that are metal. That's a minor nuisance.

    You'll also almost certainly want to prop the iPhone on the dash or windshield to peek at a map or the next street you're supposed to turn on, especially because the voice won't tell you the name of the street. (As with any GPS unit, your attention shouldn't be diverted from the road.) For now anyway, Navigon doesn't sell a dock or cradle, though it's considering one that might charge the phone and boost GPS reception at the same time. In meantime, you'll have to turn to third parties for cradle accessories.

    While you're using the Navigon app, the iPhone screen isn't supposed to dim or lock, though that did in fact happen a couple of times. Yet another problem: Navigon was slow to reroute me if I missed a turn.

    Navigon acknowledges shortcomings. A free update is promised soon that will, among other things, let you make a call to a restaurant or other destination through the app. The company eventually plans text-to-speech to add street names. Real-time traffic is also promised down the road. If and when such improvements are made, the Navigon app may be worth considering. For now, I'll pass.

    By Edward C. Baig, USA TODAY
    2009-08-09 06:30 AM
  2. Bo Troxell's Avatar
    Great review. I use Navigon and I believe that right now it is the best app out there for the iPhone. Hopefully future updates will make this app even better.
    smaller sig.png
    2009-08-09 06:52 AM
  3. Raptors's Avatar
    great review indeed!! and yes i agree, ive been using navigon for about a week and its been amazing!
    2009-08-09 06:54 AM
  4. eaglesteve's Avatar
    I have first bought Sygic. Did'nt think I would like it as I was really a big fan of Tom Tom, but surprisingly the map was way better than Tom Tom on my window mobile phone. I like Sygic but did'nt like the fact that they did'nt use standard iPhone keyboard and allow the map to moved, pinched or stretched. I also wanted integration with the iPhone contact database. So when Navigon came along, I was estatic and bought it without second thought and declared on some forums that I'm ready to dump Sygic and use Navigon.

    As soon as my first use started, I instantly knew that I made a mistake by buying Navigon. Here are my main complaints:
    1. While it advertised that it is capable of warning users for overspeeding, this feature does not appear at all for Australia maps. I'm talking about Sydney Metropolitan roads here. Not a single road has speed limit in the database. Not one. Hence, I consider it a misrepresentation on Navigon's part to mislead potential customers.
    2. The ability to hang on to GPS signal is weak as compared to Sygic. I have performed this test countless times. With Navigon I keep losing signal when Sygic has no problem whatsoever. I have two iPhones so that's why I'm able to test them side by side.
    3. The color and size of the fonts are such that it is very difficult to read the name of the road. Users are not able to change this.
    4. It is not possible to have all key navigation information displayed on the screen. On the top bar you can have ONE information among the few possible. Similarly you have one data at the botttom one amoung the few possible. In all other GPS, you can simulateneously show current speed, arrival time, remaining distance, remaining time, etc. Not the case with Navigon. You need to keep touching the top bar to rotate amoung the information you want to see, making it dangerous for the user.
    5. The simulation of itineary shows only the last few meters of the journey rather than the whole thing.
    6. The POI database is extremely lacking.
    7. When I add an interim destination, it immediately remove the other destinations, so I cannot see the entire route on the map.
    8. It does not have speed camera warning
    9. It does not have red light camera warning
    10.It does not have the capability to remind me that I'm near a school so that I can observe the reduced 40Km/H limit during school days and avoid being busted by the camera.

    Overall, it scores very highly in my mind when come to user interface because it conforms to iPhone's style. However, the functions and featurs are far too limiting. The maps data also leaves much to be desired.

    I've already started the action to get my money back.

    This is the first Applestore purchase that I get a refund. The most disappointing one, perhaps because the money involved is large.

    I suspect that Sygic and Tom Tom (when it becomes available) will be the top two GPS software for iPhone in terms of functions/features and map quality. Navigon will be the King of UI, but will probably be among the weakest in terms of functions/features and map quality.
    Last edited by eaglesteve; 2009-08-09 at 07:42 AM.
    2009-08-09 07:37 AM
  5. StealthBravo's Avatar
    Great reviews. I think while navigon has many issues, it is currently the best navigation app in the appstore.
    2009-08-09 07:41 AM
  6. confucious's Avatar
    ^Apart from CoPilot, of course.
    He who asks a question looks foolish for 5 minutes. He who doesn't ask a question remains foolish forever.
    2009-08-09 11:30 AM
  7. eaglesteve's Avatar
    ^Apart from CoPilot, of course.
    Ha ha ha. I've waiting for this post from you my friend.

    BTW, you mentioned earlier that Copilot does not have overspeeding warning. However, it seems that the user documentation says ALK is selling that feature as an optional component. Can you confirm that please? Specifically, is that optional componenet available for purchase now?
    2009-08-09 11:33 AM
  8. bschucher's Avatar
    Runs in the background with backrounder
    2009-08-11 03:55 AM