I am always on the hunt for the newest and greatest apps and GPS services are no exception. Are phone based GPS apps really better than personal navigation devices? I believe they are. Phone based GPS systems have the ability to do much more complex tasks that would be impossible without a wireless data network. With five different GPS apps available to Android, which one is best?
Note: To make this easy I have listed the apps below in order from my highest recommendation to lowest recommendation.
Google Maps Navigation
Google Maps with navigation is available for Android 1.6 and higher. This suite has proven itself and is currently the most popular GPS app for Android 1.6 users and above. It includes many features that no other GPS apps are able to provide, such as Street View and Satellite views. Another nice feature is that it integrated with Google Buzz, which allows you to view "Buzzes" right on the map, at the location they were posted. Google Maps also features reviews on many of the points of interest.
- Most Points of Interest
- Live Traffic
- Offers a street view of your destination
- Satellite views
- Maps are very detailed and up to date
- Maps are not stored on the device so if you lose cell phone reception and leave the route it caches, things can go very wrong.
- The text to speech engine can be hard to understand at times
- No way to display your current speed
- Can only navigate you to one place at a time, you cannot do multi-destination routing
If you do a lot of traveling and often travel off your planned routes CoPilot is for you. CoPilot's software works on maps that are downloaded to the SD card on the phone. The larger storage of a SD card allows you to fit the maps for all of North America on the phone. CoPilot also has a nice interface that is easy to use while driving. If you are used to a conventional GPS system like a Garmin, CoPilot is the closest you will come in terms on interface. I also prefer the voice alerts much better on CoPilot than on Google Maps. Copilot does everything you need in a GPS app, even thought it may not include some of the fancier features like Street View.
- Maps stored on SD card
- Live features such as weather, traffic and fuel prices
- Most driver rriendly UI
- Supports multi-destination routing
- Price, the app costs $29.99 USD but is only a one time fee
- Requires an SD card with at least 2GB of free space
The best way to describe Waze is GPS mixed with Google Buzz and Twitter. People who use Waze are called "Wazers". Every Wazer is shown on the app, so when you are driving you can see other people using the app near you. Wazers can post anything from speed traps to car crashes on the map (you can even include pictures). You also have the ability to message other people on the map inside the app. In areas with many Wazers the maps works great and sometimes even has more up to date traffic then Google Maps. The Waze app also turns driving into a game by letting you drive over virtual objects which give you points. There is even a leader board for this point system. Currently I wouldn't trust the app to navigate me to places of importance, but it makes driving much more fun. I believe that in a few years time this app will be very popular and become more accurate as more people begin to use it.
- A very social GPS app that can integrate into Twitter
- The ability to see other people around you using the app
- Report traffic and even take pictures of the incident and post it to the Waze Map
- Driving becomes a game, which makes trips fun
- GPS maps are not very accurate in places with few or no Wazers
- Does not always take you on the best route
- UI needs improvement
- Occasionally crashes or lags
- Waze doesn't allow routes longer than 200 miles
WisePilot is another GPS app for Android. Honestly I feel this app doesn't set itself apart from any of the other GPS apps enough to justify a $69.95 per year price tag. Yes, it does get you to point to point. It does have points of interest and voice alerts, but so do the free apps along with CoPilot. The one thing that it does do, is it lets you manage all your routes online. This can be a very nice feature if you are planning a trip. You can map out an entire trip from start to finish, including places to eat and the gas stations you will have to stop at, all on their website.
- Manage trips and favorites on their site via MYWISEPILOT
- Pricey, The app costs $69.95 per year
- UI not as polished as I would like
- Doesn't set itself above any other GPS apps
Telenav was the first big thing for GPS apps on Android. Many G1 users began to use this app before Google Maps integrated navigation. Telenav gives you access to over 10 million points of interest, gas prices, traffic and much more. Although it was once the most popular GPS app, it has now fallen to the bottom of the list. Due to its high price tag and lack to support all devices, Telenav has earned itself my least favorable GPS app of the group.
- Easy to use
- Audible directions that make sense
- No support for more recent devices
- Most expensive app at $69.99 per year
Out of all the GPS apps I reviewed, I am still partial to Google Maps Navigation. For me this app does exactly what I need it to. It functions as my yellow pages and also gives me reviews on places I might go. I don't travel much out of town, but if I did I could see how paying for CoPilot would benefit me and I would recommend this option to anyone who needs the maps to be stored locally. CoPilot also has several features Google Maps does not offer such as fuel prices and multi-destination routing.