Navigation Apps: Which way to go…
Getting from A to B can be a struggle on congested roads, but there is now a huge variety of free navigation apps for your smartphone that will help you beat the traffic and get to your next appointment on time.tests the best three
Google-owned Waze’s growing success is down to the app’s ease of use and crowd-sourced alerts that come from real drivers updating the system as they are travelling. In theory, this allows the Android/iOS app to automatically re-route you around traffic as conditions change on the road.
It’s good if you need to get to a meeting or appointment and traffic isn’t favourable. The app also gives police and speed camera alerts.
Waze allows you to warn drivers about problems ahead, so if you’re stuck in traffic due to an accident, you can warn other drivers, and Waze will re-route them so they don’t grind to a halt. Very altruistic.
However, Waze did come a cropper when I came across a recently closed road that it didn’t know about, and it kept trying to route me back to it, even when I was following diversion signs. That said, the other navigation apps on test did exactly the same thing. Still, I could update the Waze community to the closure, which gave me a warm, fuzzy feeling inside.
There is a speed limit indicator for the road that you’re currently driving on, and an audible warning if you exceed it. That can be annoying as the speed on the app doesn’t always correlate to your car’s speedometer, or the road you’re on, especially if you’re on a road with variable limits and it can’t keep pace with them.
The maps are impressively clear and crisp, as are the audio directions, which make it less likely you’ll miss your turning, something I’ll admit to being surprised at, given this is a free bit of software.
Here is, arguably, one of the best-known mapping companies, and important enough for Audi, BMW and Daimler to buy into the firm.
Like so many apps for your phone, Here wego benefits from live traffic updates to help you navigate around problem stretches of road, but unlike many, it also allows you to download maps so you can still find your way around when your mobile signal disappears.
That could be useful, especially if your journey takes you outside the UK and you don’t want your data switched on. You have the option to download maps for just about every continent, and the list of European countries is extensive.
Here’s free navigation app isn’t just for when you’re behind the wheel of your car though. It will also help you navigate around the city on public transport, bicycle or walking, so when you reach a metropolitan area and park your car you won’t be walking around in circles.
Available on Android and iOS, the app is easy to use and gets you on the road quickly and without fuss. Type in your destination and Here wego will give you a list of options for the car, public transport, even walking.
A useful function is the ‘Nearby’ button, which helps you find nearby attractions, restaurants, petrol stations and parking quickly and easily.
The main downside to Here wego are the voice commands, they’re perfectly understandable and given in plenty of time, but both the male and female options grate at the ear. Download the ‘surfer dude’ to reduce the aural pain.
Real-time traffic updates sent via a mixture of crowd-sourced information and mapping company Inrix are the selling point of Navmii. Much like Waze, you can warn other drivers about traffic problems, accidents, hazards, roadworks or even errors with the maps with the touch of a button, while Inrix constantly supplies up to the minute information to the app. That should mean less time wasted not moving when you need to get to that next appointment.
The problem is that the turn-by-turn voice guidance isn’t as good as the competition’s so you might end up taking a few wrong turns.
While Navmii might be free on Android/iOS there are a range of upgrades you can download at a cost to make the system more efficient and accurate.
The option of being able to download maps so you can navigate without a data connection is useful, and the UK map, along with many others, is free.
You can improve the voice guidance for £2.99, which will give you spoken local street names, and if you want the directions enunciated by Stephen Fry it’ll cost you £4.99.
You can also download a head-up display app, a speedometer and a safety camera warning function.
What you get is a usable navigation system with relatively clear maps and spoken directions, and a plethora of options so you can let it know whether you want to avoid motorways and toll roads and whether you want to be warned about speed limits and, if you download the option, safety cameras.
If you need a navigation app for your phone, whether it’s an Android or Apple device, there is a lot of choice out there, but for functionality, ease of use, and getting you to your destination with minimal stress it’s difficult to look beyond Here wego.
While Waze has a growing user base and is more than capable, the ability to download maps and use Here’s app offline gives it the edge. Nobody can guarantee they’ll have a data signal as they drive around, so why run the risk of being stuck without knowing how you’re going to get to your destination.
Here wego also offers greater peace of mind over Navmii, giving clearer voice directions, even in the hubbub and commotion of a big city, which again gives you greater assurance that you’ll reach your destination on time and feeling unflustered.
There is room for improvement, Here could learn a lot from both Waze and Navmii about real-time user updates, a function that helps you dodge traffic problems and warn others if you’re unlucky enough to get caught out.
But then Waze and Navmii could learn a lot about a clean user interface and intuitive functionality. Here wego’s ‘Nearby’ button really does make it easy to find points of interest, and the fact it can take you door-to-door is another huge plus for the software.
The final plus is that, like the other two, it’s free. Audi, BMW and Daimler invested a lot in Here in order to access its tech, but you can have a slice of it for nothing, which is definitely a good thing.