We rely on our phones for numerous things. We need them to check the weather, stay updated on news and sports reports, keep in contact with friends and family, store photos, take notes…this list can go on forever! But one thing that we rely on them for the most is for navigation.
According to a smartphone navigation app usage study conducted by The Manifest in July of 2018, Over 77% of smartphone owners regularly use navigation apps. One-quarter of smartphone owners say they use their preferred navigation app because they believe it offers better directions. Over one-third of smartphone owners use navigation apps prior to leaving their location, 34% use them en route, and 30% use them both prior to leaving and en route equally.
Now that we have an idea of just how much we use our smartphones for navigation purposes, let’s take a look at which apps are best for our phones.
Some apps work better for Android phones than they do for iPhones. Here’s a list of some of the more popular navigation apps:
Google Maps is most arguably the most popularly used navigation app and there are many reasons why:
- With some preparation before you leave home, Google Maps offers a feature to download and save regional maps for offline use. To download a map, tap on the More menu (three horizontal lines) in the upper-left corner, then select Offline Maps. Google will recommend some maps for you to download based on your home and frequent locations. The maximum size of the map you can download is 2GB, which equates to roughly 200 x 120 miles.
- There are algorithms built into the Google Maps app that account for slow downs like traffic jams. This helps you to have a more accurate ETA time as well as to lead you to the fastest route with traffic in consideration.
- Google Maps has a clean, user-friendly interface.
- Three audible turn-by-turn alert options are available in the Google Maps app. The options include spoken directions for each step of your route, no spoken directions, or alerts only about things like travel alerts and missed turns.
- It’s FREE!
While there are many great features of Google Maps, one thing to note is that the app does occasionally get confused with the direction you are facing. This most often happens when you are sitting still for a long period of time or if you start the app while not in motion.
While Google Maps practically pioneered navigation apps, Waze is a newer app that was created by Google’s parent company, Alphabet. It is growing in popularity and there are many reasons why:
- Waze crowd-sources traffic information from other drivers using the app, creating a social element. By using this pool of information, users are notified of accidents, hazards, road closures, speed cameras, and even police cars. These are all indicated on the map as emoji-like icons.
- Like Google Maps, red lines show how long traffic jams extend for, and the app can automatically reroute you to an alternate path.
- Waze’s search function works with businesses as well as addresses and suggests places based on your location and previous entries. You can also navigate to car services, public transport, restaurants, shops, and more by leveraging Google and Foursquare.
- You can connect the Waze app to your Spotify account and manage your music directly from the app.
- Waze has a planned drive feature where you can set a destination for a future date. When that date arrives, you can start navigating to your planned destination with just a few clicks.
- Waze can guide you to the closest parking lot to your destination.
- Hands-free navigation was recently added to the app. The feature, called simply Talk to Waze, can be turned on by heading into Settings > Sound & voice > Talk to Waze > Toggle Listen for “OK Waze.” Once activated, you can just say “Ok Waze” to initiate a drive, get a preview of the route, send accident reports, or add a pit stop without ever touching your phone.
- It’s FREE!
In essence, Waze is a lot like Google Maps with added bells and whistles. With all these features, some users do report the app being somewhat bloated and busy. In addition, the app does lose reporting accuracy at high speeds. By the time you have a chance to mark an alert, the marker won’t be exactly where the road issue was.
For many iPhone users, Apple’s built in Maps app is the default go-to app.
- With the Apple Maps app, you’re able to see recent places you’ve been, or you can search for a new address or point-of-interest.
- If your destination is a business, the app pulls data from Yelp, so you can see reviews and photos of your destination if available.
- Apple Maps has arguably the cleanest and most modern interface compared to both Waze and Google Maps.
- Integrations with other apps are plenty with Apple Maps. It seamlessly integrates with apps like OpenTable, ride-sharing, Apple Pay, your calendar and other iOs apps.
- Like Waze and Google, Apple Maps features audible turn-by-turn directions options to get you where you need to go. though be prepared for some weird U-turns and routes.
- FREE for iPhone owners!
While Apple Maps has improved a lot since it was first created, it isn’t as robust as Google Maps or Waze. Google’s apps contains more accurate data, especially when it comes to businesses. However this is easily worked around as long as you know the business’ address.
While free apps like Apple Maps, Google Maps and waze are the most widely used, there are other options out there.
- CoPilot GPS is great for offline use. You’ll only need to download the app once (ideally over Wi-Fi as it is fairly data-heavy) and when that’s done, you can get turn-by-turn voice directions, plan new routes, and use Google-powered search to save new places or addresses for when you’re offline.
- Along with a clear interface showing the next two turns, you get lane guidance for highway driving with CoPilot GPS.
- Like other apps, CoPilot GPS has a rerouting feature to get you back on track if you miss a turn.
- The app logs your speed and warns when you’re nearing the limit. It also displays speed camera locations.
CoPilot GPS is best for those that want to use a navigation app without using data. However, this feature does come with a cost. CoPilotGPS is a for-pay app. In addition, it is worth it to note that this app should not be used for navigation while on foot. It’s primary focus is on in car navigation.
When you want an all-in-one guide to everything around you and how to get there, then Where to? Is an excellent app to have.
- When you first launch the app, it lets you pick a category that you want to look for, and then you can choose from a long list of subcategories. Once you’ve made your selections, a comprehensive list of results appear. You can look at a listview or switch over to a map view to get better visuals.
- Business listings include photos, address, phone number, reviews, and more.
- The app has a built in route planner whether you’re in your car, on a bike or traveling by foot.
- This app is available to iPhone users and compatible with an Apple Watch.
This app is best for those that are out of town or merely trying to see what’s near them. It is not nearly as robust or focused on the navigation aspect as the other maps mentioned thus far. However, it is easy enough to use it to find where you’re going then switch over to Google Maps, Waze or Apple Maps to get you there!
Sygic claims to be the “world’s most advanced navigation app,” It has the following features:
- Sygic features maps of all countries in the world from sources like TomTom and other providers.
- Like other navigation apps, Sygic maps can be downloaded for offline use (just have the space for it).
- The app features audible turn-by-turn directions, even telling you what lane to be in for upcoming turns.
- There are advanced safety features with Sygic that make it easier and safer when you’re driving in unfamiliar territories, such as Dynamic Lane Assistant to guide you into the correct lane.
- The Sygic App will show your speed as well as the speed limit, beeping every time you go over.
- The app will remember where you parked your car, proving very convenient for many!
- It’s FREE!
While the app is nice for international travel, it is less user friendly than other popular navigation apps. Search is slow and it does not feature any Point of Interest searches for places like gas stations or grocery stores. Also, for those that like to go a few over the speed limit, the app can be quite chatty when alerting you of your speed. Lastly, some onscreen elements are small and hard to make out at a quick glance. But overall, Sygic is an option that will work for most.
Our advice to you is to use the app that fits your preferences and is compatible with your phone. When you’re not pressed for time, try alternating between different ones to see which you like best.