Martin on Mobile Apps

About this Blog: All smartphone and tablet apps, all the time. Veteran mobile tech journalist James A. Martin offers mobile app reviews, news, tips and more on a variety of major mobile platforms, with a focus on iOS and Android.

Martin on Mobile Apps

iOS Maps Alternatives: Finding the Best iPhone Navigation Apps

Apple's bungled iOS Maps app has lots of iPhone, iPad and iPod touch users looking for replacement apps. Here's a quick look at six alternatives, from CIO.com blogger James A. Martin.

to iPhone |

Until Apple fixes its much-maligned iOS 6 Maps app, CEO Tim Cook, in an open letter to customers posted late last week on Apple’s site, suggested iOS users check out some alternative maps apps. Cook spotlighted iOS navigation apps from Bing, MapQuest and Waze. And he also suggested bookmarking browser landing pages for Google Maps or Nokia on your home screen, which can serve (more or less) as apps on your iDevice.

Here are lists of features for each of Cook’s suggestions, plus another iOS maps app to consider. Note: This post isn’t meant to be a review roundup, just a slightly-opinioned guide to free mapping options for your iPhone, iPod touch or iPad. (For more on the Apple Maps debacle, read CIO.com blogger Tom Kaneshige's recent post on the topic.)

* Bing’s iOS app lets you search for a variety of web content, including videos, deals, movies and news, as well as get directions. For directions, you can input destinations using your voice. You get transit, walking and driving directions, but no spoken navigation. Bing for iOS currently has a user rating of 4 stars.

* MapQuest offers spoken, turn-by-turn directions, and it delivers directions for driving and walking, but not for public transit. Mapquest for iOS currently has a user rating of 4 stars.

* Waze is a crowdsourced traffic and navigation app with some 20 million users, according to its developer (Waze Inc). Along with spoken turn-by-turn directions and spoken command support, Waze provides updated reports on traffic, police incidents, accidents and construction zone information, and it’s probably the most social navigation app--you can arrange to meet other "Wazers."

Over the weekend, I asked Waze to get me to a couple of locations in San Francisco, and it worked quite well, but for some reason, the spoken directions stopped midway through several routes. Waze for iOS currently has a user rating of 5 stars.

Waze iOS screen shot

* Scout is a currently free (for a "limited time") app from TeleNav that lets you download regional maps, so its spoken directions can continue even when cell phone reception stops (when driving through a long tunnel, for example). The app takes weather- and traffic-related delays into account; offers spoken commands, lane assist, red light camera alerts and more, and it is strong in local search. I didn’t see an option for walking or public transit directions, however. Scout for iOS currently has a user rating of 3.5 stars.

Scout screen shot

* Google Maps, bookmarked on your home screen, can be particularly useful to people who use public transit. You can enter the time you want to depart or arrive at your destination, and it will give you several mass-transit routing options, plus estimate how much time the journey will take and what it will cost compared to driving. But you don't get spoken directions.

* Nokia Maps, which you can also bookmark and use like an app, provides car, walking and public transit directions (without spoken guidance). Unfortunately, the transit directions don’t estimate how much time or money the trip will require.

Do you have a mapping app or website you recommend for iOS users? If so, please tell me about it in the comments below.


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