Windows Phone Navigation Apps

Windows Phone Central App Roundup: Navigation Apps

One of the more useful applications our Windows Phones are capable of is helping us get where we need to go. Navigation apps are rather plentiful in the Windows Phone Store and is the focus of this week's roundup.

We take a look at four feature rich navigation apps to see if you can get away with a free navigation app or if you need to invest with a paid app. Two of the titles have been around for some time and two are relatively new comers.

Navigon

NAVIGON ($23.99 US Maps/$49.99 Europe): NAVIGON was first announced just over two years ago as a feature rich navigation app for our Windows Phone. Through the years the developers haven't slowed down, improving the app's performance and adding features through updates.  It remains a feature rich navigation option for your Windows Phone.

NAVIGON has several versions including USA and Europe that vary in in pricing points. NAVIGON operates from a main menu (as opposed to a map view) that is spread across three pages; Destination, POI, and More.

Navigon Menu
NAVIGON Main Menu Pages

The Destination page offers options to find an address by name, generate directions to take you to your home address, view your favorite or "my" destinations, find an address by coordinates or find an address from your Windows Phone contacts.

The Points of Interest page has navigation tiles to help you find a wide variety of places that are nearby, in a city, within the State, launch the NAVIGON Reality Scanner, launch Google search to find a POI by keyword or search specifically for gas stations, parking or restaurants.

The More page holds options to view the map, view your saved routes, view GPS information, access the POI Settings and manage your maps.

Throughout the main pages of NAVIGON you will find four control buttons at the bottom of the screen that will send you to the app's settings, view your NAVIGON route profile, view local traffic and visit the NAVIGON shop. The NAVIGON shop has options to purchase a few add-ons, NAVIGON Europe or NAVIGON Australia.

The route profile includes options for speed profiles (car, truck, motorcycle, etc.), type of route (optimum, fastest, shortest, etc.), Highway use, Toll Road avoidance, and Ferry avoidance.

NAVIGON does have off-line maps, provided by NAVTEQ, that are downloaded through the Map Manager on the More Page. Maps are downloaded by State in the USA version and can be updated as needed. This is a great feature in that it reduces the dependency on data while on the road.  Plus you download only the maps you need, minimizing the storage burden.

NAVIGON supports horizontal and portrait orientation for both the main pages and map views. This is helpful and allows you to use the full app without bouncing back and forth between orientations.

Navigon Settings
NAVIGON Settings Menus

Settings for NAVIGON are rather extensive and include:

  • General Settings: These settings cover language, voice styles, an energy saver option, distance unit choices, temperature units, Day/Night modes, Live Services on/off, Lock Screen Orientation, and turning your location services on/off.  You can also set up a connection with the a Garmin HUD unit.
  • Navigation Settings: These settings deal mainly with your map display and include allowing NAVIGON to run under a lockscreen, displaying My Routes, your map style (3D or 2D), display street names (on/off), turning on the active lane assistant, turning on/off the E-Compass display, setting the urban and rural speed limits, and turning on/off acoustic warnings for speed limits.
  • Red Light Camera: This setting allows you to be warned about red light camera locations known by NAVIGON. There is a warning that use of this feature may be restricted in some areas and you can uninstall this feature to avoid getting into trouble.
  • Traffic: Here is how you manage how NAVIGON handles traffic information. It includes settings on how you consider traffic information (on request or automatic), how NAVIGON announces traffic events base on estimated travel time loss, display traffic check on/off, and read out traffic information on/off.
  • Optimize Traffic Setting: NAVIGON gives you the option to send anonymous "floating car data" that is used to help calculate travel times, planning of routes and other navigational variables.

Your basic map view (no route planned) has your speed limit up top, your current location/street name down below and button to access the traffic information in the upper left corner. You also have access to your settings, profile, NAVIGON's Reality Scanner and GPS info from the button controls and three-dot menu at the very bottom of the screen.  Reality Scanner is an augmented reality view that uses your Windows Phone camera and overlays points of interest over your camera view.

You can tap the map to scroll about by touch and POI's will be displayed as you move about.  There is a push-pin button that you can move into position to establish a destination.  The address and coordinates will appear at the top of the screen as you move the push pin and when set, just tap the arrow next to the address display to generate your route.

Navigon
NAVIGON Map View and POI information

There are other ways to generate a route with NAVIGON. From the main pages you can use the options on the Destination page, find a POI from the POI Page or set a destination from the map view with the push pin. Regardless of your method, once you establish a destination you will be sent to a series of summary pages that will show a map of your destination, any information on your destination, any traffic that might impact your travels, and weather information for your area. You also have the option to send your destination to a friend via email or text as well as saving your destination and pin it to your Start Screen for easy access.

Once set, tap the Start control button at the bottom of the screen and you'll be sent an overview map of your route with a summary on distance and time at the bottom of the screen. You will also see a recommended route and a My Route option. Tap whichever box you prefer to go to the map and start your travels.

Navigon navigation views
NAVIGON Route Overview and Map View

The navigation screen for NAVIGON has your speed, distance to your destination, and time of arrival displayed across the top of the screen. The distance to your next turn is displayed to the left and your current road traveled across the bottom of the screen. Four button controls line the right that include traffic, profile, settings, and mute sound. You can also view POI on your route, skip current destination (when multiple destinations are set), GPS information, and Block distance information from the three-dot menu.

As far as accuracy is concerned, NAVIGON does a very good job of things. Routes are recalculated quickly when you miss a turn and your position is displayed with accuracy.  You do work a lot off menu pages instead of the map view but that's not necessarily a bad thing.

NAVIGON is a feature rich, very capable navigation app for your Windows Phone 8 or 7.x device. It's biggest weakness is that there isn't a trial version available to let you try things out before investing in the app. If you choose NAVIGON I don't think you've made a bad choice but it would be nice to try things out first.

NAVIGON USA is currently running $23.99 (doesn't include Canada or Mexico) and NAVIGON Europe is currently running $49.99 (covers most of Western Europe).

CoPilot GPS

CoPilot GPS (free/in-app purchases): CoPilot GPS is one of the newer navigation options available. It is only available for Windows Phone 8 devices and is free with upgrades that can be purchased in-app. You will need to register with CoPilot Live to enable in-app purchases and backup favorites to the cloud.

You have one downloadable map with the free version and additional maps can be purchased in-app. Maps are available for US/Canada, UK/Ireland, Balkans, Belgium/Netherlands/Luxemburg, Russia, France, Germany, Greece, Iberia, Nordics, Poland, Romania, Turkey, Ukraine, Southern Africa, Australia/New Zealand, Brazil, and Middle East.

Along with additional maps you can upgrade the free version of CoPilot GPS to full in-car navigation features via an in-app purchase of $8.99. These features include unlimited use of turn-by-turn guidance with voice instructions, 3D maps, speed limit warnings ClearTurn display and lane indicator arrows. There is a fourteen day trial for the in-car navigation services. We'll look at things with the full features in play to see if they are worth the extra bucks.

Additional in-app purchase include Active Traffic, Text to Speech, and Fuel Prices. We aren't sure if these add ons are currently available. They were not listed on the Features and Upgrades page within the app but are listed on CoPilots website.

CoPilot GPS
CoPilot GPS Menus

As far as the application is concerned, CoPilot GPS first launches with a menu page with options to view the map or view the main menu. You can opt out of this page by unchecking the "Show Start Screen" option and the app will launch directly to the map view.  CoPilot GPS supports horizontal and portrait orientation for both menu and map views which does come in handy.

CoPilot Map View
CoPilot GPS Map View and POI Information

The map view has your current speed and a compass in the bottom corners and zoom controls up top. Your current road is listed across the bottom of the screen and a checkered box sits at the bottom left corner. That checkered box pulls up a set of display and navigation options that include toggling between 2D and 3D map views, finding POIs, view your favorite places, toggle between driving and walking views, hide the compass, hide the speed, and launch the main menu.

If you tap on a POI icon or a spot on a roadway, CoPilot will generate a pop-up menu offering details on that spot with the option to generate a route to that destination. If the spot on the map is a business, you will also see (if available) contact information for that location and weather information for that area.

CoPilot GPS Menu
CoPilot GPS Menu Pages

The main menu is separated into five categories. You have Go To, Route, CoPilot Live, Settings, and More pages. They break down as follows.

Go To: The Go To page contains options to set up routes. You can create a route by entering an address, choose a destination from My Place (favorites), find a point of interest, find a destination from your contacts, browse the map and find a destination, use PhotoNav (augmented reality), or enter a destinations coordinates.

Points of Interest include broad categories (restaurants, hotels, gas stations, etc.) along with the ability to search via Google, Wikipedia and Yelp.

Route: These options deal with established routes you have set. You can view an overview map of your route, plan or edit your trip (multiple destinations), set detours, view the ActiveTraffic Map, clear your destination and set your vehicle preferences.

Vehicle preferences include your vehicle type, route preference (quickest, shortest, avoid toll roads, avoid ferries, etc.) and road speeds.

CoPilot Live: This page offers options related to your CoPilot Live account. From this page you can view and purchase features and upgrades, manage your downloaded maps, view any news and update information about CoPilot, access the Help section, submit map improvement changes, view your account information/change password, recommend CoPilot to a friend, and set-up cloud backup for your favorites.

Settings: Settings for CoPilot GPS are rather extensive. You have map display options that include map styles, what is displayed on the map, and 2D/3D settings. There are guidance options for ClearTurn Display (shows a realistic view with lane indicator arrows and sign posts for major intersections/exchanges), turn warning distances, and turn announcements.

You also have settings for ActiveTraffic, Safety Cameras, Speed Limits, Language and Voice options, Sharing set-up for Twitter and Facebook, GPS Status, Sound levels, Cellular Data Usage options, Screen orientation, Units of measurement, a few personalization options, and a restore to default settings option.

CoPilot GPS Settings
CoPilot GPS Settings

Needless to say, CoPilot has a very respectable settings menu.

More: This page covers everything that didn't fit in the previous four pages. Here you can view fuel prices (add on and not necessarily available), weather information for your location or destination, parking locations, the option to save your current location to your favorites, check in through Facebook and view nearby Wikipedia places.

Regardless of how you set your destination, once you do a summary screen will be generated that displays on overview of your route. From the overview screen you have options to edit your trip and drag your route (edit by dragging the route lines). Along the bottom of the screen you'll see the travel time, distance and arrival time displayed with options to view alternate routes or go ahead with the recommended route.

CoPilot GPS
CoPilot GPS Route Overview and Map View

Once you tap "go" you'll be sent to the main map view that will have a progress bar for your route displayed on the right side of the screen. Along the bottom of the screen you will see your travel distance, distance to the next turn, your current street location and estimated arrival time. The blue checkered grid is also present the will pull up your menu options.

Menu options for your route menu include 2D/3D map view toggle, view turn by turn directions, add a detour to your trip, find POI's along the route, view the route overview, toggle between walking and driving routes, clear the route (cancel the trip) and access the main menu pages.

CoPilot GPS is a feature rich navigation app for your Windows Phone. While the core app is free, to really appreciate the capabilities of CoPilot you'll need to pay the $8.99 for the full in-car navigation experience. The core app does a nice job of things but lacks features including:

  • Detour routing
  • Speed Limit Indicators
  • ClearTurn Guidance
  • ActiveTraffic information
  • Turn by Turn directions
  • 3D Map views
  • Parking locations.

Is the upgrade worth the price of admission?  I'm not sure you need the Fuel Price or Parking feature but the $8.99 in-car navigation/premium features package is well worth the price and may make CoPilot the biggest bang for your buck amongst the navigation apps.

CoPilot GPS's performance was on par with your typical stand alone GPS units (e.g. TomTom). Route recalculations were fast, audible directions spot on and location accuracy correct. The menu does take a little time to get used to but not so much because of poor design. Instead, it's just a case of having so many menu options to deal with that takes a little time to get acclimated to.

CoPilot GPS is a free app for your Windows Phone 8 devices. Again, you can upgrade to a premium version through an in-app purchase as well as buy additional maps and features.

You can find CoPilot GPS here in the Windows Phone Store.

Garmin StreetPilot

Garmin StreetPilot ($29.99): Garmin StreetPilot, like NAVIGON, has been around for some time. It is another feature rich option to fill your navigation needs but lacks one feature that may be a deal breaker for many.  Garmin StreetPilot lacks downloadable maps which means your online more as you travel. This could be problematic if you hit a dead-zone where cellular coverage is non-existent or barely reaches one bar.

Garmin StreetPilot
Garmin StreetPilot Main Menu Pages

Like NAVIGON, Garmin StreetPilot operates from a collection of main menu pages. These pages include:

  • Where To?: This page holds several options for locating your destination plus as well as finding additional information about your travels. You can perform a keyword search, use Google Places, review your recently found destinations, check in through FourSquare, view Points of Interest in your area, view your favorites, find a destination from your Windows Phone contacts, plan a multiple destination trip, check your flight status, search for a City, and search for an intersection.
  • My Locations: This page will display your favorite locations, your home location, and locations recently found/used.
  • Traffic: A listing of any traffic issues in your area that may effect your travel.
  • Suggestions: Garmin will generate a list of suggested destinations based on your travel history.

At the bottom of Garmin's main pages have two control buttons. One to view the map and another to access the app's settings.

If you are familiar with Garmin's stand alone GPS units you'll see similarities with Garmin StreetPilot's map view. Your driving direction and speed is displayed at the bottom of the screen. Zoom controls are along the top of the screen with your direction of travel/road name. There is also a button control that will pull up the map layer options and which POI's you want displayed.

Garmin StreetPilot
Garmin StreetPilot Map View, Address Pop-up Bubble and Information Screen

Tapping a location on the map will pull up a pop-up window that will have options to "go" to the point (generate directions), pull up more detailed information on the location, and view the weather for that spot. If the location is a POI you'll get details on the business as well.

Garmin StreetPilot Settings
Garmin StreetPilot Settings

Settings for Garmin StreetPilot covers a wide range of areas and is spread out across multiple pages. These pages include:

  • General Settings: Here is where you set your home location, set up social networks (Foursquare and Facebook), view the about screen, turn on/off warning pages, turn on/off a compass warning, and turn on/off location services.
  • Sound and Display: Options include backlight options (always on, on while map is displayed, or system default), map color mode (day, night, auto), voice personality choices, voice directions on/off, and speed limit alerts on/off.
  • Navigation: This is where you set your variables that will determine your routes. They include route preferences (faster, shorter, or ask before routing), route optimized for vehicle or walking, vehicle icon options, establishing any avoidances (traffic, u-turns, toll roads, unpaved roads, etc.), use of public transportation, junction views on/off, and allowing Garmin to run while the screen is locked.
  • Map Layers: This is the same settings menu that you'll see if you tap the layers button from the map view. Available layers include traffic, 3D buildings, favorites, suggestions, Wikipedia locations, public transportation, FourSquare locations, Facebook check-ins and your Points of Interest.
  • Locale: Here is where you set your distance and temperature units.

With Garmin, once you set a destination it calculates the best route based on your navigation settings. The route map has your next turn and distance along with your current road displayed across the top of the screen. At the bottom of the screen is your destination arrival time, speed and link to navigation options. From the route map your navigation options include a route overview, turn by turn directions, switching to walking mode, and stop navigating all together.

Garmin StreetPilot
Garmin StreetPilot Route Overview and Map View

You can add additional destinations by tapping on the map on the location or POI icon. A pop-up menu will appear that offers information on that location and the option to add it to your current route.

Performance wise, Garmin StreetPilot was on par with the other navigation apps with one exception.  While it charted your location with accuracy it took a little longer to calculate routes and calculate route adjustments when you strayed off the beaten path.  The latter means you sit in the driveway or parking lot a few seconds longer but the delay in re-calculating your route could send you way off course.

While Garmin StreetPilot is a capable navigation app for your Windows Phone, you can't help but wonder why it doesn't have offline maps yet. To it's credit, if airports are involve in your travels the Flight Information feature can come in handy and if you're transitioning from a stand alone Garmin GPS unit there is that familiarity factor. Still, it's hard to make up for the lack of offline maps.

There is another feature that helps Garmin StreetPilot, a trial version.  The trial version does have some feature limitations but it's enough to either sell you on StreetPilot or convince you to keep shopping for your Windows Phone navigation app.

Garmin StreePilot is available for both Windows Phone 8 and 7.x devices. You can pick it up here in the Windows Phone Store.

Scout GPS Maps

Scout GPS Maps (free/subscription): Scout GPS Maps is another relatively new navigation app for Windows Phone. Similar to CoPilot, Scout GPS Maps is a free app with the option to upgrade through an in-app subscription (as oppose to purchasing features).

When you first launch Scout GPS Maps you will need to register with your Windows Phone telephone number. A registration code will be sent to you via SMS. Once registered, you will be sent to Scout's home screen.  Scout's home screen is your Dashboard which is is composed of three menu pages and an arrow that will hide the Dashboard revealing your map view.  While you can hide the Dashboard with the down arrow that sits in the upper right corner of the screen to reveal the map view, a keyword search field will be present regardless.  The keyword search field also has a voice command prompt to enter your addresses audibly.

Scout GPS Maps
Scout GPS Maps Main Menus

The menu pages on Scout's Dashboard includes:

  • Navigation Page: This page will display your current location and current weather conditions along with options to resume a trip, generate a route home, generate a route to your work address, view your recent trips, find addresses from your contacts, and view your favorite destinations.  When traveling a route, your remaining distance and travel time will be displayed on this page as well.
  • Nearby Page: This page is populated with eleven POI categories as well as the option to view all the POI categories. Just tap an icon and a list of those locations nearby and a thumbnail map charting these locations will be generated. All you need to do is tap on a POI listing to highlight it and choose the "drive to" control button at the bottom of the screen to generate driving directions. You also have options to call the business and share the location.
  • My Profile Page: Here is where you'll find your account information, settings and feedback options for the developer. Your account information is where you'll enter your name, email address and user name for Scout. You will also find your subscriptions listed on your account screen.

If you need to scroll around the map, just tap the down arrow to view Scout GPS Map's map. Unfortunately, Scout GPS Maps does not support horizontal viewing unless you are in the navigation route view of the map. This means there is a lot of back and forth between horizontal and portrait orientation unless you learn to read and type sideways.

Scout GPS Maps
Scout GPS Maps Map, Location Overview and Nearby POI Views

Anyways... the map view has the keyword search field up top, your zoom controls along the right side and your layer options on the left. You also have a button that will center the map on your location on the left side as well. Layers include switching between the road map and satellite views, traffic overlay and red light camera locations. From the map view if you tap and hold on an area for a few seconds, information on that point will pop-up.  The information includes the address, the ability to search nearby for POI's, the option to share the location, pin the location to your Windows Phone Start Screen, and the ability to generate driving directions to that point.  POI's are not displayed on the map view.

Scout GPS Maps
Scout GPS Maps Settings

Scout GPS Maps has a healthy amount of settings that are accessible from the Dashboard. They are broken down across three pages as follows:

  • General: Here you will find options to set your region, language, units of measurement, notifications, and location services.
  • Navigation: You have route settings (fastest, shortest, avoid toll roads, etc.), Map color (day, night, auto), map style (2D/3D), speed limit display, lane assistant on/off, traffic alerts on/off, traffic camera alerts, speed trap alerts and audio guidance settings.
  • Home and Work: If you want to take advantage of the one-touch navigation from the Dashboard for your home and work addresses, here is where you enter those addresses.

As far as offline maps are concerned, Scout GPS Maps does not have downloadable maps. Instead they support caching of maps data for your route calculation which helps but could be an issue when straying into data poor areas. It is our understanding that offline maps are in the works and will be available through a future update.

Once you determine your destination with Scout GPS Maps, an overview of your route is generated that will show you your travel distance and time. At the bottom of the overview you have options to view your route. There is a turn by turn view (directions button) or a map view (navigate view).

The turn by turn view is simply that, a list of turn by turn directions for your route. Above the list a thumbnail map will follow along with your travels. This view does not support horizontal orientation.

Scout GPS Maps
Scout GPS Maps Directions and Navigate Views

The navigate view is your traditional map view of your route. This view does support horizontal orientation and has your next turn displayed at the top of the screen. You'll also see your route's travel distance and time displayed at the top of the screen.

Down below on the navigate view is your speed and current location displayed along with four control buttons (also present on the directions view) to initiate voice commands, view your route, search for locations along your route, and stop the navigation. With the navigation view you can bounce between a turn by turn listing and the map view by tapping the route view button. This option is not available in the directions view.

As with the other navigation apps in this week's roundup, Scout GPS recalculated routes with very little delay, has plenty of settings, tons of POI categories, and charts your location with accuracy. The user interface is one of the nicest we've seen but it isn't without quirks.  I like the concept of being able to pull up your menus from the map view but moving around Scout GPS Maps needs to be a little more fluid.

You can't bounce between Directions and Navigate views for your route, horizontal view is limited, and point of interests aren't displayed on your map. I don't know if any of these concerns are deal breakers but the do put Scout GPS Maps a little behind the alternatives.  To Scout's credit, it is a new app and likely to grow in features as updates become available.

Now... the question is, "Can I live with the free version or should I upgrade to the premium version?".

The upgrade features include the voice turn by turn directions, traffic alerts, maps with red light camera and traffic flow layers and voice commands. Features that make the app more well rounded.  Without the upgrade, you have a scaled down navigation app that will get you where you need to go, but with a lot less flair. You'll have to live with displayed turn by turn directions, see your traffic issues as you drive up on them and be more careful when you try to make that yellow light to avoid traffic cameras.

Personally, at this stage, I just don't see the upgrade cost being worth it. However, your needs may dictate otherwise. Scout GPS Maps does give you a thirty day free trail of the upgrade features to let you give them a try. If you like what you see, it'll cost you $24.99 annually.  While some of the alternatives are just as pricey, their cost is a one time purchase not an annual subscription.

Scout GPS Maps is available for Windows Phone 8. It is a free app and you can download Scout GPS Maps here in the Windows Phone Store.

 

So which is the best?

I like CoPilot's option to stick with the free version or buy what you need through in-app purchases but its user interface can get a little frustrating simply because there is so much to sort out (which isn't necessarily a bad thing).  Scout GPS Maps has an attractive user interface but isn't the most fluid.  Scout GPS Maps also lacks offline maps, horizontal view throughout the app, and is the priciest option if you choose the premium version.  

Garmin StreetPilot also lacks offline maps but otherwise it's a respectable choice but seems to be the one option that really hasn't seen much improvement since first being launched.  Garmin's performance was also slightly slower than the alternatives with longer delays in calculating routes.  NAVIGON is a quality choice with plenty of menu options, features and offline maps.  I wouldn't mind seeing better map interface with NAVIGON that would minimize the need to bounce back and forth between the map view and menu pages.

Each option has it's pros and cons with each choice very capable of helping you find your way around town.  While there may not be a bad choice in the group, the challenge is choosing which one fits your needs best.  Outside these four you also have options to consider such as Nokia HERE Drive if you're using a Windows Phone 8 device, gMaps, Turn by Turn Navigation and even Nokia HERE Maps does a nice job of things.

We picked four feature rich navigation apps for this week's roundup and if you've got a favorite, let us know in the comments below.

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