Navigation apps on the Verizon iPhone

The best part of being on the Sprint Network is having lots a cool features and services included in the basic monthly cell phone charges. So for a low cost plan you have access to unlimited free phone calls to any other cell phone (regardless of their network) and unlimited text messaging, and unlimited data. Another free service that I really like is the Sprint Navigation app on my Palm Pixi WebOS phone, which I use frequently when driving out of town on a business trip.

This app is very well written, and works great on my Palm Pixi smartphone. Even with the tiny screen on my Pixi, I can still clearly see the roads and upcoming turns, etc. and the voice turn-by-turn directions are wonderfully clear and and timed well.

So of course for my new Verizon iPhone, I was expecting to find a similar navigation app available. Now, Verizon does have a very similar navigation app (called VZ Naviator), but they charge an extra $4.99 per month to use the service. So I decided to look at alternative free apps and found two: Mapquest and NavFree.

I tested Mapquest on a recent drive down to a destination about 40 miles from my home in the city. After using the Sprint Navigator app for over a year, I have to say that Mapquest is very limited and not very user-friendly. The displayed maps look like a 2D google map and are very hard to view while driving. There is no remaining time or distance info displayed, and the “next turn” info is very tiny and hard to read. Also, the turn-by-turn voice directions are very short and hard to hear. The timing of these voice directions are off and you’re only told once the name of the next turn. As such, I dismissed using Mapquest on the iPhone for any real navigating.

On the way back home I decided to use Verizon’s VZ Navigator app which turned out to be very similar to Sprint’s equivalent app. VZ Navigator’s displayed map was very clear and large, with great icons and direction indicators. Info such as remaining time/distance and next turn were also very clearly displayed, and the turn-by-turn directions worked fantastically. In the end, I was very pleased with VZ Navigator but it does come with with the extra monthly charge.

I didn’t have a change to use NavFree, but it seemed to have better features than Mapquest. The maps looked good (in 3D) and all of the options looked good, but I’ll need to really give it a good testing to see how well it works against VZ Navigator. Since NavFree seems to be a grass-roots effort, the mapping data might be a bit questionable.

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