As Android users navigation is something that we just sort of take for granted. Afterall one of the biggest differentiating factors right out of the box between Android and practically every other mobile OS out there for a long time was the inclusion of Google Maps with GPS-accurate turn-by-turn navigation. So when you think of navigation apps is Google Maps the only solution that comes to mind, or do some others as well? Not only that but while Google Maps does a whole lot, including helping you navigate by bus, train, personal vehicle and even foot, there are some other scenarios to consider when navigating the world. So let’s take a look at some of these scenarios and which apps are best in each category, shall we?
Yes, the veritable king of mapping, Google, has included its maps app with every Android phone out there, and it works like a charm as long as you have a data connection. Turn-by-turn GPS navigation is standard, and Google maps will guide you through nearly every facet of daily navigation including walking and public transportation, and Google even has some of the most popular chain stores out there like Best Buy mapped out for you. Couple that with 3D buildings, excellent satellite imagery and street view and you have arguably the best free mapping software you could ever ask for. The biggest weakspot Google Maps has always has is offline mode, which does exist in some form but is super limited, as you can only cache certain areas ahead of time so that you don’t need a data connection when driving in the middle of nowhere where a cell signal might not be present. Still for free it’s hard to complain, so take the negative for what it’s worth.
Not content with Google Maps for whatever reason? There are definitely some things that Google maps either doesn’t have or doesn’t do very well, particularly offline maps, and NavFree is here to provide that for you. NavFree is a completely free GPS that won’t cost you a dime, but it does have some premium features like celebrity voices, safety camera, live parking information and more. These features can be worth the money depending on your daily use-case scenarios, and because of this ability it has a slight edge over Google Maps for some things. Not only that but NavFree is based on OSM map data, which is user submitted and corrected, so if you find a mistake or something that’s just plain not on the map you can add it for all to see.
MapQuest is arguably the godfather of all mapping programs. Years before Google started mapping the world MapQuest was around and providing driving directions that you can print out and bring along for the ride. Nowadays they have a fantastic app that provides real-time turn-by-turn GPS navigation using their own mapping data, as well as a slew of other features like automatic re-routing when the traffic gets heavy on your commute. MapQuest even provides walking directions, so when you park downtown and still need to know where to go, MapQuest will continue to guide you on foot. Some swear by its accuracy over other maps, and that’s what’s going to differentiate this from others.
Waze is the original community-driven navigation app that Google bought an has litely integrated with Google Maps, but having the original app still gives you much more than Google Maps can offer for some things. Easily the biggest drawing point of Waze is social integration, but we’re not talking Facebook or Google+ news feeds, rather people posting traffic problems like accidents, lane blockage, backups, police speed traps and more. Waze is an amazing app that’ll get you involved, and make every one else’s experiences with it all the better. Millions of people use Waze every day, and because of that you can be sure that you’re going to get up-to-date incident detection by your fellow citizens to provide you with all the information you need for your trip. The best part is that many of the things Waze does are automatic, so if you don’t want to be actively involved don’t worry, you’re still contributing by letting Waze figure out driving patterns and speeds.
Sygic uses the world-famous TomTom navigation engine and maps, and uses TomTom’s updated maps to bring you to where you need. Giving super clear directions including even zooming on on intersections and exits on highways to clearly illustrate the next place to go, Sygic really gives quite a bit more detail than you might be used to with some other navigation apps. There’s even social integration like Waze, so accidents, police speed traps, backups and more are automatically reported for other users to benefit from, and there’s even data to let you know if there are red light camera, fixed speed camera and more. Quite possibly the best part of all this is that it works with GPS alone, no internet connection is needed for guidance. This includes free offline maps, route planning and more. There’s a premium lifetime membership that will upgrade you to things like lane guidance, voice turn-by-turn navigation, and other warnings that are handy when driving.
So you’re looking to go hiking and are pretty positive there’s going to be no network to speak of where you’re going? While that’s one of the many things that BackCountry Navigator does well, there’s plenty more tricks up its proverbial sleeve too. The app costs a little bit more than other apps out there at $11.99, but if you’re a hiking aficionado this is the one you want to use all the time. Topo maps are downloadable and usable without any network whatsoever, and if you don’t like the free community-driven maps you can even subscibe to professional Accuterra Topo Maps for $19.99 a year, something that may very well save your life if you’re in the most remote parts of the US. There’s even trail maps for ATV, Whitewater Rafting and Equestrian activities too, so it’s not just limited to one thing. Try the free demo out too to make sure it’s what you’re looking for.
Maverick may just be the tool you need if you’re looking to backpack it across Europe or one of the many other supported regions as well. Maverick features a lite and a premium version, with the big differences being limitations to number of waypoints and tracks, the ability to lock compass to bearing and some other things as well. All maps are automatically cached for offline use so don’t worry about forgetting to download all the stuff you want ahead of time, just look it up and the app will do it for you. Maverick is designed for hiking, boating, geocaching and other fun outdoor activities.
Navionics may just save your butt if you’re planning on venturing out to see in that shiny new dinghy you got from the local boat shop. Navionics provides nautical navigation for boaters who are looking to take trips without taking risks or trying to read star charts for their own forecasts. Navionics features tracks, routes and distance measurement for accurate fuel gauging, and there’s even a fantastic free version to use if you don’t need all the goodies of the pro version. Support for tablets means that you can mount your favorite tablet to the dash on your boat and never have to worry about draining the battery on your phone and getting stranded at sea, and obviously this means that full offline maps support is included too.
Not happy with the maps or features that Navionics brings and want to try an equally excellent app? Marine Navigation also provides a free and pro version of its excellent navigating app, and will help you get through even the nastiest of storms in your favorite vessel. Offline maps only make sense at sea where no cell towers exist, and there’s even maps for rivers and lakes for other types of boating, fishing and water sports. Full NOAA integration ensures highly accurate weather and sea predictions, as well as worldwide sources to boot.
Air Navigation Pro
While $16 or so may seem like a lot of money initially for any app, this one may just keep you from flying into someone else, and who can put a price on that sort of thing? While it seems crazy to have a navigation app on your phone or tablet while flying, Air Navigation Pro does just that and provides moving GPS maps to keep you on course using a worldwide database of aviation waypoints. There’s also realistic aircraft instrument HSI to be found here, mimicking what you’d find in something like a commercial airliner without all that crazy size and cost.