Provides: Turn-by-turn navigation on iPhone Manufacturer:Garmin System Requirements: iOS 4.0+, iPhone 3G+, iPad + Price: $0.99, $2.99 for one month of navigation or $29.99 for one year Availability:Out now
Before the iPhone, GPS devices could run you upwards of $500 quite easily. Just like the demise of the point-and-shoot camera, the evolution of the smartphone into an all-in-one device has made it difficult for standalone GPS devices. But until now, even the turn-by-turn GPS navigation apps have been quite expensive (Garmin’s nav apps run from $50-60, and are limited to one country/continent). With StreetPilot onDemand ($0.99), you can get a month-long subscription to spoken, turn-by-turn navigation for only $2.99. This app is great for folks who know their way around their hometown, but would like a GPS when out of town or on vacation (and you know it is always up-to-date, unlike the GPS units available at car rental agencies!).
The basic idea and interface of the StreetPilot app is the same as the standalone GPS devices it replaces, only with infinitely more possibilities. You start by entering an address, by default in the old-school Number->Street->City format (which feels antiquated; if you want to copy and paste an address from a website, use the Google Local Search option). Taking advantage of the smartphone’s data connection, StreetPilot allows you to search for local restaurants, gas stations, transportation/lodging, shopping, and much more using one of the Local Search options (which never require manual updating, like old GPS POI databases).
Once you have found your destination, navigation is both simple and useful. The interface looks complicated, but it does provide logical access to the information you need: traffic alerts, iPod controls (which are too complicated to use while driving, so stick with a double tap of the home button then swipe right), and useful details like highlighting which lanes turn in the direction you need to go as well as the speed limit for most major roads. The app includes only one voice that speaks street names, but all the included voices are easy to understand, and the app does a good job of guiding you with reminders of when to turn and where.
One of the app’s standout features is the photoReal junction view, which shows you a lifelike rendering of upcoming intersections/forks. The navigation route is clearly highlighted in purple, matching what you have been looking at on the map, and the photoReal view shows you the street signs. It even helpfully dims the sign of the road you do not want to take, to more easily call attention to which road you do want to stay on. During a trip to Los Angeles, StreetPilot provided effortless guidance even on roads that were under heavy construction (and, in fact, showed signs that had been removed by construction crews but which where essential to get off LA’s gridlocked highways).
There When You Need It
Standalone GPS devices are undoubtedly a much tougher sell nowadays than they were even a few years ago. Why pay for a device that will be constantly out of date? For those of us who only use GPS occasionally (on road trips, in an unfamiliar city, going somewhere new closer to home), $3 is just the right price for the assurance that we can avoid getting lost. The “onDemand” part of this app’s name describes its greatest feature; you buy either one month or one year of voice-guided navigation and traffic updates only when needed via in-app purchase. The $0.99 purchase price of the app includes 30 days of Premium Navigation with traffic updates.
Without a subscription, the StreetPilot onDemand app is still good for basic walking/driving directions, but without voice prompts. Maps download automatically as needed, and recently viewed maps are cached for faster access. Sans subscription, the app functions much like the built in Google Maps app, allowing you to get routes to addresses in your contacts or via searches; unlike the built-in app, it includes automatically updated turn-by-turn directions (just without voice prompts).
Once you have arrived, StreetPilot allows you to check in on social media networks like Foursquare and Facebook directly within the app (those suffering from information overload can disable this feature). Customizations include some new voice options (though only the built-in default voice, Samantha, will speak street names) as well as new vehicle/pedestrian icons. You can choose to be anything from a boring sedan to a flashy sportscar, a Christmas cookie to Santa’s sleigh. There are even options for well-known characters like SpongeBob SquarePants or Dora the Explorer, and objects like a broomstick (Nimbus 2000 anyone?) and what appears to be a delicious Chipotle burrito. With space in mind, Garmin has left these as optional downloads, so the app’s footprint remains at a modest 18.7 MB.