What are the best Sat Nav apps for my phone?

Our phones are becoming increasingly smart. We're now using them for everything from waking up in the morning to planning our days, playing games, music and almost everything else. There are now a number of Sat Nav applications out there ranging from the very expensive to the very cheap. Are they all the same? Are the expensive ones worth the money or are the cheap ones just as good?

Sat Nav Apps - Smartphones - Iphone - Android

We've looked around and we couldn't find a definitive answer to this. We wanted to find out which Sat Nav Application for our phones would be completely reliable, do the job properly, and hopefully not break the bank.

Tested on Iphone and Android

We have tested a number of cheap and free Sat Nav apps as alternatives to the big players out there like Tom Tom and Garmin. We tested them on the two main smartphone platforms that you are likely to be using, Apple's iOS for the iPhone and Google's Android system that has now become even more popular. We tested the iOS apps on an iPhone 4S running iOS version 5.0.1 and the Android apps on a Samsung Nexus S running Android version 2.3.4.

Secure Smartphone Mount

First we needed to get a secure car mount for the phones. We bought a Navigon car mount for the iPhone 4s as it was very sturdy, does not wobble at all which means you can clearly see the display. It came with a charger and the whole unit looked like it was made of quality materials. We bought one on Amazon. You can get cheaper car holders and chargers but the cheaper ones tend to wobble a lot, you also need the charger to be powerful enough to really charge the phone's battery. Remember that having the Sat Nav running will drain the battery more than usual.

Two Types of Sat Nav Apps

There are generally two types of Sat Nav apps out there. Ones that download maps to your phone and ones that download just the bits you need as you're driving along. The downloaded maps mean that you don't need a mobile phone data signal to put in a route which means you can set up your route even when there is no mobile phone signal. It is also especially useful if you don't have a phone plan that includes free data, or if you're driving abroad and don't want to pay expensive charges. The advantage of the others is that all the map data is likely to be bang up to date, including any traffic reports.

Sat Nav Apps - Smartphones - Iphone - Android

Two Types of Maps

There are also two kinds of maps that can be used for your Sat Nav. The big companies have their own mapping services that cost a lot to maintain and this is reflected in the price you have to pay. The new kid on the block is Open Street Maps which a number of the newer and cheaper Sat Nav apps are using. Open Street Maps is a bit like the Wikipedia of maps and relies on normal people like us to add bits in and make changes to the maps. It's come a long way in recent times and these maps should only get better as more and more people use them.

Tested in Rural and Urban areas

We decided to test all the apps in both a rural setting and in a large town where there had been recent changes to the road systems. This would tell us whether the Sat Nav maps had been updated frequently enough to cope with the changes. All of them were put through the same route. We wanted to see whether they would pick out the fastest route for us. We also deliberately set up a test where we took a deliberate wrong turn to see how quickly the Sat Nav would be able to recalculate our route and get us back on the right track.

More Apps Tested:

Conclusion

All the Sat Nav applications we tested were up to the job of navigating around the UK. If you need a free app with a downloadable map then there's nothing wrong with NavFree GPS. If you need a free app with up to the minute traffic reports then Waze has everything for you provided you have a data plan on your mobile phone.

Overall though we found that we had two favourites, Waze and Sygic.

We found Waze to be a bit addictive and tend to use it regularly when driving to warn us of any upcoming problems, as well as the enjoyment we get out of earning extra rewards!

Overall though we will be keeping Sygic installed as our main Sat Nav application due to its excellent maps, polished look and feel, and the security of knowing that it should always get us to our destination when we've got children in the car.