The first GPS turn-by-turn navigator available for the iPhone has arrived. It’s called Navigon MobileNavigator and in this review on Apple we’ll show you all the features of the product.
The version that Navigon has given us to test includes all the European maps, although there is a version of the application in the App Store with the maps of Spain only. The version we are testing takes up 1.5GB of space on the iPhone, as it has all the necessary information to work ( never connects to the Internet ).
The browser has been adapted to the “philosophy” of the iPhone: large and accessible keys and simple interface to operate the application without complications but always having access to the most important parts of the product.
The main options
They are divided into four large buttons that appear as soon as you enter the application, and they are
The typical option to enter a destination address separated by steps: first the town, then the street, the street number and that’s it. If we use the European map version of Navigon, we will have the option to choose any country in Europe, so the streets and areas will be loaded from that country.
Each of the screens has predictive text for the streets that are in the database, and by pressing a button we will have full access to the list of contents that we can move with our finger. When we have entered the destination, a screen will show us a summary of the address and its graphic location within the map. This box can be moved with the finger, which will help us to place it in context if the area shown is not familiar to us.
Special destinations are categories of places such as airports, tourist areas, culture, sports, ports, exhibitions, border crossings, shopping areas, etc… We can narrow down the search by focusing on a population, in the whole country or in the vicinity.
The Navigon options also give us the option to choose three shortcuts : They will become buttons on this very screen so that we don’t have to navigate much until we reach them. In the following image you will see this section with three configured shortcuts: Gas station, restaurant and shopping centre:
This is a main shortcut button to the location we have programmed in the application options as “home”. Useful for the return from our trip at the touch of a button.
We will access directly to the real time map of the GPS, which will show us in the location where we are . We won’t see any routes ( as this is more of a “free navigation” ), but we’ll see the points of interest represented on the display.
In the typical bottom bar with shaded icon buttons, we see four options : Main Menu ( with the options I mentioned above ), Favorites, Last Destinations and Contacts.
The contacts option is very useful as it uses the information contained in the phonebook to display a simple route to the person or place indicated. However, in the contact form the “Address” part must be completed ( we can do this from Google Maps or by entering it by hand ).
The main and most important navigation screen of the application is simple, direct and very clear . In the wide navigation viewer we will see our route traced on the map, our position and the points of interest represented in 3D. This point looks really good on the screen, since for each company the system shows s or the respective logo “floating” on the map , which will undoubtedly help us to know what each thing is if we are familiar with the brand.
We can display the screen ( actually any screen of the application ) in portrait mode:
… or panoramic:
In the upper central area we’ll see the arrival time ( which contrasts with the current time clock, shown by the iPhone’s bar, which is never hidden, in the upper area ). If we click on it , we’ll change to the remaining km and if we click again, we’ll see our speed in real time ( which is quite precise, by the way, and with a very short update time: as soon as the car moves we’ll see the changes in speed ).
The options button on the right side alters the display of this navigation screen as well as the configuration of the program’s predefined parameters. One of the most visible changes is the 2D mode , with which we will see everything from an aerial perspective with the same level of detail:
Here we can also switch to night mode, the unit of distance ( kilometers or miles ), the volume of the voice, adjust the speed limits, add destinations en route and see the numerical coordinates of our position dictated by the GPS.
The digitalized voice
Obviously, it also has a digitalized voice that will guide us on our journeys. It is one of the least customizable options of the application, since it does not include different voices ( perhaps because of the “weight” that the program would have ) nor can the speed of the “speech” of the machine be adjusted. Just change the volume of it.
The integration of the voice with the navigation system is efficient, and successful : it guides us at the right time and does not get cut off or have problems representing what we are seeing graphically.
The operation in route
Navigon’s behavior in the middle of the route is really good . I tested it on an iPhone 3G, which as you know does not have a digital compass that marks the direction of sight, and the product showed perfectly the direction in which the car was moving.
The accuracy of the changes on screen with respect to the vehicle surprised me: we all know that the A-GPS of the iPhone is not any wonder and even less without the digital compass I mentioned before, but in all the Navigon tests showed me exactly the position I was in . A sign that the system works very well is on roundabouts: many times the GPS I use in the car does not know its position and Navigon circled the roundabout perfectly.
3D graphics are good, adapting to the type of road we drive on. The speed of the 3D graphics is also good, but we must take into account that the movement is fed by the GPS coordinates and the speed we have at that moment.
The quality of the maps
I didn’t have time to go all over Europe and try out all the countries ( I was going to do it for you, really ), but to evaluate the quality of the maps ( by Navteq, by the way ) I tried to “dizzy” the application, getting into secondary roads and few travelled… And it recognized them. For some it even showed the name, although most were just painted and if they were passable, they appeared on the road.
In the streets of the city, Navigon perfectly recognizes the shops and points of interest that are most needed: Gas stations, restaurants, even gyms or ATMs. Also good note for this section, although it is missing the ability to add our own points of interest to the database ( as for example, radars ).
The first turn-by-turn navigation solution presented for the iPhone by Navigon is really good . Obviously it’s still a first version and there are points to be polished, but the most important parts of the GPS navigator are very well solved and in a very elegant and simple way.
Important details of the application are that it works in portrait or landscape mode, that the iPhone screen does not enter “lock” mode while using the application…
During the whole navigation, the Internet connection of the Apple mobile phone is not used at all. This is an advantage in principle, because if we use it outside our country we save money on data fees , but it is a pity that we cannot have an “on-line” mode from which the application extracts data on weather, traffic jams, etc…
The biggest “but” to the good Navigon product is the price 74.99 Euro for the version with all European maps, and 69.99 Euro for the maps of Spain only. The product is very good and a real novelty, but if they wanted to have placed themselves in a good entry grid and gain a good user base, they should have reduced the price.
In any case, an excellent solution and a very high bet that Navigon proposes to the iPhone GPS navigator market. If you frequently use a GPS navigator, carrying one like this one built into the iPhone can be really useful.
Navigon for iPhone
App Store )