Navigon for iPhone and iPod Touch Review


Navigon MobileNavigator for iPhone

Navigon is a reputable name in the satellite navigation industry and has always produced some of the most reliable systems; they have now decided to port their navigation software to the iPhone and iPod Touch. 










First experience and Features:

To make this a fair review and to test user experience I decided that I wouldn't even open up the application until I was in the car. Clicking the navigon button on the home screen launches the app and in a very impressive 7 seconds you are at the main menu screen.

The main menu screen is very simple (which is a good thing in a navigation app) and displays 4 main options - enter an address, search for POI, take me home and show map. As with the whole of the app - this can be viewed in vertical and horizontal mode.


Enter an address - After pressing this button you are shown a screen which allows you to click a flag in the top right corner (for versions of the app with multiple countries so that you can select the destination country). 

After selecting the country - the last country you selected is the default - you type in the city you want to go to - or if you have purchased the UK Postcode database via an in-app purchase you can type in a full UK postcode and press next.  

If you type in a full UK postcode pressing next will take you to a preview of your destination. Otherwise, after selecting 'city' you press next and then enter a street name. Finally, you can either enter a door number or a street which intersects with your chosen street.

After all this is confirmed you are taken to a screen with the map of the location and a pin showing where your destination is. there are two buttons on this screen - "Start navigation" which does what is self-explanatory and a "more" button which which pressed opens up a menu:

It allows you to "send destination" to a friend via the iPhone's mail app, select the route profile which allows you to select the type of car, route and select whether to use motorways, toll roads, ferries and restricted areas. More on this when we get to the settings later on. The screenshot on the left shows this "more" menu open, pressing cancel will return the screen to the map and make the "start navigation" button clickable.

My experience with this "enter an address" screen was 100% positive - entering a country was simple, full UK postcode search (£1.19 extra) is a must. When you get to the screen on the left or straight after, if you don't yet have a GPS signal, Navigon MyRoutes kicks in - it gives you three different routes - one of them is called MyRoute which takes into account what type of car you have chosen in the options, whether you want a fast route or a short route and what time of day and day of week it is. 



You then can see what route the three different routes take by looking at the different coloured lines on the map. "My Route" is clearly labelled. To illustrate this the screenshot to the left shows this.

MyRoutes has worked very well for me personally and takes the routes that I would take around London on certain days to avoid traffic and get me to my destination faster.

So let's go back to the main screen again when you open the app. This time let's take a look at what happens when you click on "Search for POI." After pressing this there are quite a few options:
  • in a City - Enter a city and press "next" then select from the various options: petrol station, parking, restaurant, lodging, ATM, shopping, airport, railway station, automotive dealers and service dealers, motorcycle dealer, car rental, tourist/nature, culture, sports, schools and libraries, government office, health care, exhibition, post office, sanctuary and business facility. Within these categories you can choose a sub-category, eg. in restaurants you can choose Fast Food, Pizza, Subway, McDonald's, Burger king, Pizza Hut and much more. Yes, there are a lot, if you want you can just click "all categories". Click next and a host of options will appear and you can sort through them by scrolling or by typing in a more specific location
  • Nationwide - Same as above but nationwide, not just in a specific city.
  • Nearby - The same as above but within a radius around you which seems to be around 5 miles.
  • Nearest POI -  click on the buttons and it shows you the closest, you select which one you want to go to - it sorts by distance and includes all necessary information for a petrol station, parking space or food place.
  • Google - I didn't initially notice this button, but this is exactly the kind of feature which a modern sat nav needs - a constantly updated database of locations provided by the world's leading search engine. I couldn't find Homebase using any of the other options - the google button was a saviour, if you can find it on Google map, you'll find it here - just type in for example "homebase stratford" and it will find all the Homebase's near Stratford - it then lists them with their address - perfect! This is a killer feature for this application - very, very well done Navigon!
Finally, when you select your POI using this sat nav you will regularly also have access to the place's phone number which you just tap to call!




Back to the main opening screen and it is time to cover the last two options. "Take me home" does exactly what it says on the tin. The first time you use this option, you enter an address as your home address and it will calculate the route home.

"Show map" just shows you a map around where you currently are which can be useful at times.

So at the bottom of the main menu screen to the left, you can see 4 more options - favourites, recents, contacts and more.

"Favourites" keeps all the addresses you save as your favourites so you don't have to enter addresses you go to often regularly. "Recents"shows addresses you have recently looked at.

Rather confusingly "Contacts" does not allow you to call your contacts but simply allows you to go to their house address if you have saved that in the native iphone app. This makes this feature rather useless as you will most likely not have these addresses saved in your contacts as many of your contacts probably won't want to share their house location with you unless they are friends and family. Although,it may be useful for work addresses, it does seem limited without the option to call your contacts.

The "more" button opens up a menu with lots more options:

  • "Route" allows you to create a multi-point route which you can then save and load in the future
  • "Traffic"allows you to see any traffic problems - sorted by distance from your current location, they detail the nature of the accident, the road and the junction. Clicking one will give you a more detailed view of the problem and says how much time it will add to your journey and how long the queues are which have been caused by the problem.
  • "Extras" allows you to purchase the three in-app purchases: UK Postcode Navigation which is £1.19 and activates instantly without a download, Navigon Traffic Live also updates instantly and costs £6.99 - this is a lifetime subscription meaning it is not a monthly payment unlike some of the competition; finally Panorama View at £6.99 requires a 245MB download over wifi and shows you your surrounding in 3D - I would skip this one personally.
  • "Coordinates" seems to allow you to enter precise coordinates in a variety of formats if you know them - this is very useful and easy to use in important situations. You can also send your position via email in latitude and longitude and the email contains a link to open up Navigon on the recipient's iPhone and a Google maps link for those without the software.
  • "Direct help" gives you your position in road names, locations and latitude and longitude and searches for the nearest petrol station, police station, hospital and pharmacy and allows you to call them if their number is available or lets you navigate to them.
Options menu:
Finally "options" open a whole menu of its own with configurable options. You can choose whether you want the map in 2D or 3D, whether you want it in day or night mode or set it to automatically switch. You can also configure whether to shows street names during navigation and route information as well. These were defaulted as "off" for me but I recommend switching them on. You can also select what distance unit which allows you to select whether to display in miles or kilometres.

When on a route you can press options and add an interim destination, a POI on the route, select whether you are in a car, motorbike, lorry, bicycle or a pedestrian. You can also select your type of route: fast, optimum, short or scenic. Also you can display MyRoutes and a turn-by-turn list.

You can select how to consider traffic information: off, automatically change route or on request only. 

You can post to Twitter and Facebook through the social networking section, you can display speed limit and have warnings appear when you are speeding. You can also select whether you want speed/safety camera warnings. Finally you can select the volume, and whether you want to the voice to use TTS (Text to Speech) meaning it reads the name of the street to turn onto instead of just saying "turn left" it will say "turn left onto the A123."

While driving:
After turning on "show street names" and "route info" at the bottom it displays your estimated arrive time and how far until the destination. If these are not turned on only the estimated arrive time will show at the top.

The screen itself is fairly small but to be fair Navigon has made the best of the screen real estate. The cars on the top right indicate that there are traffic problems - it will go red and there will be a audio warning to indicate this, you can tap it to take a look at the problems on-route and even re-route around them.

The maps are clear to read and the street names are readable. When approaching a speed camera there is an audio warning they may also be a visual warning but I did not look to check when the warning was announced - it is called something like "traffic control/calming" instead of a speed camera or safety camera.

At the bottom right of the screen there is an iPod click it and you will see the screen below.

This looks a lot like the normal iPod controls and works very well, clicking "map" will take you back to the map. Music plays and then fades off before an instruction in given - it then fades back in. This is not intrusive and works perfectly. If you get a call during navigation it will not give you instructions but it will return back to navigation after the call - it will re-route you if you have missed a street. This is an Apple iPhone limitation not an app limitation.

When crossing a border it displays all necessary info such as alcohol limits, speed limits and anything else which is important.

The navigation software works best in landscape for me as that is how I am used to seeing a sat nav. The app never crashed once when I was using it which I really liked.

Final notes:
Navigon currently has a price promotion running until April 12th 2010 - the UK app currently costs £29.49, the Europe version costs £42.99. A US and Canada version is available for £44.99. The price is extremely competitive and for under £80 you can get a full featured sat nav with in-app purchases which may cost over £150 or £200 with all these features. It picks up satellites impressively quickly. If I did have one annoyance it would be that battery life won't be more than 3 hours but an in-car holder and charger should fix that for under £20.

Final verdict: Don't buy an iPhone just for this app but if you have one already or were going to buy one - this is a must-have app for any driver. Good use of the screen, fantastic use of Google maps - a killer feature, full Uk postcode search, non-subscription traffic info and very good price for all the features. Short battery life.
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About Giovanni Costa

Radio journalist, newspaper editor, travel writier, tour guide and Disney Cast Member. These are just some of the things Gio has done in the past few years. He loves visiting new destintions, trying new food and wants you to come along for the ride!
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8 comments:

  1. I HAVE A QUESTION I GUESS THIS APP DOESNT REALLY WORK WITH IPOD TOUCH RIGHT???

    ReplyDelete
  2. I have purchased the Navigon 1.6.0. for my itouch to use with the Magellan Tough Case. It does not seem to see the GPS. I tried contacting Support but did not get any response.

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  3. Can't agree that 'contacts' is a 'rather useless' feature. If you sync contacts with something like Outlook where, typically, you will have filed addresses for them, the addresses will be available in Navigon - no?

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  4. In 'Show map', is it possible to choose a point on the map and navigate there?

    Is it possible to modify a chosen route before you start navigating, as in TomTom, e.g. by routing via a waymark of some kind (POI, Favourite, Point on Map...)?

    ReplyDelete
  5. No David, thats a must have feature and disappointment for me.

    Also I find it very frustrating to figure out how to save a route - very unfriendly user wise and hard to remember unless you use it all the time. Don't build a multi destination route first, cuz you'll loose it all and have to rebuild it via find options several menu layers deep.

    Also note that constant GPS use chews battery bad!

    #D and navigation is ok with this app.

    ReplyDelete
  6. ...I should clarify about saving:

    This app no longer works like above (the original post is old), it no longer gives you an option to save at the end - just to start navigation. I can't find a way other then going through My Favorites menus (huh? I don't have any yet) and THEN building a route?! Why they made it worse I;ll never know! :(

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  7. can u use this app on a ipod touch without having to have internet?

    ReplyDelete