Going The Distance: The Best Turn-By-Turn Navigation Apps

21 September 2015 by Cory MacVie

How do you choose which navigation app to use? For me, I compare the strengths of the leading navigation apps available. There are a plethora of options in each app store to choose from, but I focused on the three apps that maintain the best data sources available. This means the data they use is reliable and maintained on a global scale. The three turn-by-turn navigation apps below provide users with a free mobile app, as well as access to edit the data behind the map.

Google Maps

Google Maps

Download: Google Maps for iOS, Google Maps for Android

Advantages

Lane Guidance - Often it helps to know which lanes are available to turn left or right so Google Maps is unique in offering lane guidance to users. This can come in handy when traveling in foreign cities.

Search - When searching for a location by name, the results are consistently more accurate with Google Maps because they utilize their search engine technology, which none of the other options have available.

Indoor Map Data - Google Maps has invested for many years in collecting detailed indoor floor plans of buildings. When you are at a large airport or shopping mall, Google Maps can be used to navigate to the restaurant you want.

Street View - Also, since 2007, Google Maps has been investing heavily in collecting street level data. That investment has paid off and they have the best ground level data available. This really helps in identifying your destination and distance before your arrival.

Google Now - Google Map now gives you a lot of details about your destination. For example, it gives hours of operation, peak times of operation, upcoming events at the venue, and (of course) reviews. When going somewhere that’s closed or about to close, the app will notify you accordingly so you don’t waste a trip.

Waze

Waze App

Download: Waze for iOS, Waze for Android, Waze for Windows

Advantages

Crowd Sourced Data – This is the main reason most people use Waze. There is a social aspect to driving where the more Wazer’s using the app, the smarter everyone on the road becomes. The more submissions from the crowd showing hazards on the road, traffic, construction, road closures, and speed traps, the more informed everyone becomes.

Social Aspect – You can share your ETA with friends when you’re in route and if you use your Facebook login Waze ranks your contributions to your friends.

Route Updates – The Waze navigation algorithm is far superior than the rest of the other options, due to the fact it is factoring in crowd sourced data further ahead on your route. Waze will often present an alternative route in order to save time if it detects traffic or a delay in your planned route.

Gaming - If you want to compete against your Facebook friends to see who is the best road warrior, then Waze allows you to do so using a points system. There is scoreboard that ranks your points against FB friends and everyone in your state and country.

Voice Options – If audible directions is something you value, then Waze provides many voices to choose from. They have the voices of Arnold Schwarzenegger, Ichabod Crane, Stephen Colbert, Neil Patrick Harris, Colonel Sanders, and whoever else will sponsor a voice.

Gas Station Locator - When traveling, it helps to find the cheapest gas station that is on your route. Waze quickly gives you options and the price of each station. Their gas price data is very accurate and it can be corrected by users.

Send ETA - When traveling it can be helpful to let those waiting for you to know your ETA and even track your commute. Waze give you the ability to share your ETA and your current location with your friends so they know when to expect your arrival.

HERE

HERE App

Available On: iOS, Android, Windows

Advantages

Offline Maps – Sometimes you need offline maps and HERE makes this possible in an extremely easy way. Since the file sizes of offline maps can be large, how your map data is stored makes a big difference when you are traveling with poor cell service or in a disconnected environment and still need the ability to navigate. The data is stored as vector files and not map tiles, so the information is quick to access and allows users to download entire state and country data with ease.

Speed Limit Data & Warnings - The only true way to prevent a speed violation is not to speed. HERE has nationwide speed limit data and gives you the ability to set audible warnings when you exceed the speed limit.

Map Editor - It’s easy to change data when you discover errors in the database, though suggested changes can not be submitted via the app and are only through a web browser.

Best User Interface - The design of HERE is clean and simple so a user can go from basic to advanced with only a couple of uses. In my opinion, HERE is the easiest to use.

Routes Around Traffic and Construction - Routing takes into account real-time construction data. HERE’s traffic data comes directly from traffic.com and all the sensors on the road tie directly into the mobile traffic information providing very accurate routes and directions.

Augmented Reality - While only available on Windows phones, it is a very useful feature when on foot and searching for a quick bite to eat while in a foreign place.

Conclusion

There are many other navigation apps on the market, but most of them use the data behind the apps listed. Apple is investing heavily in their mapping data and their platform but wasn’t mentioned in this article because it’s currently only available on iOS and does not have a map editor at this time.

By outlining the advantages of each of the leading navigation apps on the market, you can find the navigation app that works best for your needs.

About the author

Cory is our Product Manager for Fulcrum. He works to bring Fulcrum’s field data capability into the Humanitarian Assistance and Disaster Relief sectors.

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