Honestly, we never got the point of using GPS navigation to find your way around places you already know very well (unless you use for real-time traffic, naturally). But if people get a kick out if it – who are we to judge?
You can argue about the pros and cons of asking people for direction vs. using GPS navigation. But one thing is clear, navigation is a necessity abroad. And, if you happen to visit Rome you’ll know that navigating by yourself there is a nightmare. That’s where GPS apps come to the rescue, it’s not fool proof, but it’s the best thing available.
Today we’ll compare 3 (very different) navigation apps, and see which one delivers the best value to the traveling individual:
Google Maps – Probably the most intuitive of them all, has excellent maps, supports usage by public transport, has the best POI database around, and on top of everything- it’s actually free. Besides the biggest advantage of being free, Google Maps is a leader due to it’s support of almost any mobile platform today: iOS, Android, Blackberry, Symbian, Windows Phone 7 and even the most basic version of all – Java. But the biggest help it offers travelers is the support of public transport and by-foot routing. If you are away from home and traveling through a major foreign city, chances are you won’t be doing it by car- you’ll be walking, taking a cab and using the cheapest method which is public transport. Google Maps doesn’t support the public transport feature in every single city around the globe, but most modern cities are represented. Another significant advantage Google Maps offers travelers is the ability to navigate by foot. Unlike a lot of other GPS apps who are geared only towards cars, Google Maps allows you to choose navigation by foot – enabling you to walk through public squares and walkways, thus making the distances much shorter and making you feel a lot more “local” than you really are. The biggest drawback for this app comes from the fact that it currently doesn’t support turn-by-turn navigation for iOS. The 2nd biggest drawback for this app, is that it uses the web to download maps and information. Though If you took our unlimited or 1Gb plan that won’t be a major issue, but it would still use data compared to maps that are stored on your phone. In our personal view – this app is the benchmark: Because of the price, because of the features, because of the constant updates and the huge development team around it.
Navigon - We’ve chosen this Navigon app because we think it is the best of it’s breed (an endangered breed, really). It has been around for a while, and has a deep portfolio of maps on offer: Continental US (and sub-regions within that), North America, Europe (and sub-regions within that), Australia and many many more. This brilliant range of maps does come at a price, and a pretty steep one at that, as each map costs between $29.99 and $119.99. For the price it charges, it offers a few cool features like: Brilliant Turn-by-turn function. Active lane assistant, that shows you which exact lane you need to be in. Reality view pro, which gives you a realistic view of the exits and junctions ahead of you. 3D view, enabling you to view more info of the road ahead. Another cool feature is the ability to download specific maps before the trip to store offline. As iPhones have a cap on how much data they can hold, this feature allows you to optimize your space – that can be great as we tend to stuff our iPhones with photos, music, travel guides when we’re traveling. So if you’re on your way to Belgium, you don’t have to have all of Europe’s maps on your iPhone. Makes sense, doesn’t it?
Navigon has a few disadvantages, but they mostly come down to the fact that it isn’t as big, or well connected as Google. For instance, POIs – though Navigon claims to have millions of POIs at your service (sounds plenty, on paper), in reality, that’s just too few compared to the competition, which offer up to 12 millions POIs. The local search option pales in comparison to Google, as well. There is no online access to read reviews, and it isn’t synced with other online/cloud services as Google is. All-in-all, Navigon is a great navigation service to people who will spend most of their time abroad driving and do not need a comprehensive POI database. It does offer walking navigation, but not something that is as though out as Google’s. Another point to consider is the price- if you’re traveling to a different country every year or so – you’ll have to buy new maps for every new trip, which will add dozens of dollars to your trip costs, just for navigation.
Waze - Though Waze is the youngest contender between these 2 juggernauts, it offers some unique features that the other two lack. It provides voice turn-by-turn navigation, just like Navigon. But it differs from all other apps by relying on its users to provide real-time crowdsourcing traffic data like speed camera, accidents, traffic jams etc. Waze analyzes this anonymous incoming data to route users through the best possible path to save time. The most interesting facet about Waze (and its biggest disadvantage) is the way it uses maps – unlike most Navigation apps who buy maps from Navteq or Telemap (and roll these enormous expenses on to it’s clients), Waze actually lets users “record” their own maps to benefit others. But this is also its downside as entire areas might not be covered by Waze’s maps – currently, Waze offers its maps in Israel, US, Canada and a few European countries.
So how does it navigate? as a stand-alone navigation app pretty good, it offers the driver plenty of information and uses other drivers information to your advantage. It has voice guidance and even reads street names in the US. Is it worth using it on your next trip? Well, if you’re an American and you’re traveling anywhere except Israel we would have to say no (being that Waze hails in Israel). If there isn’t a big Waze community in that country, the app becomes rather limited – and with only 11 million users around the world, the coverage isn’t that consistent. Tthe more Waze expands to other markets, and the more users Waze gets on board, the better it will become. In the meantime, we’d recommend getting a different solution.
In the end, it comes down to a most basic question: what kind of trip you’re planning (city or scenery)?. If you’re planning on walking most of the time rather than driving – get Google maps, it’s free and is really a helpful ”pocket knife” of features for any traveler. But if you’re planning on doing a lot of driving, go for Navigon, it will cost you a pretty penny but Google maps will simply not be able to compete with the turn-by-turn capabilities of driving overseas.
As an KeepGo client you can get a 1Gb or an unlimited data package that would be more than enough to download maps while you’re traveling, and let you save some serious cash on all your other data needs. Though Google maps doesn’t offer turn-by-turn navigation, you can still trace yourself on a map. Also, once the trip is over, the money you spent on buying the maps won’t go to waste like it would with dedicated navigation apps.
So our advice is this – go with Google maps for your next trip together with our 1Gb, or unlimited plans. Google will do its part and help you navigate abroad with ease, and we’ll also do our part and save you a couple hundred dollars on all your other data needs.