Smartphones might not always be the most ideal option for GPS navigation, but there are times when it makes more sense. After all, no matter where you are, you probably have your smartphone on you, right? Well, while there are literally dozens to choose from, if you’re only going to use it some times then you probably don’t want something you have to pay for, right?
So, here are my top three picks for the best free smartphone navigation apps for those little emergencies or even day-to-day use.
1. HERE – Google Play, iTunes
Nokia’s HERE, also known as Here Maps, was recently sold to BMW for quite a pretty sum. The maps themselves are hailed as being extremely accurate and BMW intends to use them for self-driving cars if that says anything. The routing isn’t half bad either and tends to mimic dedicated GPS units more than Google does, making it a little easier to use.
2. Google Maps – Google Play, iTunes
If you have an Android, then you already have Google Maps by default. Google Maps is the default go-to for most people and its maps are pretty excellent. It also offers voice guidance, although personally I don’t care for how complicated it can be to preview the route and it’s dangerous to do while driving I think. Regardless, this is still a pretty solid option and has great search functions.
3. Maps.Me – Google Play, iTunes
This little app is one that hardly anyone even knows about, and I actually found it on accident. Completely offline, Maps.Me is first and foremost an offline atlas. The company recent introduced routing and while you do have to download ahead of time, the fact that it requires zero data is worth the time. The routing is a little odd sometimes, but if you can read a map, then this is still a great option. Unlike the others, it does require a bit more planning ahead of time, as you probably won’t want to be routing on the fly.
How accurate are they?
With dedicated GPS devices, it’s easy to measure and compare how accurate each GPS device is, how well it tracks and routes and whether or not the signal is lost. However, with smartphones it doesn’t depend on the app as much as the actual device itself. Some smartphones are better at GPS than others, and I don’t have access to enough devices to really give any tips on that.
For example, my LG G4 gets fantastic signal most of the time and rarely loses or does anything weird like jumping a few blocks at a time. My old Samsung, on the other hand, didn’t even know what GPS was, I don’t think. So it’s really going to come down to your actual device and how often the company updates the maps on the apps. Most apps update at least a couple times a year and Google and Here both update more than that. So sadly, you’ll have to test it out for yourself to determine which works best with your device.
So, for those of you who use your smartphone for navigation, which apps do you prefer? Do you have a suggestion for one that ought to be included? Let me know in the comments!