Sunday, March 18, 2012

Best GPS Apps for Android

Garmin universal smartphone mount

The Garmin universal smartphone mount makes using your smartphone as a GPS practical.


Smartphones are incredibly powerful machines, capable of just about anything. So why is it so hard to find a good, functional app? We have searched through dozens of apps and found what seem to be the best free and paid apps on the market for Android. Many of these are also available on iPhone.

Top Free Apps

  1. mapfactorMapFactor –  This is the free version f this app, and it has a plethora of useful features including turn-by-turn navigation, voice guidance, a POI search feature, GPS navigation with day/night mode and a rotating 2D/3D map. The program uses OpenStreetMaps data, and updates are free once a month. The app installs maps to your SD card so if data connection is lost, the app will still work. In short, it seems to be the most functional app, with reasonable permissions and excellent options.
  2. Glympse Part GPS, part social, this app is both clever and simple. In addition to plotting routes and ETA, this app allows you to send an expiring link to friends so they can see your route and ETA for meetups. No additional software is required to view the link (although you must be able to access the internet), and an expiration can be set so that your location will not be broadcasted after the link expires. It does not, unfortunately, give active directions to locations.
  3. locusmapFreeLocus Maps – With the ability to view maps both online and offline, track your route, go geocaching, import your own tracks and waypoints and get voice guided directions, this handy app has a little bit of everything. There are options to download cycling and hiking maps for offline use as well as to create your own POIs or browse POIs in your area. It is integrated with Google Maps, so both street view and aerial views are possible. It offers geocaching, but it is limited in the free version.
  4. Copilot – This online/offline mapping program features 2D street maps stored on your Android, millions of POIs built in, route planning capabilities with a multi-stop trip optimizer, alternate routes and drag and drop editing. There is a walking mode and the ability to share with your friends via Twitter or Facebook. The free version comes with a 14 day trial of voice-guided 3D navigation and ActiveTraffic, which guides you through traffic snarls, and one free region map, with more available as in-app purchases.
  5. wisepilotWisepilotThis app allows has pretty basic yet clean navigation directions based on OpenStreetMap, which means it requires a constant data connection. This free version comes with a 5 day trial of the premium upgrades which include a Speed Camera and Live Traffic add-on. Regardless, past the 5 days, you can use this app as just a simple navigation tool although the premium add-ons are set up so you can upgrade just the parts you need. As a basic free app, Wisepilot is functional, but not quite as impressive as the others.


Top Paid Apps

  1.  Locus Map Pro – The pro verison of Locus Map has all the features of the free version listed above in addition to track recording, voice guided navigation, extensive geocaching features, weather updates and no ads. The app starts at $8.27 and is a fantastic purchase if you are looking for an all-in-one navigation app. Bonus: their customer service team seems very good about responding to customers.
  2. BackCountryNavigatorBackCountry Navigator TOPO GPS – This app strives to make your phone into a full-fledged GPS device to replace any Garmin or Magellan handheld. It offers topographic maps, longitude/latitude coordinates, some navigation help, geocaching, and utilizes the satellite GPS in your phone so it can be used in places without any signal. The app costs $11.99 and you can subscribe to Accuterra Topo Map Source for $19.99/year or to Digital Globe to get detailed satellite imagery and offline storage. Neither subscription is required, and there are many free sources for topographic maps that are compatible with the app.
  3. Maverick Pro Maverick Pro has a little bit of everything from offline maps that sync automatically, online maps via MapQuest, OpenStreetMaps, Bing and others, regional online maps, the ability to send GPS coordinates and link to Google Maps, geocaching support, built-in radar that shows estimated time and distance to POIs, unlimited waypoint creation, track recording, a compass and more. The app is priced at $6.99 and is an excellent choice.
  4. DON’T PANIC by Mireo – This turn-by-turn navigation app uses TomTom and premium local maps which are stored on your device for low signal areas. The app features 3D buildings, multi-stop routing, speed limit alerts with audio warning, take-me-home button, ability to share locations via text message, automatically displays POIs along your route and automatically records and saves routes and drives. While the maps are free with unlimited free lifetime updates, the app itself costs $24.99. There is a trial version though, so if you don’t like it you haven’t wasted money.
  5. sygicGPSNavigationandMapsAppGPS Navigation & Maps by Sygic – The base part of this app is free and provides offline TomTom maps, POIs, route planning and map updates. If you purchase the Premium version, you can also get 3D maps, turn-by-turn voice guidance, speed limit warnings, lane indicator arrows and lane guidance. The fine print, however, is the price of the maps, which start at about $30 and go up from there. It can quickly add up, but Sygic promises lifetime support of the maps and they ARE having a 70% off sale until this weekend. Not the top of the list for price, but for Sygic fans, it may be worth the price.




  1. I’m surprised you didn’t list the already included Google Maps which provides turn by turn directions. I’m even more surprised you didn’t list Waze which seems to be one of or the #1 most popular and free GPS application that uses crowd sourcing to provide near real-time traffic, accidents and police traps.

    • Thanks for commenting David! The reason we did not include Google Maps and Waze is due to their reliance on a fast signal and data connection. Neither one seem to have much support for areas where connection is limited. In my experience (with Google Maps at least) if you don’t have a good signal, the directions and turn-by-turn instructions are laughably inaccurate and incredibly unhelpful.

  2. I’ve had no problems with Google Maps in areas of no connection. You do need the connection when starting your route, but once driving they have downloaded and saved your route plus a few nearby roads. Going far from that will leave you screwed though as is the case with any online solution.

    On the mount side I only get devices now that are wirelessly charged (Qi) and use desktop and car Qi capable mounts. I got this mount – – which lets you place the device in the mount and not have to connect cables or similar hassle.

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