There is an impressive selection of GPS and navigation applications available for Android smartphones. Everyone is impressed by how far Google has come with their maps and navigation. I have found Google Maps a lifesaver when I was lost overseas once or twice – even on foot it works very well. Back at home, however, Google Maps unfortunately mixes up my street address with a street elsewhere. Visitors would often phone and announce their arrival at my gate when they are actually five kilometers away in the next suburb. For those of them using Android phones, there can be no excuse next time for getting lost.
To start with, the MapFactor app is a slight departure from Google Maps and currently gets very good ratings. Although not as polished, it is completely free and maps can be downloaded for off-line use. Mapfactor uses postcodes and maps from OpenStreetMaps.
The next option, Navmii GPS World, was formerly known as Navfree. This app integrates with Google Street View and Foursquare, and provides great-looking HD maps for more than 30 countries.
Waze Social GPS Maps and Traffic is an app actually owned by Google and it gets its traffic information in real-time from other people driving up and down the road. Members of the Waze social network can report accidents, speed traps and road closures, which then get cross-referenced with other users’ input and broadcast to members. Waze has been reported to present ads while the app is in use, which is not a good thing for drivers who want to focus on arriving at the right destination in one piece. Another option on the social scene, CoPilot GPS, can sync with social network accounts like Facebook and Twitter.
Navigate 6 is an app with some unique features such as Wikipedia entries on the map (where applicable). Polaris Navigate GPS has access to Google Maps, OpenStreetMaps and MapQuest maps and is free.
Oh, and look who’s here – the HERE Maps, which was developed for Nokia phones but now sold on the Google Play Store. HERE, a reincarnation of Ovi Maps and then briefly Nokia Maps, is elegant with worldwide mapping options. Another surprise is MapQuest, which many will remember from the early days of GPS. This service now comes with an Android app and is free. Another early name was TomTom. Sygic GPS Navigation and Maps uses TomTom maps and has a vast array of options that can be configured to a user’s liking.
Take a hike
Other apps for those driving include GPS Navigation BE-ON-ROAD and Maps.Me. However, campers and hikers can feel privileged with navigation apps catering specifically for their needs. These apps include BackCountry Navigator GPS Pro, GPS Essentials, Maverick, and OsmAnd Maps and Navigation. OsmAnd (OSM Automated Navigation Directions) has a special display mode showing bike routes, walking paths, and contours to indicate steepness.
Google Maps will remain a tough contender with Android apps for GPS and navigation. Google has made impressive inroads with the mapping of points-of-interest and searching for places using voice. These all contribute to an extremely useful “find it all” set of capabilities. However, for Android users who prefer a different approach or fresh views on navigation, there are options out there. No excuse to get lost!