iPhone App Review: Navigon Mobile Navigator for iPhone

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It is time to ask the age-old question: Are our cellphones ready to replace standalone GPS units. Sure we’ve all done a little work with cellphone mapping services and we’ve all mucked about with Google Maps while driving (which is very dangerous). But are cellphones and iPhones in particular ready to knock the old GPS box off of the dashboard?

To paraphrase Molly Bloom in Ulysees, “yes to say yes my mountain flower and first I put my arms around him yes and drew him down to me and I think you can replace your GPS device with an iPhone and software like Navigon’s Mobile Navigator for iPhone are making it much simpler yes I will Yes.”

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First things first. This app costs $69.99 and weighs in at 1.29GB. It is a fully-featured North American GPS system with an intuitive interface and NAVTEQ maps. The UI is quite fun and shows everything you’d expect – large, bold directions, upcoming street signs, and even a little horizon line that displays a representation of where you’re headed. It also has voice prompts that tell you how far you are from your destination.

Another thing to remember: Navigon pulled out of the US market recently and their decision to create an iPhone app could be the reason why. Why sell hardware when you can just sell at $69 iPhone app – about one quarter the price of a device – and get most of the price back in profit.

I tried the software on a longish road trip into Connecticut. The application routed us to our destination and back without incident. It uses the iPhone UI to select addresses but then falls into the Navigon UI to show you directions. The app contains all the maps you could need which is great if you’re driving through a dead zone. The app uses the iPhone 3G and iPhone 3GS’ GPS chip and little else.

The software can also grab addresses from your contacts list. I had no problems with this method or typing contacts in directly.

Once you’re driving the application real shines. The system offers huge signpost indicators, mimicking highway signs with quite a bit of verisimilitude. The Reality View shows roads meeting off in the horizon with a little representation of your expected horizon – trees, a cityscape – in the distance.

In short, this makes your iPhone a GPS device. That’s really amazing.

This should also make standalone GPS makers wet their pants. Smartphones are slowly taking over for almost every device smaller than a breadbox. Tablet PC? Browse the web on your smartphone. Remote control? Install something on your smartphone. Media player? Done and done thousands of times over. And now we can add GPS device.

Navigon is worth the investment. They also recommend purchasing a dashboard mount – you can get one for about $30 like this Griffin model. The best thing, however, is that instead of pecking at your iPhone in Google Maps you can program in your address and just drive. That’s great.

Bottom Line
The future of GPS is here.

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