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Nav with turn by turn, text to speech and only $1.99

Yes, all true. I'm talking about Roadee [iTunes link], an iPhone nav app that depends on the open sourced openstreetmap.com. That eliminates the high fees paid to license map data, and allows a nav app for under 2 bucks.

So what do you get? Well, sadly, not too much. The maps are OK, and reasonably complete. Direction of travel is supported, but when driving any direction but North, the labels are the wrong way round. Driving South, all the street labels are upside down. Nice.

Most, but not all of the addresses I navigated to worked OK. In some cases, I was given weird, very out of the way directions, but I still got to my destination. Routing info comes from cloudmade.com. If their server is down, no routing.

The map shows your route, the speed you are going, and what should be the time to your destination, but in my tests it always read 0. The app is a bit sluggish, and a few times it told me to turn after I'd gone through the intersection, but in most cases it was fast enough.

Now, about those points of interest. Sitting next to 3 fast food joints, I asked Roadee if there was any fast food around. Nope. Zip. I tried hospitals. Nothing. Shopping? Nil. Gas stations? Negative. In fact, I could not get a single POI to appear in a city of more than a million people. You may have a different experience in your town. Your reports are encouraged. One time I got an error message that the service was down. Another server outage perhaps?

When traveling down the road sometimes the map would blank out every few seconds while more data was being ingested. Sometimes the map downloaded but there were large blank spots where the map should have been. The maps are streamed over your data connection, not sitting on your iPhone. Unfortunately, each time the screen refreshed, the computerized voice felt obliged to announce my next turn. With the turn about 3 miles away, the constant refreshing of the screen gave me the announcement 25 times. Not good. You can turn the voice off, but then you are forced to look at the map, which isn't so safe.

You can navigate to addresses in your contact list, but that sometimes fails and the little spinning gear goes on for ever. The only way out is exit the app.

Well, the app is only US$1.99, and it will generally give you directions to most addresses. Don't count on it for POI searches, direct routing, or navigating to your contact list. The computerized voice is OK, but not on a par with the higher priced nav apps. On the other hand, none of the other apps have text to speech, although that feature is coming.

I think this open source effort should be applauded and encouraged. If you just don't want to pony up 80 or a hundred dollars for some of the better nav solutions, this is for you, but keep in mind that despite having niceties like text to speech, it just doesn't work very well. This latest release of Roadee is said to be much better than the original release, so there is hope. Keep an eye on user comments and hopefully an update will improve things. Roadee maintains an FAQ and it is honest about the limitations the app has.

Here are some screen grabs to give you an idea what Roadee looks like.



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iPhone App Store App Review

Yes, all true. I'm talking about Roadee [iTunes link], an iPhone nav app that depends on the open sourced openstreetmap.com. That...