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YANA - Yet another navigation app (MapQuest Navigator)

If choice is a good thing, iPhone owners have a veritable bounty of navigation apps in all price ranges and features. MapQuest has now released their own navigation app, and frankly it's a mixed bag.

Like the AT&T nav app, MapQuest Navigator [iTunes link] needs the internet for its data, so if you frequently drive where even the Edge network is a sometime visitor, forget using this app.

If you are more of an urban driver or stick to Interstates, the app has some promise.

Here are some of the touted features:
  • Streamlined 3D Interface: Features voice-guided, turn-by-turn navigation that speaks directions and street names.
  • Regular Data Updates: Search 16+ million points of interest and utilize up-to-date street maps.
  • Full Route Corridor Download: Quick route re-calculation for missed turns as well provides continued service in areas of no cellular coverage.
  • Traffic Incident Based Routing: U.S. routes are optimized to avoid traffic incidents that might delay your travel.
  • A MapQuest Place Carousel: Easily displays locations for hotels, movie theaters, gas stations, and more with a single tap.
The interface is different from almost all the other GPS apps I've used. There is a ribbon, or Carousel as MapQuest calls it, lets you click on hotels, gas stations, food, etc.., and see icons where these points of interest are. To get to one of these places, you have to click on the destination icon, which often requires enlarging the map. I would have preferred a list, because clicking on a map icon can be some extra trouble when various icons are close together.

When you first start the program, you get a 2D overview. When you actually start driving, things change to 3D perspective maps. While the app advertises a big POI database, in my use it wasn't always great. Sitting near an IHOP didn't show it as a food destination on the map, even thought that IHOP has been there for years.

In general, the database was OK, but in navigating home it old me my house was on the right, when in fact it was on the left. I saw that same error in other destinations as well. The voice is clear, and the app provides real turn by turn spoken directions with text to speech so all streets are noted correctly by the voice.

On a simulated trip to Phoenix, the app identified traffic problems, which is good, and it would have routed me around any major tie-ups. GPS acquisition was speedy, and I didn't see any mapping errors. The app resumes after a phone call, and can use your contacts list to get an address.

You can get a 14 day trial for US$0.99 which is a good idea. After the trial it's $3.99 a month, three months for $9.99 and a year for $29.99. Certainly at those prices, it's cheaper than the AT&T Navigator which is $9.99 per month.

I'm not wild about renting my GPS. The data download model should be appealing, because theoretically the data should be up to date, but in the real world I haven't found the data all that fresh. The app is slower than the self contained apps like the Navigon or TomTom, but that is to be expected because MapQuest Navigator is downloading everything.

To be frank, I'm not knocked out by this app. The GUI is quirky and takes too much fiddling around. The POI data doesn't seem that up to date or accurate. The pricing is low, so if you're into downloading the data and living with the consequences, MapQuest Navigator is worth a look. You can invest $0.99 in it and see how it works for you.

Note to our readers: When I tried to go back to the iTunes store to see some user reviews, I couldn't see the app. The MapQuest blog reports there is some problem at the app store, so keep trying if you can't see it.

Full disclosure. MapQuest Navigator is from AOL, and TUAW is part of the AOL Tech network.

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