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Scout iOS navigation app is updated with hands-free voice commands

Scout has been a popular free navigation app for iOS that includes turn-by-turn directions and crowdsourced traffic information. It also has reliable directions to restaurants, shops, gas stations and all the other destinations you may want.

Today, Scout was updated to include hands-free voice commands. Unlike Siri, where you have to hold down a button to start talking, Scout will listen to your commands without any type of physical input on your behalf. If Scout is running, you can say "Hey Scout" to get the app to pay attention, and then tell Scout where you want to go.

Sadly, the theory is better than the reality. When I asked "Where are the nearest restaurants?" Scout replied with a street address in Bullhead City, Ariz., hundreds of miles away from me. Asking for the nearest gas stations got me a list of Honda dealers, one in New Jersey. And so it went. I tried it in noisy and quiet environments, but seldom got a correct hit.

The app works great when physically touching any of the points of interest icons, and gave reliable navigation, but the voice recognition misses almost every request. I like the idea of saying "Hey Scout" and never touching my phone to initiate a trip, but this new feature simply didn't work for me. Although Siri does require a button press, it almost always parses my phrases correctly. I should add that if your phone auto-locks, Scout becomes deaf so your requests won't be heard.

Scout does have a lot of features not included in the Apple Maps app. The app has destination sharing, and it lets you know what events are happening in your community. The Scout database is good and detailed, but voice response clearly needs work.

Scout requires iOS 6 or later, It's not a universal app, so it's best suited to the iPhone. The app is optimized for the iPhone 5. Scout does offer enhanced features either monthly or yearly as an in-app purchase, but most people will be able to get along just fine with the free version, unless they try talking to it.

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