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Smartphone car GPS app reviews

Which mobile GPS apps can you rely on to direct you from point A to point B?
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01 .Introduction

iPhone GPS Apps

We review 17 GPS apps available for the Apple iPhone, Android and Windows Phone, priced from $0 to $70.

We've assessed each app for:

  • ease of use
  • performance in city areas
  • performance in regional and rural areas, and
  • purchase, set-up and installation experience.

On this page, you'll find:

Most smartphone owners know about Google Maps, which provides basic information on where you are and how to get from A to B. Android and iPhone smartphone owners also have access to the free Google Maps app, which shows your current position and also how to get around with voice direction as well.

However, if you are willing to spend $35 to $70, you can get an app on your phone that will work just like a car navigation device, with safety camera warning, trip planning and advanced lane guidance.

Google Maps vs other car GPS apps

While Google Maps is free and performs well as a basic car navigation application, it’s not nearly as feature rich as the other GPS apps on test. Also, map data is downloaded to the phone while driving rather than reading a complete map on the phone’s memory. 

You can download all the apps we tested directly to your phone, but because most contain the maps as part of the app itself, you’ll need to use Wi-Fi (wireless local area networking) – downloads over 3G phone networks are limited to 10MB. You can also download the iPhone GPS apps using iTunes on a computer and then transfer them to the iPhone.

Brands and models tested

  • Apple Maps (iOS)
  • CoPilot Live GPS (Android)
  • CoPilot Live GPS (iOS)
  • Google Maps Navigation (Beta) (Android)
  • Google Maps Navigation (Beta) (iOS)
  • iGO primo (iOS)
  • MetroView MetroView (Android)
  • Navfree (Android)
  • Navfree (iOS)
  • Navigon Navigon (Android)
  • Navigon Navigon (iOS)
  • Nokia Drive+ (Windows)
  • RoadMate (iOS)
  • Sygic GPS Navigation (Android)
  • Sygic GPS Navigation (iOS)
  • TomTom (Android)
  • TomTom (iOS)

How we test


City Performance The city test mainly involves bench tests carried out in Sydney, as past results in various cities showed very little difference between models in built-up areas in terms of distances and arrival times. However, assessments of speed of recovery when coming out of tunnels and recalculations after a missed turn are carried out in the field. Scott selects 10 locations from all over Sydney, and performs two sets of distance calculations for each location, one from Mount Annan and the other from Penshurst. The total of the predicted distances is calculated; the more accurate the predicted distance, the better the score.

Rural Performance Scott travels to the Hunter Valley, north-west of Sydney, and selects wineries and accommodation in the region to find out if the GPS can locate them accurately.

Regional performance Scott checks various addresses for accuracy in Victoria and South Australia.

Ease of use

Scott assesses how easy it is to install and use the menu structure on the touchscreen. He also looks at the quality of the display data such as distance to next turn and street name and turn direction symbols.

Verbal instructions

Verbal instructions are assessed on the quality of the voice, timing of turn and other instructions, how clear the instructions are, and whether it’s possible to rely on verbal instructions without looking at the screen.

Screen quality 

Scott compares how easy it is to read the map, and how clear the picture is in daylight and at night.

Points of interest (POI) 

He selects 20 types of points of interest, including a hospital, medical centre, airport, police station, shopping centre, tourist information centres, and so on, and rates the models based on how the POIs are listed.

Speed of map refresh 

He checks how long it takes the GPS to recover after a missed turn, and after coming out of a tunnel, with a planned turn-off immediately after the tunnel exit.

For more information on GPS reviews, visit our GPS section.


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