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Wednesday, November 02, 2011

iPhone App Review: Navfree GPS UK & ROI



     

Ever since having the iPhone, I've been waiting for a decent and cost effective navigation app to become available. There was TomTom, CoPilot and a few others that were available. Most of them either required a data connection to download the maps or were expensive to buy; if compared to buying their own physical GPS navigation unit.

Anyway along came Navfree from Geolife Ltd. The very same company that introduced Navmii. To be honest, I've never heard of Navmii until Navfree became available in the AppStore. The main difference between these two apps is that Navfree uses FREE map data from OpenStreetMap which is why it is offered as a free app and Navmii uses premium map data from AND (Automotive Navigation Data) which costs £2.99 as of the date of this post on the AppStore. Other than that they are identical.

Here is a general overview of features provided with the Navfree app:
- It's absolutely FREE, *no data connection needed!!!
- On-board maps. No data connection is required for downloading maps
- Crystal clear graphics - Industry leading, powerful graphic engine
- Choice of guidance displays - Gives you the option of viewing the map in 2D, 3D or a safety screen
- Access IPOD MUSIC LIBRARY from Map Screen
- Safety screen for clear instructions whilst driving
- Portrait or Landscape view
- Exact address search, including City, Street and House details
- Add and route your favourite locations
- Pick a location from the map and route to there, handy if you don't know the exact address.
- Find nearest POI (café, restaurants or museums) or use Google or Microsoft Bing Search to find millions of places near you and calculate route there.
- Fast routing engine, allowing you to calculate long routes in seconds.
- Automatic rerouting - If you happen to miss a turn, NavFree will quickly and automatically recalculate your route.
- Route prompts - Clear turn-by-turn; voice-guided directions and a 'graphically rich', detailed moving map display with visual directions, leaving you to concentrate on driving.
- Information updates - Provides information about your journey, including Estimated Time of Arrival (ETA) and distance to destination (DTD)
- Detour Feature
- Routing Options - Avoid motorways, Pedestrian routes
- Safety Camera data available via an in-App purchase (£1.99 at time of post)

For a complete list of features see Navfree (http://www.navmii.com/navfree/)

I've had Navfree installed ever since it first became available in the AppStore in September 2010. I've also tried others since then to see if there are any better and have to say that Navfree is still my favourite navigation app installed. Unlike Google Maps, NavFree doesn't rely on a data connection for its map feed. The whole of the UK & Republic of Ireland as a 420MB+ file is downloaded straight to your iDevice so your route won't be interrupted should a network signal be lost. It also has the ability to let you share your position and route via SMS, email and even social networking service such as Facebook and Twitter.

As a free app, this is top notch! Too bad the safety camera add-on is not free but it's not exactly expensive either and you get updates regularly. I can't remember when they introduced ads into the Navfree app but with the latest update it is there. But you can turn it off by buying the Ad-free add-on for 69 pence. Still a bargain if compared to actual paid versions like TomTom and others alike.

You can try Navfree out on your iPhone/iPad for the few selected countries via the following links below or for a more comprehensive list of countries @ iTunes AppStore:
- Navfree GPS UK & ROI
- Navfree GPS Live Australia & New Zealand
- Navfree GPS Live USA
- Navfree GPS Live France
- Navfree GPS Live Germany
- Navfree GPS Live Italy

It is also available for the Android devices now too via this link. If it is not available or for more up to date releases for the Android please check here.

I have had one issue since upgrading to iOS 5 on the iDevice and that the app doesn't register that I've already purchased the Speed Camera add-on. It shows up that is has been purchased and I have checked all in-app settings and for some reason the app itself doesn't show where the speed cameras are and any warnings. I have reported this issue to the Navmii team and have not heard any responses back yet. The only fix that I have found is to delete the app from your iDevice and download it again. Load the app once downloaded and tap on the Navfree Store icon. Tap on the Installed tab and tap on the Restore button. OK and confirm everything and it should redownload all of your purchases. You might as well check for any updates while you're in the store by tapping on the Updates tab.

Update: I have one gripe about this app at the moment and that instead of finding the shortest route from A to B, it routes the scenic route to your destination. i.e. Recently going from South Kensington to Hammersmith, it decided to take me all around to Marble Arch before turning to Hammersmith and if you live in London you’ll know that that is totally out of the way to get to Hammersmith. What was supposed to be a 3 miles drive, turned into a 7 miles drive! For some reason this app has been doing this for the last few destinations that I’ve entered and TBH I’ve bought a proper satnav device since then. What savings you may get from your shorter drive will eventually pay off the use of a proper satnav device.

Update 2: Am using the NZ & AU version of the app at the moment and plotted a route home. It managed to route to the motorway ok as I know that that is the quickest way home but as soon as I got off the motorway, it was directing me to get off the quickest route to go somewhere else. Once again not very reliable. Yes, Navfree is FREE but Navmii will have to fix their routing engine before you can 100% rely on it.

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