When we think navigation app, we typically think Google Maps. It’s the one most people recommend and it happens to be the navigation app that gets updated the most often. Google has been really on top of navigation especially over the last couple of years. However, if you’re not too keen on Google Maps or you want navigation done a different way, you have a remarkable number of options. In this list, we’ll check those out.
BackCountry Navigator is first on our list and if you’re a camper or hiker it’s one you should look at it. We looked at it briefly on our indie apps of the day segment and liked what we saw. It’s pretty expensive but what you get is a number of offline topographical maps that is perfect for those places where there is no data service to download them as you need them like you need to for apps like Google Maps. There are a few fun features like marking the map and maps from multiple countries. It’s expensive but there is a trial version you can try first.
[Price: Free / $5.29]
GPS Essentials has an antiquated interface but it is still a pretty decent app. The app’s claim to fame is its dashboard that allows you to monitor all kinds of stats including your average speed, altitude, distance traveled, moon phase, ETA to destination, and a number of other stats you can look at it. Another unique feature is a HUD that will show you your way points and we liked that a lot. It also comes with some of the standard navigation features which means you don’t have to change to other apps for directions and whatnot. It appears to be designed for the outdoors rather than driving so if you’re one of those kind of people this is definitely worth checking out.
Next up is an app called GPS Navigation. This is the first on the list that offers features like turn-by-turn directions. It works around having offline map data that you do have to pay for which has been met with mixed reactions for users. There are also a few bugs here and there that people have not been enjoying. If you can get passed that, it’s a fairly solid app that doesn’t look bad. It does work internationally so people outside of the US can use it as well. It’s free to try but you’ll have to purchase things like a license and maps later on.
MapFactor is one of your classic turn-by-turn navigation apps for those looking for a replacement to Google Maps. It downloads and installs the map files to your SD card so you can use it offline if you need to. It uses OffStreetMap data which has support for a lot of countries around the world. It’s not as polished as Google Maps but it has enough features to use it effectively and enjoyably. It’s also worth mentioning that map data and the app itself is totally free.
MapQuest used to be one of the “go-to” direction websites on the internet many years ago. Unbelievably, the service still exists and it does have an Android app. It has the standard turn-by-turn features along with some unique ones like live traffic updates, automatic traffic re-routing, and a service to find cheaper gas stations on your route. It also has walking and driving directions. It’s a solid offering and it’s a name people are familiar with.
Most people are probably here to find alternatives to Google Maps but we cannot deny that feature-for-feature, Google Maps is better than pretty much everybody. There are consistent features and app updates, worldwide support, you can download maps for offline use if you need them (there is a 14-day time limit on downloaded maps), the venerable Street View, detailed information about 100 million places, and you’ll be using a service controlled by Google. There is simply no other way to put it. Google Maps is awesome.
[Price: Free / Up to $125/yr depending on license]
Navigate 6 is another turn-by-turn alternative with some decent features which include offline maps support. Some of the more unique features are Wikipedia entries on the map (where applicable), weather on the map, and probably among the best 3D graphics we’ve seen in a GPS app. Do note, there are some people who have issues with the licensing and the licensing itself is pretty expensive. There is a 30-day free trial to see if this is the GPS app for you.
Polaris Navigation tries to be the all-in-one map sources and in most cases it succeeds. Its biggest feature is that it has access to Google Maps, OpenStreetMaps, MapQuest maps, and Cycle Route Maps. So whatever source you want is the one you get. It also features multiple coordinate formats, trail recording, a unique waypoint management system, and your standard stuff like turn-by-turn directions. It’s rated fairly well on the Play Store and appears to be pretty stable. Also, it’s free.
Sygic is a monumentally popular navigation app that boasts over 10 million downloads to date. Like others on this list, it provides downloaded maps for offline use except this one uses TomTom maps. It has the usual features like turn-by-turn, voice guided directions (which include voice-spoken street names so you can concentrate on driving), alternate routes, and even a speed limit display. There are a number of in app purchases to unlock more features so keep an eye out for those. Otherwise, it’s a pretty solid app.
Many people are probably already familiar with TeleNav GPS because it comes as “bloatware” on certain devices. For TeleNav you actually have a few options. There are two apps specifically for T-Mobile and Sprint customers and a third one called Scout that should be available to most people. It’s designed for mainstream use so it has the stuff like traffic flows, turn-by-turn directions, and a dashboard to show you trip stats. It also has some social features baked in like real-time ETA sharing called OnMyWay. It’s not the most exciting navigation app but it’s a pretty solid option.
Last up is Waze and this is an interest app because it’s actually now owned by Google. That means there are a few features of this app that are baked into Google Maps and we assume more will make their way to Google Mapps eventually. For now, Waze continues to be its own standalone app. It gets its traffic information in real-time from other people driving up and down the road. Like MapQuest, there is a function to find cheaper gas and liked TeleNav there is a real-time ETA sharing function. It’s one of the most unique options on this list and that’s probably why Google bought it.
Navigation apps are a dying breed. These days there are a few companies that are really cleaning house when it comes to navigation while others are struggling either to make a splash or, in the case of MapQuest, not to fall too much further into obscurity. That means we may have missed a great navigation app. If we did and you know about it, let us know in the comments below. We do update these lists and our readers do help a lot with it!