Android Sat Nav Apps
Here's a comparison and mini-review of some Sat Nav apps for the T-Mobile G1, HTC Magic, Hero and others running the Android platform. Some of these apps are free, some have a free trial, and some are paid-for sat nav applications. Until fairly recently, decent sat-nav software for Android was quite thin on the ground, but now we are spoilt for choice. The Android platform has always had the excellent Google Maps application built-in, but if you want turn-by-turn navigation, you will have to install a third-party sat-nav program such as one of those listed below. I've included a brief review and opinions of the apps as well as costs, phone memory footprint, and where to download them. The screenshots are mostly in portrait mode, but all the sat nav apps featured here also work in landscape mode if you prefer.
21/04/10 - Google Maps Navigation Released!News Flash! Google Maps Navigation has finally been released in the UK!
Some of the applications store their maps on the phone's SD card, allowing routing to be calculated on the phone itself. Other satnav apps require an Internet connection to request routing information from servers on the Internet. The more professional paid-for sat nav applications tend to store the maps locally on the phone's SD card and calculate routes on the phone itself. Storing the sat-nav maps on the phone is great as the routing will work even when you have no mobile signal, and it won't use up your download limit, but it does take up loads of space on your memory card. Other apps that request routing and mapping from the Internet have the advantage of always giving you up-to-date sat nav maps and speed camera information, but of course will only work if you have a decent mobile signal. I've stated with each review which method each sat nav app uses, so you can see which one is right for you.
Phone Memory: 1.4Mb
Review: Dec 2009
Download from Android Market
Nav4All has been around for years, with java versions available for all sorts of phones, but is now available for Android phones too. At the time of writing, the Nav4All website says that the program is free until 01/01/2010, even though that date has now passed. But it's been free "for the next few months" for years, so I wouldn't be surprised to see this date moved forward again anyway. It's a very mature application and quite stable now, but is rather simplistic and doesn't offer a map navigation view, instead offering arrow navigation. Directions are loud and clear and the view of the arrows is very clean and easy to read. Where the arrow navigation falls down is where you are trying to navigate a roundabout and you're instructed to take, say, the third exit. You might really need to double-check the direction from the map view to know which exit it means. Still, Nav4All does do full UK postcode matching, although in my experience, its maps are often a bit out of date.
What is most annoying about Nav4All is navigating the menus, of which there are many! The menus are simply lists and lists of options, which used to be fine scrolling up and down on older phones with navikeys, but now Nav4All has been ported to the Android's touch screen interface, it just doesn't work. It's almost impossible to pick options from the menus and will almost certainly have you mounting pavements and dispatching pedestrians if you try to do this whilst driving. Nav4All doesn't store its maps on the phone itself, instead going online to use the internet servers to calculate routes. The routing servers have been fast and reliable for me, and provide an excellent service for free.
Compared to some of the more modern sat nav applications Nav4All seems dated and its interface is poor, but it is free, lightweight, fast and stable.
28/01/10 - Nav4All Shut DownUnfortunately, it looks like Nav4All is no longer. Navteq have terminated Nav4All's licensing for the maps. Big shame.
Phone Memory: 6Mb
Download from Android Market Review: Dec 2009
AndNav is a completely free, ad-supported sat nav application for Android and is quite advanced in terms of its features. Like Nav4All, it requires an internet connection to allow the AndNav servers to calculate your route. But unlike Nav4All, it does display (2D) maps as you drive, but does this by downloading maps as graphics bit by bit as you move around. The program's interface is clunky but works better than Nav4All's.
The problems with AndNav are that firstly, as standard, it doesn't do full UK postcode matching. For me, this renders the program almost useless. Secondly, the servers that provide the routing calculation are terribly slow and unreliable. They often takes minutes to calculate or recalculate routes, and sometimes fail altogether. Thirdly, as the maps are downloaded on-the-fly, sometimes bits of maps are unavailable as you pass through areas with no signal. This leaves you looking at a blank screen with a dot in the middle. Not very useful. The final nail in the coffin for AndNav is that the program often crashes while navigating.
AndNav is still a work-in-progress Android app and has so much potential, but isn't much use for me right now. But it's free and available from the Android Market. So you can try it for yourself.
amAze is another sat nav program that's been around for years on other platforms like Symbian and has now been released for Android. I've been looking forward to testing this for ages, but after struggling through the ridiculous menu system, it doesn't even look worth it.
Phone Memory: 2.2Mb
Review: Dec 2009
Download from Android Market
Wisepilot is another Internet based sat-nav app available for Android. Routing is performed on Wisepilot servers. The maps are not stored the phone, but are instead rendered in real time by the phone into an excellent 3D view. Full UK postcode matching is supported, and address and routes are calculated really fast. In my experience, the servers have been really fast and 100% reliable. Points of interest, such as speed cameras are included. The look of the user-interface is really clean, intuitive and slick, and is the most responsive of all the android sat nav programs. What you get for your money is a subscription for a year or two years of the service. As it's an online service, you will always be using the most up-to-date maps and POIs.
It's miles ahead of the free sat nav programs, but then it's quite expensive and you get what you pay for.
Phone Memory: 15Mb + maps on SD card
Review: v8 Dec 2009
Download from Android Market
Copilot Live 8 is the brand new version of the very popular Copilot paid-for sat nav software that's now available for Android. It's a proper stand-alone sat nav program that stores its maps on the SD card in your phone, so it can it can work entirely without an internet connection. It's the most feature packed, professional sat nav solution here, offering all the features and a great interface. It boasts big, clear 3D mapping and everything from petrol prices and weather updates to live traffic information via the Internet. You can also import POI databases from the Internet allowing you update your speed camera information alerts.
But unfortunately Copilot Live is very resource hungry and runs quite slowly on older handsets such as the T-Mobile G1 and HTC Magic. The great looking interface is really well designed and works well, but often lags behind when you press buttons on the screen. Redrawing of the 3D maps is also pretty slow as you drive around, but is normally just about fast enough. It's a shame it struggles a bit on the G1 and Magic because otherwise Copilot Live is superb and is also pretty well priced. You can speed up the map redrawing a bit by changing the 3D angle, zooming in a bit, and switching POI display off, but still it's way slower than some of the other sat nav apps. If you have loads of apps installed, you might need to remove some to install Copliot, because the install takes 15Mb of the phone's memory!
On newer, more powerful handsets such as the Nexus One and HTC Desire, Copilot runs much better. So I'd recommend Copilot if your Android handset is up to the job.
Phone Memory: 7.5Mb + maps on SD card
Review: Dec 2009
Download from Android Market
NDrive is another sat nav app for Android. Like Copilot Live, it's a full featured proper sat nav program that contains all its maps on your SD card and calculates its routes on the fly. It also supports full UK postcodes and importing of POI lists in GoogleEarth format, so you can import speed camera databases.
NDrive is fast and lightweight compared to Copilot Live. Its user interface is more responsive on lower-powered phones, and its map animation is much faster, although not quite as big and clear as Copilot Live. NDrive only takes half the phone memory of Copilot, and starts up quicker too. It's not quite as feature packed, but offers just about the perfect list of sat nav features for most users. A new feature in the latest versions of NDrive is the view of 3D landmarks. A bit of a pointless gimmick really, in my opinion. Also in the latest versions of NDrive, the screens and icons have been properly designed to handle the higher rerolution screens of newer phones, so the map rendering is sharp and clear.
If I had to pick holes, I'd say the lists of favourites and POIs are a little bit small to read or press while you're driving. The user interface is a bit clunky and not so intuitive, and managing POIs and favourites is quite a confusing fiddle before you get used to it. Menu scrolling is not very smooth, but pressing buttons is nice and responsive.
Also in my tests, I found that NDrive would sometimes take a long time to connect to satellites, occasionally refusing to connect to the satellites at all until I exitted and reloaded the app. All the other sat nav apps I tested connected quickly and didn't have this problem.
Maps and extras such as voices and speed camera databases can be purchased/downloaded from within the program itself, which is very convenient. You can download huge map files via your PC if you prefer though. To give you an idea of file sizes, the Tele Atlas map of the UK for NDrive is around 270Mb, and downloaded from within the app for me, with no problems.
Overall though, in my opinion, NDrive is the one of the better sat nav applications out there at the moment for the Android platform.
Phone Memory: 4.8Mb
Ok, this isn't officially avaiable in the UK yet... But hopefully soon, Google Maps will be updated in the UK to include full turn-by-turn navigation, voice commands and traffic info as it is in the US.
For now, here's the preview of Google Maps Navigation.
21/04/10 - Google Maps Navigation Released!Superb! Google Maps Navigation has finally been released in the UK!
Phone Memory: 6.5Mb + 170Mb on SD card
Review: v9 Jan 2010
Download from Android Market
Destinator 9 is another recent addition to the list of Sat Nav apps for android phones like the T-Mobile G1 and HTC Magic / G2. Despite the stupid name, it's actually pretty good. Purchase or trial of the software involves installing the app from the Android Market, AND downloading the setup package including maps to your PC. From there, you plug in your phone and the setup program copies the maps to your SD card.
The Destinator 9 app is a fully featured sat nav app featuring PIOs and speed cameras, multi lane guidance, weather, and all the other features you'd expect like favourites, trip planner with multiple stops, pedestrian mode, route detour etc. The maps can be viewed in 2D or 3D, and are fantastically clear looking, quite Garmin-like, with a nice sky view on the 3D mode. The voice guidance is good, with loud, clear directions, and does have the option of turning off the patronising nanny state "Drive carefully" at the beginning of each trip. [Sigh] The user interface, although not as slick as CoPilot or WisePilot is nice but not perfect, as the controls are rather small to read and press while driving, and involve using the Menu and Back keys in addition to the touch screen, instead of being entirely touch screen like most of the other satnav apps.
Searching for your destination is easy enough, but amazingly for a product like this, full UK postcode matching is not supported! Street and City searching as well as partial postcode matching is supported but isn't very good and had lots of addresses missing that were found in other satnav apps on this page. Destinator gets around this by having an option to search Google for your destination. It's a bit of a cheat because it's not a proper offline satnav system, requiring a mobile signal and data plan for this. Having said that, it does give the advantage that your search results will always be as up to date as Google's and does give you all the flexibility of Google searches, allowing you to search for "Shop" or "Pizza" or "Pub" for example, which will then give you a list of nearby matches, and the ability to drive to them. Route calculation and recalculation is perfectly quick, though.
When on the move, the map rendering is rather slow compared to some of the other apps, such as NDrive, but is quick enough. What isn't quick enough though is response to the touchscreen while navigating. Like CoPilot, Destinator becomes very sluggish to respond when navigating. In my tests, I even had "Force Close/Wait" messages occasionally appearing, not because the app had crashed, but rather because it was taking so long to respond, Android thought it had.
One very annoying feature of Destinator 9 is that on approach to a junction, a direction symbol will appear with an arrow making it clear which way to turn. That would be fine, if it wasn't totally obscuring the middle of the screen! When you approach a roundabout and are trying to work out which exit to take, it's infuriating to have icons appearing right in the way.
In summary, Destinator 9 is good, but personally I'd prefer to spend the money on one of the other sat nav apps, like NDrive or CoPilot. But as you can have a free 14 day trial, see how you get on with Destinator, it's not half bad.
Phone Memory: 5.5Mb + 300Mb on SD card
Review: v9 Dec 2009
Mobile Maps 9 by Sygic has recently been updated to work on the Android operating system and is now one of the best options we have. It's a full featured, stand-alone satnav app containing all its own maps on the SD card, so it doesn't need to the Internet to work. Features include speed cameras, lane guidance and full UK postcode searching. It's a fully touch-screen app and the user interface is the most responsive of all the satnav apps and works beautifully. Buttons are huge and very easy to press while on the move. The menus aren't the most intuitive but you quickly get used to them. The 3D map view is also stunning and very easy to follow.
Searching for addresses is easy. Entering postcodes is fast, as Mobile Maps automatically switches from letters to numbers when typing. Usefully, when selecting the destination, you can opt to pick from a list of nearby car parks and drive there instead. Finding the address is fast, but calculating routes is among the slowest of the satnav apps here, and can be very slow for complex routes. The voice guidance is very clear, and it reads road numbers which can be good, but also can be really annoying ("turn left onto the B one-thousand-one-hundred-and-twenty-two"). The map view is clear and looks great and the animation is among the fastest of the Android satnav apps which makes navigating roundabouts easy.
Overall, despite the slow route calculation, I reckon Sygic Mobile Maps is one of the best sat nav apps for Android.
Phone Memory: 6.5Mb + 300Mb+ on SD card
Review: v10 Jun 2010
Cygic Mobile Maps 10 looks pretty similar to version 9 (see above for features and screenshot). It still has the super crisp clear voice instructions and the same 3D map view, but the menus are worse. They are quick and responsive to press but for some reason they've changed the lovely big clear menus and icons in version 9 for smaller, harder to read icons.
It also seems to me that the whole app is not designed for the newer, higher resolution screens of the Sony Ericsson X10, HTC Desire or Nexus One. So all text and maps look slightly blurred on these newer handsets as Android has to stretch Cygic 10 to fill the screen, and not super sharp has they should do on todays screens. Transitioning from landscape to portrait modes seems a little buggy at times too, as occasionally the screen won't redraw itself correctly.
So overall, version 10 of Cygic Mobile Maps is still good, but less impressive on brand new top of the range smart phones. If you're using a lower powered or older Android phone with a smaller screen, this is still a good sat nav app though.
Phone Memory: 38Mb & 300Mb+ on SD card
Review: Feb 2010
iGO My Way is available for the iPhone and will shortly be released for Android. It's another proper standalone sat nav app which relies on its own maps stored on your SD card so it won't rely on your Internet connection and phone signal.
The first thing you'll notice after loading up iGO My Way is the pretty user interface. Menus slide and spin round looking very flash, but my God it's slow! Entering addresses and postcodes is like wading through treacle. Often you can press buttons twice, not realising it's registered, which can be quite annoying. I think part of the problem is the nice but pointless flashy interface, and part is the huge amount of memory the app consumes. Is it really necessary to have a 3D spinning view of each of the vehicles you can choose from? No. Testing on a T-Mobile G1 and an HTC Magic, iGo was sometimes unusably laggy, but the 10Mb memory hack on the G1 improved matters considerably, so it seems to be due to the mammoth memory footprint. Testing on faster phones such as the HTC Desire and Nexus One sees iGo speed up further but it's still slow.
Nov 2010 - iGo My Way No Longer AvailableiGo My Way no longer available to general public. It's available to business customers only. It's still for sale for the iPhone, but we don't care about those. :-)
How to enter postcodes is not immediately obvious, but full UK postcode matching is supported, with the smart text entry greying out certain letters and highlighting others a helpful feature. Long route calculation is reasonably fast, and like many of the other sat nav apps shows an overview of your entire route in 2D before you set off. A nice touch is the ability to press "Fast", "Short", "Economical" or "Easy" which changes the route on the map so you can see the different routes instantly, along with the distance and predicted route time.
On to the navigation, and iGo really shines. Surprisingly, the map animation is very smooth, and you get a nice big map view which is very easy to follow. I have been most impressed with the way iGO copes with roundabouts. Aside from the big clear 3D map view, you get a useful rendered roundabout diagram in the corner showing exactly what angle your turnoff is at. Voice guidance is OK, although not quite as loud and clear as some of the other sat nav apps. iGO doesn't attempt to say road names or numbers, but this is sometimes an annoying feature to have anyway. Other features included are lane guidance and speed camera warnings, although the speed camera warnings didn't work in my tests.
iGo My Way integrates with the Android Contacts app. When you find your contact and click on their address you then have the option to navigate there with iGo. The app works reliably when it's minimised too. It sits there barking out its voice commands while its iGO icon remains in the notification bar waiting for you to return to the app.
Overall this is one of the better android sat nav apps, but is let down by the sluggish user interface.
30 days free trial
Phone Memory: 20Mb & 300Mb+ on SD card
Download from Android Market Review: Apr 2010
Navigon is a big name in the standalone satnav market, and the new MobileNavigator sat nav app is a predictably professional and polished product. The user interface is well designed with big, easy to press buttons, which is always important for use in the car, and reaction to button presses is quick and responsive.
Entering full UK postcodes is quick and easy. The usual features such as favourite locations and searching for POIs nearby or near another location is supported, with shortcut buttons for Parking and Petrol Stations. Usefully, Navigon can read from the Android contacts so you can navigate to any addresses already stored in your address book or Google Contacts.
On to the actual navigation, and Navigon MobileNavigator is a joy to use. The 3D view is really clear and animation as you move along is super-smooth. Voice commands are clear, if a little quiet, and the sampled voice speaks road numbers for you, but doesn't attempt road names. And at last, we have a satnav app that correctly speaks numbers of major routes! (E.g. "A-one-thirty" instead of "A one-hundred-and-thirty"). Easy to follow lane-assist icons are displayed, and Navigon displays the speed limit on-screen all the time, which is a nice feature, although there are no speed camera warnings. In tests, we did find it rather annoying that the very polite lady insists on say "please" before each request!
Part of the beauty of Navigon MobileNavigator is its simplicity. There are almost NO settings to fiddle with and tweak apart from essentials like route type (fastest/shortest etc) and vehicle type so the correct speed limits are displayed. The satnav just works brilliantly. This will appeal to users who want a no-fuss, super reliable, professional product. I wonder if they've gone too far with the keep-it-simple design though. There is no ETA displayed for your journey or trip computer with distances, and you can't plan a future journey, or tweak a suggested route. (There is actually an ETA displayed if you tap the black bar - thanks Thorsten).
In summary, Navigon MobileNavigator is a great sat nav app for Android phones. It's very polished and works great, but is lacking some of the more advanced features. It's a great product, but is a little too expensive given its lack of more advanced features.
Phone Memory: 7Mb & 60Mb+ on SD card
Download from Android Market Review: v1.2 Jul 2010
NavDroyd is a brand new offering available now in the Android Market which uses Open Street Maps for its map data. In case you haven't heard of Open Street Maps, it's freely available map information compiled and maintained by members of the public, in the same way that Wikipedia is a collection of information created and maintained by members of the public. Even though the map data is free, you still have to pay for the app itself, but it's very cheap, at only 4.99 euros.
NavDroyd is an off-line sat nav app, containing all its maps on the SD card of your phone. The app contains a map download manager which allows you to easily choose which maps you want and it downloads them all for you to your SD card. To give you an idea of size, the map data for the UK is currently 60Mb, which you should download first while you're at home and from then on Navdroyd doesn't need to download from the Internet at all.
The user interface is fairly simplistic and at first, not that intuitive. It has a standard mode which is basically an interface for browsing the map, and a "cruise mode", which is a 2D or 3D driving mode rather similar to Google Maps and Google Maps Navigation. You can place "pins" on the map, which are basically favourites allowing quick navigation to, say, "Home".
The app itself is really very basic, offering none of the more advanced features such as traffic info, speed cameras, and settings are sparse.
Searching For Addresses
Searching for addresses is where NavDroyd falls on its arse. It's quite odd as you have to type the address in the form "Road Name Town" and as you type you are presented with matches. Sometimes. House numbers are not supported, and rather more fatally, postcode matching is not supported. The search box is too small, and very fiddly to use. The search facility in NavDroyd is disappointing and needs improving. The current lack of postcode search and even house numbers makes it frustrating or impossible to find addresses accurately.
Browsing of the maps and rendering is where NavDroyd shines. Pinch-to-zoom works excellently, and the map rendering is clear and quick. The app itself feels responsive and 3D animation in "cruise mode" is smooth. Route calculation is very fast, and has "shortest" or "fastest" options, and you can also choose between travelling by road or on foot. "Fast re-routing" is supposedly a feature, although NavDroyd failed to re-route when deviating from the route in my tests. ETA, time remaining, distance and speed are displayed along with up-coming junction details. You can switch between 2D or 3D views for navigation.
Voice guidance relies on the built-in Android voice synthesizer in the same way Google Maps Navigation does, including speaking road names. In tests, I found that the voice commands sometimes would interrupt each other, and sometimes stopped working altogether for no apparent reason. I also found it annoying being repeatedly told to "keep straight onto...".
NavDroyd has an open source feel and as though it does feel a bit like a work in progress it is fairly stable and certainly feels like it has potential. The success of Navdroyd is very much down to the quality of the map data in the areas you need, and whether or not you can manage without accurate postcode or house number searching. In my tests, the Open Street Map data has been excellent, but I couldn't live with the frustrating search feature.
Phone Memory: 5.3Mb
Download from Android Market Review: v2.5 Aug 2010
Like NavDroyd, Skobbler uses the freely available OSM (Open Street Map) data, although where NavDroyd downloads the maps to the SD card for off-line use, Skobbler requires an internet connection for route calculation and map data.
As with Navdroyd, the OSM data has been very good in my tests, but not perfect. All areas I tested it with were mapped but I did find the occasion connectivity error. Skobbler provides a feature for reporting bugs in the map data so you can flag any errors as you come across them for fixing if you want. The actual routes generated have been rather unusual but not incorrect, and differ to all other navigation systems I've tested on some longer routes. Routing options for Shortest or Fastest are provided, as usual.
Searching for addresses is straightforward and full UK postcode searching is supported. I understood this was not the case, but full postcodes worked perfectly for me. Response from the server has been fairly quick and reliable during my testing. Optionally, you can set up a Skobbler account which allows you to search for and store your addresses on the Skobbler website. These then show up in "My Locations" in the Android app on your phone.
On the move, the 3D navigation view is clear and simple with nice contrasting colours, important while driving. Animation is smooth and voice instructions are provided. On screen, you see an icon for the next one or two turns and countdown bars to the next junction. Duration and ETA are also displayed along with a direction compass.
Settings and features are very few, but Skobbler feels professional and reliable. No features such as POIs or speed cameras are provided, just basic no frills navigation. The user interface is pleasant and responsive to use, map rendering and dragging around the maps is really good.
So overall Skobbler is not bad, and being free you might as well give it a try. If you need any more than a very basic sat nav app though, or off-line navigation, you will need to look elsewhere. My main thought though is that there is no need for Skobbler now Google Maps Navigation is available, also for free. It doesn't offer anything Google Maps doesn't and I fail to see how anyone is going to poach users from Google without offering more features or better mapping. A shame, but unfortunately, Skobbler is all but redundant on the Android platform.
Phone Memory: 33Mb
Android Copilot Premium
Review: Oct 2011
Copilot Live Premium is a new version of ALK's mobile sat nav that's seemingly been around forever. The new version has been brought up to date with various new features, some good, some pointless. It's available to buy at £19.99 for UK maps or £34.99 for the whole of Europe. Unfortunately there's no trial version available.
As with previous versions of Copilot, this version is a standalone sat nav app which stores all its maps on your phone's SD card. New for this version though is the option to choose between three route options when planning your journey. This is really useful in itself, but you can also drag the route across the map as you can in Google Maps in your web browser. As far as I know, this feature is not available in any other sat nav apps at the moment, and is really impressive. Less impressive, in my opinion, is social networking integration. Why you would want it to post your route destination on Twitter or Facebook is beyond me, but such is the fashion these days. Also less than useless in my opinion is the ability to navigate to the location a photo was taken on your phone, by reading the embedded GPS tags. Clever, but a gimmick.
You have the option to choose between various sampled voice command sets, or to use the built-in Android text-to-speech engine. The sampled voices are loud and clear, but the Android text-to-speech option give the ability to speak road names.
Setting up the app itself is easy, as the maps are downloaded automatically onto your phone's SD card. Obviously, you'd want to be using wi-fi while this downloads, as it takes a while. One annoyance I found is the licensing that ALK use. It won't be an issue for most people but if you're into installing new ROMs on your phone, or swapping phones often, you need to deactivate the old install before setting Copilot up again on the new ROM/phone from scratch. Not only is this a real pain in the bum, but you'll lose your settings each time you re-install. Having said that, email customer service support was quick and painless for me, and I managed to re-install onto a different ROM.
As before, Copilot's new version is feature packed, including full UK postcode searching, customizable speed camera warnings, and the ability to route for car/motorbike/cycle/walking. It uses Navteq maps. Live traffic updates and routing is available but at an extra cost of £8.99 per year, and can be purchased from within the app itself. This will optimise routing and ETA calculation based on actual live traffic conditions. As in some other similar apps, Copilot has "Clearturn", which displays a nice lane guidance image with signs above.
To summarize, Copilot Live Premium is a very good, mature product. It's well priced and works great but it's a shame there's not trial version to allow you to try it out.