Those of you who read my ramblings regularly might remember the issues I had with the Navigon GPS software for the iPhone. I mentioned that the TomTom app, the other major alternative, was not working too well. Since then, TomTom has released a new version, 1.5, so I decided to give it a try, after reading reports that the main problem – incorrect routing when using contacts – was fixed.
Like with any competing apps, there are things I like better about the TomTom than I do the Navigon and visa versa. When you get to where you're going, both apps tell you you're there – but Navigon tells you which side of the street your destination is on. Personally, I find this to be huge. For some reason, TomTom doesn't think you need to know that (if I've never been there before and can't read the address numbers, knowing which side of the street to look at is a big help to me).
Also, when you arrive, Navigon clears the route – TomTom doesn't until you clear it yourself or pick a new destination. Why does this matter? Because both apps multitask – but if the route is clear, you see the "GPS" indicator turn off, and the app doesn't consume inordinate amounts of power. I've occasionally left the Navigon app up with the route still on (it doesn't always think you've arrived if the destination has a large parking lot) and noticed my iPhone getting hot and the battery draining.
Still, there might be cases where you don't want the route auto-cleared – such as when you need to drive past it (maybe because you didn't see which side of the street it was on!) or need to make a side trip quickly, so I can see where this might be a feature.
The maps on the Navigon are a little nicer looking, but the TomTom ones are functional. Also, traffic on the Navigon is a one-time charge – with the TomTom it's a yearly subscription. Navigon also lets you pick from three routes where TomTom shows you one, and if you don't like it, you can ask for alternatives or bypass portions of the route.
So why did I buy this app? Is there anything I like better with TomTom? Well, yes. I haven't taken it on a long trip yet, but I have used it locally for several days, and guess what? It hasn't missed a turn yet. If I followed Navigon's voice instructions, I'd make a wrong turn onto the expressway each morning on my way to work (interestingly, the map is right, but what it tells you to do is wrong).
There are other features I like too. TomTom lets you plan ahead – you can see a route (and adjust it) ahead of time – and it doesn't have to start where I am right now. I can start it anywhere. Also, any of my geo-tagged photos can be used as an address. I tried this out with some vacation photos, and it got the destination correct (down to the address).
I prefer the traffic display on the TomTom – you get a small bar to the right that shows you where (in miles) on your route the slowdowns are and for how long (the bar can be turned on and off). There's a little colored indicator at the top to tell you if there are any expected slowdowns – green is clear and red means some delay. Navigon has a traffic indicator too, but tapping it takes you to a whole new screen that lists every traffic issue for a several-mile radius of your route.
Does that mean I'm done with Navigon? Nope. I will try it out again when the next update comes out. Hopefully, they'll fix up their map/speech directions issues, and throw in some other cool feature I didn't even know I needed. Then it will be TomTom's turn to one-up them.
(OK, show of hands – how many thought this was going to be a Led Zeppelin video?)