Editor's Note: This review was updated after it originally posted on August 8, 2009 to reflect changes made to the application, and its rating was increased to 4 stars.
No sooner did Navigon exit the dwindling North American standalone GPS market than did it return as an iPhone app. It's a pleasure to see the familiar Navigon interface, and we like some of the choices the company has made--such as skipping the subscription model and opting for a one-time payment of $89.99. Revisions have been coming so quickly (which paid customers can download for free) that this app is already on a par with standalone GPS devices.
Installation and Interface
While other iPhone GPS apps need to dial in to get local maps and search for points of interest, Navigon has elected to load everything on the user's iPhone at once (an approach TomTom is taking as well). There are pluses and minuses to this approach: the app works even in areas with no AT&T reception, but the user doesn't benefit from constantly-updated maps or a huge POI database. Plus, Navigon's app is enormous: in order to install it on our iPhone 3G, we had to clear 1.3GB. By comparison, AT&T's app took up just 2.3MB, Gokivo Navigator uses 3.4MB, and TomTom 1.2GB. That's room we'd rather use for music.
The stylish, basic black menu offers four main choices (Enter an Address, Search for POI, Take Me Home, and Show Map) and five smaller buttons (Main Menu, Favorites, Recents, Contacts, and More). Entering an address or searching for a POI is easy, although searching is a little slow.We love that, unlikeAT&T Navigator, Navigon's app can take you to saved contacts, and that it works in both portrait and landscape modes.
Maps and Navigation
Navigon's maps look far more detailed than those in the AT&T app, and we like the inclusion of branded POIs (both on the map and in the POI directory), which makes it a cinch to find favorite stores. For example, it's easier to find a Starbucks when its logo appears on-screen. Simple controls let us decide just what POIs we wanted displayed on our maps. Rerouting took a quick six seconds--almost twice as fast as AT&T Navigator, and on a par with standalone devices.
Unfortunately, the 3D map view is too zoomed out--there's no way to zoom in--so even if you have the app set to show street names, there's no way you can read them unless you're right in front of the screen. However, the 2D view is more zoomed in and easier to read.
The map view controls are streamlined yet sparse. You can tap the top bar to toggle speed, distance remaining, or time remaining, and you can tap the bottom to toggle the current street name or the next street name. But guess what? We don't want to toggle while driving: we want all that information at a glance.
Following the maps was simple and we loved having Navigon's lane assistance and reality view features on-board. The 1.2.0 upgrade brought street name pronunciation, a must for any moden GPS device. It also adds automatic day or night color schemes.
The Navigon app let us search for POIs along our routes and plan interim stops, but both features required careful attention to the menu, so don't use them while driving. The 1.1.0 software upgrade brought route planning, a significant addition. Tapping the More button from the main screen let us easily create a multi-point route or open a saved route. We were also able to save locations so that we could navigate back to them later. However, Navigon's POI database has only 2 million entries. While it feels mostly up-to-date (we couldn't find a local Target in testing), it has far fewer entries than the 10 million in AT&T's database. You can phone searched POIs with just a tap, though.
Navigon lets you control your music without leaving the app; just turn the feature on in Options and you'll see an orange iPod icon in the lower right corner. You can also now e-mail a location to friends, but they'll need to also be running the Navigon app to view it. There are still features we'd like to see, though. Live services, including a connected POI search and live traffic, would really impress, especially if they don't cost extra. Navigon says that traffic updates will be added in October. We will update this review after we've had a chance to test it.
lets you control your music without leaving the app; just turn the feature on in Options and you'll see an orange iPod icon in the lower right corner. You can also now e-mail a location to friends, but they'll need to also be running the app to view it. There are still features we'd like to see, though. Live services, including a connected POI search and live traffic, would really impress, especially if they don't cost extra. says that traffic updates will be added in October. We will update this review after we've had a chance to test it.
Navigon for iPhone is the best first effort among early GPS apps. It sports the company's time-tested lane assistance and reality view features, and, more importantly, integrates fairly well with the iPhone. Also, its price--a one-time fee of $89.99--makes it more cost-effective over the long run than AT&T Navigator, which costs $9.99 per month. With street name pronunciation and the ability to control music--and live traffic coming soon--this GPS app is the most formidable.