Other than AT&T Navigator, Navigon probably has more presence worldwide in GPS Navigation (especially through it’s stand alone products) than anything we’ve seen so far. First they released their product for the European market a few weeks ago, and now they have released a “Lite” version sporting North American maps (full version coming soon). Let’s take a quick look at this offering from Navigon.
Of the current iPhone navigation choices for the iPhone I’ve seen so far, this one has the most pleasing user interface yet. The graphics are clean, sharp, and the color choices are pleasant. That said, this “Lite” version is limited to showing your position on a map (a moving map program), or simulating a route from the nearest town center to a specified address/POI, etc. I was, therefore, unable to test any “real” routing or whether longer distance routes were possible. By the way – a little mini lesson – when you don’t have active navigation available, we usually call that a “moving map” program rather than a navigation program.
In general, this “moving map” program worked very well, but, even in the simulation of a 20 mile long route, the application crashed once. This puts it on par with most of the other applications I’ve tested in this category so far. Im not sure why these apps have this difficulty – the iPhone has twice as much RAM available as many of the older 64MB RAM WinMo devices and they did navigation just fine!
As I mentioned, the interface in this program is really stunning. It’s easy to read road names and POIs (points of interest) often take on their “brand” icon rather than a generic icon – very nice. I even found the local POI database to be VERY up-to-date – something that I did NOT expect to find. Very cool!
On the downside, I already mentioned the crash during the simulation. I also thought the app took longer than most to load up. Once loaded, even local route calculation wasn’t particularly fast.
I searched for a local, relatively new Chinese restaurant I frequent. The app had the restaurant in its POI database, which surprised me, but, even though “Chinese” is in the restaurant name, it does NOT appear in the list of Chinese restaurants! Only in the list of ALL restaurants – weird!
The maps seem to keep up with the movement of the car without any significant lag – and excellent thing, but I’m not sure what, if any, lag active navigation will add.
Overall, I’m excited at this first look at the Navigon offering. They have, historically, made good navigation applications and navigation devices. This looks like it will be no exception. It has an attractive interface, detailed POIs (including some actual “brand” icons), and detailed lane visuals. I think they are gong to make a wonderful addition to the iPhone Navigation roundup. I look forward to reviewing the full version of the application when it becomes available! In the mean time, check out this “lite” version. It’s really pretty nice, but it’s a huge download at the App Store, so make sure you have time to wait!