Review: Navigon MobileNavigator for iPhone

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A few weeks back I got a chance to take a look at the “Lite” version of Navigon – a version without turn-by-turn routing.  Now I’m back to take a look at the full North American version of Navigon MobileNavigator. Navigon, as one of the world’s leading navigation software companies, has a leg-up that is perhaps only matched by a few competitors like iGo (especially in Europe) and Tom Tom (who have yet to relase their iPhone product).  In the past, I’ve worked with Navigon on Windows Mobile, so let’s take a closer look now at the iPhone version!

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Of the current iPhone navigation choices I’ve seen, Navigon has one of the most pleasing user interfaces.  The graphics are clean, sharp, and the color choices are pleasant.  The whole thing has a very polished appearance to it.   It supports, of course, both portrait and landscape modes.

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When I worked with this app on Windows Mobile, it was also very attractive, but the performance was always a little dogged.  Although it can slow down a bit (sometimes causing user taps to not be immediately recognized), the iPhone version doesn’t appear to suffer from nearly the same degree of difficulty.  Although startup is a little lengthy, the program generally performs very well, with a lot less of the lagginess I used to experience under Windows Mobile.

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I ran some long and short route calculations against this application and they all calculated reasonably well.   In general, Navigon made reasonably good routing choices throughout.  Again, however, during actual navigation, I experienced a little occasional lagginess in the interface controls, but the actual navigation kept up very well.

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As I mentioned, the interface in this program is really attractive.  It’s easy to read road names.  The “realistic” view shown when you have to make lane selection types of decisions is very nice and the lane information very useful.  This is getting to be a more common feature, and Navigon implements it nicely.  I remember seeing this on their stand-alone devices and really liking it and now here it is on the iPhone too – excellent!

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You can change some of the details you are viewing by simply taping the item on the screen.  For example, during navigation, you will see your next street listed on the bottong or tap on it to see the name of the street you are currently traveling.  Tapping on the top bar toggles between your current speed and arrival time and remaining distance.

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You can tap the map to change between 3D and 2D displays.

I really like how the application displays  POIs (points of interest) often showing 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!  In the previous version this was as far as it went, but the latest update also allows you to dial the phone number associated with the POI.

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There is also support for routing profiles.  The application will calculate arrival, etc. a little differently depending on if you use the car, motorcycle, truck, bicycle, or pedestrian setting.  You can choose route types of fast, optimum (whatever that means), short, or scenic.   You can allow or avoid highways, toll roads, ferried, residents-only streets, and HOV lanes.  It’s all pretty customizable.

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The program provides reasonable warning for upcoming turns and events, although it doesn’t have a full TTS (text-to-speech) implememntation.  In general, it does not announce road names – this limitation has been a common one for iPhone navigation apps so far, perhaps because of the increased app download size, but I’d like to see the feature added.

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Navigon offers speed warning, like many nav apps, and they are very customizable.  You can set different warning thresholds for inside vs. outside of urban areas.  You can even determine whether or not it should warn you about conditional speed limits or ignore them.

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One thing I found interesting is in the POI (points of interest) search.  You can do the typical things like search the area for a specific POI, but there are also 3 buttons on the bottom of the POI search page that make it easier by “automatically” searching round your current position for gas, parking, or restaurants.  It’s very convenient and requires less input from you than standard POI searches.

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One thing I tried in my “First Look” that is still true appears when I search for a local, relatively new Chinese restaurant I frequent.  The app has the restaurant in its POI database, 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!  I still don’t understand this anomaly.

This oddity aside, a lot of attention seems to have been paid to POI information, in general.  The branded icons, the simplified search for gas/food/parking, and the built in connection to calling the POI phone number are all very nice and well implemented.

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As I mentioned before, the performance of the application is excellent, but I did see a few errors in the data.  For example, there is a bridge I crosss regularly that I received a speed warning on.  The map data thought the speed limit was 35 when, in fact, the limit was 55.  Very minor, but still incorrect.

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What I liked: The interface is very attractive.  It is absolutely one of the best features of this application.  All the screens are clean and have a highly polished look to them.  Operation is extremely smooth.  POI information and access seems to be above the norm for similar applications.

What Could be Improved: I’d like to see more options available for setting the zoom level.  There are also a few minor errors items in the Navteq map data itself that could use some correction.

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Overall: Navigon doesn’t disappoint with this offering.  The program is solid, functional, and attractive.  Navigon seems very committed to keep this application up-to-date.  Their recent update allows for more advanced route planning, calling POI phone numbers right from the POI and support for iPod functions.

Navigon MobileNavigator for iPhone is available from the ITMS AppStore in North American ($69.99), European ($99.99) and Australian ($54.99( editions.

About the Author

Christopher Gavula
Chris has been a COBOL programmer, a desktop support technician, network engineer, telecommunications manager, and even a professional musician. Currently, he is focused on deploying Voice over IP technologies in a large, corporate setting. He started working full-time at the tender age of 14, even before there were PCs, and will probably be working and trying to finish “just one more project” as he’s lowered into the grave.

4 Comments on "Review: Navigon MobileNavigator for iPhone"

  1. I would agree with your review. It is an awesome navigation program. I do wish it had more zooming and panning controls, but the speed limit indication is very helpful. I’m not used to that feature on my Garmin or my old WinMobile TomTom app.

    And I wish these GPS programs to make more use of the ‘connected’ features of the iPhone. I mean it is connected to the web, why not harness that power for POI info or traffic and weather, etc.

  2. great review … i am very satisfied with navigon and you taught me some new tricks

    thanx

  3. Thank you for the great amount of screenshots, which describe the details.

    Perhaps useful is the video Johan van Mierlo recorded during a short drive, testing Navigon Mobile Navigator for iPhone: http://www.mobilityminded.com/2815/navigon-north-america-navigation-for-iphone-review

  4. What I haven’t figured out is how to detour or have Navigon plan you a different route if there is construction or traffic. Do you know how to do that?

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