First Turn-by-Turn Navigation App for iPhone: XROADS G-Map Review

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Update: Apple has pulled the XRoads G-Map programs from its app store.

The iPhone has unquestionably dominated the mobile phone industry for the past two years. One of its biggest advantages over other devices is the long list of applications of every variety that can be downloaded to it. There are “apps” for everything from keeping track of your Twitter feed to following your favorite baseball team. Finally, after nearly two years, a developer has released the first real-time, turn-by-turn navigation application for the iPhone. XROADS G-Map ($19) is clearly the best real-time navigation option for an iPhone right now, but we ran it through the same tests we would a stand-alone TomTom, Garmin or Mio system to see how it fared with the big boys of navigation.

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Ease of Use: 12 of 15 points

The touch-screen interface on the iPhone is more intuitive than most cellular devices. When creating an application for the iPhone, developers are advised to follow some general design guidelines to help them create an iPhone-like application. XROAD has done very well in following those guidelines. With this application, things just make sense. When you want to enter a destination, tap the “Where to?” button. To see the map, click “View Map.” If an iPhone owner understands how to use an iPhone, then catching on to using G-Map will be a breeze.

As a Midwesterner, however, there isn’t an ideal version of this app available. Due to the size of the application — nearly 900MB — the application is split into two versions, east and west, which must be purchased separately at $19 each. The line that defines east and west isn’t the best, as it splits Illinois into two sections, north and south, with one in the east app and one in the west. In the next revision, I hope to see a more logical segmentation of the country. Or, if they must, they should add a Midwest version.

The size of the app might turn off 8GB iPhone users, as G-Map will take up an eighth of that device’s capacity. Like all purchased apps, though, it can be removed from your iPhone at will and reside on iTunes until you’re ready to reinstall it again, like before heading on a trip.

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Routing: 13 of 15 pts

In the time I had to use the app, I was very pleased with the routing. Very clear, accurate and understandable directions were displayed on the screen. Best of all, when coming to a highway interchange G-Map displays a 3-D rendering of it. In all the GPS systems I have used, I have never seen such an accurate depiction of the road. In a few instances, this was able to route me into the lane I needed to be in to head the right direction, averting one of those scary moments you sometimes encounter when traveling somewhere new. I would, however, like to see a few more features added in the future, including route specs like distance and time to destination, average speed, a timer and even an odometer.

Map Quality: 5 of 10 pts

I didn’t notice any lack in map quantity while using the system, but I did notice a lack of street names. When using a navigation device, it’s always nice to have as many points of reference as possible, like street names or 3-D renderings of buildings on the map. Without every street name, you often have to rely entirely on the turn-by-turn directions, without real-world visual clues that you are where you should be, which may unsettle users.
 
This is a big misstep for the G-Map app, but what’s nice about iPhone apps is that they can be updated in future releases at no charge. However, until that happens this score is definitely docked some points.

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POI Content and Accuracy: 9 of 10 pts

I was most impressed with the POI search functionality. Rather than choosing by genre, location, zip or name, the user has a clear choice to do any or all of those. A simple search box allows users to search for what they want, where they want. Without internet access, the app has thousands of stored points of interest. Access to iPhone contacts for routing is a must-have that’s lacking in this application. There were a few instances when I had to memorize an address and enter it into the app to be guided to the address. Again, an application update could fix this issue.

GPS Accuracy:
8 of 10 pts

This app is as accurate as the iPhone can be, and therefore it’s just as good as most TomTom and Garmin units I’ve tested, but not in line with automakers’ own navigation systems. When in a big city like Chicago, where we’re headquartered — with large buildings there is going to be interference, but once you reach the first outer band of tall buildings on the expressway the app is as accurate as can be.

Multimedia Features:
4 of 5 pts

The iPhone is a clear winner here. It has outstanding multimedia features — it’s an iPod Touch after all — and on top of that you’re able to play your music in the background while using G-Map. I would like to see the ability to exit the application to change a playlist or make a phone call then return to the application without interrupting route guidance. Now, the destination must be tapped from the “Recent” menu to resume guidance.

Mounting Kit:
4 of 5 pts

While XROADS does sell a mounting kit, we were unable to test it. There are many different options for mounting the iPhone in a car, however, and commuters may already own such an adapter. That’s even more potential savings compared to buying a separate navigation device like a TomTom.

Voices:
0 out of 5 pts

This application does not do voice routing. Because it’s already such a memory hog, I can’t imagine this feature will be added. Some people hate having a voice interrupt their music playback, and if you’re one of those people the lack of audible directions won’t be a negative. If, however, you are easily distracted and like the audible reminders, this omission could be a deal-breaker.

Design:
5 of 5 pts

As mentioned in the Ease of Use section, the developers of this application have done a great job following Apple’s design guidelines. This app is very iPhone-like and therefore a big winner in terms of design.

Value:
20 of 20 pts

Overall, this application is an outstanding value for those looking to spend a lot less than they would on a traditional GPS unit. Even buying both regions would only cost $40 total, while a traditional unit with a screen the size of the iPhone’s would cost around $200. Plus, this way you won’t need to remember two different chargers on that next road trip, or worry about someone breaking into your car to steal your navigation system.
 
While there is room for improvement in this product, this is also the first attempt at a real-time turn-by-turn navigation application for the iPhone. As long as XROADS is willing to follow what other developers have done by offering free updates, this app is sure to take a chunk out of the GPS navigation market.

Total: 80 out of 100 pts

Comments 

.

A music phone with no A2DP or AVRCP.

That's not a phone that I would call DOMINATE!

I think we're talking sales pure and simple here and in that way, it definitely would be dominating.

.

Performance-wise, this is a pathetic piece of equipment.
Apple knows how to hype up their products and make everyone think that it is a must have. Dave T., you are a Zune user, and should know what I am talking about.

we are NOT going to debate the iPhone in the comments here. If you're not into it move along. If you have something to ask about the review ITSELF please do so.

Any further comments like this I'm going to delete. It has nothing to do with this post or this site and we have enough fruitless domestic vs. import debates that I leave alone because it is part of the car culture for whatever reason.

The whole idea of commenting is to ADD to the discussion. If you have something worthwhile to add please do so. If there's another phone out there with a GPS service like many have, please mention them. That would be useful. These comments are not.

VIk

Just got this app recently and tested it out. I already have a Garmin and an Alpine, but thought this might replace the Garmin for travel. The GPS software works surprisingly well and the feature-set is awesome, but the lack of voice guidance is a real turn-off. I'd rather not look down at my phone so much.

ermatthe

I have the LG Voyager with the VZ Navigation and It works okay. It does have voice guidance.

Of course navigation on a phone is like video on a digital camera.
It'll get the job done, but not very well.

In my opinion Navigation integrated into the radio system is still the best way to go if you are willing to pay for it. They talk to you through the radio, and turn the music volume down automatically.

Thanks for the feedback Ermatthe and Vik!

Scott

Give the XGPS application a try. The GUI isn't the best, but the voice enabled directions are a real plus. The program gives you plenty of warning prior to the next turn. However, it is only available for jail broken phones.

Myke

Does it need 3G to work? or even a data plan for that matter??

If you purchase both sides of the country, do they both work in 1 app? Say, for instance, you're driving from FL to WA. Do you need to quit one app and start the other when you get to Arkansas?

To answer a few of the questions above...

While a data plan is required on the iPhone from AT&T, G-maps does not require any sort of data connection when using the app. All data is stored within the app and therefore has no need to load data. The iPhone 3G is the only device at this time that has the GPS module.

If you purchase both versions of the app they do unfortunately work independently. So if you are traveling from New York to Los Angeles, there is no seamless way of doing so, you must switch apps on your route.

I'm seeing a lot of negative reviews on the App Store about crashing...did you experience any of this?

Also, I hear that the application only has a North-Up display, instead of displaying based on the direction you are travelling in. Is this true?

I'm glad, however, to see these apps finally come to fruition. Looking forward to some improvements.

Robert

What iPhone mount are you using in the photos?
I really like that one as it holds the iPhone by the corners.

Chris

I've been researching this application for my father and have a few comments which might add to the conversation..

1) Apparently the lack of voice is some sort of Apple mandate around GPS applications. On the website for this software they indicate when and if this limitation is lifted they will add voice.

2) That being said -- I don't know if it's a possible loophole -- but it would be nice to just have a generic audible "Right turn in 100 meters", "Right turn in 10 feet", "Make next right".. that would be at least 75% as helpful as calling out specific street names...

To the reviewer (or anyone with experience) is there *ANY* audible cues? Maybe a chime or a bell when you are supposed to make a turn?

3) If anyone is interested in a mounting system my research pointed me to PRO CLIPS - it's a system of custom car mounts. I am totally unrelated to the company but the product seems to get near universal acclaim. As this is a car site perhaps there is a review here? YouTube features several reviews of this product.

4) YouTube also has a series of videos that show the UI and tour the basic functionality if anyone is interested in getting more of a peek prior to purchase.

Thanks for the review.. !

Sean

I have used the xgps application for jailbroken iphones and it works great. While not the prettiest UI in the world, it does the job and it does have voice navigation. You can even download the maps to the device itself.

Mark

Does the iPhone's Address Book integrate with this app? In other words, when the app is running can you pull up one of your contacts without having to type in the address manually? If not, this might be a deal-breaker. Thanks...Mark

does it support european maps? I would buy it NOW if so, without them it is just for americans (15 % of iPhone users)

I am back again to answer a few of our readers questions...

Although there have been reports of the app crashing I did not have an issue with it at all. I think throughout all of my testing there may have been one crash, but a simple application relaunch got me right back in there, no problem. With any app, it is said that doing a reset (hold the top and home button till the Apple logo appears) will stop the crashing.

The map had three different views, north overhead, directional overhead, and the 3D-like bird's eye view which are all easily switchable while viewing the map.

The mount pictured in the photos is the Griffin WindowSeat. (http://www.griffintechnology.com/products/windowseat) It is the best mount I have used with my iPhone. It comes in at $29.99.

At this time there is not a European version of the app but according to XROADS, G-map for Europe will be available within Q1 2009.

Thanks for your questions.

C

Just got a Sony Ericsson W760a. It is loaded with the AT&T GPS turn by turn application. Haven't got the chance to try it out yet. But it is a better music phone comparing to the iphone IMHO.
(Did I see Dave snapped?)

C

BTW, I believe AT&T now offers quite a few phones with their turn-by-turn navigation built in. Except the users have to pay to use them.

C.,
It was monday morning. Someone was looking to start an iPhone flame war. I was not happy about it. Luckily everyone else had really useful comments and we all appreciate them.

Yes, other phones come with turn by turn and we'll be reviewing a few soon, including one on the Android G1.

And you're right, this doesn't require a fee to use it, just the purchase price.

Dennis M

I just purchased and tried out the G-Map West for the iPhone today. My first impressions were pretty good, especially since I can compare it to a Garmin Mobile XT that I have on my old ATT Tilt. However, it did seem to not update occasionally and for several minutes. Don't know what's wrong here, but clearly not a good thing for someone using it in their car. I also noted that it's a bit clumsy to input My POIs. You seem to have to create a favorite and then export to MY POI. It would also be nice to have a large display of current speed and time to destination (this is super handy). Otherwise, the display is good, but needs larger icons on anything you have to push with your finger. I would also recommend some type of help or information button, so that you can get info while using the device.

Mark

Still trying to get this one answered:

Does the iPhone's Address Book integrate with this app? In other words, when the app is running can you pull up one of your contacts without having to type in the address manually? If not, this might be a deal-breaker. Thanks...Mark

Mark:
I know the review has a lot of words and stuff, but if you read through all those words, you'll actually find your answer:

"Access to iPhone contacts for routing is a must-have that’s lacking in this application. There were a few instances when I had to memorize an address and enter it into the app to be guided to the address. Again, an application update could fix this issue."

If that's still to much, here's the short answer: "No"


Matt,
Thank you very much for the review. It was quite informative. So far, I've only seen screenshots of it in portrait mode, does it have a landscape mode as well?

I'm debating whether to purchase it - can I hold off until TomTom has an app for the iPhone or not? I saw a hint that when it comes, it may be integrated with the Google maps feature, which would be awesome - but that may just be smoke. Still, it's only $20...

C

Dave,

I am no math major, but my calculator tells me that my intuitive instinct is correct.

at&t offers the GPS for $9.99 per month, and $20 for GPS + unlimited data.
On the other hand, the iPhone's monthly plan is whatever plan I already have + $30 per month for the unlimited data.

Price of the phone aside, I am still paying at least $10 more per month for the duration of the contract of the iPhone, meaning I will have to shell out at least $240 more; it also means that I could afford a decent Garmin with that money. And if I chose to have a phone that has GPS capability, I can choose to have it turned on or turned off as I wish. The iPhone's plan cannot be changed for the whole 2 year period.

I have to admit that the iPhone is fun with all those games and apps available to it. :) However, price-wise is a different story. :(

It all comes down to how good does is the GPS that at&t has to offer comparing to the app that you guys have reviewed. (I might give it a try within a week or so, but that is a tough decision because I have a dedicated GPS unit. And gonna let you guys know how it goes.)

CDub

Apple took down the application!

David

Dave, the one thing you didn't mention is battery life, and it's not shown plugged in here. I know when using the map app, I can almost watch as my battery visually drains! 20 mins and I'm going to be out!

Also, does the screen stay lit, or go to sleep? Do you have to touch it once every 2 mins in order to keep it on?


Chris said "1) Apparently the lack of voice is some sort of Apple mandate around GPS applications."
Hmmmm. sounds to me like apple is working on their own GPS app and dont want competition.


Mike

I have used g-map U.S. East for a few trips now. It is much more like a typical GPS system than the built in google maps program, such as better turn by turn navigation and automatic re-routing, which I love, not just useful for when you miss a turn, but also for those occasions of wanting to drive towards something you see and then going back to your destination. The points of interest and other features are great (like the one other dedicated GPS system I used). The built in google maps program is fine for walking directions.

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Karen3b

No voice guidance is a real drawback for a direction-impaired individual like me. Not having ea street name is not quite as bad. However, when one is as seriously direction-impaired as I am, the anxiety level could rise astronomically. And no automatic re-routing for missed turns is truly not servicing those of us who need it most!
I've been using VZ Navigator for the past 2+ years. It has all of the above features. However, the accuracy of directions is not what it should be -- not even in a large city. And when the service goes down while driving to a business appointment new location...well, that tops it. So I'm looking for a better system. Unfortunately, it doesn't sound like this is it.

Kelly

Nice review! I purchased the West version of this app about 3 weeks ago. Here are my impressions.

Pros:
1) The map data for our area (North Dallas) seems pretty solid. I emailed them and asked how frequently they plan on doing map updates. They responded that they expect feature updates quarterly and map updates 1-2 times/year. If they do this, it's better than most dedicated GPS unit providers.
2) Stability seems good. I know some people have indicated that they get a lot of crashing. I've used it probably 2-dozen times and had it crash once.
3) UI is pretty easy to navigate if you're familiar with most iPhone apps
4) 3 different views in the map view
5) Easy to search for POI's

Cons:
1) No voice prompting or audio of any kind.
2) Routing isn't that great in my experience. I was sitting at an intersection looking at my office building .5 miles away straight ahead and it wanted me to take a 3 mile detour to get there. Basically, it'll get you there but not necessarily in the best way.
3) Doesn't automatically keep the screen lit. You either have to remember to touch the screen or change the settings to keep the screen on all the time. They should be able to fix this.
4) The map needs to include more street names as a frame of reference. This also includes the small map that appears when choosing POI's.
5) Needs an "Arrival Time" indicator
6) Would be good to view in landscape mode, but no biggie
7) If you are navigating and get a phone call, when you get back into the app, your route is canceled. You have to re-select the route which is a hassle - and dangerous if driving. Again, they should be able to fix this.

Conclusion:
This is a nice app and for $20 it's a steal. It won't necessarily replace a dedicated GPS device but it's a fantastic backup or nice intro to GPS.

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Stu

Seems like an interesting app. I'll probably get the European version when it comes out. A shame they wont just be offering the UK as TomTom do though - I never take my car to mainland Europe and only have an 8 gig phone, so it would be a welcome saving on storage space.

The lack of voice direction isnt a big problem for me, but I was a bit concerned about a lack of automatic rerouting, as well as routes being cancelled if a phone call comes in.

I wonder if there are any plans to link up with traffic data services, as this would the the icing on the cake for me.

For £14.99 it seems like good value for money even with a few shortcomings - I reckon if TomTom release their software for the iphone it will cost about £80 or so. A big question for me right now is how, if at all, will the app be affected for better or worse by the immenent arrival of version 3 of the iphone OS?

I have used the west G map iSoftware for several months. It is seldom accurate and often horribly wrong. The user has little control when it begins to make mistakes and rerouting can cause it to jump constantly between suggested routes. Failures included areas of SW Oregon where it simply does not know of major roads. From Medford to Myrtle Point it insists on going via Reedsport (which adds 100 miles to the trip and several hours). From Morton to Kingston it wants to go via Renton rather than Bremerton (which actually undermines the journey). It does not understand ferries. On the trip from Morton to Kingston, once I got to Bremerton it advised me to go to Seattle ... Yikes! Even approaching Kingston it routed the longest possible route ahead of six available shorter routes provided by AAA maps. This app can only be used for entertainment purposes, a laugh.

Ray

The app store is a little difficult to navigate re: searching for a good GPS Navigation app...so I turned to Google, found your article, and tried to go back to the app store to buy. The Apple Store doesn't recognize "Xroads G-map" or anything like it. How do you get it?

The best indoor navigation iphone app for 2010 by far is FastMall so far. Works without GPS, its amazing. http://www.FastMall.com

Chuck Frederick

I've navigated with Garmin since 2000, three different units the most recent a ZUMO 500/550 onboard my motorcycle and an integrated unit in my car's center dash (2006). I have a 3G/AT&T iphone. Traveled six hours yesterday navigating the Oregon Memorial Day wine tasting venue with a friend who has a droid with Google Maps Navigation(Beta).For ease of navigating with voice prompts and displays, It blows everything else away and it's a free app.

The new iphone 4 rumored has great feature front facing camera, voice AND video calls, HD Video Recording, etc

I will bookmark your blog and take the feeds additionally…

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