iPhone 5 Turn-by-Turn Navigation vs. Android vs. Automaker

Iphone1

A lot has been said about the new Maps application on the iPhone 5 and the latest iPhone operating system. People say they've gotten lost or they can't find the location they're looking for and are just generally unhappy. The problems have even led the company to apologize for the app itself.

But the one function drivers covet the most about the app — turn-by-turn directions — worked exceptionally well for nearly two weeks of testing. That doesn't mean there aren't issues, and yes, I got lost.

Iphoneterrain

I tested my iPhone 5 for one full week of regular commutes and errand runs. I also pitted it against a GMC Terrain's optional navigation system (above) for a trip to an automaker event about 20 miles from my home. Then, on a 15-mile round trip in Chicago, I tested the iPhone against the Google Maps Navigation app on a Samsung Galaxy Note running Android 4.0.

Graphics

The first thing that stands out is just how good the app looks. The screen resolution on the iPhone 5 is stunning, and the pale yellow backgrounds of the standard maps are a good backdrop for the green road-sign direction boxes that appear for every change along the route.

Compared with a standard car-navigation screen, like the 7-inch display in the GMC Terrain Denali, the iPhone 5's 4-inch screen looks small. But the clarity is far superior, and I didn't have a hard time reading the directions at a similar distance as the built-in screen. The Galaxy Note's large 5.3-inch screen looked good, too, but it was severely affected by glare from the noon sun, whereas the iPhone's screen wasn't.

The issue I had with the graphics came down to real estate. Whereas the car system can do a split screen to show a tricky turn or merge approaching, the iPhone 5 must rely on that green box and arrows. In landscape mode, it's hard to see the map underneath and which way the actual route is ahead of you. In portrait mode, you generally can see the turn ahead of time, but not as well as the Samsung or GMC.

Street names appear in small, green pop-ups that are easy to read. The Samsung does a good job with street names as well, while the GMC didn't show as many names or as clearly.

There is the well-hyped 3-D mode, and you can also pick from a standard map view, satellite view or a hybrid. I'm old-school and used the standard map in 2-D most of the time.

Routing

Iphonedroid

The most important part of a navigation system isn't just if it gets you to your final destination — which is what many people are complaining about with the iPhone 5 — it's whether it gets you there the fastest way possible.

The iPhone 5 offers three route choices with every destination, much like Google Maps did on the old iPhone. Google Maps Navigation didn't offer a choice but multiple routes can be offered with a change to the settings. Some car-based systems do, generally asking if you prefer speed or tollway roads.

You can click on each route to see the estimated time of arrival and the distance change. I did find a few of the alternatives offered a bit strange, but I guess that's why they're alternatives.

To put the nav system truly to the test, I decided to pick an alternate route through an area of Chicago I had never visited. I had to return an appliance to a department store's warehouse between my home and my office, and that required driving through many city streets.

I was driving blind. There were three instances where I missed turns, but only one of them was the app's fault. In that instance, the app didn't tell me to follow a road as it bent to the left at a disguised fork with another road allowing me to drive straight ahead. The map showed the blue highlighted route bending left, but it was covered by that large green box and the last direction, "straight."

Luckily, the iPhone 5 reroutes rapidly — in a split second or a few dozen feet. The Samsung rerouted just as quickly during its test, while the GMC took more time.

The other two mistakes on this "blind" trip came from me thinking unmarked streets were the ones I needed to turn at. This was amplified by how close they were together — three turns in less than a typical block. The iPhone 5 also prompts you a hair later than the Samsung, giving you less time to really make a call on whether it's the right time to turn or not. And there was one time when the iPhone told me the right way to go, and I just didn't believe it.

Iphonetrafficwhite

While it's hard to read the traffic on the iPhone 5 — it only shows red areas, not yellow or green — the travel times it displays were very accurate with what I hear on news radio and, well, the time I actually get home.

Voice Prompts

Plug the iPhone 5 into your car's USB port, and not only will it use your car's speakers to read you directions, it will also lower the volume of the stereo regardless if you're listening to the car stereo or your iPhone-based tunes. This mimics car-based systems to a T.

Unfortunately, I tested the Samsung in only one car with USB, and the phone was not compatible with the car's multimedia system, so I couldn't test if the Android device has the same level of integration. Voice prompts came from the Samsung's speaker, and the voice was definitely more robotic-sounding than the iPhone's.

Accuracy

Here's what everyone wants to know, right? Is it accurate?

During my tests over a few hundred miles and dozens of destinations, the iPhone 5 missed only one location. It happened to be a cow pasture in the far suburbs. The Terrain missed it, too, but the iPhone put me just 50 feet away from the farm's highly visible road sign, while the GMC had me "arriving" a half-mile earlier.

The Samsung made a mistake, too. It kept getting confused about the location of my office in downtown Chicago. It had me going farther on a one-way street than I needed to go, and when I was feet from the door, it thought we were still blocks away. I knew I put in the correct address because the screen showed me a picture of the building's front door via Google MapView. The iPhone 5 nailed the location, but there was no snazzy image.

This entire post had been written and edited, and the night before I was supposed to publish it, I ran into the problem many other users have experienced. The iPhone got me lost.

I needed to pick up something from a store at the last second. I searched for the nearest location on the phone. Then I called the store from the listing page on the iPhone, confirmed it had what I needed and what time it closed, and hit the road. The iPhone had the street address four miles directly east of the physical location. When I arrived at the spot it had first told me to go to, I wisely searched the maps for the street address, not the store.

It said it was six miles west of my current location.

Wrongdirections

I cursed a few times and headed the opposite direction. Three miles into the drive, I looked over to my left and saw the store I was going to, three miles short of where it should be. But I believed my eyes — I could even see the address was correct — made a quick U-turn, and walked into ... the Verizon store to get a new Lighting connector since I had left mine at work. I was about to run out of juice and wouldn't be back into the office for a few days. I explained what happened to the manager, who didn't seem to appreciate the irony.

Overall

I had a completely different summation in the first draft of this review, but now I have to temper all the terrific results the app returned for the duration of the test with the one oddball error that had me driving all over the suburbs the other night.

The iPhone's maps certainly are far from perfect, but the turn-by-turn navigation functions are as good as any I've seen.

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By David Thomas | October 8, 2012 | Comments (32)

Comments 

Android all the way...

DCA

Android maps does have different routes. If you press the menu button, it gives you a list of all the different routes Google found to your destination.

Kary

Yes, Android offers a choice of routes. There's also an icon you can hit if you're in the zoomed out view which shows traffic information.

As to traffic, it's a shame that wasn't covered better, although that might vary by area. In the Seattle area Google Navigation's traffic is very accurate, where other's I've tried (TomTom and Garmin) have not been.

DCA and Kary,
Thanks for the heads up. It was a borrowed Android unit so I went with the default out of the box for the comparison. Changes made above.

RegularReader

Oh c'mon another apple fanboy defending the shitty maps. About the screen do the comparisson with the note2. And tell us if isn't better than i5. G maps are better by far man.

Amneel

What a hardcore Apple fanboy you are!

Accuracy is most important, iPhone missed one in a day - that's 365 a year.
Try to tell Siri and Android at same time "Navigate to Walmart" - Let's see what happens next - do nothing on Android and you are voice prompted to Walmart. Siri - keep trying..
How about searching POIs on your way? Once you are navigating search "Olive Garden" it will find one on the way.
Auto complete - while you type first 3-4 characters, Google knows rest.. awesome.

How about picture of next turn - or that front of building door picture - that helps a lot when you are in congested down town type area. Turn by turn 360 degree picture are 1000 times better than a word.
How about "live traffic"?
Have you tried, your iPhone on Atlanta or Miami airport to find a restaurant - Android will show exactly.
Try it inside mall for walking directions..
Do are in USA, but other countries use transits lot more than even New Yorkers - iPhone will disappoint big time.
The newest in Google Maps is under water - for reefs!!
Sharing your location with friends - bike routes - Terrain maps - Maps even if you are offline - Auto background change for day or night - Share directions from desktop to Android - Allows to zoom in and out as much as you want - customizable - Restaurants with reviews - business listing with hours of operation - pictures - phone numbers - works every where in world not just Cupertino.

J

Angry Fandroids incoming...

I can only comment on the test I did with the Android device I had. The two were very similar for most of it. Picking the same streets when I tried to go off route etc. The biggest and only real problem the Android had was trying to get back to my office. But the owner of the device said it actually has not been very accurate in the heart of downtown Chicago for him either. I did review the original Google Navigation app with kind words. No fanboy stuff from me. I once owned a Zune.
http://blogs.cars.com/kickingtires/2010/04/as-a-gps-device-motorola-droid-shines.html

Rhonin

Apple did a great job with the app.

Apple really let their customer base down with the data accuracy and completeness.

I've used both side by side on trips over the last two weeks and will stick with Google (Android).

It will take a while for Apple to fix this. No major human mapping department and minimal at best street level confirmation.


Ken L.

You guys should've known that any discussion between Apple and Android will elicit a lot of responses from both sides. With that said, I don't understand why people are willing to put up with Apple's iLost when Android's are far more superior. Google Maps never got me lost.

And Dave, you may have onced owned a Zune, but you now have an iPhone, just like most of your colleagues, I'm sure.

-Sent from my Samsung Galaxy SIII

Why People Why

Why every time apple makes a big fail (antennagate for example)... and still apple recognize the big fail, we have a lot of blog entries like this one, trying to say.. "it's ok, isn't a bug"?

What's the best apple product?
The fanboy :)

Not personal tough, just a nice read ;)

The Cars.com editorial policy remains in place for non-automotive products we test. There is no fanboy-ism in this review. I have no personal feelings towards the device nor any reason to say anything positive or negative about it. Like a review of a car we are completely unbiased at Cars.com towards electronic products. That's why the original review did not run as-is.

Riddle me this

I'm neither an iOS or Android fanboy...

...but how come Android fanboys sound like whining teenagers almost everywhere I look online?

Ivan

Riddle me this,
To me, Amneel's post seemed quite mature, if a bit disorganized. The truth is, Google has had so much more time and so much more information to construct their maps, so even what Apple has now is impressive.

It is impressive for such an young feature, yet the Google maps are better in my opinion, so I prefer to use them.

Never thought I'd see the day when fanboyism would cross over onto KickingTires..

Also, I am a teenager, do I sound whiny to you? Would you say that to my face?

Marco

Funny

Android image was taken a minute before iPhone so it wasn't even done at the same time.... Shame.

Ken L.

What amazes me is that not one comment posted pertains to a users experience with the in-car navigation system. Are they worth the price compared to the offerings available on smartphones? Though I'm sure it won't get you as lost as iMaps. I'm just glad it hasn't directed anyone into a lake yet. Did you know that Audi uses Google Maps as the standard in-car navigation system? Why? Because it's for people with places to go and things to do. There is simply no room for constant errors when you are driving.

richirich

It is funny how Fandroids are up to the fence on everything iOS vs Android. Like the old classic Mac vs PC debate. Guess what? Apple is still THE level we compare everything to. Even on a not finished app like Apple map. Apple is not king everywhere on the first try. Their level of perfection will remain and in a couple of month, it will all be history. Keep it coming fandroids.

Riddle you this

Nice try Ken L But I got the iPhone 5 on day one, Apple maps have been absolutely spot on. No "constant errors" here.
For back up I use Waze and only needed it once when neither Google nor iOS maps could find the location. With Waze you can search using 4Square, Bing YP and Google, and both apps have the distinct advantage of NOT giving the Google monolith yet more of my private data.

I'm a professional with "places to go and things to do" and hated Google's crappy map UI. I'm thrilled to be rid of it.
Turn-by-turn is outstanding, recalculating after I (deliberately) take alternate routes is flawless.

What amazes me more than almost anything else is that you people jumping on the puerile 'ha, Apple made a mistake' bandwagon. The iPhone has topped JD Power's phone survey for the last 8 years and I see no reason that this year will be any different.

RegularReader

You're wrong richi, now is the turn to the iphone 5 to be compared to the gs3, as apple maps to google maps.

I'm a regular reader of KT since a few years ago. I like a lot this car news feed. But apart from be a car enthusiast I like a lot the mobile world. I'm not agree with the article because at the end it seems that apple maps (in turn by turn navigation) is better than the other 2 options. I didn't realize Dave had written this, and that's why it looks for me like another fanboy come to defend apple's last fail. Dave apologies for that.

People is complaining a lot about apple maps. I think this isn't the moment to recommend it to the readers . I agree with you Richi about in a near future it could be a good option, and maybe better. But right now, even Tim Cook has recommended to use nokia or gmaps.
I would like KT give me a better recommendation. Right now I think even waze is a better option.

Ken L.

@Riddle you this,

Got the iphone on day one? Were you one of those I saw in the Samsung commercial, who waited 10+ hours in line, for features that were available on Android's yesteryear?

And don't think for a second Apple isn't collecting info on you, they all do. It's the price of walking around with a smartphone.

Android > IOS

Riddle you this

You don't get rated 59 points above your competitors in a JD Power survey with clever commercials that the sheep think somehow represent reality, you get there by having **the best phone**:

CNET: "For the eighth time in a row, Apple's flagship phone took home top honors for customer satisfaction. Ranking 849 out of 1,000, the iPhone shined in all of the categories tallied by J.D. Power but scored especially well in physical design and overall ease of use."

So much for "Android > IOS".

Personally I avoid commercials because they turn people into obedient drones. You know, like you. Our family cut the cord three years ago for - you guessed it - an Apple TV. We watch the Superbowl for (shock!!) the football and we buy the best products we possibly can based on our needs, not ads. That's why I drive an Acura and not a Ford, and I use an iPhone and not some also-ran.

Ken L.

@ Riddle you this,

I'm happy for the fact that Apple has met the needs of you and your family. You are now a part of their strategy, their eco-system. However, you also fell for one of the greatest marketing campaigns in modern times -in that Apple is able to dictate what you need on your iPhone. That, my friend, is the very definition of a sheep. Now, I do give Apple a lot of credit for coming out with the original iPhone. If it wasn't for them, I'd still be rocking with Windows Mobile 5.0, 6.0, 6.2, and finally 6.5, a pocket PC (Microsoft's term). What a piece of crap that was. The only good thing was that I was able to load TomTom Navigator onto it, but the lack of features and map updates, coupled with the constant freezing and rebooting, traumatized me to the point that I just can't see myself going back to a Windows Phone. And now seeing some of you defend mediocrity with iMaps, in this day and age, is the equivalent of the dumbing of America. That's what I have against iMaps, and the iPhone. I like competition, when a product can actually compete; it's how we further humanity. Free your mind, and you will see that Google Maps are a much better product, and it will only get better.

And I don't drive a Ford either, I drive a 3rd gen Prius -Advance. Oops, does that still belong to Acura?

Ken L.

I meant "equivalent to the..."

RegularReader

Riddle. In this case I prefer not trust in consumer satisfaction rates, because fanboys usually hide issues for example the antenna reception strength , battery drain and nowadays the new maps problems, and they do that only to demonstrate they have the better products.
Like the other guy wrote , fanboys is apples' best product. Talking about Acura, It isn't the same case, it is not usual to find people contradicting the Acura consumer satisfaction rates complaining about issues. Around 2 months ago KT published that Volvo and Acura had the best security test scores, over Mercedes, Lexus and Audi. Instead of contradicting, this test comes to support the quality and reliability of the brand for what customer satisfaction is very high.

Mark

Sounds like a Apple fanboy desperately trying to find something positive about his iPhone5.

Outside major US cities, and anywhere else in the world, Android is king, and Apple is 5-6 years behind in mapping...

David Emery

Our Garmin Nuvi, in France last year (freshly updated maps) tried to take us in "the back way" to the B&B in the little town in Normandy. It insisted we turn off the main road onto a track, which ended at a farmer's field and fence. We turned around, tried again. The second time it took us down a track that turned into a gully. At this time (11:00 PM) my wife was afraid we'd spend the night in the car. We found a place to turn around, got back onto the main road. I found some direction signs, dug out my Michelin paper map, and navigated us to the front entrance of the B&B. The owner said "well, many years ago there was a cow path the way you tried to go last night."

Any GPS system is no better than its mapping data.

Harvey Schlepp

I was so happy to dump the iPhone i have been using for the past three months with a Motorola Atrix HD.
I finally have flexible functionality again.
I don't rely on Google maps. I hated navigating with the iPhone.
I use Waze (which also works in iOS gizmos).
I dare any of you to try it.

LeRoy

woz got his iphone 5 unlocked here http://gsmunlocklabs.com/unlock-iphone/

Josh

I'm still using my DroidX using Google Navigation with voice control. For some reason the iPhone 4 my work gave me (same release date) doesn't so any sort of navigation...

Okay, I mostly use Waze these days. Google is my back up, it always finds what I need. Same reason I use Chrome on my work iPhone, to search Google.

Kevin

I have an iPhone 4S provided by my work and my wife has a Samsung Galaxy SII. Last week we took a trip to my parents house in a remote part of Kentucky. I don't need navigation to get me there but I thought I would see how it worked. I drive a 2010 Cadillac SRX with Navigation so I put the address into all three. All three of them found the right location, but only the iPhone took me the way I always take, which is the shortest way. Both the GSII and the SRX wanted me to stay on the highway for two more exits then backtrack through a town. I guess it was because the main highway went that way instead of some backroads.

I am sure I could have told the GSII or the SRX to take the other way, but most people wouldn't know to do that if it was someplace they had never been.

While I was in Kentucky all three navigated successfully to a few state parks all along the same route, except the one back to my parent's house.

We then went to Moulton, AL at the end of the week for a cross country meet. We were going to meet up with some other people at the Pizza Hut in Moulton and all three systems had the Pizza Hut about 1-1/2 to 2 miles away from where it is. In fact if you look it up on Google Maps online it is wrong.

All three navigated successfully to the park where the cross country meet was being held and all three navigated us back home.

I don't disagree that there are problems with the iPhone Maps, but in my experience it worked just as well, and in one instance better than, the built-in navigation and google maps for over 1,000 miles of driving in three states and going to some out of the way places.

A lot many new applications have came with iPhone 5 which are very rare and damn useful. One of which it is iPhone 5 Turn-by-Turn Navigation.

its right , is a good app but there are many other apps available for the maps which are far better than default apple , hope so more update comes and they make it more versatile

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