Best navigation app for iPhone: Apple Maps

Sorry, I know it’s more popular to bash on Apple Maps, but it’s just become my everyday Navigation app.  Here’s why.

I need an app that has:

  • Accurate maps so that it can guide me when I’m somewhere I don’t know
  • Good traffic routing – I need to know the real fastest route, and in California that includes other cars in my way, offramp closures, road closures, carmageddon, etc.
  • A good UI

My go-to app before iOS 6 was MotionX Drive.  I’d also tried Waze, Garmin, and a few free apps I don’t remember.  I didn’t get to try the TomTom app.

I’ve now switched to Apple Maps, because:

  • Despite a lot of bad press, I haven’t had a single significant problem with map inaccuracy.
  • The navigation screen is clean, clear, and easy to understand when driving.
  • It routes around traffic, and does it intelligently with decently accurate time estimates.
    • Waze gives really good time estimates, but doesn’t know about ramp closures.  Also, its maps are too unreliable.  I can’t tell if it’s routing me a weird way because of traffic or because it thinks one freeway doesn’t connect to another.
    • MotionX routes around traffic very well, but its estimates on surface streets are overly optimistic.  As such, it’ll take you onto surface streets when the freeway with traffic might be faster, and its estimates are far too optimistic to be useful.
    • Apple Maps has decent traffic information (although it appears to be delayed by about 15-20 minutes, which led to me sitting in an accident-caused traffic jam last night that Waze had immediately).  It routes around bad traffic, but doesn’t send me onto semi-crowded side streets when there’s a section of red on the freeway.
  • The voice prompts are incredibly well-timed.  I haven’t seen any other system that’s as well timed as Apple Maps.
  • Re-routing is instantaneous when I miss a turn.
  • I can tell Siri “Give me directions to Weinerschnitzel”, and it’ll find the closest one, switch to maps, and start giving directions.

I’m willing to pay for a good nav app.  Apple Maps is free, and is only version 1.0.


Garmin was really nice, but routed me straight through heavy traffic with an option to detour.  That made it a FAIL for me – of course I want to detour!

TomTom was too expensive for me to try, and the write-up didn’t convince me that it met the criteria above.

Siri’s back! (mostly)

iOS 6 returns some of the features that Apple broke when they took over Siri, my two favorite being:

  • “What good movies are playing nearby?”
  • “Reserve a table for 2 at 8pm tonight at <insert OpenTable restaurant name here>”

Most voice recognitions I’ve used suffer from the same problem: I can do whatever they can do faster myself.  I can launch an app with a couple taps, I can enter something in my calendar very quickly by typing, and I can type an accurate text message far faster than Siri can.

Siri can now do one other thing that’s moderately useful (if you don’t have a better navigation app already): “Give me directions to Taco Bell”.  It’ll find the closest matching place, let you select it verbally, and launch the new Maps app in navigation mode to guide you there.  It’s questionable as to whether that’s actually useful (e.g. faster) or not, but it worked decently for Taco Bell last night.