By Alyssa Goldman, Cheapism.com
With a free navigation app guiding your way, say sayonara to getting lost. Whether you're an Android or iPhone user, at least one of these apps should meet your directional needs. And in many situations, a navigation app beats out the GPS alternative.
Related: Buying guide for the best cheap GPSUse a free navigation to take you there.
1. Google Maps App. The Google Maps app is a multipurpose navigation platform that gives turn-by-turn voice prompts and clues you in about where to stop with reviews of restaurants, bars, retailers, etc. It provides routes for walking, driving, and public transit, as well as live traffic reports with an accurate view of where you are or where you're heading. With the iPhone version you should be able to sign into your Google account to sync searches, directions, and favorite places between computer and mobile phone.
Review: PC Mag gives Google Maps App a score of 4 out of 5, a level the editors deem "excellent." They note that the car navigation could use some work (e.g., speed limit display and lane assistance would be useful), but other features (e.g., accurate routing for walkers and drivers, sharp street views) make it a best pick among iPhone navigation apps. Reviewers for the Android version who posted at Google Play award this app an average 4.4 out of 5. Most applaud the accuracy but grumble about its memory-hogging and battery-draining appetite.
2. Scout GPS Navigation and Traffic App. The Scout GPS Navigation and Traffic App claims to be as much about the journey as the destination. This free navigation app provides commute times, up-to-date traffic information, and voice turn-by-turn directions and lets you choose routes without tolls or highways. If using Scout while driving, you can keep your focus on the road by speaking to the app and asking to view saved maps or directions. You can also let folks know your estimated time of arrival with a tap on "share ETA." Of course, the app is loaded with plenty of POIs.
Review: The experts at PC Mag assign it a "good" rating (3.5 out of 5) and list it as one of the best navigation app for iPhones. The review lauds the timely voice prompts, clear visual cues, and easy-to-understand interface but notes the absence of aids like walking directions and 3D lane assist; it calls the voice prompts "choppy." At Google Play, Android users give the free navigation app an average 4.3 out of 5. Many reviewers assert it makes traveling more fun and is driver-friendly, although complaints about frequent crashes are common.
3. Waze Social GPS Maps & Traffic App. Waze is a bit different from the other free navigations apps listed here -- this one is community-driven, which means some 50 million users update the app about road incidents, such as accidents, hazards, police activity, and current traffic conditions. Waze automatically reroutes you based on the data and pinpoints the cheapest gas stations based on your location.
Review: Once a favorite free iPhone navigation app of the reviewer at Lifehacker, Waze has been displaced Google Maps. The reviewer reports that it can seem cluttered and some users aren't keen on the directions, but he high-fives the user-reported traffic information. iPhone users give the latest version 4.5 stars out of 5 and users of the Android app rate it a 4.6, noting how it helps them avoid bad road conditions. Users also appreciate the opportunity to give back by providing real-time updates. One downside: Android users report frequent crashes.
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4. HopStop Transit Directions Map. HopStop veers away from the free navigation apps crowd with its purpose of getting you to your destination via public transportation, be it bus, subway, taxi -- or foot. Using this app you'll find the nearest station and the cost of taxis, get biking directions in select cities (New York, Washington D.C., Chicago, and San Francisco), locate handicap-accessible and stroller-friendly routes, and see the number of calories you're burning and the amount of carbon emissions you're saving. And for good measure, you can save your searches.
Reviews: Android users give HopStop Transit Directions App a score of 4.2 at Google Play. Many tourists who visited major cities, such as New York and Chicago, claim the app helped them get around almost like a native. Locals, on the other hand, say the app doesn't always list the most efficient routes. Another gripe concerns crashes and error messages. At the iTunes store, iPhone users assign it 4.5 out of 5 stars and say the app never steers them wrong.
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