SUMMARY: The Various GPS/Turn By Turn Navigation Apps for the iPhone (for newcomers)
I haven't visited the forums in quite some time, and I know that there are many of you who are brand new to the iPhone and have been wondering what GPS apps are available. I also know that recently, someone started a thread asking if the iPhone had a turn by turn navigation app that was comparable to Android's Google Navigation. Anyhoo, I thought it might be helpful to all the newcomers to give my 2 cents on the most popular GPS apps available for the iPhone.
As has been noted before, Google Maps Navigation works great as long as there's a data connection. With AT&T, that can be a problem. With Verizon, it might not be an issue. Either way, I've always believed that GPS apps that preload the maps onboard were superior to apps that stream their maps live over the air (like Google Maps Navigation) - the maps seem to scroll more smoothly with less of a "lag," better tracking, etc.
Having said that, there's basically 2 different kinds of driving navigation apps for the iPhone (ever since turn by turn navigation became available on iOS in 2009) - 1) apps that preload the maps onboard and 2) apps that stream their maps live over the air.
Keep in mind that if you buy an app that preloads/stores the maps on your iPhone (in this respect, they're superior/more reliable than Google Navigation), it will usually take around 1-2 GBs of space and (depending on what region you download) will cost around $50 (as an average). On the plus side, having maps stored onboard cuts down on data usage and since AT&T has tiered data plans, that's a bonus. I'm not familiar with the data packages that Verizon will offer but their network coverage is (IMO) superior to AT&Ts so it might not be as much of an issue.
If you go with the apps that stream data live, you will obviously save memory but you will also have to pay some sort of fee (yearly, monthly, or per-use) to use it. I'll *briefly* cover the most popular/well-known GPS apps for the iPhone - I want to mention that some of the apps are newer so I've never tried them before so if anyone has experience with them, feel free to jump in. I'll start with category 1 first.
1) Apps that store the maps on the iPhone. In no particular order:
a. G-Map - This was the first non-jailbreak turn by turn pseudo-navigation app available for the iPhone (actually released pre-3.0). It came in various packages (East, West, California, etc.). It was promising at first, but it appears to have been all but abandoned by the developers, with no updates being released in over a year. Avoid this orphan.
b. Sygic - This Eurobased company released a pretty solid, reliable GPS app shortly after the 3.0 release. My biggest complaint was that the UI was very "un-iphone like;" very unintuitive. It has been a couple of years since I've used this app so I'm hoping it's been vastly improved since that time.
c. CoPilot - I've never had a chance to use this app so I can't really speak of it. Before it came out, the previews of it looked good.
d. Magellan - Magellan released their satnav app a little later than the other companies, so I never had a chance to try it.
e. Navigon MobileNavigator - See below
f. TomTom - I combined this entry with Navigon for one reason: I think most iPhone users regard Navigon and TomTom as the "Big 2," the 2 best GPS apps available for iOS. You can't go wrong with either one: superior routing, graphics, preloaded maps, live traffic (TomTom's costs $20 a year), good POI database (with Google integration), etc. I personally prefer TomTom over Navigon because I preferred TomTom's UI and color scheme over Navigon's.
2) Apps that stream the data live over the air. These apps have the advantage of always having the most up to date maps as well as live traffic and superior POI databases. Again, in no particular order:
a. Garmin Streetpilot - After a ridiculous 2 year delay, Garmin finally released their long-awaited entry into the iPhone navigation market about a month and a half ago. The newest/youngest GPS app still needs some polish (the audio is horrible for starters) but overall, it works well; it's actually a pretty solid navigation experience, especially considering it's only the first version. It requires a $40 one-time fee for lifetime up-to-date maps, live traffic, etc. Speaking of which, Garmin made a strange decision - in contrast to the other big 3 (Navigon, TomTom, and Magellan), Garmin decided to go with streamed maps vs. preloaded maps. This has its pros and cons which have been hammered over ad nauseum. It remains to be seen whether or not Garmin will allow the purchase of onboard maps in future updates.
b. AT&T Navigator by Telenav - This was my app of choice for quite some time. As long as you have a data signal it works and the POI search is among the best of the navigation programs. It gets hammered in the App Store Reviews because of, IMO, one reason: it requires either a recurring $10 monthly fee or an annual $69.00 annual fee for continued use. I stopped using this app, not because it didn't work well (it actually is an excellent app), I stopped using it because it's expensive. I envy Sprint customers who get to use this very same app for free (Sprint Navigation by Telenav).
c. Gokivo - IIRC, this was the first fully-featured turn by turn navigation app for the iPhone that was released a day or two after 3.0 was released. This is the sister app to VZ Navigator (both are made by NIM). Like the other apps in this category, up to date maps are continuously streamed live. Gokivo worked well when I first tried it but I'm not sure how it fares today. You get the first 30 days free and after that, you pay as you use it (for 30 days) or you can make a 1-year purchase. I don't have the figures right now, but it used to be $10 a month like AT&T Navigator.
d. MotionX GPS - I have never used this app, but people RAVE about it. It's currently scoring 4/5 stars in the App Store. You get the first 30 days free and after that, you can pay on a 30-day (per use) basis or a 1-year purchase. Again, I haven't used it, but other iPhone users seem to love everything about this app.
e. MapQuest 4 Mobile - This little gem is one of my favorite new apps. It's a FREE turn by turn GPS navigation app which is similar in vein to Google Navigation. It's neither as robust nor as polished as Google's app and the routing can be a little wonky at times, but it gets the job done. Also, MapQuest seems fullly committed to updating/improving the app - so the future looks bright for MQ 4 Mobile. Until Google Maps Navigation comes to the iPhone, this is the next best thing.
f. Waze - This is an interesting app. I had it for about a week, then deleted it because I liked MapQuest better. Waze is a FREE GPS app (like MapQuest) that combines "game" and "social networking" elements with basic turn by turn navigation. It's also dependent on the active participation of the Waze user community to keep the app updated and supported. For my tastes, I prefer MapQuest, Garmin, or TomTom.
So in summary, there are many, many different kinds of GPS apps available for iPhone users. My personal favorites? If you want preloaded maps stored on your iPhone, you have to go with either TomTom or Navigon. If you want to save space on your iPhone for games, video, music, etc, and don't mind maps that are streamed live over the air, Garmin Streetpilot and MapQuest are the best, although I should mention MotionXGPS in this category as well, since so many seem to vouch for it. Actually now that I think about it, AT&T Navigator is also excellent but it's also pricey.
I think I speak for a lot of folks when I say that the final GPS app that I would love to see on the iPhone is Google Maps Navigation. I have nothing to base this on, but I have this feeling or this "hunch" that it will finally come to the iPhone either this year or next year. Two years ago, it appeared that Garmin would never come to the iPhone yet here it is. The same could be said of other major Google apps (Voice, Latitude, etc.) that we never thought would we'd see on the iPhone, and yet, here they are now. So I would never say "never" when talking about seeing Google Navigation on the iPhone. It's gotta happen sooner or later. Here's hoping Google and Apple finally make it happen....
My past review of Navigon when it first came out... (NOTE: it's pretty old so some of the info is outdated) - it also contains links to my past reviews of other GPS apps (also outdated).
GPS MINI-REVIEW: Navigon North America - MacRumors Forums