MapQuest was introduced to the iPhone on the 15th of June, 2009. A few days ago on March 29th, MapQuest was updated with voice turn by turn directions. No other free iPhone application has this feature. Google Maps on the Android OS based phones have this feature also, but MapQuest is the only application to offer this free feature on the iPhone.
To test this, I am doing this on my drive from my office to home, back to the office the next day, and back home. This is 135 miles roughly. I wanted to make sure to catch any inconsistencies or bugs.
I started out in the back of the parking lot of my office building. Before I walked outside, I allowed it to use my current location, and then keyed in my destination. It finds the address with no problem. Once I get outside, I first start listening to a podcast, then I open the MapQuest application. Right away it tells me "you are off route." The MapQuest voice comes across the iPhone, lowering the volume of the podcast I am listening to. I make it to the road. When I get to the first turn, it tells me to turn left onto the ramp now. I did not hear it give me a warning to turn soon. Looking at the screen of the iPhone, it looks just like a GPS screen from a real GPS device, showing side streets and the layout. It counts down how many miles you have until your next turn. It is accurate in showing where you are on the map.
I get about .05 miles before it is time to turn off the interstate and it tells me to prepare to take right exit ramp. I get about .03 of a mile from my turn and it reminds again. At about .01 it tells me to turn right now. I turn off the ramp, and have the same pre warnings to turn right when I get to the end of the ramp.
Once I got close to my next turn which was left, I turned right instead and it told me I was off route. It then gave me the prompt to click reroute or continue. I clicked reroute and it did route me back to my original destination correctly.
I then went off route again and choose to not reroute. It told me once I was back on route that it would start navigating me to my destination again. I do like that. When you go off route on purpose with a regular GPS, it will keep bugging you to turn every chance there is to get back to the correct route.
The next morning, I was running late, so I didn`t start MapQuest until I was leaving Wal-Mart. It worked 100% correctly on this trip.
When I left from work to head home, I waited until I was in the car to map the directions. When I started driving, it still told me I was off route in the parking lot 2 times. Once I made it to the road, it worked great. I got the pre warnings before turning on the entrance ramp. I believe the 1 time I did not get a warning my turn was coming up was just a glitch since it has not happened again.
A few features this application does not have compared to a standard GPS are it doesn`t show how fast you are going, which doesn`t matter to me; I can`t really be looking at the screen anyway. Even on a standard GPS, I never paid attention to my speed. That`s why I have a speedometer. The other noticeable feature is that it doesn`t tell your estimated arrival time like a standard GPS. It will give you an estimated amount of time it will take when you first key in your destination, but does not show an actual time or update it throughout the route. This is the 1 feature I really wish it had.
The directions MapQuest gives me from my office to work are the best I have seen. I have a Garmin GPS, and the directions are off a little due to a new road that Garmin has not updated yet. The Google Maps directions are horrible. They are very inaccurate, and the route it maps takes me completely out of my way to get to my destination. You would think when keying in the directions from my house to my office you would get the reversal of the directions from my office to my house, but I didn`t. It gave a different route. The route will work, but the route from my office to my house was simpler.
A few things to note: The iPhone did get very hot while using this application and it really drains the battery. There are power settings you can change if you want though. The Low Savings which is the default setting will always be displaying the application. The Medium Savings will auto lock your iPhone with guidance notifications. Finally, the High Savings will use the device auto locking feature and will not provide guidance notifications.
My final thoughts: This is a great app, especially since it is free. I still prefer a standard GPS just because I can mount it to the windshield, and have my phone free for calls. Unfortunately when you get a call, it does close the MapQuest application if you answer it, but you can go right back into MapQuest and press start and you are good to go. You can buy a windshield mount for your iPhone for around $30 if you do choose to use this as a GPS device and want to mount it. I would only invest in a mounting kit if you travel a lot and plan to use your iPhone as a GPS device often. As mentioned earlier, I hope they add the feature that will give you your arrival time. This is the 1 feature I miss when comparing it to a standard GPS. Also if they could improve power consumption of this application, I would like it better. My rating on MapQuest is 4 out of 5 stars.
Tim Martin is a Technology Specialist, If you like his articles, please follow him on Facebook at facebook.com/tsmartin75 or on Twitter @tsmartin