It gets us from here to there more quickly and efficiently — but how do you know if you’re making the most of the GPS system on your smartphone? The latest generation of GPS apps is more advanced than ever, offering precise maps, voice-prompted directions, suggestions for alternate routes, and regular updates on traffic, road hazards, and accidents. Here’s a look at how five of these free trusty copilots compare so you can decide which is the best GPS app for your next road trip.
This app offers highly reliable maps for driving, cycling, walking, and public transportation (including offline access to maps). It excels at voice guidance for turn-by-turn directions and lane-change advice. Color-coding indicates the heaviness e- traffic (in real time) and there are icons for construction, accidents, and police presence. Another handy feature: If you’re logged into Google Maps on your desktop computer or another device, you can see your recent searches; plus, the “Send to Phone” feature shares directions from your computer.
Besides providing accurate, easy-to-read maps, this app gets top marks for giving free, user-generated information about the location and severity of traffic along your planned route. You can see how traffic is moving, as well as hang-ups that other users have reported. If you miss a turn, the app quickly recalculates and offers your next-best option.
This app provides easy-to-use, accurate driving and cycling directions; if you make a wrong turn, it quickly recalculates and helps you correct course. You can also get walking and public transportation directions. When you’re offline, it offers free access to maps and turn-by-turn navigation. A major perk: you can search for a particular destination and the app will reveal all your driving, biking, walking, or public transportation routes.
The free version provides basic driving directions, but you have to pay for premium upgrades to get voice-guided navigation, and it doesn’t offer traffic alerts or public transportation directions. Still, it gets extra points for unique features like weather alerts along your route and interactive charts that show elevation. Another perk: you can save favorite destinations by searching for them or, pulling them from your contacts or dropping a pin on them; plus, you can save and export your routes to other apps and standalone GPS devices.
A plus for daily commuters, this app provides accurate navigation while you’re driving, as well as alerts on traffic cameras, speed traps, accidents, and road hazards. You can set it to avoid highways, tolls, and carpool lanes, and with a quick tap of the screen, you can view all turn-by-turn directions (a feature not. provided by some apps). You can also input your desired destination in a logical fashion (by street address, followed by city)—and it can send real-time updates about your ETA to whomever you plan to meet. Unfortunately, the app isn’t as accurate for walkers, and you have to pay an upgrade fee to download offline maps.
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