If you've got an iPhone, there are plenty of options to utilise the GPS element of your phone to let you get to A to B and beyond.
One of the biggest problems with dedicated navigation devices is remembering to take it with you in the first place, because you don't want to be leaving it permanently in the car. The benefit here is that you will remember to take your phone and its not yet another device to put in your pocket.
Navigon, known for its dedicated devices, is one of the main companies offering an app solution for the iPhone called the Navigon MobileNavigator.
The software promises to route you where you want to go, alongside a host of other options.
Power up the application, and you are presented with a default home screen that lets you enter an address, search for a Point Of Interest (POI), take you home (as long as you've put in your home - something we recommend you shouldn't do), and show the map so you can see where you are.
In addition to those options there are a further five give buttons at the bottom of the screen; menu, favourites, recent, contacts and more.
All are self explanatory with the contacts and recent options being the most helpful. Find your contact, press on the address and the software does the rest as long as that contact is on the map selection you've got. You can't find a US address if you've bought the UK maps option, for example.
Entering the address you want to go to is the most important part of a GPS unit and here it's very straightforward. We reviewed the US version of the software and here you can enter the state, city, street and then house number or intersection.
Once you've done so the software gets to work calculating how to get there and before you start the navigation you can set the route profile.
The software attempts to take into account a number of things including your speed (car vs. motorcycles vs. truck vs. bicycle vs. on foot) and you can also opt for the type of route you want it to take (fast, optimum, short or scenic).
As you might expect you can also set the type of road you prefer, whether or not you want to avoid tolls, ferries, resident only streets or HOV lanes.
If you aren't heading to a specific location that you've entered, you can search the POI database. Here you get nearby, specific city and state-wide options. All the usual POI options are included including petrol stations, parking, ATMs, tourist attractions, post offices: the list is very comprehensive.
Pressing go (it's actually Start Navigation) loads up the map and away you go. Well we say away you go, but in actual fact 9 times out of 10 you'll be offered a simulation of the route as your phone won't have gathered enough GPS signal to start straight away.
It's here that the Navigon MobileNavigator offers its first annoyance. You can't just see a list of the instructions you are about to set out on. Instead you have to watch the video, which sometimes only shows you the end of the route not the beginning.
What that means in the real world is that you either have to sit and wait for a signal to be acquired, or you have to set off blind. Not what you want.
Once you do get a signal the software does what it says it does - gets you from A to B with little bother.
In our tests, when working, the directions the software gave were as good as a dedicated TomTom we ran at the same time. The route was slightly different, however not necessarily worse, just different.
Maps are simple to read either in 2D or 3D and in the 2D mode you can use your fingers to scroll around the maps to see what's what. Unfortunately there isn't picture support for you to load in geotagged photos.
As for using the rest of the phone, you are limited. You can listen to your music but not control it, receive calls and get text messages but nothing else as pulling out of the application stops it in its tracks.
So it's a thumbs-up for Navigon, but why do we sound hesitant? Well because it's the iPhone that lets the team down. In a number of tests over a couple of weeks we've had mixed results from the GPS signal with sometimes the device failing to pick up a signal at all.
Then there is the battery life. The iPhone isn't known for its great battery life anyway, so powering a GPS software app for an hour has a serious effect. We wouldn't recommend using this in the car without a car charger.
Car use is also scuppered by where to put it. Unless you want to Sellotape your phone to your dashboard you've got to invest in a windscreen stand, which is another expense to bear in mind.
The Navigon MobileNavigator keeps up its end of the bargain with a simple to use software application that will get you from A to B with the minimal of fuss.
The catch for us, is that the iPhone (a 3GS no less) just didn't deliver. If you are going to opt for the Navigon, and there are no plenty to choose from, you must get a car charger and windscreen stand to boot - something that most forget to mention.