One of the best things to come out of the smartphone revolution was that we got to throw away all those bits of paper in our pockets along with the 10 minutes before we left home of poring over maps trying to work out where we were going to go. GPS-enabled mobiles have changed all that but that doesn't mean that all navigation apps were created equally.
To help you out, here are the very best Android navigation apps to download to your phone. There are plenty more out there with some more stripped down and specialised versions of what we've listed available if that's what you're after. Ultimately, choose the ones with the functions to best suit you and, remember, look out for those with offline maps if you have the storage space to house them.
GPS Essentials is very much what the developer itself describes the app as - the Swiss Army Knife of GPS navigation. It's piece of software that uses the Google Maps platform but adds absolutely heaps of other measures and markers on top of it as well, all of which you can place in the dashboard alongside the maps.
There's altimeters; latitude and longitude figures; times of moon and sun rise and set; an AR mode; compass; speed, pace and distance measures and even charts that track these variables over time. On top of that you can add pictures to your travels, waypoints and follow the course of satellites. It's rather overwhelming, really. The only dampener on the whole thing is that, at the moment, there's no offline maps available, so you do have to be connected if you're looking to follow a specific path.
Distance Marker is one of the more frivolous navigation apps you'll find for Android but it's amusing nonetheless. It's a pocket version of that sign you'll find at all tourist trap style landmarks with far flung places on it pointed off in different directions next to impossible to fathom numbers of miles. The difference here is that it's on your phone and you can switch between miles, kilometers and even a human approach which simply reads things like "very far".
The downside to all the fun is that it requires a data connection to work which seems a little odd given that it only needs to have access to a map if you'd like to customise the experience with your own location markers. Once in the memory, it should be able to calculate distances with just the GPS but apparently that's not the way it's been set up. Shame.
There's quite a few different London Underground maps you can get for Android and most of them are free if you can put up with the customary small banner ad at the top or bottom of the screen. One of the better ones out there is the simply enough named Tube Map which brings you the famous English topological transformation and a little bit extra too.
The extra comes in the form of a route planner and station finder which all work without the need of any kind of data connection. If you are hooked into mobile broadband, however, there's also a section of the app with a Twitter stream and other live updates of any issues that may be going on anywhere in the network.
Google Maps Navigation
Google Maps Navigation comes preloaded on just about every Android smartphone out there. Anything with the Google Maps app will have the separate navigation app, which looks like a small blue arrow. Once you tap the app you might be prompted to download text to speech software. You'll need to do this if you want Navigation to be able to give you voice commands. You can then type or talk in a destination, navigate by contact or go to starred places which act like favourite locations you have saved.
The actual mapping itself is very much like normal Google maps, albeit with a slightly slicker and less detailed map. It moves faster and follows where you are going turn by turn. You can, if you so choose, simply opt to use a directional arrow with distance countdown and time estimate. Otherwise the map will follow your location in a sort of third person view, tracking your movements and helping to give you an idea of where you are in your journey. The only big flaw in the GM Navigation plan is that it does, again, require a data connection to work. If you're going offline, you can access Google Maps but without the directions. All the same, for those yet to use Navigation, we highly recommend it. Read More
CoPilot Live Premium UK & Ireland
The previous version of CoPilot's satnav app has proved so popular that it's been given a full makeover. The UI has been completely revamped so that frequently used features are easier to reach. You'll also be given the choice of three different routes, so you can either vary your route each time you travel or avoid traffic depending on the time of day. You'll also have the ability to re-route simply by dragging the onscreen route to a different location - useful if you want to avoid a specific road or roundabout.
The ActiveTraffic function takes into account real-time traffic speeds in order to calculate the fastest route and avoid any unnecessary delays. The app also has social networking integration - you can share your journey details using in-app Twitter updates or check in with Facebook Places, making it easy to keep in touch with your pals if you're travelling in convoy. One of the most comprehensive navigation apps around. Read More
ForeverMap is a simple concept but an important one nonetheless. Rather than a gateway to a bunch of maps stored on an internet server, it allows you to download complete cartographic data to your handset to access without the need of any kind of connection. Naturally, the downside is that it takes up what can be a precious amount of storage space on your phone, but ForeverMap gets around this by allowing the user the choice of which city or country maps to download individually.
The free version of the app is identical to the paid one except for the methods by which you download the maps. If you pay, you can do it at normal speeds and via a dedicated server. If not, it’s P2P torrent connection for you which takes an unnecessarily huge amount of time - about an hour for 250MB for example. So, the moral of the story is to think ahead. All the same, ForeverMap works well and will keep you covered all over the UK and the rest of Europe. Certainly handy for holidays. Read More
There are plenty of GPS-based apps for smartphones, which no doubt function very well, but if you're serious enough about your skiing to warrant a piece of software that can map your route and beam your precise whereabouts, you want something that will do the job and do it well. This is precisely what Satski should deliver. One of the best things about this app is its offline capabilities, as after you've worked out where you want to go you just download the relevant map from the Satski website.
Other features include geotagging photos; buddy tracking, as long as your "buddy" has the app downloaded; Real Time Replays, which allow you to review the slopes you have skied as well as see how far you've travelled, and a whole host of resort info. If that little lot wasn't enough, it can also get you out of a fix by providing crucial information to emergency services. There's a wealth of resorts in the data base, the full list of which can be found on the Satski website. If you're going Skiing and want to be in the know, then this really is a peach. Read More
The actual navigational use of Google Earth is seriously limited but that's not really the point of what this eagle eye view of our planet is all about. The swish about the globe and browse the world experience that the app offers is probably better from your sofa as something to while away your time checking out the peaks of the Himalayas and the engineering of the Eiffel Tower from the comfort of your own home but it still has a place on a big screen smartphone.
You can use voice if you prefer but, whatever you do, make sure you have a decent connection. Wi-Fi is preferable otherwise your device will feel like its buffering forever which rather ruins the fun. A lovely app but, as we say, it's more like cruising a visual version of Wikipedia than it is drilling down to look for some hard and fast information.