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Geek Girl Report: Are We There Yet? The Best Navigation Apps For Smartphones

Justin Sullivan, Getty Images

Over the weekend, my friends and I took a little trip to Dallas for a friend’s wedding. And having never been in Dallas proper before, every one of us had our smartphones out trying to spit out directions to whoever happened to be driving. I learned quite a few things on that trip: one wrong turn in Dallas will delay you by at least 15 minutes, taking the aforementioned wrong turn is a surefire way to get in an argument with everyone in the car, and navigation apps on smartphones are absolutely indispensable. Here’s a couple of my top picks for navigation apps:

Google Maps

If you don’t already have Google Maps on your phone, you need to download this one as soon as possible. This was the app that got us through most of our Dallas trip, and for the most part, it worked like a charm. Searching for a location is quick and easy, and Google Maps provides multiple routes to get you to your destination. And if you happen to make a wrong turn, as we did, the app will intelligently redirect you on the fly. Google Maps comes pre-installed on Android phones, but you can download it for free on iPhone and other smartphones.

Navigon USA

If you’re willing to spend a little cash on your navigation app, you can’t get much better than Navigon USA. It comes from the GPS company Garmin, and comes complete with live traffic updates (for a price). What makes Navigon a little different from most navigation apps is that Navigon lets you pre-download your maps, as opposed to receiving them on the fly like on Google Maps. This means that you don’t have to have a strong connection to check your map, and once that map has been downloaded, Navigon is by far the quickest navigation app you can get you hands on. Navigon USA will cost you $40, with an additional $20 charge for live traffic updates.


If you want all the bells and whistles of Navigon without the price, you might want to check out Waze. One of the major selling points of Waze is that most of its content is user-contributed. Waze allows its users to contribute information on traffic jams, road condition, speed traps, and other helpful travel info on the fly and makes it available to everyone who opts in for the app. It’s kind of like the Facebook of navigation apps. However, all these features can make the app feel cluttered at times, but once you learn your way around, it’s a strong, solid navigation app. Waze is a free download for both iPhone and Android phones.

Worst Navigation App: Apple Maps

There’s a reason Apple Maps has gotten tons of criticism: it’s garbage. For example, a quick search for directions to Texas Tech somehow brought up an auto repair show in Austin, Texas, about as far from Tech as you can get. And don’t even bother trying to use it outside of the U.S; the mistakes are bizzare, the traffic info is pretty much useless, and it doesn’t give you much of a choice as to which route you should take. Now I will say that Apple has improved its app since it’s initial launch, and the integration with iOS is pretty solid, but it’s still not great. If you have an iPhone, do yourself a favor and download Google Maps instead.

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