Lost and Found: 5 Map Apps for Your Smart Phone
Today’s satellite-based GPS devices, smart phones, and even automobile navigation systems have given us more ways to get our bearings than the days when state highway maps and Rand McNally were the next best thing to asking for directions at a gas station. Pairing technology with a bulging glove box, here are five smart phone map apps to help you find your way.
Transforming your smart phone into a navigation device, the NAVIGON MobileNavigator app is what happens when you marry a smart phone with a GPS device. Created by the experts at Garmin, the app is available for the iPhone, Adroid, and Windows Phone/PDA. Similar to the navigation system found in today’s newer vehicles, the app calculates route distance, time of arrival, and even speed limits.
An initial investment at $59.99 for all of North America, NAVIGON traffic live is an additional $19.99. Functioning with satellite technology, the app never loses course. To save space, maps are uploaded to your phone by state (plan ahead if you are driving to a new state, especially if you are on a limited data plan like we are ). Using the NAVIGON MobileNavigator app around town and cross-country, this app has paid for itself time and time again.
Avenza PDF Maps
Extending the reach of the traditional print map, Avenza is another digital trailblazer in the GPS navigation to mobile device industry. With the free PDF Maps app, the first and only geospatial PDF reader on Apple iOS devices, anyone can access maps that take you on and off the beaten path. Using the Avenza map store, cartographers and map publishers can upload detailed map files—setting the price for map downloads to the app in categories ranging from tourist to transit, parks, topographic, nautical, and historical. (Avenza hopes to be for maps what iTunes is for music.)
PDF Maps allows anyone to add way points, attributes, and even photos with their mobile device, as well as export that data in KML, CSV, or GPX format (watch this video for a demo). Similar to NAVIGON MobileNavigator, plan to download map files while you have access to a high-speed wireless connection. Downloading a free map of the Leelenau Peninsula before traveling to Traverse City, Michigan, the PDF Maps app helped us find snowmobile trails in a part of the world AT&T has otherwise forgotten.
Differentiating itself in the personal navigation market, the Scout app by Telenav is accessible across the web, smart phones, and in-car systems later this year. “Scout sets itself apart from other navigation and discovery services by providing personalized information on where to go, when to leave, how to get there, and things to do upon arrival.”
Currently available for the iPhones as a free download, Scout starts with a customizable screen on the Dashboard (you can add addresses for home and work) and branches off into several useful categories including, food, ATM, entertainment, Wi-Fi connections, and even the cost of gas. I wish we had thought to use Scout’s parking search on a recent trip to downtown Nashville (“Look kids, Big Ben!”).
Developed by a the founders of Kids Play Guide, Mom Maps is an app worth the $2.99 download (iPhone or Android) before your next road trip (think of it as a supplemental, nationwide travel guide). A database of over 28,000 kid-friendly parks, playgrounds, restaurants, museums, and indoor play areas, content is added by parents and designated “mappers” (yours truly holds the title of Madison and Milwaukee, Wisconsin mapper). Adding photos, video, and a written review of each location, mappers offer helpful information for making the most of each venue. Entries are overlaid on the top of a Google Map interface. Which leads us to Google Maps…
After reading this Gizmodo.com article speculating changes on the horizon for Google Maps (phasing one technology out and bringing better ones in), I was a bit dismayed. If you’re lost in a new place and just need to get from point A to point B without stopping to eat, knowing exactly when you’ll arrive, or if you’re going over or under the speed limit, Google Maps gets the job done.
Assuming you have predictable cellular coverage and a good charge on your smart phone, no downloading, planning, or thinking is required. In other words, everyone should consider something like Google Maps as their de facto plan B. If not installed on your mobile device out of the box, use this chart to pair map features with their respective supported phones.