Of course, TomTom would love you to use its app with the Car Kit. We've already reviewed that particular accessory
rather comprehensively, so we won't say much about it here, except that having the extra speaker on the back certainly made it easier to hear the voice of any and all of these navigation options -- but golly if it isn't pricey.
We ran all of these apps through weeks of testing, commuting daily with each one to see which one got us where we were going most quickly and did the best at finding things along the way. The first thing you'll notice about any of these is performance, both in loading and in overall interactions, and MapQuest 4 Mobile loaded quickest, in just three seconds, with CoPilot Live coming in a close second at five. Copilot and TomTom were both quickest to route us to the local Amtrak station, getting us going in only three seconds, but MapQuest 4 Mobile struggled here, taking a whopping 15. The others were all done within seven seconds.
But anything can get you to a train station. How about something a little trickier? We punched in the name of a new restaurant that opened just two months earlier, a locally owned place that took over the disused husk of a former Applebee's. Alas, despite promised live updates on many of these options, none of the apps had the restaurant in their POI databases. Only MobileNavigator and TomTom could find the restaurant, courtesy of Google Local Search, as well as CoPilot Live courtesy of its Live Search (subscription required), and only those three were aware that the previous franchise inhabitant was no more. The other three would have resulted in a major downer if we were hoping to get our Ultimate Trio on.
All of these options offer traffic info, even MapQuest, and all provide varying ways to get at that information. TomTom's presentation is the clearest, with a bar running up the right side displaying incidents along the route, and a highlighted view of the map showing the exact location of accidents and their effects. All the apps provide a simpler or more complex way of getting at this, from an overhead view in MapQuest or only telling you about trouble spots on your route for Gokivo, but again we liked TomTom's the best, with MobileNavigator and CoPilot Live not far behind.
Beyond the highlights mentioned above there honestly isn't an awful lot between these options, but there is a definite feeling of improving quality in the higher-priced ones -- except for AT&T Navigator. We didn't find anything spectacular about it to warrant its
$69.99 annual price. If it were free like Sprint's TeleNav-based option it'd be the winner hands-down, but it's not worth the premium here. MapQuest 4 Mobile is
free, however, and to be honest we could see ourselves relying on that for day-to-day directions -- but we could also see ourselves looking longingly at the other options while doing so.
At $5 per month Gokivo's Navigator is the most appealing if you only need occasional navigation on a month-to-month basis, but for making a longer-term commitment we'd go with one of the other three, all offering the distinct advantage of working both offline and online -- helpful when navigating out of those troublesome AT&T black holes. And, honestly, each of these three performed very well. If your top priority is traffic accuracy and warnings we feel that TomTom does the best job of telling you what's going on and how to get around it and, beyond that, offers a top-shelf navigation experience. Meanwhile, if your travels are generally restricted to one coast or the other (or the middle bit), the $25 Navigon MobileNavigator packages offer great value in again what is a very comprehensive navigation suite.
But, for our money, CoPilot Live provides the best blend of features, performance, and cost. It loads the quickest, throws together routes in seconds, re-routes nearly instantly, provides a solid and easy to parse interface, and happily diverts you around trouble-spots. And, the best part is you don't have to take our word for it. There's a 30 day free trial of many of these available, so make with the downloading and see which you dig the most. Just be warned: some of these suckers have a heck of a footprint, so we hope you sprung for a few extra gigabytes before you signed your life away for two years.
: AT&T wrote to let us know there's also a $69.99 annual option if you're so inclined!
: CoPilot doesn't offer Google Local Search, but there is a "Live Search" function that you get access to if you subscribe. Running a search through there did turn up that hip new local joint we were looking for. The article text above has been updated.