Navigon brings MobileNavigator to iPhone's App Store, we go hands-on

While the world waits with bated breath for TomTom to make good on its promise of providing a bona fide GPS application for iPhone OS 3.0, Navigon is stepping in with every intention of stealing the aforementioned firm's thunder. Sure, AT&T has issued its own subscription app that dings you $9.95 per month, and we've also seen a few dedicated GPS apps surface from both Sygic and XRoad, but this is definitely the first on-board iPhone nav solution from what we'd call a "major" GPS company. Available starting today in the App Store, the 1.29GB MobileNavigator program contains comprehensive NAVTEQ maps of North America, and if you're interested in Europe, Navigon's app for that side of the pond was released around a month ago. Click on for a few of our thoughts.

While the program definitely takes up a good chunk of your internal storage, the onboard approach is highly preferable in our eyes. Maps don't have to load over the air, and there's no recurring charge to grate your nerves. As with Navigon's standalone units, this app includes Reality View Pro, Lane Assistant Pro, Speed Assistant and Day & Night Mode. As expected, users can establish a Home address, setup favorite addresses, access nearby POIs and get from point A to point B via voice guided, turn-by-turn directions. The app also takes full advantage of the iPhone' accelerometer, switching from horizontal to vertical mode as soon as you flip the phone. There's even support for multitouch zooming, and while it'll typically run iPhone OS 3.0 users $99.99, Navigon is offering it up for just $69.99 until August 15th.

We managed to snag a copy of the software this morning, and by and large, we're impressed. One beef we had right away, however, was the apparent lack of real-time traffic updates, particularly since it's available gratis on its dedicated PNDs. Our iPhone 3G did take an annoyingly long time (a few seconds -- we're just hard to please) to recognize inputs when searching for states, cities and street numbers, but once it chugged through that grueling process, everything else sped along just fine. The POI menu was dead simple to navigate, and the switching from horizontal to vertical mode was as quick as we've seen in any app -- even compared to those that Apple includes on the phone. The lady telling us where to turn was loud and easy to understand, and the fantastic routing options let us avoid tolls / ferries and even interject a few stops along the way. We'd still recommend carrying around a car charger for your phone if you really plan on using this as a dedicated navigator (it drains the battery fairly quickly), and just remember -- without support for background apps, every phone call you receive will take your nav offline (seriously, we tried it, and any incoming call exits you from your route). Thanks, Apple.