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On the road with the latest Navigon MobileNavigator

Mel Martin

The iOS 4 update to MobileNavigator North America has been eagerly awaited by fans of the best selling turn-by-turn navigation system, and overall I'd call the update a win.

To test the system, I took a drive from Southern Arizona to Chandler, a suburb of Phoenix. First off, having the multitasking capabilities was wonderful. I could take or make calls without stopping the route guidance, and while I was on the phone, I could get notice of turns. Since my phone was connected to my car via Bluetooth, the voice announcements came through the car speaker.

I set up speed limit warnings, and the system dutifully warned me if I was going too fast, which is easy to do on those long, straight Arizona highways.

Gallery: Navigon screen shots | 5 Photos

When you set your destination, the software gives you a page with parking information (Navigon calls it Clever Parking), and the current weather at your destination. I have a couple of comments here. I was going to a mall, and the system told me there were no places to park in the vicinity. That was absolutely wrong! It was telling me there were no commercial parking garages at the mall, which was true, but the confusing wording is not helpful and will make some users think the system is broken.

Furthermore, getting the current conditions on a long trip means that the info will be out of date when you arrive. It would be more helpful to get the current weather and a forecast for your calculated arrival time. I'd also like a way to get back to that parking information when I arrive at my destination (when it is more useful). There may be a way to do that, but I couldn't find it.

(Update: One of our readers spotted the solution. When you arrive at your destination a little blue 'P' appears on scree. You tap it and the parking information is displayed. I missed it because I try to avoid looking at the screen when driving, relying instead on voice directions. Thanks for the tip Terry!)

The Navigon directions are generally good, although a couple of times, when I was within sight of my destination, it told me to turn left but should have told me to turn right. I see this in almost all GPS systems, though; it even happens with the factory unit that's built into my car, but that doesn't make it any less frustrating.

Navigon has improved the map display by adding more city features and trees. It doesn't add any more accuracy to the display, but it looks a lot nicer.

The voice that gives you turn-by-turn directions is clear, and I never had trouble understanding what was being said, even while I was on a phone call.

The Points of Interest Database is not comprehensive, but you can search for destinations using a built in Google link, which is very up-to-date.

The traffic alerts were displayed, but there was no traffic that the system had to route me around while on my drive. The Live Traffic system is an extra cost, add-on option, but if you do a lot of big city driving, it is probably worth its US$24.99 price for a lifetime subscription.

I was also able to test the less expensive MyRegion version of the software for the Western US, and I can confirm that it supports the same new features that are included in the more expensive US-Canada version.

The complete North American version is on sale for another 10 days or so at $30 off, so it's now US $49.99. The MyRegions versions is also on sale for $17.99 instead of the usual $29.99.

Despite the little glitches and a few changes that I would like to see made, the Navigon software is the best I've seen for the iPhone. If you are running iOS 4, it's a big jump in useful functionality. And if the past is any guide, Navigon will aggressively update the software by adding new features and improving the utility of the app.

I strongly recommend MobileNavigator, and I actually prefer it to my car's built-in navigation system.

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