TeleNav offers a sort-of free GPS solution for iOS

Mel Martin
M. Martin|10.31.11

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Mel Martin
October 31st, 2011
TeleNav offers a sort-of free GPS solution for iOS

As we continue our survey of GPS apps for iOS, I have to mention the TeleNav family. The company, which is also behind the AT&T Navigator subscription app, offers a free entry level app that is quite popular with users, even though it is missing some key features.

For free you get turn-by-turn directions, 3D maps, local search that includes gas prices, and one-touch rerouting.

There's a big feature missing, however. No spoken turn-by-turn directions. So, in a way, it's not offering much more than the built-in Maps application, and less than the free voice-enabled Mapquest application (published by our parent company AOL). There is a 3D view, but when driving, you don't want to be looking at a screen.

The solution is an upgrade to the US $0.99 app, but after that you use it for 30 days you need to upgrade to a $9.99 a year subscription. That's a sale price which is about half off the regular tariff. The paid version adds voice guidance, spoken street names and auto rerouting.

So how does it all work? It's not bad. The graphics are clean, setting up a destination is easy, and the local search is comprehensive. The voice guidance is very clear. I didn't run into heavy traffic during my test, so no comments there.

Since the maps are downloaded as you go, that means a data connection is needed. It's something to think about if you are going to be out of cellular range frequently. On the other hand, with no onboard maps, the app has a small footprint (17.5MB) and your maps will theoretically stay current.

With my driving in Arizona the maps seemed current, although some comments in the App Store indicate they may not always be up to date with the latest street layouts. As someone with local knowledge, TeleNav didn't always take me the way I would have chosen, but the choices always worked. I've noticed that nav apps have a bias for bigger streets, but sometimes the best shortcuts are the road less traveled.

Is the TeleNav app for you? If you are on a budget an in an urban setting I think it is worth a serious look. I'm not wild about the idea of subscriptions to apps. I'd rather spend a little more and forget about recurring charges. If you are on a limited data plan, and you use it a lot, you may run into extra charges, but the data being downloaded is pretty minimal.

It's nice to see the many, many choices iPhone users have to get a perfect fit for navigation. TeleNav has given you yet another choice worth considering. The app requires iOS 4 or greater but runs fine on iOS5 and the new iPhone 4S. TeleNav is universal so it runs on the iPhone as well as the iPad.

Of course, life would be grand if Apple provided built-in navigation as is found on the Android phones. That may be coming, and there have certainly been indications of it. Think of the power of Siri and navigation rolled into one.


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