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Review: Sygic North America GPS

Mel Martin

Sygic navigation apps aren't well known in the US, but they do have a complete offering that's attracted some attention. I thought I'd take a look at the North America version to see how it compares to other paid navigation apps and the Apple Maps app.

Sygic's marquee feature, which is free for a limited time, is a heads-up display that works at night. If you place your phone precisely on your dashboard, you see a reflection of your driving directions on the windshield and can see those without glancing at the iPhone. You won't see it in the daytime because iPhone screen can't get bright enough.

Sygic maps are sourced from TomTom, a leader in mapping and one of the sources for Apple Maps. The 3D-rendered images are quite attractive. Driving in southern Arizona, there were renderings of the mountain ranges that matched what I was seeing outside my car windows. There are no satellite views like those offered by Apple Maps.

The maps are stored on your device, so the app works fine when you are out of range of 3G or LTE data networks. I consider on-board apps a necessity for travel, especially outside major cities. You can download maps for a state, multiple states or the whole country. It doesn't make much sense to use valuable storage space for places you aren't likely to travel to. Other navigation apps, such as Navigon, offer a similar feature.

Other features include speed limit change warnings, pedestrian navigation options and even warnings of upcoming sharp curves. To find your destination, the app allows you to search by address or use your contact list. You can open a geo-tagged photo and drive to the photo location. That's a clever feature that is extremely helpful for photographers looking to get to that great photo spot.

Gallery: Sygic North America nav app | 7 Photos

The navigation can be customized to display the info that you want, such as altitude, estimated time of arrival, speed and more. Music can be controlled from inside the app, along with how much the music fades when there is a vocal direction that interrupts a song.

In use, the app was simple, and help screens are included for those items that aren't intuitively obvious. The app works in both portrait and landscape mode. With three tests, it found my destination in the POI files, and in a fourth test, it got me correctly to a street address that I entered manually.

Sygic North America is US$19.99 today at least through midnight EST, and after that it jumps to $39.99. If you want more than the basic Apple Maps and need your maps to work outside areas with good cellphone coverage, Sygic is worth a look. It's a nice app with some unique features not offered frequently elsewhere, such as drag-and-drop route changes and tapping on a map to set your destination.

Sygic North America requires iOS 6 or greater. It's a universal app that is optimized for the iPhone 5.

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