Review: MobileNavigator 1.7 Update for iPhone and iPad

Navigon has kept a steady pace with their app updates, and continued that trend with the release of version 1.7 of MobileNavigator to the App Store on Thursday, December 16th. This new update went live for the My Region versions of the app first, and came to the full US and North American versions last week. I have spent a few days kicking the tires now, so I thought I would give a little review of the new features that have been added.

1. Universal iPad Support

I only have a WiFi iPad, so having Navigon installed on it isn’t necessarily crucial to me, but with the app’s capability to share favorite locations and destinations via email, you can now use the iPad’s larger screen to research and plan your route, and then transfer your results to your phone. If you have a 3G iPad, then this MobileNavigator update instantly transforms it into the best passenger-seat GPS known to man.

While the added utility is great, the best part about MobileNavigator’s new iPad compatibility is how polished it is.

Navigon didn’t settle for simply upsizing the iPhone app, but thoughtfully changed the layout to maximize the increased screen real-estate. The familiar pop-up menus of the iPad interface are also a welcomed addition, minimizing the number of times you have to move back and forth between screens to access content.

I have only one issue regarding the iPad version of the app. Most of us are probably going to be using our phones as out primary navigation device, and the iPad to supplement it. For those, like myself, who have a 16GB device, 1.6GB is a lot of space to give up to one app that you may not use all the time. Since the map data is what makes up most of that 1.6GB, it would be nice if Navigon would give us the ability to add or subtract sections of the maps that we don’t need to free up some space on our devices.

2. Zagat Ratings Integration

Zagat is the gold standard of ratings when it comes to hotels, food, and attractions, and is used by diner and travelers everywhere. With Google’s Local Search and its integrated ratings being the de-facto standard among most of the iOS navigation software in the App Store, adding Zagat is a great way to stand out from the crowd. Integrating these ratings with MobileNavigator’s extensive POI database allows you to stay in the app while doing your searches, while still giving you access to all the information you need.

Is this feature worth the $5.99 extra for the in-app purchase? It isn’t for me personally, but for someone who uses Zagat’s ratings information on a regular basis, then this is probably a fair price. Zagat ratings aren’t going to be crucial to everyone, and won’t apply to all areas, but they are definitely a nice addition for business users and high-end travelers.

3. Active Lane Assistant
MobileNavigator is a killer-app, in my opinion, but it isn’t because of any one killer feature. It is the sum of its many handy and polished parts that makes it so strong. The new Active Lane Assistant feature is a perfect example. This new feature takes the static lane assistance diagrams from the previous version of MobileNavigator and turns them into live, scrolling animations depicting the various curves and turns of entrance and exit ramps as you drive them.

While you can’t necessarily stare at your iPhone while negotiating an Interstate exit ramp, it is nice to be able to glance over and see that you are on the right track, and ready for your next turn or lane change. Any help you can get negotiating an unfamiliar ramp system, especially a complicated one, is welcomed.

On its own, it doesn’t seem like a big deal, but the extra polish the Active Lane Assistant adds to MobileNavigator’s already very strong lane-awareness system helps the app continue to stand out in the iOS GPS crowd. I also appreciate the fact that, as with many of their other innovative features, Navigon gives you the ability to turn Active Lane Assistant off if you choose, and continue to use the older lane assistance system.

4. Retina Display Support
This new feature is a bit of a double-edged sword for me. At first glance, you can definitely see the improvements in the quality of the graphics. The road lines and map features are now free of jagged edges and the text clarity is superb. Navigon also put a fresh coat of paint on the menu screens, giving them a cleaner look.

While I appreciate the improvements that Navigon has made, I actually miss a couple of aspects of the older versions of MobileNavigator. The maps definitely look better visually, but the contrast is more muted. This is especially noticeable in Night Mode, where you now have grey on black for roads that are off of your route.

Another aspect of the older version that I miss a little is the black outlining of the roads in Day Mode.

This feature just gave them a little more “pop” on the screen. It isn’t something you miss until you are driving, when you tend to look at your iPhone’s screen at short intervals, and at more of a distance than in normal usage.

Don’t get me wrong. MobileNavigator’s Retina Display enhancements are certainly not a problem. The graphics definitely look a lot better when you compare the two versions side by side in your living room. It just wouldn’t hurt my feelings if Navigon brought the road outlining back for some added clarity while driving.

5. Built-in Map Reporting

Navigon is a little late to the party on in-app map reporting, but it is still a very welcomed addition. Several of the apps that make use of crowd-sourced or public mapping options included in-app reporting early on because they have to provide an easy way to get users involved in map upkeep. This may not be as critical for Navigon since they are using NavTeq’s proven maps here in North America, but even professionally maintained maps fall out of date from time to time. There are constant changes to existing road layouts and speed limits, as well as new neighborhoods with new roads being built all the time, so why not take advantage of Navigon’s large user base to stay on top of things? Now MobileNavigator does.

The choices in the MyReports menu are plentiful, but getting to MyReports isn’t necessarily easy while on the move. It, like many of MobileNavigator’s features, is buried in the ever-growing Options Menu.

When MyReports is accessed from the menu, it is also not possible to target your submission to a specific place on the map. This could cause some issues, because if you get too far from the place you are reporting on, your submission may not make sense to whoever checks it out.

While it is possible to submit a report based on a user-selected location on the map, Navigon could definitely make the process more intuitive. As it stands, you have to tap on the screen to get into the 2-D map of the area in question,

click the Set Destination button, move the pushpin to the location on the map in question, click the blue arrow on the pop-up menu,

click the More tab on the next screen, then select MyReports, and then finally choose and submit your report. Yikes. A menu option under MyReports to select a location on the map, and then select the report type would be a big help in this regard.

While MyReports certainly isn’t perfect, it is stocked with plenty of choices of map issues to report. As far as the ease of use issues go, Navigon has proven over the last year that it will continue to refine and improve MobileNavigator’s many features over time, so I would expect no different here. The necessary improvements will come in time, but as it stands now, MyReports is a solid first step.

6. User Notifications

While Navigon’s web site and customer support for MobileNavigator weren’t the greatest when it first arrived in the App Store, Navigon has stepped up its game and made several improvements. Now the MobileNavigator are of the Navigon web site is kept up to date, there is a comprehensive PDF Owner’s Manual available for download, and there is fast access to support via Navigon’s Twitter account. Now Navigon has taken things a step further by adding the ability to register your copy of MobileNavigator with them directly from the app. By going to the new Register tab in the Options Menu, you can set up a user name and password. In return, Navigon will provide you with direct notifications about updates to MobileNavigator, as well as their Newsletter. This new feature may not seem that critical, but any way of staying in touch with your customers and keeping them informed of updates and new features is a good thing, so kudos to Navigon for adding it.

7. Email Favorites
Navigon bills this new feature as a way to simply send information back and forth between two devices. While it accomplishes that goal, the ability to send an individual destination from one device to another via email has been included for a while now, and that is probably the more common use case. To me, the most important attribute of this new feature is that it is a step toward addressing a nagging issue I have had with MobileNavigator for a while now.

One of the big problems that I complained about with previous versions of MobileNavigator was the lack of a way to back up your information. This problem was most evident on lower capacity iOS devices, since iTunes and the App Store will not let you load updates to the app unless you have a lot of free storage space. We’re talking about more than 2 gigabytes here! The most common way around this problem was to delete MobileNavigator and then re-install it, but then you would lose all of your stored information. With the new Email Favorites feature, you can now send yourself a copy of your Favorites, and then use your email backup to restore your information on a freshly installed updated copy. Unfortunately, this new feature only covers your Favorites right now, but hopefully it will be expanded in the future to cover Routes and Settings, as well.

Navigon’s MobileNavigator was the first major turn by turn navigation app to hit the App Store, and has managed to stay ahead of the competition with a steady stream of updates since then. This seventh update adds a bit of polish to some existing features, some free new features, a new in-app purchase, and a whole new way of experiencing MobileNavigator on the iPad.

While most software in the App Store comes at either a fairly low price or at no charge at all, Navigon’s MobileNavigator is one of the more costly apps that you will find. To justify such premium prices, you have to deliver a great product with superior performance, and keep adding new features and improvements to justify that cost. Navigon delivers on all counts, and their App Store sales and customer reviews prove it. If you are looking for a great, full-featured turn by turn GPS navigation solution, and the free apps just don’t meet your needs, then MobileNavigator is definitely worth the price.

Speaking of price, Navigon is also having a 30% off sale on all their versions until January 6, 2011. So if you are looking for a way to spend some money or iTunes gift cards you picked up over the Christmas holiday, be sure to take a look at Navigon’s multiple versions of MobileNavigator.

Navigon MobileNavigator NorthAmerica is available in the Apple App Store here.

Navigon MobileNavigator US is available in the Apple App Store here.

Navigon MobileNavigator US MyRegion East is available in the Apple App Store here.

Navigon MobileNavigator US MyRegion Central is available in the Apple App Store here.

Navigon MobileNavigator US MyRegion West is available in the Apple App Store here.

This app was independently purchased by the post author in the iPhone App Store. For further information regarding our site’s review policies, please see the “About” page.

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  • Art K

    You’ve mentioned that the app sends an email from one iOS device to another but did you bother to check to see if it works? I’ve got three iOS devices and some of the information gets transferred, some doesn’t.
    I’ve read a negative review on the iTunes store for the USA app and I agree with Icermize, this method is flawed and you run the risk of erasing the favorites on the device you wish to update. It really is a bad method and should be mentioned.
    Great review otherwise
    Art

  • jhrogersii

    I mentioned this as an issue in a previous review of MobileNavigator. I have tried the email method, and it worked in transferring my Favorites to my iPad. I had to confirm a couple of the locations on my iPad, but the transfer did work.

    My take on it in this review is that, at least this limited email support is a step in the right direction. Navigon certainly has more work to do as far as data backup goes. Consdiering that this is one of the big remaining negative comments that they get in iTunes reviews, I think they will implement a full backup solution in the next version. If they don’t I will definitely call them on it.