Best Smartphone Navigation Tools

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Navigation for road trips has come a long way since Hansel and Gretel used a trail of gingerbread crumbs to find their way back home. The popularity of GPS devices for cars has spawned a variety of navigation apps for all major mobile platforms. Use them before you leave home and while you are on the road to obtain information about your location and to plan the best route to your destination. With accuracy that would make Magellan envious, smartphone apps help you travel with confidence.

Google Maps

  • Google Maps is free for Android and appeared on PC Magazine’s list of 75 Best Android Apps. The mobile version of Google Maps uses the built-in GPS capability of your Android phone to provide street views and detailed directions you can use to plan your travel route and navigate unfamiliar locations. Except in a few countries – namely, Cyprus, Guyana and North Korea, which block access to all or portions of Google services – you can get navigation directions worldwide. The app has modules that enable you to use your phone as a compass, obtain biking and public transit information, see traffic views and obtain longitude and latitude data for your location. Google Maps for Android also has options for navigating indoor locations, such as shopping malls, museums and airports. Access the Google Maps on the Blackberry and iPhone by navigating to Google’s mobile website in your phone’s Web browser or by using the map widget on your phone. Voice search in Google Maps eliminates the need to type on a small keyboard – search more efficiently by speaking to Google Maps when you need to find something.

Hopstop

  • The Hopstop mobile app is a navigation tool for people who walk, bike or use public transportation. Locate subway stations and get transit schedules. Available for various platforms including Android, Blackberry, iPhone and iPad, the app received accolades from Travel magazine and the New York Times because of its comprehensive tools for public transportation trips. Hopstop’s special features include detailed information on taxi usage from your departure point to your destination. You can use the app to discover hotels, restaurants and other services close to your location or a proposed destination. This app also provides city guides, an uncommon feature in mobile navigation applications.

CoPilot GPS

  • Introduced in 2012, the CoPilot GPS features offline storage of navigation data, unlike other applications that require an Internet connection or cell tower access to keep maps updated during your trip. The free app is available for iPhone and Android phones. CoPilot GPS provides a choice of up to three walking or driving routes, accompanied by standard maps. Install the paid version to get enhanced voice navigation, with spoken turn-by-turn directions that include street names. Traffic updates require an annual subscription fee.

Trapster

  • The Trapster mobile app is available for Android, Blackberry and iPhone. Time magazine ranked Trapster at the top of its list of best 2011 iPhone apps. It provides alerts for speed traps, red-light cameras and roadway or construction hazards that might delay travel on your chosen route. The app also monitors traffic problems and aggregates input from its base of nearly 15 million users to provide real-time updates that enhance your travel experience. The application stores persistent data about common traffic bottlenecks such as school zones, toll plazas and narrow bridges that can delay you on your route. The Trapster reporting system categorizes alerts by confidence levels based on user votes or confirmed sightings of specific travel hazards. You must register to contribute hazard reports.

Bing Mobile

  • Windows 7 smartphones have navigational tools built into Mango versions. The Bing mobile app is Microsoft’s Bing Scout, enhanced with new features and versions for other mobile phone platforms. Access the app directly using the mobile Bing site or download the Bing app to your Android, Blackberry, iPhone or Sidekick phone. The app provides travel directions, combined with a local search that helps you find restaurants, shops and events or activities. Maps provide driving or walking directions. Bing rates the local search results that it returns and recommends the best or top reviewed choices. This app also helps you find deals and coupons when you search for directions and services.

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