I've long been a fan of Magellan's GPS devices. They're easy-to-use and deliver solid, sensible routes. And now that I've spent some time testing the company's iPhone GPS app, called Magellan RoadMate 2010 North America, I'm happy to say it lives up to the standard set by the company's standalone GPS devices.
Magellan was somewhat late to offer an iPhone app; rival TomTom launched one several months ago, and other GPS companies already have apps available. But Magellan's app can compete with the best of them.
Easy to Use
When you fire up RoadMate on your iPhone 3G or 3GS, you'll see Magellan's straightforward and attractive menu. You can choose to navigate to an address, a point of interest, a previous destination, an intersection, the address of one of your contacts, or your home. Entering info is easy using the iPhone's 3.5-inch touch screen.
Once you've entered your destination, RoadMate presents you with a summary of the proposed route before it begins the actual navigation. This is one of my favorite things about Magellan's system: you get to see information about your trip before you go. Other GPS tools too often just start you on your way, without telling you how long you can expect to be traveling.
Another nice touch about this overview screen is that you can see options for changing your route before you begin. Tapping the "Options" tab at the bottom of the screen brings you to a new page that compares four routing options. You can compare routes based on criteria like fastest travel time, shortest distance, most use of highways, and least use of highways.
Once you hit the road, Magellan's system -- which uses Navteq maps -- delivers solid, sensible routes. RoadMate for iPhone always got me where I was going, and most of the time, it got me there as fast as possible. No GPS is perfect, though, and a couple of times, RoadMate lost my location or incorrectly identified where I was. But is foibles were not as bad as those that I've seen from other GPS devices.
Magellan's RoadMate for iPhone app has some cool features that differentiate it from the growing pack of mobile GPS apps. One that I really like is its ability to remember your car's location, so that you can find your way back to your car -- using RoadMate's pedestrian mode -- if you're parked in an unfamiliar location. I also like the lane assistance feature, which tells you which lane you should travel in when you're approaching complex intersections and exits.
RoadMate for iPhone incorporates some of the iPhone's best features, too. It takes advantage of the phone's accelerometer, so you can switch between portrait and landscape view by rotating the phone. You also can access your phone's iPod features to play songs stored on your phone while you're navigation. You can access the music player feature by tapping the music note icon that appears on the screen.
Magellan's iPhone app also incorporates one of Magellan's handiest navigation features, found on its portable GPS devices: OneTouch. OneTouch allows you to create your own navigation shortcuts, which are stored on a dedicated screen for easy access. You can create shortcuts to specific addresses or points of interest. If you travel to and from an office frequently, you could set that office as a OneTouch shortcut, so that you can quickly find your way back to it from wherever you are. Or, you could set a OneTouch shortcut to a coffee shop like Starbucks; then, you can just tap that shortcut to locate the nearest Starbucks, wherever you are.
Magellan's RoadMate for iPhone combines the best of Magellan's GPS features with the best that the iPhone has to offer. It's easy to use and provides reliable directions. It's biggest downside is its price: the app lists for $99.99, which is a lot to pay when you consider that you can get a standalone GPS device for not much more than that. But the company often runs specials that knock the price down to $79.99. At press time, it was available for $59.99. If you can find a deal on this app, it will be well worth the money spent.