Lost in Navigation

Recently my good friends (who I’ve known for 6 years) moved to Yorba Linda and I was excited to visit and check out their new home. Imagine my frustration when I went to go punch in their address on my Garmin GPS and it wouldn’t come up. I was already running late on account of bad weather and I like being prompt when invited somewhere so this was further complicating the situation.

I first bought my Garmin five years ago when it was all the rage and honestly I don’t know how I ever lived without it. I can recall days of printing directions and having to frantically call friends if plans changed last minute or if the directions had led me astray. Recently Garmin has not been reliable in parts of Ladera Ranch and the reason why it couldn’t find the house in Yorba Linda was because it was built on some old land that used to once be oil fields and are now a golf course and a high end housing tract. The next best thing was my iPhone. The map application on the phone isn’t all it could be. There have been four versions of this phone and they still haven’t built a decent navigational app. You can punch in the address and while it will give you directions it’s not intuitive enough to realize that you’ve started your route. You have to manually keep looking at it which is bad if you’re driving solo since there is also no voice navigation.

The next best thing was to shop the app store. Unfortunately most of the GPS apps will cost you some money so are there any free ones? Yes, there are.

The first one that caught my attention was Waze and honestly, it’s probably because it’s cute and social media friendly. Waze is a community of maps and helpful road map tips built by other drivers.  As you track routes you build influence points and move up in status. During your journey, you can also collect cool things like candies and receive information about road hazards. The app lets you warn other drivers and connect onto Facebook and Twitter. It also offers turn by turn navigation but can be quite distracting if you’re trying to multi-task while driving (not recommended). I downloaded Waze and tried it for a few minutes but all of the alerts and notifications were too distracting so I headed back to the app store.

Next up and probably my current favorite is the Mapquest app. It doesn’t have a social media interface or a community of drivers providing input but it’s quick and simple to use. It will automatically locate your current location and you just have to provide the ending point. The process takes a few seconds then push “start” and the turn by turn navigation will begin and will also prompt of estimated arrival time. In the settings, you can pick an icon that best represents you on the route or upload your picture from the library (very cool!). You can also turn off toll roads, highways, and select the shortest route. On your route, you can also locate gas stations, grocery stores, lodging etc by clicking on the applicable icons hovering just below your map. If you click on gas for example, you will suddenly see the gas stations pop up on your route and if you want to drive to one, you just have to click on it and your route will automatically recalculate to led you there. If you want to save a route you are required to create an account on Mapquest.com. That is the only downside and not being able to see any traffic information.

If you don’t mind splurging at the app store, there are a series of Navmii apps available for $12.99. I say series because each app is created for each state so if you’re traveling from California to Arizona you’ll need two apps or a free app from the list above.  This app does it all. You can set a home location, save favorite locations, customize a variety of road settings, and pick your language of choice for turn by turn navigation. The app will also tell you the speed you’re traveling at and give you an estimated time. I have used Navmii a few times and love that it also warns you of safety cameras.

These are few alternatives I’ve found just in case my old reliable Garmin GPS system fails me again.

Photo Credit: Paul Garland

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