Genius Maps by Mireo (Android) review: This nav app may be smart, but it's no genius

Once you've input a search term, the software doesn't organize the returned POI results with any real rhyme or reason that I could discern. The first returned result in a search for fast food restaurant "Wendy's" was for a franchise 1.5 hours away in Sacramento. The nearest franchise was nearly at the bottom of the page. A search for "Five Guys Burgers" produced top results as far away as 5 hours, despite my being just 10 minutes away from a location.

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The destination search screen is poorly designed and the returned results aren't organized in any way that makes sense to me. Screenshot by Antuan Goodwin/CNET

The destination input screen wastes a lot of screen space. The input field and search button could be larger and less crammed into the top edge of screen. Additionally, the Previous and Saved destination screens, and the Navigate Home shortcut are hidden under a completely different sub-menu, when they probably should be grouped under one destination input icon.

Voice input is available, but only if your chosen keyboard (such as the stock Android keyboard or Swiftkey) supports it. That makes sense from an ease of implementation perspective, but it would be helpful to the user to have a nice, large one-button access to Android's built-in voice input engine for quick destination input on the go.

Finally, I found that Genius Maps doesn't integrate well with Android's "Share" or "Open with..." functionalities. For example, clicking an address in an email or calendar reminder can takes the user directly to the app, but it doesn't automatically populate the POI/address search function with the address that you clicked to get there. This seems like a missed opportunity to streamline the business of just getting on the road.

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Clicking on an address in a calendar event or Web site will launch Genius Maps, but won't automatically fill the search bar with the destination. Screenshot by Antuan Goodwin/CNET

Make up your mind, Genius

I experienced a bit of weirdness during my testing that I'm not sure whether to attribute to the Genius Maps app or my Nexus 5 phone. For example, the routing system would sometimes get confused about which direction the vehicle was pointed when stopped, and would start asking me to make a U-turn to get back on track. Once I started moving again, the confusion cleared up, but the unnecessary interruptions were mildly annoying. As I said, this could be an issue with my Nexus 5's GPS antenna/compass or an issue with the software.

Weirdness with the automatic traffic rerouting option can definitely be traced back to the software. I found that the system could be a bit indecisive about what way it wanted me to go, bouncing back and forth between routes every few minutes as traffic conditions changed. That's not what I'd call a dealbreaker, but it didn't inspire much confidence in the turn-by-turn direction when I knew that the software could change its mind any moment. The automatic rerouting is defeatable via a menu option, but on the other hand, I do want to be routed around traffic jams. I'd just like the algorithm to be a bit less wishy-washy, or at least ask my permission.

Generally, the Genius Maps' interface seems better suited for handheld use, not in-car use. Though elegantly designed and attractive, it's not so easy to use at arm's length. The interface really could use bigger buttons, at least for the menu and destination input screens, and a bit of streamlining.

The verdict

Free to download but not to use, full Genius Maps by Mireo's Pro Guidance and Traffic in North America costs up to $52.98. Compared to Google Maps' free price tag, that's a hard pill to swallow, but for users who need to operate outside of the land of plentiful and strong wireless connectivity, the $50 price tag is probably better compared with a $100-200 standalone GPS device, and in line with other offline GPS apps I've tested.

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It's nice to look at, but Mireo needs to streamline Genius Maps' destination search interface before I can recommend this app. Antuan Goodwin/CNET

Genius Maps shows promise, but it's far from perfect. If Mireo can work out the kinks with the the destination search (specifically, give me larger buttons, and combine the search, recents, and favorite destinations pages) in a future update, I'd be more inclined to recommend this app. Until then, I'll be keeping an eye on the changelog.

What you'll pay

    Pricing is currently unavailable.

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