Scout by Telenav review: Scout finds your traffic-free commute

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The Good Scout automatically alerts you to bad traffic on your commute. It includes a points-of interest database, a history list, and syncs with a website for saved destinations. The basic app is free.

The Bad You have to pay a fee to download maps in Scout. It does not include routes using public transit or bicycles.

The Bottom Line Scout offers a better feature set, including excellent help for daily commuters, than either Google Maps or Apple Maps, with similarly good route guidance.


8.0 Overall

Between Google Maps on Android and Apple Maps on iPhone, Telenav's Scout navigation app needs more than one good argument to convince you to download it. The best points it makes in its favor include lists for events and points of interest by location, Web site syncing, and, most of all, excellent route calculation.

The basic Scout app is free, but add a Scout Plus subscription for $4.99 per month or $24.99 per year, and you can download maps for offline navigation, extremely useful when traveling outside of data coverage areas.

Scout's home screen looks similar to that of Google Maps and Apple Maps, as it shows your present location on a map and includes an open search box at the top. However, the bottom of the screen adds a row of icons labeled Home, Explore, Recents, and Likes. These icons offer quick access to destination lists.

Looking at the map on the home screen, I was impressed with the traffic coverage, showing incidents and traffic flow information for not only freeways, but also many surface streets. Other map apps give you similar coverage, but it's nice to see that Scout has kept up.

Although the map only appeared in a top-down view, Scout does a neat trick where it can be set to switch to a perspective view as soon as you begin route guidance. I like that feature, mostly because I prefer to browse the map for destinations in top-down view, and don't want to manually shift the view when I start on my trip.

Scout by Telenav
Scout's maps show in a top-down view, then switch to perspective under route guidance. Screenshot by Wayne Cunningham/CNET

Earlier this year, Scout switched from its previous digital map source to using OpenStreetMaps, an open source digital map with crowdsourced updates. Checking around the San Francisco Bay Area, I noticed that Scout correctly showed two recent, major road changes, the new Tom Lantos tunnel on the coast and the new eastern Bay Bridge span. I have yet to find a car with a factory-installed navigation system that includes these two changes, although other navigation apps show them.

With Scout Plus, you can download maps for the app in three chunks, Western US, Central US, and Eastern US. However, I wish Scout also offered maps for the rest of the world, or at least Europe and Canada. Google Maps also includes the ability to download maps, and does not restrict selections to the US.

Where Scout really shines is destination selection. I could set my home and work addresses, and the app kept those easily accessible on the home screen, complete with drive times based on current traffic. I could also set it to send me traffic alerts for my home and work commutes, warning me if it might be best to wait out a bad traffic situation or plan a different route. These commute features makes Scout useful on a daily basis, even when you know your usual route.

As for the icons along the bottom of the home screen, Recents showed me my destination history. Explore included not only local points of interest listed by category, but also events, such as theater, sports, and live music. Checking the San Francisco listings, I did not find the music events to be comprehensive, but Scout might lead you to something interesting while traveling. The points of interest seemed restricted to my current location, and didn't let me browse places in another city.