Every smartphone available today (and even the not-so-smart ones) comes equipped with some sort of GPS or A-GPS system that allows it to be aware of where it is in the world and where it's headed. Likewise, most of these phones have some sort of mapping and navigation software to allow you, the user, to take advantage of that positioning data to get from where you are to where you want to be. In the case of most Android phones, that software is Google Maps.
Google Maps is great. We love it and we know that most of you love it -- most users will probably never really see a need to use another navigation app and that's perfectly fine. But there are a number of reasons to look beyond Google: maybe you're a navigation geek; maybe you're just curious; or maybe you're just nostalgic for the days when MapQuest reigned supreme. If, for whatever reason, you would like to try an alternative to the stock Android navigation app, there are a number of free options available for you to play with.
Scout by Telenav (HTML5)
Scout (the evolution/rebranding of TeleNav's Navigator software) has been around for a few months now as and through your desktop's browser. An Android version was promised, but until then you can use the service's that will run in the stock Android browser (or any third-party browser that will supply it with location data). Scout aims to be an all-in-one solution for users who want to take multitiered approach to getting from point A to B. Its true strength lies in its database of destinations, which includes aggregated reviews and an extensive listing of local events.
Waze Community GPS (
Waze is all about the power of crowdsourcing. Nearly all of the information you'll find beyond this free navigation app's splash screen is user generated. From the maps themselves to the traffic and incident data to listed when you search for the nearest gas station, nearly all of Waze's data comes from drivers like you running the app and submitting data and corrections.
MapQuest (Android, HTML5)
MapQuest has been around for what feels like forever. Before there were smartphones, before there was Google Maps, there was MapQuest. The old timer is still alive and kicking, delivering excellent turn-by-turn directions via apps for Android and iOS devices and an HTML5-based Web app that should run in most smartphones' browsers.
NavFree USA (
NavFree USA is remarkably simple when compared with the rest of this crowd, but it's not without its charms. Like Waze, this free app uses crowdsourced maps (this time from OpenStreetMap.org), but it lacks Waze's traffic and incident data layer. However, NavFree distinguishes itself by being the only app in this roundup that can store offline maps and navigate without a data connection -- making it great for those who like to go off the grid or with miserly data plans.