Five free and mostly free iPhone navigation apps

Not content with the new Apple Maps? Try one of these five navigation apps for the iPhone.

Wayne Cunningham Managing Editor / Roadshow
Wayne Cunningham reviews cars and writes about automotive technology for CNET's Roadshow. Prior to the automotive beat, he covered spyware, Web building technologies, and computer hardware. He began covering technology and the Web in 1994 as an editor of The Net magazine.
Wayne Cunningham
3 min read
Wayne Cunningham/CNET

Although there was much anticipation of Apple's native navigation app for iOS 6, reports of its performance revealed many flaws. If Apple Maps is not everything you had hoped, fear not, there are alternatives. Other companies have been doing navigation a lot longer than Apple, and their apps show much more refinement. Most are basically free, but you will need to pay a little for features such as voice prompts, traffic data, and downloadable maps.

Here are five free, or mostly free, iPhone navigation apps.

A completely free app, Waze has proven popular. Launched initially as a means for users to report traffic conditions for the benefit of others, it has become a full-blown navigation app, completely with free voice prompts. The maps, which get updated by members, have proven accurate in our testing. Along with traffic, the social aspect leads to reporting speed traps and gas prices. The only drawback to Waze is that maps cannot be downloaded, so it only works in an area with a data connection.

Best feature: Social navigation

Scout by Telenav
Telenav has been providing navigation services on cell phones for more than 10 years. Scout is the company's latest navigation app, and is a free download. However, an in-app purchase upgrades the app to Scout Plus for $10 per year, providing voice prompts and the option to download maps. For route guidance, which takes into account traffic conditions, Scout is one of the best we have tested. The new map download feature extends Scout's usefulness to areas without a data connection, but these maps only cover the U.S. Telenav recently added voice search for destinations to Scout, which worked exceedingly well in our testing. And the company announced the app will work with Ford's Sync AppLink service, integrating phone navigation with some Ford models.

Best feature: Route guidance

CoPilot GPS
ALK, which offers CoPilot GPS, has been in the navigation business since 1979. Its forays into consumer navigation have led to a series of apps under the CoPilot name with maps stored on the device instead of online. CoPilot GPS takes a similar tack. After installing the free app, you will be guided to download maps for the U.S. or Canada. In this form, the app does basic route guidance, but to really use the app for navigation, you will need to pay the one-time $20 upgrade fee, which adds voice prompts and the capability to recalculate routes automatically when you get off course. CoPilot GPS does a good job helping find destinations through a combination of points of interest and even geo-tagged locations of photos stored on the phone.

Best feature: Downloaded maps

MotionX-GPS Drive
Unlike many of these apps, MotionX-GPS Drive has an up-front cost, but it is only 99 cents. For that little bit of money you get an online navigation app with the capability to preload a map of your route. MotionX-GPS Drive can recalculate a route even when it gets off track. To make it really useful for navigation, you will need to buy the voice prompt upgrade, which costs $9.99 per year. MotionX-GPS Drive stands out for its integration with Bing and Google local search, Wikipedia locations, Facebook, and Twitter.

Best feature: Integration with other Web services

MapQuest was one of the original online mapping Web sites, useful for calculating directions you could print out and consult while driving. MapQuest's app takes that original functionality and modernizes it. Just like the original MapQuest site, the app is completely free, as are its voice prompts for route navigation. The MapQuest app's format is similar to Apple Maps, in that it gives you a basic search box for looking up destinations online. MapQuest also does not offer any sort of offline mapping.

Best feature: Free voice prompts