Mocal is a locally developed free iPhone app that lets users search for shops, services and locations. In many ways, it's a more ambitious version of AroundMe. Although Mocal's interface isn't as simple to use, nor as snazzy, it boasts a whole slew of extra features to compensate.
While AroundMe only pulls results from Google, Mocal fetches results from TrueLocal, Eatability and Navteq. Both TrueLocal and Eatability results feature user-written reviews, although you aren't able to scribe your own reviews from within Mocal. According to Yapp Mobile, the developer behind Mocal, more search and review providers may be added in the future.
Maps on Mocal lack the pizzazz of Google Maps.
(Credit: CNET Australia)
There's a built-in map viewer for displaying locations and general browsing, with map data supplied by Navteq and downloaded over the air as required. It bears an uncanny resemblance to the Google Maps application that's standard on all iPhones, except that the maps themselves aren't anywhere near as slick. Absent are satellite images, street view and traffic.
You can obtain walking or driving directions from point A to point B but, again like Google Maps, these instructions don't adapt to your movements — so, venturing off course requires re-entering starting and destination points.
Turn-by-turn navigation is available and it's free for the first 30 days after installation. If you like it enough to pay, AU$10 will buy you 30 days of use, AU$50 a year and AU$60 three years.
Again, the maps aren't the last word in slickness, but turn instructions and street names are legible whilst driving. A 3D view is available, although switching between day and night colours is a manual task.
Routes suffer from the usual failings: they have don't take into account traffic conditions, are sometimes illogical, heavily favour main roads and are blighted by missing turn restrictions, even on major roads. As the map sections are downloaded as needed, users won't have to pay for map updates. Turn-by-turn instructions can be skipped for anywhere between 500m and 20km, which is convenient for those of us who, say, know how to get to Baulkham Hills, but have no idea how to get to Bombardiere Place in Baulkham Hills.
The text-to-speech system does a fair job of pronouncing street names, but there's only one voice available, a toffy-sounding Englishman. Enunciation is good, but suffers. From. A lot. Of. Pauses. Between words. And phrases. Worse, though, instruction volume is almost inaudible via the iPhone's speaker and way too soft via the line-out port. Music control, meanwhile, is limited to pausing and skipping between tracks in the current playlist.
Petrol prices as supplied by MotorMouth.
(Credit: CNET Australia)
As we've experienced on other iPhone navigation apps, positioning accuracy is abysmal in the CBD, with frequent signal drop-outs and confused locationing. It's fine most of the time in the suburbs, but there is the odd drop — something that doesn't occur on standalone portable nav devices. Missing altogether are school zone, speed and red light camera locations, as well as road speed limits, lane guidance and junction view.
Squirrelled away in a tiny corner of the turn-by-turn nav app are petrol prices supplied by MotorMouth. Once you've entered your destination, searching for petrol along your route will throw up a list of servos, a small number of which have petrol prices listed against them. Prices are most commonly available for independents and range from a few hours old to a day or two.
Coming up with an overall score and conclusion for Mocal is a difficult task. On the one hand, there's convenient and free searching of TrueLocal's business listings and Eatability's restaurant reviews. If that's all you want, get it, it's a no-brainer.
On the other, there's an optional subscription-based navigator that, although well-priced, is missing a lot features and is almost inaudible. If you're super keen on iPhone navigation, we'd still go foras its a much better experience, but at least you can try Mocal's before you buy. Ultimately, our final score is based on the navigation component only.