The latest MobileNavigator 2.0 for iPhone sports a refreshed UI, improved map data management, and new Android and Windows Phone 7 versions.
It will be some time before Garmin and Navigon merge their smartphone development resources, post-acquisition. For now, we get new GPS apps from both—which turns out to be a good thing.
At IFA in Berlin, Navigon has unveiled MobileNavigator for iPhone 2.0, a significant refresh of what is already a popular iPhone GPS navigation app. Navigon had already been steadily updating MobileNavigator, with eight-point revisions over its two-year lifespan. As Navigon public relations manager Johan-Till Broer explained to us, the company had already added most every feature available on standalone portable navigation devices (PNDs). This time around, it’s addressing the app’s entire foundation, as well as the overall user experience.
Map Data Mangement
To those ends, MobileNavigator 2.0 contains two significant changes. The first is that the app is now separate from the maps. Before, each time Navigon updated MobileNavigator, you’d have to download the entire 1.7GB app and map combination. Now, software updates are separate, and can be as little as a 40MB download.
In addition, once the app is on the phone, you can then select which U.S. states you want. For example, if you never usually leave New York or Illinois, you can get just those maps, and then add the others at any time if you go on a business trip or vacation. That lets people with less available storage space on their devices maximize the way they allocate it for other apps, music, and videos, while still offering the advantages of offline maps: less dependence on cellular signal, and less of a chance of exceeding your provider’s monthly data cap and incurring overages.
Navigon is also revamping its map update system, offering a one-time subscription fee for free quarterly updates. Before, Navigon had only updated its NAVTEQ maps twice over the course of eight version updates, thanks to licensing fees. Nonetheless, this is less impressive, because TomTom and Magellan offer lifetime map upgrades automatically with their smartphone apps, as well as all the usual offline apps (TeleNav GPS Navigator, Networks In Motion, and Google Maps Navigation).
New UI, Android, and Windows Phone 7
The other big change is a revamped user interface. MobileNavigator 2.0 now supports multi-touch gestures, and also contains two separate Action and Settings menus. Before, you’d have to dig through dozens of settings to find the one you want. Now, the company has cordoned off only the settings you might change while navigating, and put them in a pop-up menu that you access with an icon on the upper right-hand corner of the map screen. For example, you can look for POIs while on a route and check traffic from this menu.
Meanwhile, the regular settings menu now only contains things that you’ll only set once, or change occasionally, such as which voice to use. You can also drop back to the home screen with a single button; again, other apps have offered this already, but it’s good to see MobileNavigator addressing the few things it needed.
Other news: Navigon for Android 4.0 is now much closer to the iPhone version in feature parity. It now contains emergency help and Zagat reviews, for example. It also has a slightly different UI, which caters more to the driving enthusiast. A new Cockpit mode lets you monitor your driving performance, including average speed over the past 30 minutes, acceleration, and road elevation.
I asked Broer about how the company intends to compete against Google Maps Navigation, which comes free with every Android phone; he responded that customers are beginning to see the value of things like offloading map storage to reduce dependence on cell signal, plus the more reliable lane assistance and reality views that MobileNavigator offers (and these are true, as born out in my reviews of both).
Finally, Navigon has announced an upcoming version of MobileNavigator for Windows Phone 7 devices (pictured, above). What’s interesting about this version is that while it also has near-feature parity with the iPhone version, MobileNavigator for Windows Phone 7 looks completely different—just like a native Windows Phone 7 app, actually. I haven’t had a chance to test it yet, but I love the interface look. Navigon is promising a user experience that’s in sync with other Windows Phone 7 apps, rather than what could have been a clumsy port from the iPhone version that didn’t look or feel right on a Windows Phone.
Garmin StreetPilot onDemand
For Garmin’s part, the company has unveiled StreetPilot onDemand for iPhone. This is yet another version of its existing Garmin StreetPilot Onboard and original StreetPilot apps; the main difference being that you can now get premium navigation only when needed. At the start, it’s a 99-cent download, which nets you 30 days of turn-by-turn navigation in the U.S. and Canada, plus real-time traffic. After that, in-app purchases of $2.99 (for 30 additional days) or $29.99 (for a year) are available, again with real-time traffic, and the company will run a 14-day price promotion of $19.99 for a year. At any point, you can upgrade to the full version without subscription fees.
Without a subscription, the app still works after the first 30 days, but only in 2D mode and without spoken voice prompts. In other words, it basically becomes Google Maps, but with the Garmin interface. Either way, StreetPilot onDemand is closer to the original version in operation, as maps are stored in the cloud, and the app itself is only a 10.4MB download.
It does get one new feature: multimodal pedestrian navigation. Turn this on, and you’ll be able to navigate anywhere, including to the next bus or train stop, complete with public schedules. Navigation then resumes once you get off the bus or train. This feature is only in the new onDemand app, but Garmin is busy working it into the other two versions already. The rest of the feature list is fairly standard, and includes 3D buildings and landmarks, a split-view PhotoReal junction display, Google Local Search, and local weather updates, among other thing.
As Broer pointed out to us, Garmin acquired Navigon for three main reasons: the European market for standalone devices, for smartphone apps here in the U.S., and for Navigon’s forays into the automotive business (one of VW’s new European-market cars has a Navigon-based system).
But in terms of smartphone apps, the merger creates an obvious redundancy betwen MobileNavigator and StreetPilot. At some point, the two companies will likely merge their existing mobile apps; Broer said that it’s currently looking at doing much more of this in 2012, since having all these separate smartphone apps is an obvious redundancy from a product line standpoint. For now, though, Navigon is making it clear that it remains separate—which will likely only reward existing Navigon app fans.
All new Navigon apps will launch sometime in September or October; stay tuned for reviews as we get closer to the release dates. Garmin StreetPilot onDemand is available now in Apple’s App Store.