A few years ago I was tired of myself getting the cheapest, least featured GPS units and finally splurged for a Tom Tom GPS with bluetooth, text to speech, and a bunch of other features as a "premium" model. I was quite happy for a while– I could pair my iPhone to it and actually hear a conversation, it would calculate routes over twice as fast as my previous Magellan, and was overall a great GPS. Unfortunately, living in a small city of 50,000 or so, there are neighborhoods that have higher crime than others. Because of the black plastic disk that came with the GPS to put a dashboard, my car was broken into, costing me both $500 to repair the door and window as well as my $200 GPS. It was then that I decided I was no longer going to use a portable GPS.
Thanks to the Navigon iPhone App, I don't need to anymore. I went online and purchased a Yorxster iPhone mount (review coming soon), I got a DICE electronics iPod integration kit, and now, only when I need to, do I have GPS. The Yorxster is permanently mounted like the old Tom Tom disk, but because it's clearly for the iPhone, nobody has so much as peeked in my car.
Now, getting to the review.
The Navigon Mobile Navigator is one of the most pricey apps in the Appstore. But is that for good reason? You can buy a pretty decent GPS for $90 too… Why should you spend that on something of your iPhone? Well, the real kicker here is that you will always have it… on Any iPhone you ever get. Of course, you can't sell it on eBay when you get a new one, but why would you ever need to? With a company like Navigon making $90 a pop without expending any money in hardware costs, it can afford to keep the software updated and competitive. And, you can get live traffic routing for a one time $25. For $115 you get a pretty good deal. Lifetime GPS, free traffic (which is very good by the way), and the ability for routing without a nearby cell tower.
For the more frugal in the world, there's always the other options: The Navigon regional app (good if you are nowhere near the border of your region), N Drive USA, CoPilot Live, the AT&T Navigator, or even xGPS for those with jailbroken phones. But none of them offer the ease and simplicity of the Navigon app. It just works.
Routing is great, using the new MyRoutes feature, it starts to learn how you like to get places. It's fantastic. The live traffic is instantaneously integrated into the calculation so you never miss a beat. Text to speech is great as well, with the exception of my iPhone 3G slowing down once in a while.
My only real problems with the app are iPod integration and GPS reception. On the iPhone 3G it's practically unusable due to ram and CPU limitations. Songs will occasionally skip or pause. When plugged into my DICE iPod system (which looks to my car like a CD changer), songs will skip all the time.
Additionally, GPS reception is terrible on the iPhone 3G. I'm not really sure why, too, since the iPhone seems to be alright with the Google Maps app. I suspect that the Navigon system does not use the location data from cell towers and Wi-Fi to assist. For long stretches, I would see a red bar that said the accuracy was to 200+ meters. The best reception of course is mounted directly below the windshield with good exposure to the sky.
But when the Navigon system works, as a GPS it is flawless. The ability to have traffic pushed out for a one time fee, and constant updates to the software, makes the Navigon program a great deal. Yes, you could get a cheaper GPS, but you would likely want to upgrade due to road changes and more features in not too long. And, when your GPS breaks, you have to buy a whole new GPS. When you upgrade iPhones, you just re-sync the software.
With all of these facts in mind, I still think the Navigon GPS app is a great value, especially with the iPhone 3GS which is not acceptable to the same issues software wise. With proper mounting, the iPhone can truly replace a standalone GPS and be even better with Google integration and live traffic.