Apps iPad iPhone Reviews

Traveling in circles: the Navigon way

Our beloved leader Victor has an entire comedy routine worked out about GPS apps. In his “Maps powered by” schtick, he jokes “I took a detour…and 10 years later we were married.” In real life, iPhone nav apps can be just as funny as his stand-up.
Take yesterday. I was driving my daughter to an appointment across town, when Navigon started directing us in circles. Now, we are no stranger to Navigon oddities. I can’t tell you the number of times that the app has had us turn off a perfectly straight road, and maneuver right, then left, then left, then right back to the same road we started on.
It’s a Navigon thing.
But, we’ve learned to think past the machine. Like yesterday. The second time around in our loop, we thought “hey, maybe we missed a turn or something.” The third time Navigon told us to take the same route? We passed on the option. With my children laughing their heads off, I drove off in another direction.
Power tip: Navigon is smart enough to re-route and pick up when you take executive action. Consider the left turn just outside my development. It’s crash central. Instead, when Navigon’s mechanical voice (we have nicknamed her “Charlotte”) tells us to turn left, we turn right — taking the dedicated u-turn at the light instead. Much safer, and Navigon will adjust its instructions almost immediately. From “Turn left at the intersection,” it quickly morphs to “Make a U-Turn in 200 yards.”
When I realized that Denver had probably changed the no-longer-existent entry ramp to 6th Avenue that Navigon was desperately trying to route us to (just a working hypothesis here, mind you), I swung back and headed onto 6th on my own. Working with nav apps is like that. You just have to roll with silliness sometimes.
As Mike Rose noted, “I’ve had Navigon take me on and off the same highway three times.” At a certain point, you need to balance your trust/don’t trust reflexes and adjust accordingly.
I picked up my regional Navigon app during one of its many sales, at a modest discount off its normal $29.99 price. I’ve been pretty happy with it, quirks and all. And yet, I keep wondering if there might be something better out there that I should consider.
So I decided to call on the TUAW reader brain trust: what navigation apps have you used, and how reliable have they been? Have you experienced quirks like I described? Share your stories in the comments, and see if you can help me decide if Navigon is truly the right app for me. We’ll run your recommendations past our resident GPS navigation expert and work our way toward the One True Driving Guide.