There are literally hundreds of different navigation apps available for mobile OSs. No matter if you prefer Android or love the stability and speed of the iOS you can get numerous navigation apps, but only a select few can be placed in the top tier. They offer lots of useful features while at the same time being available for free or for just a couple of $.
The main problem is visibility. While the most popular ones are either preinstalled on your device (Google Maps and Apple Maps) or featured on app stores, there are powerful navigation solutions that aren’t really visible, that cannot be found online that easy. We wanted to construct an informative list containing the best navigation solutions available for the iOS and Android. We included the most popular ones along with those that offer the best choice of options because the popular solutions usually deserve the spotlight. And in order to not swarm you with different choices, we only included 8 apps, eight best ones.
Some are free, some are paid, and some can be used for free but require paying a subscription in order to use their full list of features. Let’s see what the choices are and why the apps that ended on the list deserve your attention.
Most of you will just turn their eyes on a mention of Google Maps, but the app does offer lots of features, and it is free.
Google Maps can be really handy. It comes preinstalled with most Android models, and while most users just switch to their favorite navigation app once they get a new device, the default Android solution for navigation does its job quite well.
Google Maps features turn-by-turn voice navigation, and the feature works excellent most of the time. A while ago, the app was useless without internet connection, but since Google made possible for users to save maps online, you can now use Google Maps anywhere, just make sure to download the map you need. Instead of offering country maps, or map packs (like all Europe countries maps), you have to select the area you want to use offline and save it on your device.
This could prove a problem if you don’t have lots of storage left on your device, but for most users downloaded maps won’t take a huge chunk of their phone’s storage space. Just remember to download appropriate map when you go on a longer trip.
Maps are constantly updated but unlike OpenStreetMaps, individual users cannot update maps, so there’s a chance you will notice some incongruent map data. And you should know that once a map is updated, you must download the new map version in order to use navigation features.
Google Maps are great because the app offers lots of features that aren’t usually found inside a navigation app. You can explore cities and whole countries, take a virtual walk with Street View installed, and can use location sharing feature recently implemented in Google Maps.
Also, since Google Maps work with Google’s virtual assistant, you can quickly find great restaurants, nearest pit stop, get directions to museums, cinemas, or other venues, all by asking Google and receiving answer via Google Maps, along with directions. This can be great when you are in new town, or just want to discover great new places in your city.
Overall, the app is great and can be handy if you want a free navigation app that comes with bonus features. The downside is the fact that, if you pick Google Maps, you have to agree for Google to collect your data and use it for advertising purposes.
Apple Maps had a rough start riddled with numerous bugs, but over time the company managed to greatly improve their application and make it competitive with Google Maps.
Apple Maps is a solid navigation solution if you prefer iOS. The app offers accurate and updated maps since Apple did a lot in making its maps as good as ones used by Google. The company bought lots of map companies, hired a whole fleet of planes to capture aerial images, and is constantly adding improve nets and updates to Apple Maps.
With Apple Maps you have turn-by-turn voice navigation, can use the app no matter whether you are walking or driving (Google Maps are better since they offer accurate navigation even if you are using a bicycle), and can use Siri to get quick suggestions and info.
Apple Maps feature a clean and user-friendly interface, are filled with features, but their offline support is horrid. You can’t save offline areas, must pick a route while online so the app can cache data to be used offline, and all offline data gets erased once you reboot the system.
Overall, Apple Maps can be useful, but the app doesn’t support offline maps, and Siri can sometimes get you strange and inaccurate route suggestions.
Here We Go
Here Maps were great. Back in the day when I used a Windows Phone 8 device, Here Maps was a better navigation solution than both Google Maps and Apple Maps. Sure, there were navigation apps on both Android and iOS that offered more features and were easier to use, but Here featured maps of excellent accuracy which were always up to date.
You could download offline maps for free, use the app for voice navigation, find out all the options in minutes because the app featured incredible user interface design. I got out of more than a few situations in which I would get lost and without an internet connection (especially this one time when I got lost on a nearby mountain and had to find a way to the nearest road during night).
Today, Here We Go is still more than a solid navigation choice. The maps aren’t as up to date as before, and the app received a plethora of new features that can ruin the experience by offering too many options. But the app is free, it offers offline maps (which are also free to download) a solid voice navigation along with turn-by-turn option, and it features a discovery option allowing you to find new places and to get to the nearest gas station. The app supports public transport routes for more than 1,000 cities all over the world and also has lots of POIs.
The problem with Here We Go is that with each update navigation feature becomes less reliable and that maps aren’t as updated as before. If you want a free navigation app that offers excellent UI, offline maps, voice navigation along with turn-by-turn feature, and a solid way to discover new places, Here We Go may be an excellent choice.
While Google acquired Waze in 2013, the app still offers excellent navigation along with lots of crowd-based features. The downside is that you have to be online if planning on using Waze, but the app does feature the fastest map updates and is powered by more than 85 million of registered users.
With Waze, you will always be in the know about nearby traffic jams, road works, police stops and speed cam locations, and other updates brought by other drivers. The app doesn’t use lots of data and is great for short, everyday trips. The problem with Waze is the fact that it cannot be used for long trips when you move across countries while not being able to connect to the internet.
But the app does include voice and turn-by-turn navigation, it comes with constantly updated map, offers lots of social features, and is fun to use. Waze is an excellent choice for drivers living in urban areas who use navigation for their daily rides. But, if you want a full-fledged navigation solution with offline maps, and if you often travel across countries or inside areas with poor mobile connection, it’s better to skip Waze and download some app that supports offline usage.
GPS Navigation & Maps Sygic
Sygic is one of the most famous navigation apps, and deservedly so. The app features excellent maps provided by Tom Tom, it comes with offline navigation and you can download maps for free. The app comes with a free 7-day trial, but even after the trial ends, you can still use some features.
The maps are accurate and are updated couple of times each year. They are detailed and of excellent quality for most countries. The voice navigation works flawless, and the app features a solid UI, not pretty as those found in Google and Apple Maps but still decent enough when it comes to learning how to use the app.
Sygic navigation supports real-time traffic updates but to use them an internet connection is required. There are numerous POI placed on map, like gas stations, parking places, tourist attractions, as well as different venues. There’s also HUD mode available so you don’t have to always keep your eyes on the screen, and the app can use your device’s camera as a dash cam, which can be very useful to taxi and truck drivers
The app is great for all users ready to pay a price for having access to a variety of options, and even if you don’t want to pay for a navigation app, the Sygic navigation offers a solid number of free features. Just don’t expect free maps of other countries.
OsmAnd app is a free solution for digital maps and navigation. The app relies on OSM (OpenStreetMap) data meaning that maps are completely free to use and download and are updated not by the company, but by users. This way the maps can be updated by users from around the world, meaning that even if you live in a country that’s poorly covered by Google or Apple Maps, or Here We Go maps, there’s a high chance that your country has lots of OSM members that are updating the map regularly.
Aside from OSM maps, the OsmAnd navigation offers lots of free features. You can download maps for offline use, use voice and turn-by-turn guidance, see speed limits and POIs, use navigation no matter if you are in a car, walking, or on bicycle.
The app even has a ski maps plugin so you can see all ski tracks if you are on vacation. Cyclists can use the app for assisted guidance and to discover various cycling routes. And if you like to spend your time on trails, hiking, the app features thousands of walking and hiking paths.
Other features include city tours, public transport stops, recording of GPX routes, location sharing, and favorites.
OsmAnd navigation is an excellent choice for people who don’t want to pay for a navigation solution, want a unlimited number of offline maps to download but do not want to be tied to big companies that use their data for a number of shady purposes. The app has lots of features usually found in big apps of paid ones and offers all of that completely free.
TomTom GPS Navigation
On top of their quality maps, TomTom also offers a navigation app for mobile devices that can be used for free. TomTom GPS Navigation comes with a plethora of options. The usual features such as voice and turn-by-turn navigation, offline maps, traffic information, and POIs are all here and can be used for free.
The app also features favorites, so you can just tap on a favorite location and the app will give you directions. Other interesting features include quick search, 3D buildings, safety cameras locations, and regularly updated maps (around 4 times per year).
The catch is that the app offers you a certain number of free miles each month, and when you spend your free miles you either can exit the app or pay for a premium version. For most users, 50 free miles per month won’t be enough, but if you want a powerful navigation solution that features excellent maps and lots of features, TomTom navigation may be just for you.
MapFactor GPS Navigation
MapFactor GPS Navigation is the second navigation app on this list that uses OSM map data. This means all maps are free to use and download and are regularly updated by a huge OSM community. The app features voice and turn-by-turn navigation, day and night mode for UI, POIs, speed cameras locations, a choice between 2D and 3D navigation mode and more.
The app is completely free, but you can pay for premium TomTom maps (I wouldn’t recommend you to do this since OSM maps are highly detailed and updated more often than any other digital maps). MapFactor GPS Navigation supports car, pedestrian, and truck navigation, as well as door to door route planning. Also, live TomTom traffic info works with free maps, so you don’t even have to pay in order to have live notifications about traffic jams and road works.
Overall, MapFactor GPS Navigation is an excellent choice for all who want a powerful but free navigation app. All features (except TomTom premium maps) are free, meaning that you can have it all while not spending a dime.