Best sat-nav apps 2019

1 May, 2019 12:15pm Martin Saarinen

Sat-nav apps are becoming an increasingly popular way to navigate the streets of Britain, it makes sense then to know which is best

Over the years, sat-nav apps have become the de facto guidance tool – even for drivers who own a car with built-in navigation. These apps are often free to use and, with accurate traffic alerts thanks to 3G and 4G network coverage, they represent excellent value when compared to traditional devices.

Apps such as Google Maps and Waze are now supported by Apple CarPlay so guidance can be projected through compatible infotainment units, meaning there’s more reason than ever to use a sat-nav app for all your navigation needs. They also benefit from regular tweaks and updates from their developers. To find out which is the one to download, we hit the road with eight.

How we test them 

Accuracy of the guidance provided by the apps was key to this test. We wanted an easy-to-follow display layout, with instructions that we could understand without having to look at our phone.

Screens that highlighted traffic hold-ups and safety cameras, and offered alternative routes, scored extra points, while a simple user interface was also an important requirement. Those that were compatible with Apple CarPlay won marks and price, where applicable, was taken into account as well.

Verdict 

Once again, TomTom GO takes victory. While rivals such as Google Maps and Waze are now supported by Apple CarPlay so they can be used via the car’s infotainment system, they’re still not as detailed or accurate as TomTom. CoPilot scores a strong second thanks to accurate route guidance and an easy-to-use interface, while its lower price is attractive if you go for the full app.

  1. 1. TomTom GO
  2. 2. CoPilot
  3. 3. Google Maps 

Reviews

TomTom GO

Price: Free for 47 miles per month, one-year subscription £14.99
Available on: iOS, Android
Rating: 5 stars 

The TomTom GO app comes with the most intuitive map layout, using a design similar to that found on the firm’s flagship portable devices, including 3D buildings.

We found the GO picked the most logical route to our destination and gave the most accurate traffic alerts; the app shows both the length and the cause of any traffic with incredible accuracy. TomTom’s voice instructions were also the best, with the app often repeating instructions before key junctions or turns.

A downside is that the app isn’t available on Apple CarPlay or Android Auto, although the company has said it is working to make GO compatible with the former in the future. TomTom also offers 47 free miles’ navigation per month for users. 

CoPilot

Price: Free 14-day trial, one-year subscription £10.99
Available on: iOS, Android
Rating: 4.5 stars

CoPilot’s map interface is excellent. Although it can’t match the TomTom’s level of detail and 3D graphics it’s still very easy to read on the move, and we like features such as the sidebar which shows delays and disruptions on the route and their effect on the journey time.

CoPilot’s choice of route was great; it used main roads when traffic levels were low, but came up with clever alternatives when the congestion became too much.

Voice instructions were good, and we liked the fact that street names were repeated before we made a turn, which ensured the app was simple to use when navigating busy areas. Like TomTom, maps are downloaded to the phone for easier navigation. 

Google Maps

Price: Free
Available on: iOS, Android
Rating: 4.5 stars 

Google Maps has come a long way in recent years. A key strength is that it’s compatible with Apple CarPlay, so vehicles with this feature installed can have Google’s instructions replayed on the infotainment screen, with directions given via the car’s speakers.

The map layout is intuitive and easy to follow on a mobile screen, although TomTom’s is slightly better. Another strength for Google is its traffic updates. They were accurate, although TomTom was the only app we used which clearly highlighted if the congestion was caused by roadworks, an accident or traffic build-up.

Google’s voice instructions could be improved, though, because it would occasionally fail to repeat key junctions as we approached them. 

HERE WeGo – Offline Maps & GPS

Price: Free
Available on: iOS, Android
Rating: 4 stars 

The app from mapping giant HERE still impresses on many fronts. We liked how clear the map layout was and how easy directions were to follow at a glance. The app gives you three choices of routes, and highlights the amount of traffic on the way.

Its jam alerts could have been slightly better, though, as some rivals were more accurate with their delays, and the likes of TomTom would tell us the cause of the congestion.

Another feature we liked is that the house numbers are visible on the map, making it very easy to find particular houses in a postcode.

With offline maps, we were able to navigate using less phone data, and we like the fact that we can use the HERE app when travelling on public transport, too. 

Sygic

Price: Free, £9.49 Lifetime European Premium licence
Available on: iOS, Android
Rating: 3.5 stars

Sygic is another mapping app that is now compatible with Apple CarPlay, and this helped it to earn extra points in our test.

The map layout is still quite cluttered, though, especially when compared with clean-looking rivals such as TomTom or Google Maps, which offer a much clearer layout. Maps are downloaded offline, which means that the app only uses your phone’s GPS signal to navigate, rather than the data network.

We found that Sygic’s traffic alerts were good, as it pointed out the obvious delays to our journey, but the app missed a few smaller obstacles that both CoPilot and TomTom picked up on. Sygic’s menu layout is easy to use, and its voice instructions were accurate.

Waze

Price: Free
Available on: iOS, Android
Rating: 3.5 stars 

Waze has one of the easiest interfaces to use, and maps that load quickly. Another is that the app is supported by Apple CarPlay.

Waze’s route choice leaves a little to be desired, though, because the app favours smaller roads to avoid traffic. In theory this is good, but we ended up having to stop frequently to give way to oncoming traffic in built-up areas, and covered more miles, too.

Waze’s traffic alerts were great, though, and we like the fact that there’s a community of drivers warning each other of accidents, cameras and obstructions. We weren’t so keen on the ads the app featured, with supermarkets, pizza chains and other stores highlighted in the map and the search menu.

Navmii

Price: Free, £1.49 to remove ads
Available on: iOS, Android
Rating: 3.5 stars 

Navmii is another offline app. Its user interface was simple to use, and we liked how easy it was to search for postcodes and street addresses. The map uses the free mapping resource OpenStreetMaps as its map database, and we liked how clear the layout is.

Like Waze, Navmii also has a community of drivers who can report delays, accidents and other obstacles on your route, although how useful this is will depend entirely on how many users there are in your area. 

The app features ads, which cut into the navigation screen, though. It highlighted some cameras on our route, but not all. Likewise, the app failed to alert us to some key traffic, while its choice of route involved only the use of main roads. 

Maps.me

Price: Free, £6.99 a year to remove ads
Available on: iOS, Android
Rating: 2.5 stars 

Unfortunately, Maps.me crashed our phone; it was the only app in our test to do so. This happened just the once, but it knocked our confidence in it, and the software remained slow to use throughout our tests, with address searches taking longer than rivals.

The app only gave us a single route to choose from before departing, while its selection of route was questionable, too, with the app asking us to make a U-turn on a busy road at one point. Traffic alerts also left a lot to be desired, with the app struggling to warn us about upcoming congestion. However, the map layout was easy to understand, while the voice instructions were accurate.