So, you may or may not be away of this, but most modern smart phones have GPS built in. It can tell where you are when the location services settings for your phone are turned on. It generally drains the battery when it is running, but it offers many useful functions. Your pictures can tag where you are when they are taken, you can check-in at your location on Facebook to show where you are shopping, you can have different events fire off when you are entering or exiting a particular area. More and more people are writing cool little tools and functions to take advantage of this useful hardware piece. I’m sure you’ve opened up the maps application on your phone (Apple Maps, Google Maps) and found it can tell you where you are, and even give you driving directions where you are going. It’s great, but it generally requires a data connection (internet access) the entire time you travel. While that is becoming less and less of an issue with modern data plans and cellular coverage, it can be an issue it areas of the country, and if you are travelling outside of Canada can really cost you big bucks while roaming. I’ve also fund the interface to not be as nice as some of the dedicated GPS systems on the market.
So I bought an application for my navigation purposes. I use an application called Navigon. Navigon has been in the market for a while, making dedicated GPS systems for car navigation, and are now owned by Garmin, a name I’m sure you will recognize. They make a great (and not that cheap product). I purchased the Navigon North American edition (maps available for US and Canada). It is a $60 app (look for it on boxing day and other holidays as it can sometimes be 50% off) and if you have family sharing or multiple devices you only need to purchase once. Then inside the app, you use the map manager to choose the maps you want to install (the areas you plan to travel). You can change those maps at any time. There is an add one you can buy to then get fresh maps every time they release one (about once a quarter). Once the maps are there, you don’t need a cell connection any more to work. If you roam to the US or if you are in an area with no coverage, you can still navigate. Points of interest, gas stations, restaurants, etc are all available to so you have information available if you arent online. This has come in very handy to me.
I installed this on my phone as well as my wife’s. She uses it all the time for work. If you have bluetooth in your car, it can actually announce directions even when you aren’t listening to your phone for music. Very handy. It’s also nice to have the GPS on your hip at all times and not be tethered to your car’s navigation system or carrying around another device. The device also has a couple other nice features I use regularly. One is that it integrates with an app called Glympse which allows you to share your travel with another person. Gone are the days when you have to “phone us when you get home” with your parents. Just send them a glympse and they can watch your travel, stops and all. (internet needed for that). The other feature I like is the app allows opening with coordinates from a URL scheme. What does that mean, well simply I can use the app to send anyone that has Navigon a link to a specific spot and it opens in their app to start navigating to me. If you have coordinates for a location, you can pass those in to the app to directly pick that spot to navigate to. And for me, I used one of my other fancy automation tools to write a little program that lets me quickly take a picture and send the coordinate to a friend so they can quickly open the link and begin navigating to my location. Great for those “Come and get me, here I am, I’ll be standing here” type conversations. (Don’t worry, I’ll share in an upcoming blog)
So if you are looking for something with offline navigation that is a bit more robust than the standard built in applications, I highly suggest purchasing this app. It is fantastic. I would never consider buying a standalone GPS again. It does have an app for Android, Windows Phone, and iOS.