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App Review: AT&T Navigator for iPhone

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(AT&T Navigator for iPhone Forum Review by cjvitek For more Forum Reviews, see the TiPb iPhone App Store Forum Review Index!)

AT&T Navigator [Free with subscription - iTunes link] is the AT&T branded version of Telenav, GPS Turn-By-Turn software provided by AT&T. It is free to download, but requires a $10 monthly subscription paid through your AT&T bill. It also provides maps OTA (over-the-air), downloading any maps and data as needed through the AT&T network. This is both beneficial (takes up less space on the iPhone) and detrimental (can’t use if you have no signal).

In general, the app provided solid directions. For the local stuff, it generally gave the same directions that I have “learned” over time to use. For the long distance route, it gave me a path that someone else had recommended but was different from the Google Maps suggested route. When creating a route, you can either choose a destination to drive to (based on recent locations, address, find a business, airport, etc), or you can search for a POI. Searching for a POI on interest is a little cumbersome. First you choose the category, then the sub category (no problem so far). It then begins the search. The cumbersome issue is if you want to change the search parameters (change from “nearby” to a specific town). Before the search finishes, you need to tap the “where” option, and choose current location, recent places, address, etc. The cumbersome aspect is that the search begins even if you don’t want to search your current area. In addition, you can’t define the current area, so I am not sure if you are searching a 5 mile radius or a 30 mile radius (probably closer to the latter than the former). When searching for a nearby gas station once, I got “no results found” even though I knew there was one 30 miles away. I wanted to know if there was one closer (since I was almost on empty) and the search POI didn’t help at all.

Unfortunately, there is no contact integration for directions. You can cut and paste an address from your contact book, but it will require some additional work on your part. From what I hear, contact integration is going to be included shortly.

As for the routes, I generally had no problem with them. One really nice feature is that it reads the street name, so I don’t need to look at the app to determine what street is my turn. I had some small quibbles about the actual route choices in some cases (in one case, I got off the highway, drove about 20 miles in little back roads at 20 mph, including one dirt road with chickens on it…then got back on the 70mph highway I had just recently left). There are no options to include an interim stop, or to show a preference to avoid (or drive on) a specific road. You can choose the general (fastest, traffic optimized, shortest) for route type, but can also choose to prefer highways or streets. When creating a route, it checks the traffic. This is great for short trips, but I am not sure if it continually checks traffic (which would make more sense for longer trips).

After the route is created, there are great options for an “overview” of your trip. You can get a route summary (turn by turn) or a map summary (showing the whole route). This is great just to look over what you are doing, or if you want to see what the next three turns are going to be (if you like to look ahead, like I do).

One side note with a pet peeve. Why is it that when I get directions for a return route, I don’t simply get my directions in reverse? One would think that is I had the fastest route going one way then the reverse would be the fastest to get back!

The time estimates were generally spot on for short trips, but got more and more off base for longer trips. For my long excursion (630 miles) it had initially predicted 16 or 17 hours, when in reality it took about 11 hours. As I got closer, I found exiting the app and the restarting (and re-routing the directions) increased the accuracy (when I was about 60 miles away, it still said it would take three hours. I exited, started again, and then it said 1.2 hours). Speaking on exiting, because the app is OTA, if you exit you need to re-download the maps. There is no ability to “cache” or save directions once they have been created. In addition, when I exited and went back it, sometimes it would ask me if I wanted to resume the previous trip (still downloading new maps) and sometimes it would simply “forget” that I was in the middle of a trip. Not sure why.

The POI library was very strong (although it still didn’t find the Brownsville Zoo, even when I was 1 mile away!). It had a wide variety of “hits” when searching for any given POI, and this was a solid plus for the app. Even in an out of the area location like Terlingua, TX, it had a reasonable list of hotel accommodations (all three of them) and eating locations. My biggest issue with the POI is that you can’t define a search radius, but this seems to be common on most apps.

All in all this is a solid TBT GPS app. It provides accurate maps and a great library of POIs, and it picked up a GPS signal very quickly. The biggest issues I had were the occasional route choice and what to do if I didn’t have an AT&T signal. Lack of contact integration is a big minus IMO, but it makes up for that slightly by including traffic and reading the street names. If you don’t mind a monthly subscription, and live in an area where you don’t need to worry about an AT&T signal, this app would probably suit your needs perfectly. Four out of five stars.

Pros:

  • Solid library of POI’s
  • Street names read out loud
  • Includes traffic updates
  • Great trip overview options

Cons:

  • Needs an AT&T signal
  • Searching outside of local area can be cumbersome
  • No contacts integration

TiPb Review Rating

TiPb Forums Review: 4 Star App

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App Review: AT&T Navigator for iPhone

33 Comments

Seems high to me too. Even if the Tom Tom app is $100 it wouldn't take long to start saving money. You could even buy a dedicated GPS device which are better and don't tie up your iPhone and save money on that in less than two years.

Anything that requires an ATT signal is out in my mind...who wants to rely on their flakey network for good directions? ridiculous

Agree with all comments. Shady ATT coverage alone makes this app and ATT's monthly charge a bad decision. No reason to replace my small Garmin. Wonder if those tourist who got caught crossing Iran's boarder were using ATT Navigator. LOL.

$10 a month made sense on older gen phones and when a car gps was $500. It's a shame they still price it that high. I'll stick with google maps until something else comes along.

Can you guys please publish a "break" when you have long articles like this in RSS readers.
In Google Reader i wanted to quickly open this in a new tab and then keep browsing my feeds but I had to scroll a shitload just to get to the bottom of the feed to open it in a new page. I'm asking to just add a 'Continue reading this post' or something after the first couple paragraphs or so.

@jbrandonf-
Speaking of which, does anyone know if you can jump to the bottom of the iPhone screen for a webpage? You can jump to the top, but bottom? That would be a good feature for long articles.

Used it for a long trip. Very user friendly and up to date. Then came Navigon. No need to pay for a service that is free. Can't wait till TomTom pokes their head in the game.

i used it in new york city not good att dose not have good signal in nyc plus hirise buildings = no good dont waste your money

$120 per year for this? These carriers (AT&T isn't the only one) are so full of crap selling this service at 10 dollars a month...geez.
@jbrandonf
I will cordially disagree :), I really like there isn't a "read more" link, I want the whole thing to read, I hate having to click on something to continue reading in my "reader".

Definitely WAY OVER PRICED , I don't know why AT&T just won't introduce a pay-per-use plan something like 5$ a day whenever you use this app? Would definitely make things more economical.

I tried this app for a month...worked just as well as my friend's GPS...except the volume was so low on the app (turned vol all the way up)... couldn't hear it. Did ATT resolve that? If not, the app is useless because one would still have to keep looking at the map while driving (the GPS system was loud and clear).

Volume was fine for me.
BTW, on the forums, after the post with this review, I have a review of Navigon. I then do a quick compare of both of them.

It looks like a nice GPS app but like the review said there are several cons which will not work for me. For instance requiring an AT&T signal. Not everywhere by me has an AT&T signal so that would not work & it is $10 a month which is a complete RIP OFF! I will wait for Tom Tom's app.

If they had a single day for say $3, I would consider it. But until then, I am fine with Google Maps. $10 is too much to pay for a service that I could replicate on Google Maps minus turn by turn.

I was in Seattle for a week, so I activated this and turned on the 30-day trial ( trial no longer available for iPhone users).
I got me all over the place, quickly and accurately, the whole time I was there. My trip took me from the city, almost to the Canadian border, and places in between. I'd turn this on any time I needed to get around somewhere I didn't know.
Then Navigon came out, and I tried it. A few days after purchasing, I requested and received a refund from the AppStore. It's awful at doing the basics, and the screen is plastered with floating, outdated, POI icons that can't be shut off.
Between the 2, AT&T Navigator is the clear option...

TomTom release could be soon, they have had a big sale of maps and accessories in Europe that finished today 2/8/09, 40% off UK and Ireland map, only £24.
Clearing the decks for iPhone mania!! 

I think you got the 'contact-integration' thing wrong. I seem to recall if I did a 'search', it wasn't just for POI's, my addressbook was searched as well.

I don't think $10 is overpriced if it had tons of features (ie: lane assist, multiple way points, save route). A garmin gps like that still costs alot. For example, the garmin 755, the cheapest fully loaded gps is still $340 on amazon. It would take about 3 years to make back that much money, but you don't have to do it all a once, and also, you get constant free map updates. Garmin charges 50 bucks for map updates, so it would really take about 4 years to pay the price of what a good garmin would cost you. I think the $10 is incredibly reasonable when you look at it that way (assuming AT&T added those other features).

I have to agree with Benji. Navigon has some major faults: inaccurate, goofy routing, aN outdated POI database from 1999, it takes 1-2 minutes to lock to a GPS signal, no intelligent iPod integration, etc. Sometimes I'm not even sure it's better than Sygic or G-Map.
I still stand by my opinion that the best overall GPS option (albeit, a pricey one) is the AT&T Navigator. Once TomTom arrives, that could very well change. I look forward to testing/comparing the two.

I use this and it is ok for local stuff. It takes favorites well and you can enter addresses in Navigator on your computer and sync with the iPhone app quickly. However, I just returned from a long trip where the ATT signal was bad to non-existent. Of course I was out of luck then. In general, only gps units that received data from satellites are reliable. I am guessing the Tomtom will be satellite, also. I hope so.

A common misunderstanding of AGPS devices (cell phones) is that they do not communicate with satellites directly. Not true... AGPS is just that... "Assisted". Most of the time, cellphones are going to use the nearest cell tower to receive GPS information and then calculates distance and direction information with the tower only thus providing a pseudo-GPS position. But this only occurs when the cellphone is not in a clear area for direct GPS communication. It is true that most (if not all) AGPS chips are significantly smaller and thus weaker but they generally perform just as well as long as they have a good solid cellular signal. Almost every GPS enabled cellphone I've owned was accurate to within 1.5 to 2 feet... good enough even for a geocacher!
Now... AGPS chips fall into 2 categories, 1. unlocked and 2. locked. To conserve power, many cellphones use category 2 and only triangulate position from the nearest tower. Category 2 can also use verified network locations (much less accurate). Accuracy from the tower has improved a great deal over the years with the increase in speed. Inaccuracy occurs over a slow network and when your cellphone hops from one tower to the next. The triangulation (keep in mind) is based first on the tower's GPS position and then your phone. When switching to another tower on a slow network the GPS position changes but your phone's position is still roughly the same and thus you get (normally for a few seconds) a drastically inaccurate positioning. :)
I could be wrong but I was under the impression that the iPhone 3GS had an unlocked AGPS chip... weak but still able to communicate directly with GPS satellites. Regardless... TomTom has stated that their iPhone hardware will contain its own GPS chip to augment the iPhone's for a much more accurate and quick positioning par with a standalone GPS unit.
My only concern with ATT Navigator is the volume. I can just barely hear it with the speaker held right up against my ear! And I'm not going to drag a cable out to connect my iPhone to AUX... I shouldn't have to, especially for $10 per month! I should put on a pair of headphones while using Navigator... then when I get pulled over, foot the bill over to ATT. That would not only offset my $10 service, but probably my entire phone bill! :P

The iPhone has real GPS, yes. But the app requires a cellular connection to download maps. I am not concerned with using the cellular connection for GPS, but for the data the app requires.

This is good for 10/month if you are going on a road trip, and that's the only time you need it. :)

I have an iPhone 3G and a Palm Pre. The Pre's service plan includes Navigator for free, the same app as now avbl. for the iPhone, and I've used it pretty extensively. I like that it gets updates about traffic congestion and gives you the option to route around it. It can proceed even if it intermittently loses the GPS signal. And unlike a purchased-once app, it's constantly being updated. I'm not sure if it can proceed if it loses the cel signal -- unlike AT&T, Sprint doesn't seem to have much problem with that.
Before springing to add Navigator to the iPhone, though, I'm wondering if anyone knows -- will your iTunes music library keep playing in the background, interrupted only for voice guidance? The version on the Pre does that, but I'd expect nothing less since the Pre's big selling point is multitasking. Does the the iPhone version do the same?

Nice introduce!I just have new choice to purchase GPS equipment.I have new car and I would like high-speedgps toolstaking travel by car.