App Review: Sygic MobileMaps US

Sygic Mobile Maps US 2009

(Sygic MobileMaps US for iPhone Forum Review by cjvitek For more Forum Reviews, see the TiPb iPhone App Store Forum Review Index!)

In the turn by turn wars, Sygic has entered the fray with their Mobile Maps US. They also have versions for a number of other countries. Like all turn by turn apps, this one allows you to create navigation routes, utilize points of interest (POI), and assists in the actual driving of the route by giving you turn-by-turn directions. So how does it compare? Read on to find out.

In the interest of full disclosure, I received a promo code for this app.

First thing I want to say is I love the interface. Probably this was my favorite of all four apps I have tested so far. The buttons are clear and large, meaning they are easy to read and easy to selection. The options make sense (such as “route”, “settings”, “navigate to”). I never found myself trying to figure out what button I needed to hit.

The routing overview options are great – you can see the instructions, see the route as images, see a summary, see a demo of the route, and even show a large map with your route. Likewise, when choosing a navigation point, there are a number of clear options – point on a map, GPS position, city center, address, POI, etc. Unfortunately there is no integration with your iPhone contacts – something that I would consider almost essential for any turn by turn GPS app.

When creating a route, you have some nice options I haven’t seen in some of the other apps. You can choose shortest and fastest (pretty standard), but you can also choose economical, pedestrian, and bicycle. Unfortunately you need to choose these in the settings, and can’t adjust them on a trip by trip basis. You do have the option of requesting an “alternate route” once your route is created, but it will still use your existing preferences. You can also choose to add an intermediate point (travel via…) if you want to go by a specific city or town. You can also choose to avoid an upcoming segment (the next mile, the next ½ mile, etc). Unfortunately, you can’t do this in advance to avoid a specific segment of the trip, it only avoids the next immediate segment. Lastly, you can choose to avoid traffic delays, but I am not sure if this downloads actual traffic data, or bases it on travelling through a city center (or historical traffic data). I tried it a couple of times, but didn’t find any change in my planned route.

When driving, you can have a speed warning option turned on, that will warn you when you are going over a speed limit by a user-defined amount. There is supposed to be an audible warning, but I never heard one. In addition, the speed limits seemed somewhat variable – sometimes they were accurate, sometimes they were wrong, and sometimes they were missing. You have the option of defining some of the data that appears on the screen – ETA, distance remaining, speed, time remaining, etc. I like this a lot because it enables everyone to choose what information they would find most valuable. The driving interface is nice, pretty standard with views like “night time view”, and it can be viewed in landscape mode as well. The turn by turn directions are good, although it doesn’t read the street names (it does read highway route numbers, though). The voice also includes little qualifiers like “turn immediately” if you need to make a quick turn following another turn. I find information like this helpful when driving. You can also see the POI on the map as you are driving (and can choose which icons you are able to see). Unfortunately, I couldn’t find anyway within the app to disable the screen off function, so my screen kept turning off as I was driving.

So those are some of the good features about the Sygic app. Unfortunately, there were two really big flaws that were glaring. The first is when it comes to routing options – the routing options make no sense. Just like the other apps, I used this app to plan a route from Edinburg, TX to Terlingua, TX. A trip that I know is about 600 miles. I choose the shortest route, and it had me driving up THROUGH San Antonio – adding about 100 miles to the trip. I tried to hit “find alternate route”, and it took me up through Fort Worth…adding another 150 miles to the trip. So if I followed these directions, a 600 mile trip would have turned into a 700 or 850 mile trip. It was only after driving for about an hour on what I knew was the shortest route (or at least a shorter route) that the app finally gave me the instructions I wanted (which was calculated out to be shorter than the 700 miles it had suggested originally).

In addition, if you go off route, rather than trying to calculate a new route based on your current location, it seems to try to only get you BACK on to the previous route. So this app was telling me, at various times, to take a u-turn, drive back another 15 miles to the point where I went off the planned route, then continue from there. If I cancelled that route and created another one, that’s when it would then give me the best route from my current location.

Lastly, the maps seem very out of date. One of the first things I noticed was that the map for my home town didn’t have my street on it. Now, my street is fairly new (within the past 5 years) so maybe that was a simple mistake. But when I was planning my trip to Terlingua, TX, Terlingua didn’t even come up as a town in Texas! So in addition to missing roads, the app is missing whole towns. This may not be a factor if you are living in a large metropolitan area, but if could be a concern if you are living somewhere less developed (or travelling somewhere like that).

Driving around town I had no problems with this app. It seemed to have most of the POI that I was looking for (although the database was a little bit lacking). It also generally suggested reasonable routes to take (even if they weren’t the exact same ones I would have suggested). The real problems with this app came with the long distance travel.

Conclusion

All in all, there are many things I like about this app, but in the end the two glaring problems prevented me from giving it a strong recommendation. This app may be fine if you live and travel only in large, well known areas. But if you plan to go to smaller towns or visit newer roads, you will have a hard time using this app. These facts, combined with a few other flaws (lack of contact integration, poor route planning) leads me to reduce the rating, despite the great user interface and some nice features and options I haven’t seen on other TBT apps. For $39.99 [on sale, typically $59.99], I would expect to get accurate maps and better routing instructions. Three out of five stars. (I welcome and will post any comments from the app programmers in response to this review)

UPDATE

I just received an email from Sygic - contact integration and text to speech (reading road names) are going to be in the next update.

text-to-speech, i.e. voice guidance announcing the name of the next street or road in North America, Australia and New Zealand, the ability to choose addresses straight from iPhone contacts and navigate to them, smooth fading out of the music playback before the voice instructions, enhanced GPS lock, smoother position display when moving on the route. Also, the navigation will automatically resume after completion of phone call, without the need to tap the ‚Accept' button anymore.

Pros:

  • Includes nice routing options
  • Can avoid upcoming route segments
  • Nice interface and customization options

Cons

  • No contact integration
  • Maps out of date
  • Sometimes route choices are questionable

TiPb Review Rating

TiPb Forums Review: 30 Star App

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Reader comments

App Review: Sygic MobileMaps US

9 Comments

Chris-
It would be nice if you could mention the other 3 nav apps you reviewed and compare each to each other?

Nice review and thanks for doing these I just one question though. How does going through Ft Worth only add 150 miles to your trip when it's like 270 miles between San Antonio and Ft Worth? If the app told you 150, then that's kind of scary...

If you can't find your way using the gps maps already on the phone for free, you deserve to be a dumbass and pay for the pointless gps apps. And don't desere a liscense, gps apps are retarded and amazingly over priced.

I had a similar problem with finding addresses. Try using the county name in place of the city or the zip. I could find most of the roads that I tried when I searched by city name. Most places had been there 30 years plus. I'd be curious if you would have the same result. I contacted their support but after the initial response I haven't heard anything more.

Yeah, that county trick has helped me find streets I was having problems with. Nice tip.

I use this app a lot and gave had a much different experience than the reviewer on a few points. For one, when I use this app, my screen never turns off at all. For two, if I miss a turn, the app automatically recalculated a new route from the place I am, rather than trying to get me back to the old route via uturns and the like.
I do find the routes on longer trips to be strange and not optimal, though. It seems to work best on trips less than 50 miles.

So when is the "updated" version going to be available?
I bought the app because it said they were going to integrate with the iPhone touch screen better for zooming and scrolling "in the next release."
Now they have backed off that promise and this feature will be "in a future release."
they've supposedly submitted the next version after 7.71.2 to Apple already, but they've been saying they're waiting for apple to approve now for weeks. Geez!