Eyes On: Sygic Turn By Turn GPS App for iPhone

There you see it, folks, a real live native iPhone app that provides turn-by-turn GPS directions with voice prompts, points of interest, support for multiple countries, maps stored in-memory instead of streamed from the internet, the whole nine yards.

Working off a tip/reminder from antonioj (thanks!), I scurried off to the TeleAtlas booth at the close day here at MWC to visit Sygic, a company that makes (you guessed it) downloadable GPS apps for smartphones and PDAs. They had promised a demo of their iPhone app at MWC09 and, well, they delivered.

Read on for more!

Sygic, as we said, looks to be a full-featured GPS app that stores all the maps on-memory (about 2 gigs for Europe). It uses TeleAtlas maps as a base -- whether that means that they'll be able to successfully navigate both the legal briar patch surrounding turn-by-turn on the iPhone and manage to make Apple forget about their SDK explicitly prohibiting such apps remains to be seen. For now (although I didn't drive around with it), I can say that Sygic works and seems snappy enough. It took the software shown about 30 seconds to load up and initialize, however, which didn't fill me with glee.

Otherwise, you can pretty much see the featureset from the gallery below. Sygic says they will submit to the app store and see how it rolls, there's no real intention of just releasing it as a jailbreak app. What do you think, will Apple accept the app or are they still holding out for a cut of that sweet, sweet TeleNav subscription fee? Or is the hold-up with turn-by-turn something else entirely? [gallery]

Dieter Bohn

Dieter Bohn is former editor-in-chief of Smartphone Experts, writing across iMore, Windows Phone Central, Android Central, and more. You can find him on Twitter (and everywhere else) @backlon.

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There are 55 comments. Add yours.

Uncle Bernie Madeoff says:

Just a guess, but I think Apple is waiting for their new chipset to develop. I am not sure if a phone app will replace true satellite gps, such as my TomTom in my car. For example, if you visit Death Valley, there is no phone reception, but I still have my car gps. Perhaps it has to do with antenna engineering.

Steve says:

Note to self: Stay away from Death Valley. ;)

jasonact says:

This is exactly what is needed on the iPhone, but unless they get special permission from Apple (like Google), there's no way this thing makes it to the app store.
If it does, though, that would be awesome. Now just get me a native video recording app that doesn't require jailbreak, and I'm set!

Chris says:

It's not just a catchy name ;)

The Reptile says:

Why wait? Here's a company that's going to sell their app in the app store in which Apple will get a 30% cut of. Revenue point 1. In about a year, someone is going to need an update of the content (maps, points of interest, etc). I can't see the vendor giving that away for free so release 2.0 will likely have an additional license fee in which Apple will get 30% of. Revenue point 2. Rinse and repeat and you get the picture. Now, expand this to say 25% (conservatively) of the install base and you have a nice business. Again, I say why wait? That is, unless you have something better or have $25 Billion in you pocket and plan to use it on something similar.

Matt Hall says:

Imho, this will be rejected by apple. I was also thinking that they were waiting for the next gen iphone to introduce not only turn by turn directions but also a video recording app. The real question to me is when this new iPhone comes out will the 3g be able to upgrade to it. Will the hardware differences be to vast? Will this 3g in my hand be useless due to required updates to all apps in order to resolve issues caused by the increase in screen resolution?

Muero says:

FYI: The iPhone-formatted version of this web page screws up the picture gallery. All the images are stacked up on top of each other. 

Matt Hall says:

@reptile or if you have already spent millions developing the exact same technology.

What3v3r says:

You don't need 3G/WiFi to get these maps going. Don't you get it? You download off-line maps onto your iPhone! So as long as the GPS chip is able to have an OK reception, this would work just fine! Apple is really pissing me off these days with their Microsoft-like mannerisms! They're going down for sure if they keep at it!

What3v3r says:

Took the app 30 seconds to initialise! Whoa! I am so pissed off now because the GPS in my car is INSTANTANEOUS! As soon I push the power button et Voilà! I am SO browsing the maps in my car with my TomTom in 2 microseconds!
What's with the world and impatience!

Keil Miller says:

@Jason- I'm pretty sure even google doesn't own thier maps. That may be an issue.
Maps is good enough for me. I can usually remember the next three directions easily. Only thing I want to see is the ability to drop a point and create a multiple point trip.

antonioj says:

Dieter, thanks for refering my twitt!!!
By the way, Sygic is a very decent gps software...i was able to test it in my former Sony Ericsson P1 (Symbian UIQ3), and it was pretty much on par with TomTom and Garmin
It works offline just like tomtom on symbian or windows mobile...and its available for those operating systems byt the way

sting7k says:

I guess no one has see the GPS navigator that has been in the app store for a few weeks now? It has US East and US West maps stored right on the phone. It's $20, the early reviews don't look very good in the app store but since it's gotten an update it looks better. I still haven't tried it, but then again my car already has built in GPS that works just fine so having another GPS navigator isn't that compelling to me.

Topper says:

This really has some incredible potential. I can't wait to see if this makes the app store. Regardless this should foster some work on the Cydia side of the house. Can't wait!

Steve says:

I have my Gamin for my vehicle, and Maps for other purposes when I'm not driving.
I guess if one is a passenger in a vehicle driven by someone without GPS this would be very useful. Are there any other benefits? I don't travel much anymore, so I really wouldn't know.

Brad Zimmerman says:

As I've noted elsewhere with xGPS... Turn-by-turn doesn't work very well on the iPhone because the GPS on the iPhone doesn't work very well. 50 meters of accuracy isn't good enough in a city, so turn-by-turn is kind of pointless if you actually, really need it. If you aren't in a big hurry and don't mind getting lost but eventually getting to where you wanted to go, well... I guess it's good enough. Otherwise, just get a real GPS.

Anon says:

GPS on iPhone works well, as well another PDAs GPSs. An xGPS can demostrate it, it's very accurate, but their map system and route system its still "developing".
Hoping to see this app soon!

Brian says:

30 seconds to launch the app isn't so bad when you consider it takes my wife's Garmin a full minute or two to acquire satellites and become useful. No problem there. We'll see what Apple does. My guess is demand will trump SDK TOS.

Tunnelrunner says:

@Sting,
What's the name of the GPS App. that you're referring to?
Thanks.

Al says:

Wow, thank God I got the 16 GB version if this thing is going to be bigger than two effing gigs! You 8gig people are screwed!!

Brad Zimmerman says:

xGPS uses the same Google Maps that every other iPhone mapping program uses. The issue isn't with the maps, as far as I know, especially since reported accuracy - from any GPS app on the iPhone - is never better than between 47-50 meters. That is NOT accurate. 1-5 meters is accurate.
If the only "GPS" that you've ever used has been a non-dedicated GPS (e.g. a phone, PDA, etc) then you haven't used a real GPS and you don't know what a real GPS is like. They're accurate, literally, down to a meter. When someone gives you a set of coordinates to visit (e.g. in Geocaching) two GPS units will send you to the same physical location. That won't happen with the iPhone.

Don K says:

From what I understand, TomTom already tried to do this with software and it was rejected. Could just be a rumor, I'd really like to see this I think it's very much needed. GPS hasnt been useful to me at all on the phone without software like this.

Anon says:

I'm building this same application right now for the iPhone. It's nice.

Matt Hall says:

I think sting7k is talking about g-map east/west.

Steve says:

@Al:
Why am I screwed with an 8 GB iPhone? There's 4.5 GB that I never even use... I have a computer at home. :roll:

icebike says:

@ Matt Hall
"Imho, this will be rejected by apple."
Maybe, but remember that Apple's only objection to this sort of app has been based on Licensing of the data.
Googles license of TeleAtlas (TomTom) and NAVTEQ (Nokia) data precluded this capability in the Google Maps application.
When a data owner produces the app that problem goes away.
So that leaves only a few grounds for Apple to object: Use of undocumented APIs (unknown at this time), or use of too much bandwidth (Not an issue), or Apple already has this in the pipe. But Apple would have to get its data from... (wait for it) TomTom or Nokia, who would be less than willing to cooperate if Apple blocks their app.
So I predict this will not be blocked by Apple.
It will be available, and we will then find out what a truly poor platform the iPhone is for this sort of work when it is stacked up side by side with a Garmin.

Trocadero says:

This is surely consuming too much battery -> rejected ;)
Didn't they say they have "complicated problems" with the GPS? I guess they scrwed the hardware, thats the real reason.

draxford says:

Couldn't you use a separate bluetooth gps receiver to get a more accurate fix?
(and if so could you have 2 simultaneous Bluetooth devices connected and so run hands free and gps at same time?)

smokeonit says:

the fonts in the app does NOT look like iPhone...! very odd!!!
smells fishy...!

Tunnelrunner says:

I just purchased and am currently playing around with G-Map East West.
I'm AMAZED that more people aren't talking about this app.
It appears to be true TBT GPS - with one flaw: no voice directions. But that can be remedies with updates. So this appears to be the best GPS option for the iPhone so far but I'm not doe experimenting with it. More I come later. Great find!

Chuck R says:

From FAQ on G-Map's web site ... no turn-by-turn! This is NOT the app many of us are looking for (e.g., Tom-Tom which worked great on my Windows Mobile phone).

  1. Does G-Map support real time Guidance? Such as Turn-by-Turn arrow and Voice prompt?
    Currently, our application doesn't support turn by turn guidance including voice prompt.
    This is based on APPLE's strict strategy which prohibits any real time guidance. Once there’s any positive change in APPLE strategy, we'll support this function.
    Once there’s any positive change in APPLE strategy, we'll apply this function technically with no fail as well as free updates for this.
macplanet says:

My theory why there was no TBT GPS app for the iPhone is (and will be until something like this really ships) that the GPS device manufacturers don't want to cannibalize their device sales by offering something like this for a platform with a huge install base and a simlilar customer group like GPS devices. I am pretty sure that one of the big players (like TomTom or Garmin), perhaps together with Google could have solved the problems with Apple and brought their software to the iPhone by now, but they don't really have to get to this market. I am also pretty sure that they all have iPhone versions ready they will launch immediately after somebody dares to launch his software. In this respect, the step of one small player like Sygic, who does not sell GPS devices but only software is only logical and could be the snowball which will bring us a wide selection of GPS apps to choose from.
For me, this would be the perfect solution since I don't own a car but use company or rental cars quite regularly which most of the time don't have GPS yet. I also would love to see a TBT GPS app for pedestrians or cyclists, perhaps based on the OpenStreetMap data.

Tunnelrunner says:

@Chuck,
Have you tried G Map? Keep in mind, there have been some updates released in the short time it's been out so it's continously changing. There IS real time turn by turn (as far as I can tell since I was testing ur yesterday)...there's just no voice/sound prompt which is a pain. It also recalculates if you go off path. A bigger concern is that the route it chooses isn't always the quickest way, like what Google Maps would provide. Still if you're coming from Tom Tom on a WM phone, I can see how you'd he underwhelmed. But for your typical iPhone user who's been confined to Google Maps, this is the closest thing we've got right now (without jailbreaking) to Tom Tom - at least until Sygic or Telenav pass the Apple "test.". So G Map might not be the app. we're looking for, but it's the best option for now. (and it should continue to get better with updates).

Tunnelrunner says:

I forgot to mention one thing: what if, God forbid, Apple NEVER allows a Garmin-level GPS app. on the iPhone? Don't get me wrong: I want TBT Voice-Directed GPS even more than Copy & Paste--I'm just saying Apple isn't known for compromising.
If they continue to shoot down Telenav, Tom Tom, Sygic, etc, then G-Map will be the closest thing we can legally get to true GPS. It's already got real time arrow/turn by turn but it's missing the voice prompt.

Amon says:

I hear all these guys are going to offer their apps in cydia for attractive prices! ;)

paste says:

Fuck GPS.... Give me copy and paste!!!

Parag says:

Kindly Help me that I am using iPhone with 2.2.1 firmware
version and with the help pwnage I have unlocked my iPhone but unfortunatle I have lost my iPhone earphone voice, I could not here SMS alert( Sometime it beeps), even I am not able to here the ipod song voice.
It is not a problem of internal circuit as I discuss with
one of Service provider that I can Here the Ringtone and
all sound except these sounds only..
Please please help[ me......
if any one can call me please call mme on my cell
+91 90963 30001
With regards
Parag

John says:

You can navigate through Death Valley using an iPhone. If you set up the route before you leave home then you don't actually have to load the maps to follow the route. You'll still see the calculated route as a purple line and your GPS will show your position on the route! The 3G iPhone's GPS is very accurate it even shows me where I am in the house but My Tom Tom can't even locate me when indoors and a friend's Sony Sat Nav takes half an hour to fix its location.

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Gregor Anton says:

Sweet! I used a GPS when it first came out with the Herz neverlost system on a trip in Chicago and was amazed at how well it worked. Then got an ipaq when I was living in Europe, a must have when you have to read street names in foreign languages, and now have a Tom Tom, I like it but it would be nice to have all on my iphone. Along with city guides!

wrybread says:

I'm surprised no one mentioned MotionX GPS. Works really well. Doesn't have turn by turn, its more like a classic mountaineering style gps, but super impressive.

farook says:

how to delete the favorites routes from you iphone in sygic.....

Cena says:

I am a bit confused between tomtom and copoilet apps on iphone... both of them are expensive so I need to think twice b4 getting any of them... any advice?

Vance Mcvinney says:

Please identify more how can i buy portable gps cheapest.I wanted gps tools.My wife want it this month. :P

true protein discount code says:

this could come in handy but it will take some getting used to.

Children says:

There is visibly some bundle for you to identify on this. We suppose you've made various nice tips with features furthermore.

antonio m. alonzo says:

this is the worst GPS I have ever used. GO FIGURE - IT DOES NOT HAVE PENNSYLVANIA!!! A whole STATE MISSING? What happened? I paid good money for something I can't use....

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Ashleigh says:

any ideas about free iphone 3gs gps apps?

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