Affordable Navigation for iPhone

This article was published in 2011 before the proliferation of "free" navigation apps for the iPhone. I have added some edits at the end of this article with some more recent information that applies to newer models of the iPhone.

I have used the Garmin Nuvi for a few years and been very pleased so my expectations in an iPhone solution are very demanding. My criteria for an acceptable solution are:

1. Windshield mount that charges and enhances GPS reception.
2. App uses live maps so I don't have to download updates.
3. Capable of doing everything my Nuvi did.
4. Affordable!
5. User friendly for my wife (she has to use something since she gets lost in our neighborhood).

My solution was a long time coming. I did find that TomTom created a windshield mount that would do everything I was looking for but at the time, it would only work with the TomTom app. Additionally, the TomTom app required their mount and was too expensive. The app is currently $50 which puts it on the high side for me.

The event that re-energized my desire to search for an iPhone solution was updating the maps on my Nuvi. I noticed a link on Garmin's site that indicated an available iPhone app so I jumped at the opporutnity. The app was $35, which was still higher than I wanted to pay but I decided that, based on what it promised, it would be a good solution. I also found a windshield mount that met my requirements for only $100 (iPhone Windshield Mount) so I went ahead and purchased both.

The mount works as expected and I was exceptionally pleased to find out that it would work with the power adapter for the Nuvi mount since I had hidden that cable under the dash. The next thing I found was that the existing Nuvi windshield mount would accept the new cradle so I didn't have to change that out (since I have it permanently attached to my windshield).

When I started using the Garmin app, to my dismay I found it very inaccurate in many respects. I did communicate with Garmin but didn't get a satisfactory answer so I went in search for a different app that would be more accurate.

What I found, based on customer reviews, was MotionX Drive. I had already used another of the MotionX apps and found it very accurate and reliable; it just didn't provide turn-by-turn directions with voice guidance. MotionX Drive was only $1 to purchase and included a 30 day free trial of the Live routing, which is what makes the application work. I tried it out and immediately found the same reliability I had with my, now retired, Nuvi. The directions are nearly the same and in just map view mode, it actually places my pointer on the map correctly, as expected.

Other benefits:

1. The windshield mount has a 3.5mm headphone jack so I was able to connect it to my car stereo. I can play all of my music in my library on my iPhone plus the navigation directions are spoken through the car radio.
2. Integrated live traffic attempts to automatically route you around trouble areas.
3. Automatically routes multiple stops in the most efficient manner.
4. Maps are automatically updated from Navteq as they release new versions. The service is only $19 per year and can be shared by multiple devices. The only drawback is that multiple devices cannot use live routing at the same time, only one works at a time.
5. Address book integration so I don't have to enter addresses for contacts I already have stored in my phone.
6. MotionX allows you to "simulate" the route before you leave your house (or office) so the maps download over WiFi rather than your 3G data connection.

Give it a try, I'm convinced you'll be pleased!

Additional information as of 12/1/2014:

My original article was written from the perspective on an iPhone 4. I have since upgraded to the 5 and now the 6 as many of you have over time. If you are still using a 4S or older model, you should still invest in the windshield mount noted above. For newer models of the iPhone, the extra GPS receiver is no longer needed.

I have tried newer "free" navigation apps because I don't like to spend money that isn't really necessary. Most iPhone users know of the problems Apple has had with their maps. While they have improved over time, they still don't provide all of the information I am used to with MotionX Drive. I have also noticed that roads in navigation mode are not well drawn, sometimes appearing like the road is veering right or left significantly from where the road actually exists. Apple has a long ways to go to get it 100% right. Interesting item of note: I was looking for a restaurant about a month ago and Apple maps reported the location correctly where Google was off by about three miles.

Google Maps are useful but navigation is questionable and in some cases, has provided a route that is not optimized for traffic. Despite many attempts at feedback with Google, they still lack much of what MotionX Drive provides as well. I have also found that Google Maps are absolutely NOT reliable for long trips. We recently took a trip just shy of 1,000 miles. Google crashed about every hour making it completely useless.

As of today, I have an iPhone 6 and I still rely on MotionX Drive for all of my navigation needs. 

Comments (1)


Hi @stone5150,

I'm wondering what the status is?

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