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What is The Best Free GPS Navigation App?

Actually, I do not like the topic heading phrase, the best free GPS navigation app.

Just people want to get The Best Things and it is just normal. From the other hand, it is hard to believe that The Best for Me always is the best for others.

Therefore, my conclusions regarding GPS navigation apps more or less are subjective but based on personal experience, analyzed online information, and common sense.

 

When I look back in two years old post about GPS app for smartphones I should accept that my thoughts are slightly changed.

 

Why?

Mostly because of mobility and practically immediate information access.

My latest conclusion is based on recent vacation trip around Europe. During two weeks, I have crossed borders of nine countries on my Volvo XC70 family car.

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You can read about it in my latest post. I wrote it mainly for local adventurers as Croatia is one of the most favorite holiday destination for my fellow countrymen and driving by car is the cheapest and very handy mode of traveling. (You can use a translator which can be found in right widget bar.)

I can only guess how it is in the US or Canada but in Europe road construction works are in progress, and even one-year-old roadmap in stand-alone or onboard built-in car GPS can lead you to the dead end.

You could argue me that Garmin or TomTom have map update service and it is a truth. But on road situation can change on the go. It does not mean that you always are trapped but time, nerves and some extra $$ could be wasted.

…the best GPS navigation for car is that which is able as fast as possible adopt the real road changes and situation.

By my mind, the best GPS navigation for car is that which is able as fast as possible adopt the real road changes and situation. Luckily today it is possible almost everywhere on public roads and streets by the help of the internet access. Generally, it is mobile provider internet service and somewhere even Wi-Fi internet access.


Now I have approached to the topic of Free GPS Navigation App.  App Store or Google Play is full of them. I have used four or five of them.

Which is the best free turn by turn GPS navigation app?

So far, I cannot find the real opponent to WAZE.

This is what is stated on Waze home page

„Get the best route, every day, with real–time help from other drivers.  Waze is the world’s largest community-based traffic and navigation app. Join other drivers in your area who share real-time traffic and road info, saving everyone time and gas money on their daily commute.“

I would not like to overwrite or copy paste information from other sources. I make conclusions from my own and other good drivers experience.

Why Waze?

Huge number of live users. Only Play Store statistics shows 100M-500M installs and this does not include App Store users?

Therefore, it is the largest information source based on real user’s data.

Is this information trustful?

So far, I haven’t found any purposely misleading information. I have read some sad stories and one is when Waze app directions take a woman to wrong Brazil address, where she is killed.

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My understanding is that in criminal gangs occupied Rio favelas sometimes street names are the same as in another city districts and need to be very careful in such dangerous areas. Waze takes maps from different sources and sometimes even manually edited them and I am sure that Waze editors doing their job very scrupulous.

You can become and even earn as Waze editor just it is not so simple as you must reach some level and prove your skills.

Well, let’s skip the technical details and what else I’d like to say about Waze as the best free GPS navigation app.

I say again, it became as the number one for me after common roaming in Europe, „roam like at home“.

To be honest, the reality is slightly different.

In my country Latvia, I think that the similar situation is in other European Economic Area countries, cell phone operators have found the holes in the EU Regula and set some limits. But even though a smallest monthly volume, set by LMT (Latvian Mobile Telephone) provider as 2.51 GB of internet use, is enough for fully functional usage of Waze application.

Some tips from my recent journey through Europe.

Trust Waze’s recommended route, no, better recheck and then make the decision, even when new offered route looks stupid. Waze really find the best route. I was forced to make sure of this at least twice. It was regarding real traffic congestion on a highway and I lost about an hour when ignored the warning.

I do not speak about speed traps and speeding alerts; these features are in many other GPS navigation devices. Just when you are online it can give you a chance be alerted about a real-time stamp and presence of police on the road.


Here are some functions provided by Waze GPS navigation app helpful to safe and pleasant driving. Either you can inform others or be informed by other drivers about a useful situation on your route.

Traffic– information about traffic jam, moderate, heavy or standstill;

Police– visible, hidden, other side;

Crash– minor, major, other side;

Hazard– on road, shoulder, weather;

Gas prices;

Map chats;

Map issue– map issue, pave;

Place- take a picture to help others and vice versa;

Roadside help- When encountering in trouble, ask help for to fellow Wazers as they will see your real location on the map.

Speed cam– speed, red light, fake.

Closure– you can mark a road closure to warn other.

It is obvious as more Waze users the more accurate information will be at your disposal.

In other words, free Waze GPS navigation app is the big helper for drivers.

I forget to mention that a dynamic data is obtained not only from Wazers but the company has agreements with a free data sharing program used by over 200 governments, departments of transportation and municipalities for traffic analysis. It is the huge data base for trustful information.

By reading online information about GPS navigation apps I found that Waze has some kind of financial, technical and other connection with Google. For me is not clear their relationships.

Here is what Wiki write about it

Acquisition by Google
„According to rumors, Facebook and other companies were interested in purchasing Waze, but did not reach an agreement. In June 2013, Google bought Waze for a reported $1.3 billion, adding social data to its mapping business.It was later revealed that the price was actually US$966 million. As part of the deal, each of Waze’s 100 employees was to receive an average of about $1.2 million, the largest payout to employees in the history of Israeli high tech.

In June 2013, the United States Federal Trade Commission started considering whether Google’s purchase of Waze might violate competition law – Waze was one of very few competitors in the mobile mapping sector to Google’s own Google Maps. The FTC decided that it would not challenge Google’s acquisition of Waze.The UK Office of Fair Trading and the Israel Antitrust Authority also investigated it and allowed the acquisition.

Following the acquisition of Waze, Google submitted a “10-Q” filing with the Securities Exchange Commission (SEC) that revealed that the corporation spent $1.3 billion on acquisitions during the first half of 2013, but that the Waze acquisition cost Google $966 million, instead of the $1.1 billion figure that was initially presented in media sources.“

As far as I mentioned Google let’s take a short insight in other popular free GPS navigation app Google Map.

Wikipedia

„Google Maps is a web mapping service developed by Google. It offers satellite imagery, street maps, 360° panoramic views of streets (Street View), real-time traffic conditions (Google Traffic), and route planning for traveling by foot, car, bicycle (in beta), or public transportation.“

You can find a lot of useful information online just my two cents.

Our topic is mainly related to turn by turn navigation mobile phone applications. So, let’s look at Google Maps from this angle.

No doubt that for many users it can look much more attractive as offers satellite image.

…you are lost and then a positions picture could be helpful

For me, that feature could help in case you are lost and then a positions picture could be helpful. For real, safe and effective navigation you do not need so cluttered screen and as an online application, less downloadable data is better. Sometimes GSM signal is so weak and the app just hangs up leading to lack of navigation at all.

An absence of speed indicator on screen is a huge drawback as Waze even warn you for speeding.

For long distance calculation and route planning, I prefer ViaMichelin mobile app and Viamichelin.com.  Especially it is the great tool when traveling in different countries. It automatically calculates not only your mileage cost but even toll and road taxes at the moment of travel. Easy to use, friendly user interface and much more helpful features.

Nothing is perfect, and one of the cons of Waze is a limitation of long distance calculation. For example, I tried to calculate my route from Riga in Latvia to Split in Croatia approximate distance 2100 km but the just annoying message pops up „Uh-oh! Could not find a route.“

You should split your preferred route into about 600 km long sections which are not convenient. In that case, I use above mentioned ViaMichelin app or website.

It is another drawback I found for smartphone apps Waze including. Sometimes when you are behind wheel sending a report could lead to distracted driving. Better is pull off and then send a report but not always it is convenient or even allowed on highways.

It is quite possible that you can find some other details which are not so convenient or not in Waze app at all. We have slightly different habits, experience or even goals using of navigation in our cars or bikes. Your experience and comparison of different free GPS Navigation apps will lead to the right choice.

Just one significant drawback for safe driving is- IT STILL IS A PHONE and unless you, not disabled phone function it could lead to distracted driving. Think about it and read my other post.
Drive safe! and have a pleasant and safe trip!

 

4 Comments

  1. James

    Just the fact that it does a stellar job getting you through the labyrinth of streets in Europe is testimony enough really.
    I was in Florence and Rome for a month recently, and it is always amazing to me when I go to historic centers in Europe how a GPS is able to navigate the maze of the small cobble stone lanes – like Barcelona’s gothic district.
    It’s good to know about the real-time services this company offers – and it’s free? Awesome.
    Thanks for the information.

    Reply
    1. Andrejs (Post author)

      Thanks James for stopping by.

      You are absolutely right GPS navigation apps are really helpful when you are gazing centuries old houses in narrow streets of old towns. Luckily many latest smartphones are equipped with dual satellite receiver chips, the USA GPS, and Russian GLONASS. Signal loss between the high walls of buildings is almost eliminated.

      Reply
  2. hong

    I have been looking for a free GPS navigation app for some time now since my Garmin GPS got stolen. I have tried out the offline and the online GPS app, and few times they took me to the wrong place, one time to the woods, and it was scary. I will consider your recommendation on the other Free Apps and see how they work out. Thank you for providing such informative article!

    Reply
    1. Andrejs (Post author)

      It’s painful and disgusting when something is stolen, even GPS from a car. I know this unpleasant feeling. Most likely, the window was broken. Smartphone GPS app has another advantage; a phone is rarely left in the car. So there is no temptation for the thieves.

      Reply

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