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App Review: G-Map U.S. West by X-Road Co.

by Rob   on July 8, 2009
Filed under Daily App Reviews, Navigation, Staff Favorites, Utility

When Apple unleashed iPhone OS 3.0 upon the world, they opened the doors for a genre of applications that people have been longing for – turn-by-turn GPS navigation with voice guidance.  The up-and-coming TomTom for iPhone GPS application was even featured during Apple’s WWDC keynote address [not yet available], a stark indication that GPS navigation was imminent.  Since the launch of the new operating system, we’ve seen announcements from several navigation companies.   Even AT&T jumped in the game with their own turn-by-turn GPS application [iTunes].

Many of these GPS app developers have chosen a pricing model based on a monthly subscription.  For example, AT&T’s navigator app is free, but you’ll have to pay for it every month.  AT&T will add $9.99 per month onto your cell phone bill.  Other developers like Sygic, and their Mobile Maps America North [iTunes], are charging a steep $79.99 for their app.  Given that map updates are not cheap, and that you would typically pay $100.00+ for such updates on a dedicated GPS unit, it’s no wonder that these apps are a touch expensive. p 480 320 97154020 e77f 48e7 ac72 e59b07763cb9 200x300 App Review: G Map U.S. West by X Road Co. Enter G-Map by X-Road.  G-Map has been available in the App Store for some time now, and while turn-by-turn navigation wasn’t officially possible until iPhone OS 3.0, G-Map had a version that came really close to it.  Since its release, G-Map has been updated multiple times.  Their last iteration, version 1.3.1, now offers what you know you already want at a very modest price.

I was provided a beta version of G-Map US West about a week or so ago and started using it right away.  Everywhere I went I fired up the app, put in my destination address, and touched the “Go” button.  Within seconds, the app would start speaking to me, giving me step by step directions to my destination.  I really only found one problem with the app.  Occasionally, the app would put my location on a frontage road and start giving me directions from that point when in actuality, I was on the highway.  However, I found that if I waited for about 1/4 of a mile,  the app would correct itself and put my location in the proper place.  When I reported this problem to X-Road, they promptly provided me with the latest update.  With this update in place, the problem still exists, but to a lesser extent.  G-Map seems to get my location correct much more often now.

Once you launch the app, you are met with a nag-screen reminding you not to use the app while driving a car.  So, being the obedient driver that I am (not), I turned my phone over to my wife.  We were both a little confused at first on how you enter an address.  You start with the city, then the road, and work your way down to a specific house number.  This approach seemed a little backwards at first.  However, now that I’m used to it, it actually works quite well.   Since I’m almost always going somewhere in the same city, that part stays selected.   I just have to choose a street, enter the house number, and touch “Go.”

Searching by address is not the only way to enter a destination, though.  There are many ways to find your destination.  You can also find destinations by Zip Code, City Name, GPS Coordinates (lat, long), Emergency (like nearby hospitals), Point of Interest (POI) – which includes things like fuel, parking, food, lodging, banks, etc. and more.  I found that the one method for identifying a destination that was lacking might be the ability to touch on a map and say, ‘take me there.’ Update: We received clarification from X-Road that G-Map does indeed have the ability to find a destination via a map.  Using the Map view, scroll to your destination, double tap the map and you should get an address, then touch “Go.”  While this wasn’t clear at first, I’ve tried it and it does work.  Whatever your destination, G-Map will find it and plot your route on the map.

Now that you have your destination entered, things start to get interesting.  Once you touch the “Go” button, you are presented with a map view of your route.  There are three different map views to choose from. The first view is looking straight down on the map (a la google maps type of view).  Second is a 3D view where the map is tilted and you can see the horizon.  This view is my personal favorite.  The third view is a higher up view that gives you more of your route on the screen.  However, it lacks the detail on turns and such that the other two views provide.  This view is good for getting a look at the bigger picture, though.  The rest of this review will assume you are in 3D mode since we found that view the most useful and pleasing to the eye. p 480 320 457489d7 fda6 41ca a428 f0d0811f017f 200x300 App Review: G Map U.S. West by X Road Co. On the map view there are a few key pieces of information, in addition to your route, displayed on the map.  These pieces of information include: the name of the street you are currently on, the name of the street that you will turn on prominently displayed at the top of the screen, and an indicator in the corner of the screen that shows your next change of direction and the distance to that change.  So, for example, if you have a right-hand turn coming up in 0.5 miles, there will be a small image of a right-hand turn in the box, and below the picture it will say 0.5mi.  This feature is very handy in anticipating what actions you need to take as a driver to stay on course.

Also on the map (route) view there is a preview button.  The preview allows you to walk through your trip before you actually make the trip.  When you touch the preview button, the app will “play” through the route that it plotted to your destination following all the voice commands and turns that you would have if you actually drove it.  This preview can be handy in navigating a strange city or if you want to get a sense or feel for what lies ahead [We've got a video of this pending.  Once our MacBook comes back from being serviced, we'll post it on YouTube].

G-Map U.S. West has many more options and features.  It allows you to do things like choosing between the fastest route or the shortest route distance wise, and telling the app to avoid things such as toll roads, highways or carpool lanes.  There are even night and daytime map views (see pics) that you can configure in the setup.  In the setup, you can also adjust things like the map colors, what points of interest you’d like to see on the map (ie: removing the ones you don’t want to see), and changing the units used to measure distance between miles and kilometers.

This review wouldn’t be complete without mentioning the voice guidance feature of G-Map.  Providing you remember to turn off your mute button and turn up the volume, the voice guidance of the app is actually superbly done.  The voice is female, not too “robotic” sounding, and pleasing to listen to.  The timing of the voice prompts are great as well.  They give you appropriate warnings at 2 miles, 1 mile, 0.5 miles, 0.2 miles and imminent action intervals.  So, for example, you will get a warning such as: “In two miles turn right.”  Then once you get down to the actual turn, there is sort of a ping sound, and the voice will say “turn right.”

Summary:

I’ve been using the app now for about a week.  I am getting pretty comfortable with its limits and capabilities.  I’ll have to admit, with it’s low entry price of $34.99 (far below all the competitors), I wasn’t sure what to expect.  But, the app is very well done and very polished.  Aside from the one glitch I mentioned above [See correction above], the app performed flawlessly here in the Salt Lake City area.  While I have not yet spent time with some of the other navigation GPS apps currently offered, I can say that G-Map is an easy recommendation.  I am not aware of any other app that can offer the same features at a similar price.

Pros:

  • Great entry price point for a voice assisted navigation app on the iPhone.
  • Clear and easy to understand voice directions.
  • Easy user interface.
  • Great map views.
  • Does not require a data connection to get maps.  It will get you to the Grand Canyon even if there’s no cell coverage.

Cons:

  • 824mb download.  So it requires a lot of space on your device.
  • A couple of glitches here and there on GPS location.
  • No real time traffic.

G-Map Tips:  When entering the address for your destination you will find that the app gives a list of addresses after you enter the street name.  If the address you’re looking for isn’t in the list, you can simply type the house number and G-Map will use that instead.  If you’re alone in the car, set your destination prior to setting out for your destination (as with any navigation app).  Get a dashboard or windshield holder for your phone so that it’s easy to glance at, rather than constantly holding or fumbling for it.

G-Map comes in multiple versions, depending on your location.  You will want to download the one best suited to your area of the country:

Developer’s Website: http://www.xroadgps.com/Maps/GMapforiPhone/tabid/2463/Default.aspx

Comments

10 Responses to “App Review: G-Map U.S. West by X-Road Co.”
  1. Timg says:

    I’ve been using this app prior to 3.0.. there were times when I wanted to throw it (my phone) out the window because of the issue mentioned above where it would ‘jump’ to roads parallel of the road you’re on..

    They seem to have resolved much of that now, and with the added voice prompts, I’m actually able to use it. Next release I hope they provide some type of ‘assessory’ for boosting the GPS signle like Tomtom and maybe a landscape view..

    for the price, I think it was worth it..

  2. Timg says:

    Oh.. on a side note, I can’t find the ‘Night’ view they talk about in the review.. I’ve the latest release.. They we’re running a beta?

  3. Rob says:

    Timg

    Yes, we were running a beta. But we were delivered the full version from iTunes prior to publishing this review. So the full version was used to validate our findings from the beta.

    To get to the night mode, go to the Settings app, select G-Map from the list and enable night mode (either auto or on). Now you have your night mode screens.

    To your other comment, we still experience the glitch on occasion when driving around. It’s still not perfect but has improved from the beta. I’m not sure how or why the app would put me on a side road when I’m going 75MPH on the freeway. Hopefully they continue to improve this issue.

    Rob

  4. Maddie_z says:

    I bought this app when it was only $19.99 with the anticipation that it would get better as iphone OS got better and I was right. Now that it has turn by turn voice prompts, I use my Belkin iTunes player and the voice comes through the stereo which makes it much easier to hear. I only wish I could listen to iTunes at the same time. I wonder if this is an Apple issue or something G-Maps can remedy with an update. I love this app and for the price it’s an unbelievable deal.

  5. Reginald Lewis says:

    I just download Gmaps on my Iphone 2g and I can’t get a actually location on my GPS. It show that I am in Houston, TX but I lived on the outskirt of Houston.

    Please will someone please tell me what to do

  6. Rob says:

    @Reginald Lewis

    The iPhone 2G does not have GPS. You must have either a 3G or 3GS to use G-Map or any other navigation or GPS app.

  7. Rob says:

    The app settings are found in the Apple Settings app. Go to your home screen, touch the Settings icon, then scroll down to G-Map in the app list.

  8. Gretchen says:

    Okay, it will get you to the Grand Canyon, but I’m trying to figure out whether the iPhone 3GS can help you navigate IN the Grand Canyon, Bryce, Zion, etc. Anyone have experience with this?
    Thanks,
    Gretchen

  9. Rob says:

    @Gretchen

    I’m not sure exactly what you’re asking. I’ve been to all of those parks, since I live in Utah, G-Map will likely navigate you while on the road in the park. However, if you’re looking for GPS for hiking etc then NO, G-Map will not help you (it’s for roads, not trails).

    Since most of these parks have only a single road in and out, navigation on that road is hardly necessary, not to mention you are given maps at the gates.

    Actually, I just re-read your question. The iPhone 3GS is a phone, first and foremost. If there is no cellular signal in the park (likely is, but never know), then the Maps app will not work. You need an app that will provide maps and GPS but without a cell signal. You may want to check out MotionX GPS since that provides core GPS functions. However, the maps you will need to browse through them while still ON the network, then the app will cache them for when you’re off the network. You’ll want to study up on it before hand.

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