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A little over a year ago I wrote a post regarding cell phone GPS apps. I had a tough time using the on-screen navigation systems and things did not improve over the year. Not only did the GPS use quite a bit of my monthly data allotment, it was cumbersome with plenty of hiccups.

Garmin GPSHaving grown tired of trying to figure it out I finally broke down and purchased a GPS system. I purchased the Garmin 57LM5 for $149.99. It’s a neat little contraption, but apparently it is the no-frills version. I didn’t need a lot of bells and whistles, but I did need the ability to listen to the GPS through my car speakers. The Garmin 57LM does not provide that functionality.

Not wanting to spend $300 for a GPS system with car speaker functionality I searched the web for a possible adapter for this Garmin model. No such luck. What I did happen across, however, were mobile apps. Yes, there are offline mobile GPS apps that provide the same voice navigation that I would get through a Garmin, but this time I could use my adapter to listen to the directions through the car speakers.

How Offline GPS Apps Work

In order to use some of the offline GPS apps, your mobile device must have an SD card or enough hard drive space to download the various and assorted maps. The way it works is the maps, which are apparently space hogs, are downloaded to the SD drive while the app icon appears on the mobile device (I don’t know enough about the ins and outs to say for sure where each file is downloaded, but I do know the maps are downloaded to the SD card).

You get to choose which maps to download to your device. If you’re doing local driving, then you only need to download the map for your state. If you travel interstate then download the states for which you’ll need directions. In my case my travels are mainly within one state. If I decided to take a long-distance, multi-state trip I’d download the necessary maps before the beginning of my trip.

Sampling MapFactor Offline GPS appMapFactor

After reading a few articles I decided to try MapFactor offline GPS app. Since it was free, what did I have to lose? I went to Google Play and downloaded the app. These apps provide driving directions for countries around the world so the first selection I had to make was to choose the country I’ll be driving in. Next I had to deselect all of the states I won’t be driving in. I wish it where the other way around. Instead of deselecting over 40 states, I would have preferred to select the state or states I needed to download.

Once I went through the necessary configurations, I decided to take it for a spin around the neighborhood. I programmed my address as the home location and choose a neighbor’s address as my destination. I hopped in the car and gave it a whirl.

All worked as it should, but I found it a bit disconcerting that the voice would tell me to turn right or left, but it wouldn’t tell me the name of the street I was turning onto. For example, it would say, “In 300 yards turn left. In 750 yards turn right then left.” I would feel better if I knew I was turning onto the correct street.

To test the app just a bit, I didn’t turn right when it told me to. It revised the directions and provided updated instructions on how to reach my destination. All the while it was telling me what to do, I could see my progress, or lack thereof, on the live 3D map. Since I was using a tablet instead of a cell phone, the map was pretty easy to read.

When I returned home I realized how important it was for me to have spoken street name navigation. Therefore, I got back on the computer to find an app with spoken street name functionality. That led me to Sygic GPS Navigation.

Sygic GPS Navigation

Sygic isn’t a free offline GPS app. It’s free to download and you get 7 days of complete functionality, but after the 7 days you’ve got to shell out a few bucks for things like, spoken street name navigation, lifetime license with map updates, turn-by-turn navigation with automatic rerouting, speed limits and safety warnings and a few other features. For an additional 29.99 ∋ (about $40), it’s well worth the expenditure.

There are a couple of other addons not included in the above-mentioned premium price. The coolest one is the Heads Up Display feature. With this feature you can project the navigational information on the windshield for night driving. This way your information is right in front of you. No need to fiddle with the device.Sygic

I haven’t had a chance to use all of the bells and whistles. I performed the exact same test that I did using the MapFactor app. I plotted the course from my home to a house in the neighborhood. I deliberately took a wrong turn to see how it responded. Sygic was a little slower than MapFactor in responding to my wrong turn, but it did recalculate the route and got me to my destination.

Just One Person’s GPS Experience

This isn’t a true apples-to-apples comparison of GPS systems. I didn’t really give Garmin a chance. Once I couldn’t listen to the navigation through my speaker system I knew it wouldn’t work for me. When MapFactor didn’t give me street names, I knew it was a short-lived app on my device. Since Sygic seems to have everything I need, I’m willing to spend the time to work with it to get to know it better.

It’s only been a day and the marriage is still young. I’ll provide an update once I get a better feel for the app. In the meanwhile, if you’re toying with the idea of purchasing a GPS navigational system, why not download one of the free offline apps and give it a whirl. After spending some time with it you might decide not to purchase the navigational system.

P.S. – I returned the Garmin for a refund.

FeliciaFelicia (aka Low Tech Grandma) is a wife, mother, grandmother, freelance writer and low tech blogger.