After having my Tom Tom stolen a week or so ago, I decided to try and save a bit of money by replacing it with an iPhone app. After searching the app store for “sat nav”, there seemed to be three main contenders. The official Tom Tom app costs £52.99 and so ruled itself out on price. The other two were Navmii and CoPilot Live, which were both £19.99 for the UK & Ireland editions. The reviews seemed to be pretty similar so I ended up just guessing and I went for Navmii.
The size of the app is 341Mb, so I òpted to download onto my laptop first to make sure that I had a copy. However, this did mean that I had to wrestle with the deraded iTunes, but I luckily managed to emerge pretty much unscathed. The bonus of the software’s large size is that all the maps are included and that you aren’t relying on an internet connection when you’re on the move, so it was worth the extra faffing.
On first use, the interface was clear and easy to use and the GPS located the satellites quickly. The app is feature-packed, including your current speed, an estimated time of arrival, detailed speed camera alerts, 2D or 3D maps in portrait or landscape, full 7-digit postcode search and POIs. Everything you’d expect from a proper sat nav, really.
My initial test journey was to a local golf club about 1.5 miles away (it was a nearby POI). This part of the journey seemed to be sucessful, although it wasn’t obvious to me where the entrance to the club was, but this isn’t necessarily the softwares fault.
As I drove past, I changed my destination to home (using the home button), and, instead of telling me to do a u-turn, it took me on a unecessarily long diversion down a country lane. In fairness, country lanes do tend to make sat navs go a bit mental generally, but this seemed a particularly perverse digression. Technically, it did get me home, though.
My first impressions òn usability were mixed. In comparison to my Tom Tom One it sometimes seemed slow to update your position and the maps, there were the odd spurious direction from the voice commands (although the directions on the map looked fine) and the GPS position ocassionally drifted. However the map seemed laid out well enough to be able see where you’re going and so, if you paid attention, then you should generally avoid going wrong.
My next journey was going to be the app’s ultimate test: Manchester city centre. Driving around Manchester feels like you’re in a remake of Escape from New York at the best of times, so Navmii really needed to be on the ball. Sadly it was nowhere near the ball. The app updated far too slowly and the map wasn’t clear enough for a built up area. This meant that I ended up missing the correct turning and then the app really struggled to locate where I was and then plot me a new route. Technically it did eventually get me to the correct location, but I was late (read about it here), and it felt like a failure.
I had to use the app a few days later when I was on a route I knew, but the road was closed and so I was totally lost. I got Navmii up and running quickly enough, but it took a long time before it knew exactly where I was and planned the route. It felt like I went on a longer diversion than necessary, but not being familiar with the area then I’m not sure. It would probably have been fine if I could have stopped immediately and let it sort itself out, but I was stuck in the flow of traffic and there was nowhere to pull over.
It’s worth pointing out that I have an iPhone 3G and so the software may run much quicker on the newer models. If I ever get a newer iPhone then I’ll be sure to update my review. It’s a pity that I can’t do a side-by-side comparison with Co-Pilot and Tom Tom apps, but I’m not forking out £70 just to write a review. If anybody wants to sponsor me to do this, then I’m open to offers!
All in all, the app is a bit disappointing, but it does eventually get you to where you’re going, and as someone with no sense of direction then it’s essential. It does its job up to a point, and £20 is a lot cheaper than buying a brand new Tom Tom.
UPDATE: Please read the update post, here, for an update on how Navmii has been working. It hasn’t gone well.