Posted by Jim Martin 20 August 2013
Garmin StreetPilot UK & Ireland for iPhone app review
£45 inc VAT
Persuading iPhone users to part with the best part of £50 for a satnav app is tougher than ever these days. Not only are there capable free offerings from the likes of Google and NavFree, but Apple’s own maps app provides great turn-by-turn guidance for iPhone 4S and 5 owners.
Garmin has a long history in satnavs, so we had high hopes for StreetPilot UK & Ireleand. Needing to add extra features to tempt users away from free offerings, Garmin has decided to go down the social media route and integrated Wikipedia, Foursquare and Glympse.
The thinking is that, using the various online services, drivers can discover points of interest around them, and easily ‘check in’ to locations using Foursquare. The inclusion of Glympse means you can share your position and destination with anyone – they need only a web browser, not a Glympse account - to track your progress
That’s all well and good but the actual guidance is the most important aspect of any satnav. The main interface is fairly clear and will be familiar to anyone who has used a Garmin satnav before. The map view has a road name and turn indicator at the top, some key shortcuts to volume, cancel route and traffic information on the right.
At the bottom you get one configurable field – the default is ETA – plus current speed, which you can’t change. A pop-out panel lets you calculate a detour, find out where you are, see the trip computer, send a Glympse and find services on your route.
Before using the app, you have to download 64MB of extra files, plus the UK map, which is 360MB. Then, you have to download PhotoReal Junction View for easier navigation at tricky junctions, 3D landmarks and Wikipedia POIs from the Extras menu.
Disappointingly, no traffic information is included as standard, but you can pay £15.49 to add “3D Live Traffic” with no ongoing subscription. Another worry was that in over 600 miles of driving, we never saw a speed camera warning; there was only a button to add camera locations. User reviews of the app also indicate that in the current version, safety cameras aren't working. We did like the fact that the road's speed limit was displayed and was always correct.
Our main gripe, beyond these two rather large failings, was the small turn indicator and font in the information bar. This is a problem on the iPhone 5’s relatively small screen – on an iPhone 4 or 4S, it's even worse. Unless you can mount your phone close to you, you might well struggle to see the details.
Routing was beyond criticism, however, and the route was always clearly marked on screen (and scrolled smoothly on our iPhone 5), along with clear spoken instructions. The same praise can’t always be levelled at free satnav apps, but one point to note with Garmin is that there's no 'eco' routing option, just 'faster', 'shorter' or - bizarrely - 'off-road'. Another niggle is that routing doesn't take expected traffic levels into account, as TomTom's IQ Routes does.
There are lots of ways to choose a destination, including Google Local Search, but if you have no signal, the POIs database is good and is all stored offline.
When selecting Bluetooth for audio output, the app appeared to make a phone call for each instruction and audio quality via our Parrot Bluetooth kit was fairly disappointing (as you'd expect from a phone call).
Garmin StreetPilot UK & Ireland: verdict
StreetPilot offers some features you won’t find in a free satnav app, but none make it worth the fairly steep price. The features you'd expect to see, such as traffic information, cost extra, and safety cameras didn't work in the version we tested. If you need offline maps so you’re not relying on a mobile data signal, NavFree is almost as good. Otherwise, Google or Apple’s versions are perfectly adequate for most people.