Looking for a free smartphone navigator? Here are the four best apps available for Android and iOS, with their pros and cons
Of the thousands of apps that can be downloaded and installed on a smartphone, be it an iPhone or a cell phone with Android operating system, navigators are certainly among the most useful. So much so that today there are very few smartphones in the world that don't have one installed and, at the same time, there are hundreds of navigators on the stores. If you have an iPhone, you will almost certainly have used Apple Maps at least once. If you have an Android device, you've probably used Google Maps. But there are at least two other noteworthy navigators that have evolved enough to be a viable alternative to Google Maps and Apple Maps: we're talking about Waze (also by Google) and MapQuest. The basic parameters to judge the quality of a navigation app are certainly the coverage of the maps, the presence on the maps of different types of points of interest, the possible integration with local weather information, the possibility to use the navigator offline and the quantity and quality of information provided in real time on traffic. Here are the pros and cons of Google Maps, Apple Maps, Waze and MapQuest in light of these factors.
Google Maps is probably the best of the four navigators considered. It has maps of 266 countries and territories and can provide street information for 256 of them. It is the only one in this comparison of navigators that has the Street View function, which is often very useful. From Google Maps you can share a location and check the history of the places you visit. There's no shortage of points of interest, offline maps, traffic data and even indoor mapping of many airports, shopping malls and museums. Thanks to the integration with Google Assistant, it can be used 100% hands-free while driving. If there's one thing that's really missing from Google Maps, it's only the integration with weather data.
Apple Maps is the bitten apple's answer to Google Maps. It doesn't measure up to its competitor on many fronts, but it's still a good navigator (for iOS and macOS only, of course) and has made a lot of progress in recent years. It has maps of 181 territories and driving directions for 101 of them, it can share location but has no indication of cultural points of interest nearby. It has internal maps of airports and shopping centers and offers a good amount of real-time traffic data, which is also of good quality. In addition, it also has weather information. Integration with Apple's Siri assistant, of course, is seamless.
Waze was purchased by Google in 2013. It was born as a kind of social network to share traffic information and facilitate car travel, as well as to avoid accidents and dangerous situations. Over the years it has gained Google Maps, but only for 72 countries. It can't share location and doesn't show any cultural or tourist points of interest, and it doesn't work offline. However, if you use it for its original purpose (i.e. to get from point A to point B by car as quickly as possible) it's a great product. Thanks also to the "participation" of users, who can report delays, traffic jams, accidents, presence of speed cameras and much more.
MapQuest is the ousider of this comparison of satellite navigators for smartphones. It's an Oath-owned service, and maps are its forte: 252 countries, all with driving directions. Only Google Maps does better and, in addition, MapQuest also offers weather directions. Also very good are the real-time traffic directions and, like Google, the ability to insert endless pit stops between point A and point B to finely plan your trip. It is also useful for those who travel on foot or by bike but, unfortunately, is not usable if we are offline.