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Best satnav for walking

Posted on 27 Apr 2013 at 09:49

What's the best satnav app for those on foot? We find out

Using a satnav on foot brings few of the potential hazards of a road journey.

There’s no danger of being held up by traffic (unless you’re navigating the perils of Oxford Street in rush hour), and it’s rare to come across routes that are entirely blocked to pedestrians. Therefore, we quickly decided against running this test as some kind of tortoise-paced "race".

Satnav reviews

Find out which are the best satnavs for cycling and satnavs for driving

Instead of speed, what sets one walking satnav apart from another is its route-planning interface, the clarity of its directions and the accuracy of its maps. And the vital point to take away from this section is this: a good driving satnav doesn’t necessarily mean a good walking one.

Google Maps Navigation - free on Android and iOS

There’s no question that Google Maps offers the smoothest way in: its autocomplete is superb, and it finds places, restaurants, shops that others just can’t handle.

Tap in Sainsbury’s, for example, and within a few letters a list of nearby branches pop up in order of proximity. With a route chosen, it’s startling to see how much Google Maps varies across platforms. There’s no kind way to put it: for walking, the iOS version is vastly inferior to its Android equivalent.

Both let you plot a route, with multiple choices, but on iOS that’s about all you get. There’s no Start button, just a Preview mode that lets you follow your GPS dot on the marked route (with no notification if you deviate from it), and the turn instructions must be scrolled manually. It’s little more than a static guide.

Google Maps

Compare that to the unbeatable Android version, which follows your progress perfectly, adjusts your route if you stray, and gives both Street View images and driving-style voice instructions.

Unfortunately, the voice instructions require the app to remain open, but we managed to slot it carefully into a pocket and keep using headphones.

Nokia Here Maps - free

If iPhone owners are feeling left out, Nokia’s recent app for iOS offers voice instructions, too – something that’s yet to grace the Windows Phone 8 version. The app needs to be open, but we found the instructions clear and easy to follow.

Searching on Nokia's Here Maps is simple on both platforms, and results bring up not only the map information, but also contact details, photos and more, without leaving the page.

Its location database seems accurate for many searches before throwing up an oddity – we came across central London Tube stations that appear on the map but don’t exist in search, for example – and we miss the ability to choose from multiple routes. The low resolution of satellite imagery is also noticeable against Google’s superb coverage, but the option to save an offline map is a useful touch.

Here Maps

When walking, the current road name sits at the bottom of the screen with a handy text instruction; flicking right brings up the next turn and then the route summary.

It works well, with handy extras such as the option to change to a public transport map if it starts tipping it down with rain. In our time with it, Nokia’s app never came across as a must-have, but with its mix of the good and the quirky, it’s worth trying out in your area – much will come down to map accuracy.

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User comments

The great outdoors

I was suckered in by the headline and assumed that this was for use outside of a city centre. I suspect that other readers would also like you to stray into areas where a even a 2G signal not guaranteed.
No mention of OS mapping vs Open Street Map.

By tirons1 on 27 Apr 2013

You mention that the app needs to remain open in order for the voice instructions to work. I wonder if you were referring to the IOS version there, as I used google navigation for walking the other day on my S3 and it worked just fine. Plan a route, hit the home button, fire up Winamp and off you go. The music then automatically lowers to allow for audio instructions and raises it again once done.

By Paul_ on 27 Apr 2013

What a fundamentally flawed article

Why not have any mention of those satnavs dedicated for walkers e.g. the Satmap, Garmin models and so on. A waste of a read by someone who obviously does not have the first idea of satnav requirements for walking. One of the most ill-informed articles I've ever read in PcPro

By Nodule on 27 Apr 2013

Agreed

This article has nothing to do with out-of-town walking expeditions or hiking, and is incorrectly headed.
These maps would often be practically useless in these scenarios.

By dg2puk on 28 Apr 2013

Most walking occurs in Urban areas - not in the middle of nowhere

I think that some of the previous reviews are a bit narrow minded.

Ask yourself this: where does 95%+ of all walking occur? The answer is in Urban areas. "Urban walking is the norm" rather than the exception.

For someone like me - who just likes to try walking to the place I'm going when I get off the train in a new city rather than jumping in the first Taxi I see, these apps save me a lot of effort printing out Maps and so forth.

I'd tend to agree that Google maps is pretty good at this.

By ThinMan on 28 Apr 2013

Most walking occurs in Urban areas - not in the middle of nowhere

I think that some of the previous reviews are a bit narrow minded.

Ask yourself this: where does 95%+ of all walking occur? The answer is in Urban areas. "Urban walking is the norm" rather than the exception.

For someone like me - who just likes to try walking to the place I'm going when I get off the train in a new city rather than jumping in the first Taxi I see, these apps save me a lot of effort printing out Maps and so forth.

I'd tend to agree that Google maps is pretty good at this.

By ThinMan on 28 Apr 2013

@ThinMan

You are right, but most uncertainty of the route occurs outside of urban areas. I find that I can navigate to the shops quite successfully without computer assistance.
Leaving aside the mugging problem, I would also feel a bit of a pillock using my phone to navigate in a town centre.
As a final point if I did want to find my way it would never cross my mind to use anything other than my phone's default mapping application, as even three years ago Google was up to the job.

By tirons1 on 28 Apr 2013

Keep it to streets

Sat-nav in the great outdoors is a dangerouse thing, they are very usefull to a skilled navigator, but to some one who is untrained will find them selfs walking off a cliff, map skills are essential.

By Cypher on 29 Apr 2013

Great Outdoors

Sat-navs on phones are great in the great outdoors; mine lasts about 9 hours, tells you how far you've walked, is great for getting your bearings when setting off, when exiting woodland and great in heavy snow when a map is harder to use. Always have a paper OS map for backup though.

By john_coller on 29 Apr 2013

I agree the title is a little misleading - "Best SatNav for city walking" is more correct.

Personally my recommendation for SatNav in the middle of nowhere would be the Razr Maxx phone + ViewRanger software.

Razr Maxx is splash proof and the battery just goes on and on. I've never actually flattened the battery while hiking using the GPS but I remember walking once using it for 6 hours and the battery still had plenty of life in it.

ViewRanger is a great outdoors mapping App and can be used on multiple devices.

Anyway the best combination I've found based on extensive walking in Dartmoor, Snowdonia and the Brecon Beacons.

By cyberindie on 29 Apr 2013

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For more details about purchasing this feature and/or images for editorial usage, please contact Jasmine Samra on pictures@dennis.co.uk

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