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Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Car apps : Sygic GPS Navigation (Aura)

Recently several times Sygic GPS Navigation was recommended as the best existing on Android.  Although I have a GPS built-in and an older TomTom Go 930, so I don't need a mobile GPS, due to curiosity I've tested 7 days the demo version on my HTC Desire (Android 2.2),  so here is the result.

Download & Installation :
Download through the home Wi-fi is question of minutes. Installation as well. The possibility to run the whole thing on the SD card is a must and Sygic allows it. The installed application itself has 12.7MB and slovak maps have ~280MB. After successful installation I've got 2 icons - one for the app itself and one for downloading maps. Clean and intuitive.

User interface, adress input and graphics :
Sygic requires you to register from the phone, otherwise "sorry". The GPS module and application see the satellites but doesn't work. Bug or feature ? I suppose a feature, because Sygic offers you community based services simmilar to Waze where without a connectivity it doesn't make sense. On the other hand this should by an offline navigation, so a correct solution would be to run offline with a message saying something like "if you would like to see events on the road (radars, traffic jams ...) please connect to the network". But these days everybody collects data.

After registration everything worked perfect. Inside are many setting possibilities, for a regular users there is a very good default mode preconfigured. Adress or POI input is easy and intuitive. Multitouch zooming works fine.

Graphics is modern and well-arranged , the 3D mode is very nice. No problems with switching between landscape and portrait modes. For getting where you want, the app offers driving, walking and travel via options, which is great.

Driving :
I've tested it in my home city Bratislava, where I know exactly all the alternative ways how to drive from A to B. In some cases it didn't leaded me the shortest way at all although there were no obstacles on the road or any settings causes. That was a surprise, but this is not the first navigation doing that. It is acceptable for a normal user especially by driving in a foreign city where 3-4km more driving does not matter. But for example for a taxi driver which must drive a shortest way this would be an issue.

Otherwise it leaded me very clean through the city and surroundings. For a convertible driver with the roof down a quick and crisp voice navigation is important, because you dont see anything on the phone in the direct sunshine anyway. Sygic provides that, it works perfect even with a feature to run on background only. I've used this often and as a foreground was an mp3 player.

Other functionalities :
Sygic offers much more than a GPS navigation itself. It includes data from different sources  and it is configurable to show them on the map. Typical examples are weather conditions, speed limits, police traps (community based), navigating to contacts in your phone, integration with facebook and twitter etc. Worth trying.

Buy / not buy ?
If I wouldn't have a GPS navigation already, I would seriously consider to buy. Living in Europe I would go for the Europe package which costs 50€. It's not cheap bud still a fair price for a pretty complex software in comparison to dedicated GPS devices with prices around 250€+. It's at least 3 generations ahead of my built-in navigation, but also 4 years younger and provides broader functionality than my 2 years old TomTom.

I would fight with the small smartphone display therefore consider a tablet which is hard to install into the car. Therefore I would have to mentally switch to voice navigation, which is not always confortable in combination with music expecially on longer trips. Therefore I would very appreciate bigger signs/arrows on the display.

Great app.You can find out more at the Sygic website.

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