While Windows Phone offers integrated Bing Maps experience, there are several apps in the Windows Phone Marketplace that enhance mapping and navigation using either Bing or Google maps. Here’s my selection of the three best available mapping and navigation apps.
An important point that adds to the need for third-party apps is that Google Maps is far better in most countries outside the US, so for international users like me, Google Maps-based apps work better. It is awkward that the there is no official Google Maps application for Windows Phone, although there used to be one for the Windows Mobile 6.x platform. Incidentally, Google hasn’t released any app for Windows Phone as yet.
You could well believe that gMaps is the official app from Google. Nicely built using Google Maps, it offers all the functionality that a professionally developed mapping/navigation app would offer.
The app offers GPS tracking with movement direction and speed and navigation information. You could search for routes as well as local and business listings. The app offers map navigation with different layers like weather, traffic, and public transit. There are zoom buttons and support for both portrait and landscape modes. The app supports both light and dark system themes. The latest addition also adds support for Google Latitude!
The latest version offers localization for English, German, Italian, Spanish, Chinese, Русский, and Беларускi languages. gMaps is available in two editions: a free ad-supported gMaps and gMaps Pro for $1.99.
Little Thumb GPS
I’m not sure if Little Thumb GPS is a popular app, but it sure suits a fine purpose. Little Thumb GPS allows you to archive your favorite places, generic addresses, restaurants, hotels, car parks, tourist attractions, and outdoor venues. Using the app, you can then find your way by foot or car back to a previously stored favorite place.
You can also use this app to find your parked car (There goes the need of a separate app!). Saving a location doesn’t need address details when you are physically on the site, and hence is useful for adventure travellers to mark spots for fishing, bird-watching, mountain peaks et al. The saved location can include information like altitude and coordinates.
The app provides an option to select between Google Maps (Street and Hybrid) and Bing and provides localized user interface in English and Italian. The app is available for $1.49 while the trial version allows 10 fully functional uses.
GPS Voice Navigation
GPS Voice Navigation provides turn-by-turn voice navigation for Windows Phone devices. This app totally kills the need for a regular 4” GPS navigator in your car; at least it has done for me on my Samsung Omnia 7 which incidentally has a 4″ display. The app is integrated with maps from almost all the major map and routing services – Google, Bing, Yahoo, and MapQuest.
This app can help you stay on the right track while driving, using both voice directions and onscreen instructions and support both landscape and portrait views. The dashboard provides and estimated time of arrival (ETA), time and distance travelled, remaining distance, and other information about your trip. The spoken driving instructions are available in five languages – English, French, Italian, German, and Spanish.
I’ve tested quite a few navigation apps on Windows Phone, but GPS Voice Navigation provides a good location lock and does well in calculating routes. A little expense at $6.99, the trial version limits you to using the app for planning trips upto 12 miles/20 kilometers.
What are your preferred navigation apps for Windows Phone? Are there any apps on other platforms that you wish were available for Windows Phone 7?