NavFree GPS UK & ROI
A free TomTom alternative, but satellite coverage is patchy
NavFree GPS UK & ROI Review
by editor on August 23, 2011
If the dawn of mobile apps was supposed to democratise pricey software, then the one group that didn’t get the memo (or got it, pulped it up and somehow extracted more of your money out of it) were Satnav companies. £50 for an iPhone map of the UK, TomTom? That’s one eighth what we paid for our phone in the first place, and that already comes with Google Maps.
That said, there’s some truth to the adage ‘you get what you pay for’, and sadly the UK and Ireland NavFree app – a TomTom competitor that is available gratis in the App Store – fails to deliver us an experience that will see our SatNavs go the way of the pager. While plotting a course works smoothly enough in the capital, a weekend in the notoriously gadget-unfriendly countryside left it in a strop. Whether because of all the greenery or an AWOL satellite, the app frequently displayed the message ‘Poor GPS’ in the top left hand corner of the screen, and sadly we can’t disagree.
Half the time, the sudden dropout didn’t even give us an in-app error message. Instead our car, represented by a blue arrow on a 2.5-dimensional roadmap, simply sat immobile with the speedo reading zero mph. Even reappearing in a town centre took a full minute to readjust, the app vehemently denying that we’d made any progress since the winding country road we’d passed along ten minutes beforehand, like a grim plot mechanism in an M. Night Shyamalan film.
A lack of satellite coverage isn’t the fault of the app’s developers, of course, but that will be little comfort to anyone hoping to make use of the app for commutes to and from the countryside. If you’re weekending in Britain’s leafier climes, this app could leave you driving in circles. Or into a hedge.
Obviously, making the app available for nowt goes a long way to paving over the cracks, and our experience of the app in London left us with no complaints. But if your travel plans involve heading anywhere farther flung, you’d do as well to bring a picnic hamper and a flare gun.
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