Best GPS smart phone apps help you get around

January 3, 2012 4:14:46 PM PST
Sales of portable GPS units have fallen, but plenty of people are downloading navigational apps to get where they are going. But the question is, how well do they work on your smart phone?

Navigation apps for smart phones are getting better than ever, says Consumer Reports. Some sport features like reality view to show major intersections, or celebrity voices that you can download for some laughs.

If you own an Android phone, you're in luck. It comes with free Google navigation built right in. And it has turn-by-turn directions, just like you'd find on a regular GPS.

But if you're an iPhone user, you need to download an app to get GPS-style navigation.

Jim Travers explained, "There are plenty of free options available, but we've found you tend to get what you pay for."

Consumer Reports says you can't go wrong buying an app from one of the GPS giants -- Tomtom, Garmin, Navigon and Magellan.

"It's no surprise that the companies whose GPS navigators do best in our testing also make some of the top apps for the iPhone," Travers said.

But expect to pay up to $60 for a quality, name-brand app. And know that the download can eat up a chunk of your iPhone's memory.

No matter which phone you have, be aware that most have smaller screens than portable GPS units. And you'll have to factor in the cost of a mount and a charger to make the most of your smart-phone navigator.

Consumer Reports says the prices of apps fluctuate, but you can save by shopping for sales, or by limiting your download to a specific region.