Best iPad App for GPS Navigation: MotionX GPS Drive HD
This review is for the MotionX GPS Drive HD which requires you to have a 3G capable iPad. Apple did not include a GPS chip in the WIFI only models of both iPad 1 and iPad 2. Those concerned about rationing 3G bandwidth have the option of turning the 3G service off while using the app. The Maps used for GPS Navigation can be downloaded and stored offline on your iPad from any WIFI connection before you get in the car. MotionX does have an iPad App for WIFI only iPads which is discussed later on in this review.
MotionX GPS Drive HD is the best iPad App for GPS navigation and there is not even a close second. Many will complain about having to pay for a subscription for the service, but it is very inexpensive in comparison to other GPS solutions. As an IT consultant my works requires me to travel frequently and every time I rented a car, most of the companies wanted to charge an extra $10-12 to use their GPS units. Because of that I added Verizon’s GPS service to my phone plan for an additional $9.99 a month. GPS Drive HD is far cheaper than any other solutions when you add in the unit costs, monthly/year subscriptions, and/or map updates.
The cost of the GPS Drive HD app is a one-time fee of $2.99 and that comes with a 30 day trial of their live turn-by-turn navigation with voice guidance. Through an in-app purchase after the initial 30 day trial, you have the choice of paying $2.99 every month, or $19 for one year to continue the service. There is no contract or “automatic” subscriptions, so if you just want to pay month- by-month you will not see any payments made on your credit card that you did not explicitly authorize. There are no other fees or costs as all future app updates, map updates, and premium features such as real-time traffic reporting and traffic based re-routing are included in the subscription. One subscription is good for the entire household allowing your spouse, or children, to have their own login as GPS Drive HD supports multi-user accounts.
You do not need to a subscription to use the MotionX GPS Drive HD App. If you decide that turn-by-turn navigation is unnecessary, you can still use MotionX for driving directions and trip planning, as well as have access to their entire 3D map database. Without purchasing the turn-by-turn navigation subscription, you simply will not have GPS navigation while driving.
Usability & Interface
Due to the larger size, the interface is superior to most dedicated GPS units. You can use the GPS app in portrait or landscape mode. Once you are on the road, a split screen layout gives you your directions. The interface allows for three avenues of guidance: a visual of the route, a list of text directions with icons, and a “next” button that gives who what to do next. You can switch back and forth from bird’s eye view and zoom up close with the usual pinch and spread iPad gestures.
Voice directions are predictive and allow plenty of time to make turns and changes lanes. The display is incredibly easy to read and the human voice did not sound as robotic as many of the other GPS units I’ve used. I’ve had this app since the summer of last year and I’ve noticed with every update street name pronunciation improves. MotionX allows you to create custom map views for your driving experience. The maps are available in 2D, 3D, and bird’s eye aerial views as well as a night driving mode. Maps were clear and crisp but I did notice that the 3D graphical effects and lane definitions were not as crisp as my Magellan or Google Maps.
GPS Navigation, Live Voice Guidance, & Music
Live Voice Guidance is included with the Turn-by-Turn GPS Navigation subscription. Navigation during rush hour can be shorter as your premium subscription includes predictive live traffic for the most efficient routing during heavy traffic times.
You can download maps over your WIFI network or real-time during your trip with 3G enabled. Either way you will have real-time turn-by-turn GPS routing with the paid subscription. However, the Live Voice Guidance feature is far more interesting than your typical GPS unit. MotionX integrates Live Voice Guidance with the iPod functions in your iPad. That means you can listen to music with your GPS app running. MotionX will smartly mute the song you are playing when a voice direction is given.
The live voice guidance can also be played over your vehicle’s sound system if you have iPod attachment to the stereo system, or if your vehicle’s sound system already has b iPod integration
What’s great about this App is that it combines pedestrian GPS map with your normal automotive GPS map. Pedestrian GPS came in real handy when I was meeting up with an old college friend and his wife in Old Town Pasadena for dinner. For those who are not familiar with Pasadena, Old Town is the gorgeous historic area with over 200 shops, clubs, and restaurants; and where the Rose Parade is filmed. Parking can be tough to find in the evenings and I had trouble finding a parking spot near the restaurant. Since I was not very familiar with all the small streets, I used MotionX after parking my car to send me to this a quaint Italian restaurant, tucked in a courtyard a block off Colorado Blvd on foot.
MotionX include points or interests (shops, airports, hotels, etc.) and prompts you where the nearest gas station is just like any other GPS unit. With the integration into the iPad, MotionX does much more. You can customize and pre-trip plan with much more detail using all the given features.
CONCLUDING TIPS AND SUGGESTIONS
Buy a car Charger: Using the GPS drains the battery significantly. I noticed a 1-2 hour decrease in battery life when I was using the iPad as a GPS. If you have plan on using MotionX as your sole GPS device, I would suggest purchasing a car charger for your iPad. In my opinion the best charger for the iPad is the Griffin PowerJolt Plus. The PowerJolt Plus provides power for all Apple mobile products, but also replaces the power socket it uses allowing you to charge other devices. Apple use to re-sell Griffin products on their online store about a year ago. This changed when Apple decided to discontinue selling 3rd party products online. You can read more about the PowerJolt Plus in our review here.
Get a Car Mount: If you plan on using the iPad as a GPS device every day you will need a car mount. They range from $25 -100 on Amazon. MyAppWorld is testing 3 models right now and will be giving our recommendations in the near future. The one I have installed in my car is the RAM Mounting Systems RAM-B-166. I bought it for $56 last year but I’ve seen it as low as $39 online recently.
You might need a longer cable: Depending on the car mount and charger you purchase as well as the position of your car cigarette lighter, you might need a longer cable. A generic cable can be purchased on Amazon or eBay for under $10.
WIFI Only iPads:
The MotionX GPS Drive HD is only available for a 3G enabled iPad. In fact, the Apple app store will only allow you to purchase and download the “GPS DRIVE HD” version if your iPad has 3G. For those with a WIFI only iPad, MotionX has the “GPS HD.” GPS HD preceded “GPS Drive HD” and was originally designed for the iPhone. Honestly, I find the name confusing since the GPS only works on with the 3G version and having both apps redundant. Although the “MotionX GPS HD” is only $2.99, if you have a WIFI only iPad don’t buy it. Use the $3 on a cup of coffee, or another app, and download the Google Maps iPad App for free.
MotionX GPS Drive HD Features (iPad 3G version):
- See your position and tracks anywhere in the world on fast live MotionX open topographic and road maps.
- Course-up and direction-up maps.
- Google and Bing Road, Satellite and Hybrid maps.
- NOAA experimental marine charts.
- Total of nine map choices, no other app offers a bigger selection!
- Record and save up to 101 tracks.
- See your track in real-time with Track up, North up, or Direction Up, then follow it later if you want to retrace your path.
- Record time, distance, speed and max speed.
- Live speed and altitude graphs.
- Ascent/descent and gradient data.
- Add a geotagged photo during your activity to share the experience!
- Save up to 303 personal waypoints for your favorite locations like your home, end of a hike or your favorite restaurant.
- Use the MotionX TapTap® tool for easy waypoint creation.
- Add a geotagged photo to capture the moment!
- Downloading and storing maps for offline access is faster and easier than ever.
- MotionX maps can be cached for offline access and lightning fast rendering!
- MotionX Terrain and Road maps and NOAA marine charts can be stored for worldwide use and no data fees.
- Use the compass for orientation in True or Magnetic bearings.
- iPad magnetic compass integration.
- Visualize your progress and ETA while navigating.
- View coordinates in UTM, MGRS, OSGB (UK grid), Lat/Lon format.
- Post your tracks and waypoints to Facebook or Twitter, or email them to share using Google Maps and Google Earth.
- Share your location and see where your friends are in real-time using the Auto Live Updates feature.
- Get to know your friends’ favorite Facebook Places and navigate to them!
- Post a check-in location to Facebook Places directly from within MotionX-GPS.
- Full Wikipedia integration means you have your own personal tour guide.
- Browse full articles and navigate to Wikipedia POIs.