Test drive: AT&T Navigator iPhone app

    Consumer Reports News: August 19, 2009 08:26 AM

    AT&T has jumped on the iPhone navigation bandwagon with a new application called Navigator. Their application which will provide turn-by turn directions is already available for other mobile phones and is essentially the same package we have previously tested on phones such as the Samsung Blackjack II (AT&T provider) and the LG Scoop (Alltel provider).

    AT&T Navigator uses a server-based approach for navigation, meaning that maps and POI data are dynamically loaded to the device each time the application is used, rather than being preinstalled as they are on most PNDs and some iPhone applications from Navigon and XRoad (G-Map).

    The download is free through iTunes, but requires a $10 monthly fee.

    The dynamically loaded program allows users to get data that is constantly updated with all the latest roads, restaurants, and more. However, if wireless data coverage is lost, a user will not be able to navigate, and in areas where there is no 3G downloading maps and recalculating routes can be slow.

    Some features of the AT&T Navigator include text to speech, integrated real time traffic and gas prices.

    ATT.Navigator.directions Another unique feature is the way its voice control for address entry works. Rather than it being built in, AT&T Navigator makes a phone call to a voice recognition service that prompts a user to speak the address of the desired destination.

    The interface is simple and the map screen has a nice, clean presentation, with tab bars at the bottom for quick and easy access common to functions such as direction lists or POI search. AT&T Navigator switches smoothly from navigation to telephone mode for incoming calls, and automatically restarts and resumes the route with no need to touch the screen after a call is ended.

    Like all navigation apps we have seen for the iPhone, the AT&T Navigator is hampered by the phone's poor voice quality and insufficient volume as well as smallish screen and buttons and a lack of included mounting hardware and car charger.

    AT&T Navigator lacks some features commonly found on PNDs and other GPS applications, including reality view, lane assistance, multi destination routing, detour method, road exclusion, coordinate entry, and even the commonly found ability to avoid toll roads. While not having these doesn't render the application useless, it does take away from its overall appeal.

    See our full reviews of AT&T Navigator, iGo My Way, Navigon Mobile Navigator, Sygic Mobile Maps, TomTom iPhone application, and X Road G-Map.

    For more information on portable automotive GPS navigation systems, see our Ratings and buying advice and watch our video guide. Discuss GPS devices in the forums.

    Jim Travers

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