While doing research for a new article on why GPS-based directions consistently seem to lead me astray, I asked a group of people who use and own GPS apps and personal navigation devices (PNDs) for products they recommend, as well as insight into the current state of GPS technology. Here are some of their likes, dislikes and other general observations about the market.
Best and Worst GPS Products
In our survey of 10 GPS users, Google Maps earned more kudos (seven votes) than any other GPS app or PND.
Google Maps is "accurate and reliable," says Rob Chamberlin, cofounder and executive vice president, DataXoom. "Google is constantly updating the interface, and I like that it interfaces easily with my other Google apps."
An excellent integrated search function is another plus for Google Maps, according to Samantha Boles, president and COO, Automated Security IS. "It automatically pulls addresses from my [Gmail] email or [Google] contacts. If I start typing Marriott, for example, it will pull up the most recent address for Marriott in my email and show me the address."
"I use Google Maps exclusively due to accuracy and convenience," says Simon of Rideshare Dashboard, who drives for ridesharing services Uber, Lyft and Sidecar.
Kwok admits that Google Maps isn't perfect, however. "Sometimes it wants me to make illegal U-turns. There was one time it wanted me to drive the wrong way on a one-way street. Luckily, I knew a detour, but it could have been dangerous."
As for the least favorite GPS navigation app, two users cited MapQuest.
MapQuest led Chamberlin astray on many occasions. "The most notable story was in downtown Boston, when the app directed me to a road that had since been permanently closed," Chamberlin says. "I was late for an appointment, sitting in what had become a cul-de-sac, trying to figure out how to retrace my route and find a client's office." The experience eventually led him to embrace Google Maps.
Others have mixed feelings about their favorites. Heather Piper, co-owner, Thrill of the Hunt, a company that organizes themed scavenger hunts, says she likes Waze and its social components, but the app's directions aren't reliable.
"Recently, I was in Virginia and the app told me to turn onto a road," Hunt says. "After turning, and then sitting at the light, it instantly changed its mind and wanted me to go in a completely different direction. This app has actually done this to me on many, many occasions. And when I add that a road is closed or there's a detour, it won't update and will take me back to the same location time and time again."
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