This is a bit of a weird one for GearWeAre, but useful nonetheless if you’re a tightwad skinflint like me and flatly refuse to pay for a SatNav.
NavFree is a completely free App for iPhone [*and Android, see below] which provides a fully-functioning and fairly intuitive SatNav, using a type of map called OpenStreetMap.
OpenStreetMap has been designed and drawn from scratch without using any data from the likes of OS or A-Z and as such is genuinely free to licence; map licences form a large chunk of most GPS costs.
OpenStreetMap relies on input from people on the ground (you and me) to keep it up to date and accurate, and as such Navfree can sometimes be wrong. But I like that because it means that you have to stay alert and looking at signs. You can’t switch off into that myopic tunnel vision that affects so many SatNav users who blindly follow the commands without looking at the actual road ahead.
I’ve been told to turn in to one-way streets by Navfree, but that’s OK by me because the mapping on-screen is so clear, and the system is very quick to update that ignoring it results in an alternative route within seconds.
The interface for NavFree has a little icon on it which, if you’re the helpful sort of person, allows you to update the map where it has an anomoly with notes like ‘1-way street’, thus the whole system is continuously improved by the thousands of people who are using it every day. In a while the accuracy should become better than one of the paid-for mapping systems.
As with all iPhone GPS apps, Navfree will have a serious effect on your battery life. I use a 12v to USB to Apple adaptor in my car so it charges as I drive. This works superbly, and in combination with a dashboard phone mount keeps me the right side of legal in the UK.
I’m a big fan of Navfree. Partly because it is free. Partly because I can contribute to making it a better product. And partly because it’s actually a very well designed SatNav.
SUMMARY: It’s a totally free SatNav app for iPhone. And whilst you might think that free means low-quality you’d be wrong. It looks great, is easy to use and intuitive. The compromise is that the mapping is occassionally in need of an update (for road restrictions) and it tends to heavily favour major routes rather than direct cut throughs.
Note: Also appears to be available for Android here: Link