The personal sat-nav started out as a PDA add-on, but sales really took off when standalone devices began to appear about five years ago. Since then, some companies have even stopped supporting their PDA software products, such as Navman. But smartphones are increasingly powerful, and if you don’t need satellite navigation very often, an app on your mobile for occasional use could make more sense than yet another separate device. Surprisingly, Apple’s iPhone, the most high profile of smartphones, has had few options in this area – until now. Later this summer we will see TomTom launching software for the iPhone, but Navigon’s MobileNavigator has performed a coup and arrived first.
Navigon has been offering MobileNavigator for Windows Mobile and Symbian phones for some time. We were relatively impressed when we looked at MobileNavigator version 7 a few months ago and the new iPhone revision bears a considerable resemblance, and offers similar features.
Naturally, you can only obtain MobileNavigator via iTunes or the iPhone App Store. But as it’s a big download you will probably want to make the purchase on a desktop Mac or PC rather than via the phone itself. The British Isles version costs £52.99 and requires 215MB, whilst full European maps including 40 countries will set you back £79.99 and take up 1.65GB. There’s also a ‘Lite’ trial version of the British Isles package, although it’s not fully functional. To use any of these you will need an iPhone with the version 3.0 firmware.
Satellite navigation isn’t going to be much use in your car without a way of securing your iPhone in a readily visible location. Since MobileNavigator is an online download, it doesn’t include anything for this purpose. You can pick up a rudimentary mount for under a tenner, although a car power adapter is also recommended, which will push the total price up to around £15. We opted for a slightly more sophisticated device in the shape of GEAR4’s CarDock Follow Me FM Transmitter, so we could pipe the sat-nav directions through the vehicle’s hi-fi. This is only an option with a car that has its cigarette lighter socket in a position easily seen from the driver’s seat, which fortunately it was in our test car.