Well, the default Maps app that comes with your phone would hardly come close. With limited search parameters, the need for 3G connectivity and the lack of a voiced turn-by-turn navigation function, it is at best a map with GPS functionality. Good enough to figure out where you are, but not quite capable of directing you from one place to another like a proper GPS.
If you want some thing that comes a little bit closer, you have to (not surprisingly) pay. Yet, a search on the iTunes app store will reveal many GPS apps, all of which cost money and with no way of testing it before payment; how do we know which is bang for your buck? No fears, because GPS crazy me actually bought 3 of the most popular ones and will let you know which one is the best in this short and sweet iPhone GPS shootout.
Let's bring on the contenders!
Mobile Maps SEA
Cost: Extremely pricey! This app costs a whopping USD $59.99. Whether it is worth it though is your call; after all a full function GPS set is likely to cost much more!
Likes: Easy to use and intuitive interface. Navigating the various functions are simple and the 6 digit postal code search is speedy. I especially like the ability to set your Home address which gives you a one touch method of getting yourself home in less time than it takes for the lights to change. Among the 3 apps, it also has the most functions, including internet support. In addition, it has the most comprehensive list of maps as it covers more countries within SEA; including Singapore, Malaysia, Brunei, Indonesia, Thailand and Manila City (Philippines). This may be a boon for those road-trip warriors amongst us.
Dislikes: The price and the fact that the maps are updated only by the manufacturer. This may be problematic if the manufacturer were to delay the release map updates.
Papago! Singapore + Malaysia
Cost: This is the cheapest of the lot. Starting at USD $19.99 for the Lite version to $29.99 for the Pro version, this app is by far the cheapest of the lot. The Lite version simply does not have a 3D navigation feature. Compared with the others, it is practically a steal.
Likes: This app uses malfreemaps, which is something that users of Garmin sets would already be very familiar with. As the maps are community maintained, you get the best and most updated Points of Interest (POI) information which are maintained by users themselves. The level of detail is unrivaled. The maps are also updated most frequently; typically every one to two weeks. HOWEVER, do note that only tech savvy folks who know how to change the map used by this app will be able to access the latest maps released by the malfreemaps community. For most of us, we have to wait for the app creator to release an update to the app along with the latest map, which is not as frequent as the map releases.
Dislikes: Navigation around the functions are a little less intuitive for my liking. It is not the best one to use if you wanted to run it on the spur of the moment; say if you made a wrong turn while driving and got lost. You will probably have to find a quiet place to pull over and operate it. In addition, some users report problems with inability to seek out satellite signals. However, this should be resolvable by simply deleting the app and reinstalling it or by removing any reflective covers that you might have cocooned your precious phone in.
TomTom Malaysia & Singapore
Cost: Another pricey one! Price is also USD $59.99.
Likes: A pretty decent and clean interface. This app also comes from an established GPS navigation company and hence the map is likely to be accurate and reliable. Coverage of Singapore, Malaysia and Brunei. Recently released updated map.
Dislikes: Search function is not intuitive and may be difficult to use. Earlier versions took a long time to locate the satellite signal and may be unstable on older iPhones. However, it may have been resolved with the latest update but I have yet to test run it sufficiently. For its price, I expected more.
Papago! Singapore + Malaysia. The availability and possibility of swopping in updated maps makes this a winner. After all, what is the use of an outdated map? More importantly, at its low price point, the interface and lack of full functionality is something that can be overlooked.