Mapquest 4 – Free Turn by Turn on the iPhone

I very rarely drive to places unknown and thus am in little need of turn by turn navigation. Certainly not enough to buy a dedicated GPS device and not enough to warrant investing $99 in the iPhone TomTom app.

But it turned out that it was best for me to drive to Getlisted Local U in Grand Rapids this past week and since I was traveling solo I decided to use Mapquest 4′s iPhone app with turn by turn capability. I had 3 legs to the trip; Olean to a near in Detroit suburb, Detroit to Grand Rapids and Grand Rapids to Rondeau Provincial Park in Canada. With but one glitch, I can report that the performance of the product was superb… it reliably alerted me of upcoming turns, had very accurate maps and even went into a reduced volume mode when I was talking on the phone so that I could hear its instructions in the background

I can’t speak to its global use or even its value in far away places where road data is likely to be less accurate but as a general purpose tool it performed very well almost all of the time.

The one exception was when attempting to get onto the bridge to Canada in Detroit…. the entrance was under construction and between the GPS and the detour signs I was caught in an endless loop across the highway several times and not finding the entrance. When I finally saw a state road sign that read:

Follow the detour signs NOT your GPS (idiot was implied) I realized that Mapquest was not the only GPS experiencing the problem. The mass of cars of which I was but one, seemed to be guided by the same bad instructions, and all successfully made it onto the bridge and into Canada.

As smart phone penetration has reached such high levels and the quality of free turn by turn products hits “good enough” levels, the role of the low end dedicated GPS devices will continue to decline.

The market is reflecting this reality. TomTom bought TeleAtlas for $8 billion several years ago. The combined company is now worth a fraction of that and things don’t look rosy for them going forward. Certainly a $99 app isn’t going to save them.

With Google going their own way on map data in the US and Bing partnering so closely with Nokia, the opportunities for TomTom/TeleAtlas seemed to be dramatically diminished in the low end. Its not clear who would want to buy the combo either.

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