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Free sat nav apps tested: is Google Maps or TomTom Go Mobile best?

We've put the latest updated free sat nav apps through our rigorous, independent lab and road tests

Why pay for a sat nav or app, when you can download one for free? Well, free sat nav apps are not all created equal and some we’ve tested are truly awful. To help you find out which free app should grace your phone, we’ve pitted two big-name free sat nav apps against each other: Google Maps and TomTom Go Mobile.

If you’ve got an Android smartphone, it’s likely that you’ve already got Google Maps installed. So you don’t need to bother using anything else, right?

Step forward TomTom Go Navigation (formerly known as Go Mobile). It promises all of the advanced navigation functionality of the brand’s best portable sat navs, but at a fraction of the cost.

We’ve tested the latest iterations of both of these popular apps to find out which is best.

We’ve previously rated both of these apps highly. They’re a convenient solution for most users, although the quality of the navigation experience can depend on the screen resolution, speakers and processing power of your individual phone.

You’ll also need to ensure you’ve got a large enough data bundle included with your device, particularly if you’re likely to be using it every day. Otherwise, you’re better off with a dedicated sat nav.

Read on to learn more about these apps and click on the links to read the full reviews.


Our rigorous tests reveal the sat navs, apps and free apps that are easy to use, give clear instructions and get you to your destination on time. See our best sat navs.


Google Maps vs TomTom Go Navigation

 

Google Maps (iOS) TomTom Go Navigation (iOS)
Price Free Free for 50 miles per month
Live traffic data Yes (via data connection) Yes (via data connection)
Speed camera locations
Shortest/most economical route
Pedestrian routes
Cyclist routes
Public transport routes
Avoid dirt roads
Add roadblock to route
Offline maps
Number of countries included 220 150

 

TomTom Go Navigation (iOS)

As a major player in the portable sat nav market, it was only logical for TomTom to offer its unique brand of navigation on Apple smartphones.

TomTom Go Navigation is free to download, and offers 50 miles of free navigation each month. Beyond that, you’ll need to buy a subscription, choosing from:

  • One month: £1.99.
  • Three months: £4.99.
  • Six months: £8.99.

This gives you access to the full array of TomTom features, including speed camera locations and accurate real-time traffic data.

This TomTom app isn’t just aimed at motorists. Its detailed route-planning function allows you to select routes suitable for pedestrians and cyclists too.

This latest version is also now compatible with Apple Carplay, for better integration into your car’s infotainment system.

Are the updates to Go Mobile enough to make it a Best Buy app? Find out in our expert TomTom Go Navigation (iOS) review.

Google Maps (iOS and Android)

Google Maps is free to download and normally installed as standard on most Android smartphones. Does that mean you can always rely on Google Maps, and is it the best free app to get you from A to B?

We’ve put the most recently updated version of Google Maps through our comprehensive lab tests to find out what’s changed, and whether it should be your default choice.

It’s not hard to see why it’s so popular. Google Maps is completely free, and maps are detailed and can be searched using loose search terms – just like the Google search engine. This is handy if you’re not quite sure where your intended destination is, or even what it’s called.

But is there a catch? Our previous assessments of Google Maps showed it to be heavy on both battery and data consumption – something that could prove to be a bugbear if you plan on relying on it regularly.

And despite its depth of functionality, there were some basic features notable by their omission, including the function to divert around a roadblock on your current route, or to plan a trip via the shortest or most economical route available.

Find out how the updated version of Google Maps compares with rival free sat nav apps in our expert reviews, linked to below:

Sat nav apps vs sat navs

Portable sat nav units can be indispensable. Useful for first-time drivers and professionals alike, our Best Buy models offer a range of features above and beyond basic directions to improve your driving experience.

However, for all but the most demanding of users, a sat nav app for your smartphone may prove a better bet. The best we’ve tested offer all the functionality of a dedicated portable sat nav, without the inconvenience of having to continually remove and hide a dedicated unit each time you step out of your car.

Not sure whether a smartphone app or dedicated sat nav unit would be best for your needs? Head over to our guide to how to buy the best sat nav.

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