MapQuest 4 Mobile: Free GPS Spoken Driving Directions

I’m an avid Google Maps fan. Long ago when MapQuest was the standard place to go to for maps, I was that smug guy telling you that Google had a new and far superior alternative. However, the MapQuest 4 Mobile app recently caught my eye and I have to say, it’s an awesome product.

Today we’ll take a look at why should think twice before buying one of those expensive turn-by-turn GPS apps for your iPhone. MapQuest 4 Mobile may be just what you’re looking for, and it’s free.

Is It Really Free?

If you’ve ever shopped around for iPhone GPS apps, you know that it can be a tricky business. Some apps appear to be free or fairly cheap until you realize there’s a big monthly fee. There are plenty of great, fully-featured GPS apps without monthly fees, but they typically cost somewhere between $50 and $100.

Truly free, non-subscription, turn-by-turn, voice guided GPS apps do exist, but they tend to rely a lot on user-provided or open source maps and are known for leading you astray (one of our reviewers was confident that Waze wanted to kill him).

To be fair, the Google Maps app built into your iPhone is excellent, it just doesn’t provide the voice-guided directions ideal for driving while not staring at your phone. Up until now, a quality free GPS navigation app was more of a myth than a reality, but MapQuest seems to have pulled it off. MapQuest 4 Mobile is truly 100% free and it’s actually a really great app. You might remember that MapQuest themselves had a subscription-based navigation app called “MapQuest Navigator,” but that seems to have been pulled from the app store in favor of integrating the features into their mobile app.

Let’s Take a Drive

To test out MapQuest 4 Mobile, I naturally set out for a drive. I intentionally had a location in mind that I knew was a fairly new development. One of the biggest annoyances with dedicated GPS devices like my Garmin Nuvi is that you have to purchase frequent map updates or else newly constructed areas and businesses won’t appear. Testing MapQuest 4 Mobile on just such a location seemed like a good way to put it through the wringer.

I started by searching for book stores near my house to see if the one that I had in mind popped up. Sure enough, the app found several locations close to me, including the one I was looking for.

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Searching for a Book Store

As you can see, the options show up as pins on a map very similar to what you see in Google. The search bar resides at the top along with a button to view the results in a list.

Once I found the book store I wanted, I tapped on the pin to bring up a little bubble with the address and business name. Tapping on this bubble brought me to a page nearly identical to that in Google Maps for getting directions.

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Getting Directions

The Voices Told Me To

Once I told the app to get me directions to the location we were off and running. Immediately a voice emerged from my phone telling me where to go. It was a simulated American female voice every bit as good as the one on my $90 Garmin Nuvi.

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On the way

The directions that the app gave me were clear and easy to understand. Each time I approached a turn I received several verbal warnings: one at .6 miles, one at .5 miles and one at the turn. This made it really easy to follow all of the directions without any last minute lane-changing.

Your next step is always shown at the top of the screen with a constantly updating countdown to your next turn. You can use the arrows to go back and forth and view other steps in the process. You can also view the steps in a list view instead of a map view. The app conveniently enlarges and highlights your current step so it’s always easy to tell at a glance where you are.

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You can view directions as in a map or list view

Finding Lunch

MapQuest 4 Mobile isn’t just for finding directions, it’s a fully-featured map client with powerful local search. One of the features that I really like is the customizable row of icons that sits at the bottom of the screen. These make it super easy to find what you’re looking for without even typing in a search string!

If you want to find a place to eat, simply tap on the knife and fork to view the options around you. If you want to also add in gas stations, tap that icon as well to see both food and gas (tap the icons again to turn them off).

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Tap an icon to quickly view a category of businesses

If you want even more options, you can tap an icon at the end of the line to include additional options such as movie theaters and rest stops.

Settings

Under the settings menu there are a few typical options. For instance, you can change the default measurement from miles to kilometers or set the directions from “shortest time” to “shortest distance.”

My favorite option is the ability to change your position icon. I was quite unhappy with the default waving man and instantly wondered if I could change it. As it turns out, MapQuest 4 Mobile gives you a number of options; everything from robot to a jet! Now that’s more like it.

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You can customize your position icon

Possible Improvements

Honestly, I think the app is nearly perfect as it is, and that’s no small compliment coming from a former MapQuest critic. My only complaints stem from the experience of my dedicated Garmin GPS unit.

For instance, I like that when I make a turn, my Garmin immediately tells me what the next step will be, even if it’s something like “Continue for 200 miles.” This little bit of instruction ensures that you don’t feel like you’re driving along in no man’s land wondering what will happen next. The MapQuest app doesn’t have this functionality and easily could (the screen shows the next step, the voice just doesn’t speak it until you’re close to turning).

Another pet peeve is that when you’re pulling up to your destination, MapQuest simply tells you that you’ve arrived and leaves out which side of the road you should be looking at. Again, most GPS units tell you something along the lines of “Arriving at destination, on right.” It’s a small thing, but it helps a lot when you’re in an unfamiliar place.

One final complaint is the lack of a 3D driving view, similar to what you see in most GPS apps, including the old MapQuest navigator. I honestly like the overhead map view but I’m sure many users will prefer the 3D approach.

Obviously, these are extremely minor complaints. I would have far more suggestions for making my Garmin work like this app than the other way around! For instance, the searching is far superior and incredibly faster.

Conclusion

In closing, there really aren’t that many options available for truly 100% free, turn-by-turn voice guided driving directions in the App Store. Only a few apps meet this description and most of them are fairly poor in practice.

MapQuest 4 Mobile is a genuine exception to this rule. It’s a great app that provides up-to-date maps, clear spoken directions and an innovative, fast search for local businesses.

If you’ve been looking for a good GPS app but are hesitant to spend $50, check out MapQuest 4 Mobile right away and let us know what you think.


Summary

MapQuest 4 Mobile is a great mapping application that provides truly free voice-guided turn-by-turn directions and a lightning fast way to search for local businesses (dining, hotels, etc.)

9
  • Emma

    Looks amazing, it’s not available for those in Australia is it?

  • http://ildave.tumblr.com Dave

    It seems very nice, but is it available in stores out of USA?

  • Jordan

    Skobbler is really good.

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  • http://www.vivalamedia.nl Stefan

    It’s sounds good, but I can’t find it in the Dutch App Store. Maybe you should mention the availability per country?

  • Thera

    +1 not available in Germany either

  • John

    … not in Sweden either =(

  • http://www.coroflot.com/joshuajohnson Joshua Johnson

    Sorry about that everyone! It’s likely a US only app at the moment but hopefully it will be rolled out to other countries soon!

  • Andrew

    I’d like to hear from others experience using it – in my first test everything was working great, and then suddenly it thought my current location was about a half mile off, and sent the program into “recalculating” my route – very incorrectly. I’m hoping that was an anomaly, but need to test and hear more feedback before truly relying on this as my navigation. Others?…

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  • Alexis

    I used this app today for the first time in a pinch. It got me exactly where I needed to go! It was awesome!

  • brian

    I used it this past weekend to go on a 2 hr trip and then reverse the trip back home. Worked perfect.

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  • Maria Falcon

    I thing its a good program.m

  • pat

    I just used it, only issue I have is it doesn’t have me on my street as a starting location, seems to want to connect to a further tower for some reason. But, keyed in an address as a test, and it was right on. Good that is it is free too.

  • Com8885

    DO YOU need to use Data connection or internet to make it work? Or is it really free without Data and internet service???

    • Weesy

      Good question, I wish someone would reply to it.

  • bruce

    Does anyone know how to reply a voice command once given? thanks Bruce

  • Dave

    Do you know if the MapQuest app handles traveling between time zones correctly? I do a lot of traveling between Eastern and Central time zones.

  • William

    Does it use 3G minutes while in use?

  • Lydia P Troyer

    Hi.
    This app is even more useful than stated in the article.

    If you upgrade your iPhone 3G/3gs for a newer one, what to do with the old one, after you stop paying for phone service? Without pone service it’s essentially just an iPod with benefits. One of which is WiFi.

    Download the MapQ app from the app store and install.

    Establish your home base and type in a few locations where you might want to go in your home State.

    While near to your home/hotel WiFi, “travel” to your destination, at the map zoom level you might need if you get lost and need to read the street names. It’s tedious finger wiping your way toward your destination but, Hey. it’s a decommissioned iPhone!

    By “flying” your route before travel, you cause MapQ to load all the map mosaics it needs for the whole route into the iPhone’s map cache, where they stay until you flush them at some future time (Settings).

    So, when you leave your house/hotel WiFi zone, the app continues to function, voice directions included, as long as you travel along the “map corridors” you loaded before you set off. Once you drive “off” the maps, you will default to your local State highway map which is useful for Interstate driving but that’s about it.

    My old 3G/8 iPhone continues to be a useful tool even without phone service and keeps my newer one lean & fast, not overloaded with “occasional” apps.
    LPT

  • Sharon Scott

    We are on a trip and I have been using the mapquest app with various degrees of success with the Apple iphone 4s. The biggest problem that I am having is that I have been unable to locate any setting so that I can hear the voice commands for turns etc. How do I activate that feature?
    Thanks much

  • Ibrahim

    it looks great, want to check whether it is available for Gulf Countries.

  • Nelly

    how can i make go turn by turn voice activation this one only tell me the first turn :0(
    can any one help me please

  • K. McGinn

    I am pissed that I dumped my Android Incredible II for an Iphone 4S!! I cannot believe all the hype over the Iphone. I switched to an Iphone not having any idea that this wonderful phone does not have the apps I needed and had with my android.

    The Iphone does not have one decent GPS with voice navigation free or paid! Android has awesome gps apps with voice navigation and they are free and always updated.

    The Iphone does not have ONE single app that will read all my incoming text messages. A much needed app while driving. Android has SMS assistant which will read all my text messages clearly while I am driving. And all I have to do is speak and will will let me respond without looking!

    And last…My 4S takes the worst pictures I have ever seen. And I am no slouch when it comes to getting great pics off a camera phone. I am so sick that I made such a bad and assuming call in buying an Iphone. It truly sucks.

    • dijoe

      I am so in agreement with you. I can’t wait to get back to an Android. So many free apps in the MarketPlace. Apple wants to be paid for everything. I guess the Google Market will eventually too, but for now, I regret switching to Iphone. My company bought it for me, otherwise I wouldn’t have done so.

  • LuisDelannoy

    Very good

  • Sam Rosedietcher

    MapQuest 4 Mobile: Free GPS Spoken Driving Directions is FREE. I am using it on my iphone4 and it works, without any problems what so ever. This free app is awesome.

    • Weesy

      What’s the link to the free app please.

  • Weesy

    US only, bummer. I’m in Australia, I’ve just read all that for nothing. I’m looking for the great sounding app for iphone 4s, voice speaking directions, easy to use, no data connection required but in Australia. I’ve never used GPS before or ever had much to do with them, I’m newer than a learner you could say…. lol.
    Any suggestions for AUSTRALIA!!

    • Ausi from Downunder

      hi,
      you can find IGo GPS, which you can install the software and Maps (Australia an NZ) and you don’t need any data or internet connection.
      I use GPS a lot, I don’t like the MAPs and other software that rely on internet connection.
      Happy driving……

  • Rashid Majeed

    Thanks!!!

  • Steve Humphrey

    i have been using mapquest/mobile for several years now. never a problem going to and from any location. or finding where you are then going somewhere, i use it all the time because my directions really lack i never know which is which. i don’t even look for another gps for my phone this one has always served me well.
    steve humphrey

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