Is Mapquest's free GPS app any good?

GPS units have really changed the way we drive over the past decade. No more fumbling with maps or trying to remember directions.

But now, GPS units are themselves changing. What once cost $300 is now available free.

Free App That Talks

The free GPS that comes with an iPhone is a decent start.  But it has one big downside:  it doesn't talk.  Many Android phones come with a basic talking app, but they can be simplistic.

Without street by street talking directions, you have to look at your phone to get directions, and that can be dangerous.

A new free app from Mapquest changes that. Click here or go to www.wireless.mapquest.com to download it.

The Mapquest 4 Mobile app gives you audible directions for any iPhone, Adroid or Blackberry.

I tested it out: iIt knew every street, and even pronounced them correctly.

"Turn left on Wareham Drive, them turn right on Paradrome Street," it said.

Blogger Tests it Out

It sounded like a $200 GPS unit and got me to my destination just as well. But how is it for longer trips?

Coupon blogger Heather Tenney has been testing Mapquest's app since last year.

"I have been using it since July of last year, we've taken several long road trips," Tenney said.

Tenney loves it, saying "it tells me to turn in 50 feet, it says the famous 'recalculating.'  It gets you where you need to go the same as a regular GPS unit would."

But Tenney -- as well as other reviewers -- found some downsides.

The Disadvantages

     -The screen is small, and without a dashboard phone mount it can be almost impossible to see the map itself.  Holding your phone while driving is dangerous.

     -You are using data the entire trip.

"You want to make sure if you are going to use any GPS  app you are going to have a good data plan, because it eats through the data," Tenney said.

     -If you drive in  rural areas, you can lose the signal: Stand alone Garmin and Tom Tom units use a satellite, so they don't drop out.

Bottom line: Don't expect a top quality free standing GPS unit for free.

But if you don't feel like spending $100 or more, on average, and you don't plan to use it every day, a free GPS app may be all you need, so you don't waste your money.
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