Quarterly Roundup: Best Travel Apps For Your New iPhone

by  Darren Murph | Sep 26, 2012
iPhone / Farknot_Architect/iStock

If you recently picked up an iPhone 5, you may be looking for a new spate of travel apps to fill that extra row of icon space there at the bottom. But, even if you're still using an iPhone 4 or iPhone 4S, Apple's new iOS 6 operating system has given app developers a new incentive to polish up their programs and issue updates in support of the latest and greatest. Despite Apple leaving city dwellers who rely on mass transit out in the cold with the new Maps application, third-party developers have been working hard to help the travelers who feel left out.

If the new TomTom-based Maps application in iOS 6 just isn't passing muster, Navigon North America is a worthwhile purchase. Yes, it's $50, but it's well worth it for avid travelers. The backend uses Garmin maps, which have historically been superior to those offered by TomTom. The app has already been updated to take advantage of the iPhone 5's larger display and the new code in iOS 6. Best of all, the company has included public transportation routing as a $2.99 in-app upgrade (which Apple's own Maps app lacks entirely), and it features onboard maps that allow route calculations even in areas where cell coverage fades. Additional premium features include comprehensive lane guidance, speed limit and safety camera warnings, exit services, parking info, a trip planner, and multi-route display. It genuinely feels like a full-featured navigation device, but right on a phone that you're already carrying. Plus, all future map updates are free once you buy the app once. (It's worth noting that Navigon offers other routing apps that cover many regions of the globe for those who aren't located in North America.)

For the socially-minded, Columbia's GPS Pal is a free iOS app (an Android version is also available) that does a number of things. At its core, it acts to track your journeys. Everything from hikes to scenic drives to kayaking excursions; if you're on the move and this app is active, it will trace your path using the iPhone's GPS and calculate all sorts of metrics along the way. Best of all, any photos you take are geotagged and saved along the route. Once your trip is over, you can upload the entire trek for later viewing, or share it on Facebook and Twitter if you're interested in bragging. Just make sure to create a GPS Pal account from within the app so that you can sync your jaunts to Columbia's servers. That way, if your phone ever crashes, you'll still have those memories saved elsewhere for easy recovery.

You may have heard of TripAdvisor and Yelp, both of which offer polished apps on the App Store. But an up-and-comer you should pay attention to is Ness. It's a free dining guide app that's frequently updated, and it truly shows off the best of the iPhone with its elegance in design. It's a gorgeous app that's easy to navigate, and it's very photo-driven. There are millions of restaurant, cafe, and bar reviews, coupled with millions of images from real people who have visited the establishments. It also removes the frustration of finding good eats nearby with its new "Map View," which uses your iPhone's GPS to pinpoint where you are and make recommendations based on proximity. The app is fully updated for use on the iPhone 5's enlarged display, and new users can sign up using their Facebook credentials. Once you find a place you're happy with, you can book a reservation through OpenTable in the app itself. If you weren't hungry before opening Ness, you will be once you flip through those images for just a bit.

This is an ongoing series, and we’ll be covering other platforms soon! Our prior recommendations for Android can be found here, while Windows Phone users can look here.

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