Scout by Telenav (for iPhone) review

Scout by Telenav is a solid iPhone nav app that delivers the goods for free, at least for when you're behind the wheel.

Telenav is one of the veteran GPS navigation players, having had a product available on various platforms for years before mobile apps became “cool.” Many phones shipped with Telenav-powered, rebranded GPS apps that carriers charged $9.99 per month for (think AT&T Navigator or Sprint Navigator). Scout by Telenav brings much of that same technology to your iPhone for free, complete with a commuter-focused dashboard that makes your trip to work and back home easier than ever. Google Maps remains our Editors’ Choice, thanks to its robust pedestrian navigation and additional flexibility, but Scout offers a compelling, driver-oriented interface in comparison.

User Interface and POI Search
For this review, I tested Scout on a Verizon Apple iPhone 5 running iOS 6.0.2. The home screen is very different than it is on other apps, which often just drop you onto a 2D or 3D map. In this case, there are big buttons for your home and work addresses, complete with an ETA for each, were you to begin navigation now from your current location. Below that are shortcut buttons to find various POI categories, such as nearby parking or restaurants. The top of the screen features a large, prominent search bar that makes it easy to run POI searches at any time, and you also get an icon for current weather conditions. One glitch: Unfortunately, the app still isn’t formatted for the wider screen on the iPhone 5.

Most addresses I tested worked fine when entered; the one mistake was that the dash used in Queens street numbers tripped up the app (e.g. 30-47). Once I removed the dash, it had no problem finding the address. Input an address, and you can navigate there via one of three routes the app finds for you. It shows a visual of all three right up front, which is useful. Note that this app works primarily in portrait mode; the only time you can activate landscape mode, like a regular standalone GPS, is once you’re on the road.

Performance and Conclusions
Once you tap Navigate, you can begin the trip. Map graphics animate smoothly, and look sharp, if not particularly detailed. I had no problem navigating to a variety of destinations in New York and New Jersey using Scout. The voice prompts are loud enough and well-timed. As you approach each turn, the top bar fills up with “green” to help you judge when to turn, in addition to use the usual X number of feet or miles that counts down. This helps reinforce exactly where to turn, as more than once in my life, an app would say “turn left in 0.2 miles” and I’d turn on an earlier street than I was supposed to by accident.

On the other hand, voice prompts sounded choppy; you can tell that they were recorded by different people in different studios. It also described the FDR Drive’s service road in New York City as “FDR Doctor Service Road” which seems like a silly mistake, given how many streets there are in the U.S. with the word “Drive” in them.

Aside from the lack of speed limit signs and 3D lane assistance, Scout by Telenav functions perfectly well as a turn-by-turn voice app on the iPhone, and its comprehensive dashboard seems ideal for commuters and on-the-go types. Google Maps is our Editors’ Choice for free iPhone GPS navigation; credit its ultra-smooth map animation, pitch-perfect POI accuracy, and pedestrian and public transit support. But Scout is an easily viable alternative that’s actually better from a driving point of view, thanks to its crisp, clear interface and excellent routing accuracy. If you like the idea of crowd-sourced alerts for speed traps, traffic jams, and other by-the-minute events en route, give Waze a look, as that app has improved remarkably in recent months.

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Specifications
Free Yes

Verdict
Scout by Telenav is a solid iPhone nav app that delivers the goods for free, at least for when you're behind the wheel.
Published under license from Ziff Davis, Inc., New York, All rights reserved.
Copyright © 2012 Ziff Davis, Inc