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5 best Android satnav apps: Navigate with your smartphone or tablet

Ditch your satnav and let your Android smartphone do the work with these great satnav apps

Best Android satnav apps

Your smartphone and maybe even your tablet is likely equipped with GPS (Global Positioning System) which means you can use it as a satnav in your car, or indeed, for walking. That means you don't necessarily go out and buy a stand-alone satnav so here are the best satnav apps for Android.

There's a wide range of free and paid-for apps on the Google Play store to choose from so we've rounded up the best five. You can go far with a free app but note that you'll need a data connection so these will suit users with unlimited or generous tariffs. Paying for apps will mean downloadable apps so you don't need constant data as you drive but watch out for in-app purchases for additional features.

See also: The 5 best Android fitness apps: Get healthy with your smartphone.

Waze1. Waze – Free

Waze isn't the best satnav just because it's free, it's because it manages to merge a great navigation app with crowd-sourced data to tell you in real time about traffic jams, closed roads, speed- and red light cameras, plus local petrol prices.

This would be all for nothing if no-one used it, but Waze has millions of users around the world, with plenty in the UK. You're encouraged to participate, even if only passively, which is why it's such a success. Collecting data about your position and speed means other Waze users can be alerted to slow traffic without anyone lifting a finger. You can report temporary speed cameras, accidents and other hazards as well as map corrections.

Waze screenshot

The app itself is a breeze to use, and looks great but maps aren't stored offline so you'll need a data connection. It even includes a Glympse-style option to let someone track your progress and ETA while you drive. Road speed limits aren't displayed, but you'll only be warned of speed cameras if you're driving too fast.

Our main criticism is the wide-open privacy policy which means your data, which isn't anonymous, can be shared with too many third parties including the police. Waze is effectively a black box for your car, so drive sensibly, or don't use it.

Google Maps2. Google Maps – Free

You might not even realise it but your Android device already has software installed capable of navigating you to a destination. Although Google doesn't so the best job of making this clear. Some devices will come with an app called 'Navigation' but if yours doesn't then just open Google Maps. Both use the same system so it's a little confusing.

Google Maps isn't just for looking up post codes. Set a destination and your starting point (probably your current location, hit start and off you go. This will launch Google Maps Navigation which is still in beta and although there are some warnings and crashes do occur, the app is excellent on the whole. You get that familiar view of Google Maps with a navigation interface carefully placed over the top. You can even switch to satellite view.

Google Maps Navigation

You get exactly what you need including the next turn-by-turn guidance (on-screen and voice), road names and estimated time of arrival. Google Maps will suggest different routes and while you're driving live traffic, incident reports and dynamic re-routing are handy features. No speed limits or camera warnings though.

Unfortunately, you'll need to use your mobile data connection so that's one reason why you might want to pay for an app like the next entry in this list.

CoPilot Premium3. CoPilot Premium – £19.99

If you are going to pay for a satnav app then CoPilot is the one to go for. Although there is a free version which might be worth trying before you upgrade. It will be worth paying for all the extra features and at £19 is a fair amount cheaper than a stand-alone satnav.

CoPilot works with more than 280 Android devices (including tablets) and includes detailed 2D/3D maps of the UK and Ireland which you can optionally download and store locally. This means, importantly, you don't need to reply on a data connection while you're driving.

CoPilot Premium

For your money you get all the features you'd expect from a satnav such as turn-by-turn voice guided navigation, alternative routes, favourite places and lane guidance. However, additional bits and pieces make CoPilot a very well-rounded bit of kit. You'll get a speed limit indicator and warnings, Speed camera alerts with free updates automatic day/night modes, 5 day local weather forecast and Google searches.

Furthermore, you'll get 12 months of ActiveTraffic finds the fastest route based on live traffic flow, automatically finds a new route if there's a delay and provides a colour-coded live traffic map and status bar. Thereafter it cost's £7.99 but doesn't automatically charge customers.

TomTom app4. TomTom - £37.99

One of the biggest and most recognisable names in the satnav market is TomTom. Its Android app is a little on the expensive side which is why it's not higher up the chart but it does have a lot to offer.

Since you're paying a lot for the app, it's not surprise that downloadable maps are included. You must download them to your device before you can get going so having some free space is essential but TomTom handily offers free updates for life making it something of an investment.

TomTom app screenshot

As you'd expect you get voice spoken turn-by-turn navigation (including street names), advanced lane guidance and a 2D or 3D view. The interface itself is clear and provides plenty of information including your speed, expected arrival time, distance and time to destination. This is good but those with a smaller screen may find the map getting little space.

IQ Routes calculates the fastest route and can give accurate estimations based on information like the time of day. Instead of a Google search, TomTom Places allows you to search for points of interest.

Live traffic information and warnings for fixed and mobile speed cameras are available but, considering the initial cost, it's disappointing that these require in-app purchases.

Navigon UK5. Navigon - £34.95

Garmin is a big name in outdoor activities and, of course, satellite navigation. Navigon is its satnav app for Android and it's a little on the pricey side of things but it worth a look.

Navigon Reality View ProAlthough it's a little cheaper than TomTom's rival, users will have to pay extra for features like points of interest, live traffic information, petrol station locations and others. You'll be able to download the latest map at the time of purchase but updates will again cost you more which is a shame considering the already high price. You'll need over 1GB of space but this negates the need for data usage for navigation.

There are some good features which you don't have to pay extra for though, including Google Street View, support for Glympse location sharing, turn-by-turn guidance and speed cameras.

Navigon's Reality View Pro is one of its better features providing photo-realistic displays so you don't up in the wrong lane and miss an important turning. Although there are some good features the interface isn't quite a polished as the others. It's rather cluttered and difficult to pick out the information you're looking for while driving.

Follow Chris Martin and @PCAdvisor on Twitter.

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