Best Free GPS Turn-By-Turn Navigation Apps

Never get lost again with these four accurate GPS apps

With GPS apps for your smartphone, there's no longer much need need to buy a full-fledged GPS device. Most of these apps are free, and some of the lesser known ones, like Waze and MapQuest, have unique features worth your consideration.

Here we look at four of the best turn-by-turn navigation apps for Android and iOS devices.

Apple Maps

Apple Maps
Apple
What We Like
  • Clean, aesthetically pleasing design.

  • New lane guidance gives a heads-up on upcoming turns.

  • Integrated features like automatic local weather and information cards for landmarks.

What We Don't Like
  • Not available for non-Apple devices.

  • Doesn’t warn about speed traps, obstructions, construction, and other traffic problems.

Apple Maps got off to a difficult start when it first launched in 2012, with many inaccuracies and inconsistencies in its database. Apple has since invested huge resources in its default GPS navigation app, as has since edged out Google as the primary service for iOS devices.

Unlike Google Maps, it is not available for Android OS smartphones and other devices. The latest version includes a Look Around function for exploring cities in a 3D environment; real-time public transit data; and spoken turn-by-turn directions that rely on landmarks and objects instead of just street names.

You can use Siri to receive directions while driving. Voice control is much safer than typing destinations into your phone. 

You can bookmark destinations and plan trips that you can send to other Apple devices when logged into iCloud.

Google Maps

Google Maps examples
Google
What We Like
  • Street-level view provides photographic view of destinations.

  • Provides real-time traffic alerts.

  • Save maps for offline use.

What We Don't Like
  • Can be glitchy when integrating with iPhone contacts.

  • May consume lots of data and battery power.

Google pioneered the free GPS navigation category with Google Maps. The company still maintains a massive and costly project to keep the service accurate and up-to-date. With a large fleet of vehicles, backpacks, and specialized GPS cameras and devices, Google is constantly verifying and updating the "ground truth" of its mapping app. 

In combination with Google's massive database of businesses and points-of-interest, Google Maps augments the standard GPS app with all the perks of a search engine. It's got spoken-street-name directions, street view images, real-time traffic detection and avoidance, among other features. Google also sustains accurate and up to date walking, public transit, and bicycling directions, including bike lanes and bike-friendly roads.​

Google Maps comes free Android devices and may be downloaded for free from the Apple App Store.

Waze

Waze
Waze
What We Like
  • Social features allow users to let each other know of obstructions, speed traps, and other hazards.

  • Users can see where “friends” are.

What We Don't Like
  • Cluttered, confusing layout.

  • Only suitable for car trips.

Waze allows users to provide each other with real-time travel information, including traffic, obstacles, accidents, and other notifications. Waze was purchased by Google in 2013 but still maintains its own turn-by-turn navigation app. 

Unlike most apps, Waze provides reasons for traffic delays, as described by other drivers. This allows you to make better-informed decisions about the route you're taking.

Waze is also suited for socially-minded drivers who want to hear the thoughts of others as they travel. Waze also has a nice feature that lets you automatically send real-time updates of your estimated time of arrival to friends via social media.

MapQuest

MapQuest
MapQuest
What We Like
  • Easy to use.

  • Shows speed limits.

  • "Vibe" social algorithm shows local info and tips.

What We Don't Like
  • Free version is ad-supported.

  • No offline capability.

MapQuest is a solid, accurate turn-by-turn navigation app with a few nifty perks. In addition to the usual spoken driving directions, it includes speed limit displays, live traffic cam feeds, and search integration.

The app is free, but you can remove the ads and add some more features with a $3.99 in-app purchase. Everything you should expect from a decent GPS app is available, including real-time traffic detection and avoidance, and the ability to automatically send an estimated time of arrival to friends and family.