The 8 Best GPS Apps for iPhone of 2019

These navigation apps work on your iPad, too

Woman using smartphone as GPS navigation in car
Klaus Vedfelt / Getty Images

GPS navigation apps are among the most popular apps for iOS devices. The apps are economical and provide terrific mapping, search, and turn-by-turn navigation features or off-road navigation uses. Navigation apps for iOS fall into two categories: those that download maps and those that access maps on-the-fly.

Some GPS apps download an entire map and points-of-interest database to your device, which saves your mobile data and is easy on the device's battery life. Other apps download maps as you drive, bike, ski, or hike. You may prefer these on-the-fly maps because they take up less memory on the iPhone and are easier to update, but the continuous GPS usage decreases battery life.

GPS navigation apps tend to be either traffic-specific navigation apps or recreational activity apps. Traffic navigation apps include highway maps, turn-by-turn directions, and points of interest for drivers, walkers, transit riders, and bikers. Recreational activity GPS apps specialize in many off-road uses, including hiking, biking, and sailing.

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Google Maps

Google Maps screens on iOS

What We Like

  • Convenient voice search. No typing required.

  • Highly accurate directions to destinations.

  • Street views for 99 percent of all U.S. public roads.

What We Don't Like

  • Requires an internet connection for most features.

  • Doesn't run in the background, so it drains the battery faster than similar apps.

  • Downloadable maps are hundreds of megabytes in size.

Google's years of making Google Maps a priority resulted in an extremely accurate map and points-of-interest database.

Traffic is powered by Waze, which Google owns. It calculates a way around traffic problems, if possible. In Google Maps, you see icons for construction, incidents (such as car crashes and potholes), and police presence. Color-coding indicates the amount of traffic.

The Google Maps' feature list includes address and points-of-interest search using Google's powerful Local Search utility. It offers ratings and local reviews and syncs searches and favorites (with Google login). Choose between several map views: traffic, public transit, biking, satellite, terrain, or Google Earth.

Many languages are available, and you can adjust the voice guidance volume separately: softer, normal, or louder. You can also play voice prompts over Bluetooth if you want to use your car's speaker.

Google Maps is available for iPhone, iPad, and iPod touch with iOS 10 or later.

Cost: Free

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Apple Maps

Apple Maps app on iPhone

What We Like

  • 3D Look Around feature.

  • Effective lane guidance and speed limit display.

  • Navigation screen free of distractions.

What We Don't Like

  • Does not offer map downloads for offline use.

  • Does not warn drivers of speed traps or roadway obstructions.

After a rocky launch in 2012 as part of iOS 6, Apple continued to refine its Maps app until it is finally a worthy competitor of Google Maps on iOS devices. It ships as part of the operating system on iOS, so it is free and instantly available to users.

The app's attractive design provides an intuitive user interface that guides drivers or walkers with turn-by-turn spoken directions. It provides arrival time by factoring in real-time traffic information and the current speed limit.

Commuters can access real-time transit information in many cities with live arrival and departure times of the user's bus or train. On flights, users get indoor maps of airport terminals, including the locations of restaurants and restrooms.

The Flyover Mode of the app and 3D views of cities give users a view that is similar to that of Google Earth—a 3D image of the city that can be explored virtually before your trip. The addition of favorites and collections of your favorite locations, along with proactive suggestions, are just icing on the cake.

Apple Maps is available on iPhone, iPad, and iPod touch with iOS 6 or later or iPadOS 13.

Cost: Free. Included in the operating system.

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TomTom GO Navigation

TomTom Go screens on iOS

What We Like

  • A la carte downloadable maps with weekly updates.

  • Excellent lane guidance.

  • Speed camera alerts.

  • Apple CarPlay compatibility.

What We Don't Like

  • Free app includes only 50 miles of navigation per month.

  • After free trial, a subscription is necessary for most users.

  • iPhone's route bar is not available on CarPlay.

The TomTom GO Navigation app is a sleek combination of the latest TomTom car navigation technology and world-class traffic information. You see the best route available based on accurate, real-time traffic information that gets you to your destination quickly. With the TomTom Traffic feature, you always know where delays are and whether a faster route is available.

Lane guidance is a standout feature of TomTom GO Navigation. Never miss a turn again because you're in the wrong lane. Relax while the app's speed camera monitors posted speeds and alerts you to fixed and mobile speed cameras (internet connection required).

Choose from a selection of offline maps for your region for those times when you don't have internet access or data roaming to plan a route. The app is preloaded with useful points of interest.

Find destinations faster with Quick Search, which starts finding locations as soon as you start typing. You can also select locations you found on websites or other apps by copying the URL and pasting it into Quick Search or tap on your favorite destination on the map, and you’re on your way.

TomTomGO Navigation is available for the iPhone, iPad, and iPod touch with iOS 11 or later.

Cost: Free app download with 50 free miles per month or a free trial period followed by 1, 3, or 6-month subscription costing $1.99, $4.99, or $8.99, respectively.

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Three iOS Waze screens

What We Like

  • Live, community-based traffic information.

  • Apple CarPlay compatibility.

  • Dynamic route adjustments to avoid traffic hazards.

What We Don't Like

  • Ads on screen.

  • Only useful for drivers.

  • Not much location information.

Waze is the world's largest community-based traffic and navigation app. Join other drivers in your area who share real-time traffic and road information, saving everyone time and gas money on their daily commute. The app's social layer lets users contribute traffic jam, road hazard, speed trap, and similar information to the overall database. If you opt-in, Waze detects when you are traveling well below the speed limit, contributing to real-time traffic data for all users.

The app uses on-the-fly maps, so an internet connection is necessary for navigation and to communicate with other Waze users to share reported road hazards. Add a photo to road reports or integrate with FourSquare, Twitter, or Facebook.

Waze is available for iPhone, iPad, and iPod touch with iOS 10 or later.

Cost: Free with advertisements

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AT&T Navigator

Three AT&T Navigator screens on iOS

What We Like

  • Accepts spoken commands.

  • Can cache maps and points of interest for offline use.

  • Gas price search capability.

What We Don't Like

  • More expensive than similar apps.

  • Only for AT&T customers.

  • App uses location data when not open, affecting battery life.

The AT&T Navigator traffic app operates on a subscription payment model. The app itself is free, but a $9.99 per month subscription fee is required to use it, and the amount is billed to your AT&T mobile bill. The app is available only for AT&T customers, although the Verizon VZ Navigator app is similar.

Like most traffic GPS apps, AT&T Navigator speaks turn-by-turn directions and provides traffic detection and avoidance information. It accepts voice input and provides instant route options. Although it is designed for online use, users can download maps for large parts of the country (the eastern U.S., for example) for offline use.

AT&T Navigator is available for iPhone, iPad, and iPod touch with iOS 8 or later.

Cost: Free download with a monthly subscription fee of $9.99.

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Verizon VZ Navigator

Three VZ Navigator screens from iOS

What We Like

  • Roadside assistance based on GPS position available.

  • Day/night mode.

  • Simulated views of major interchanges and exits.

What We Don't Like

  • Monthly fee does not include data.

  • Constant use of GPS drains the battery.

Verizon's VZ Navigator, available only to those with Verizon as their carrier, is available with a monthly $4.99 subscription fee that is billed to the Verizon account. The VZ Navigator traffic app is known for its extensive 3D imagery that includes 3D maps of major U.S. cities. It also features audible traffic alerts and real-time traffic updates. Its SmartView feature lets you select from multiple views, including list, dashboard, 3D, virtual city, and sky views.

VA Navigator recognizes voice address input and integrates with Facebook. It offers gas price search information and supports messaging to share your location. The app supports Spanish as well as English.

VZ Navigator is available for iPhone, iPad, and iPod touch with iOS 8 or later.

Cost: Free 30-day trial followed by a $4.99 monthly subscription.

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MotionX GPS

Three MotionX GPS screens for iOS

What We Like

  • Works worldwide.

  • Stores maps for offline use.

  • Records and saves up to 101 tracks.

What We Don't Like

  • Accesses location when app isn't open, affecting battery life.

  • Downloads maps slowly.

MotionX was an early entry into the iPhone GPS recreational navigation app market, and that experience is reflected in a powerful, full-featured app. The MotionX GPS app is great for use when mountain climbing, biking, hiking, sailing, fishing, back-road motorcycling, and ATV travel—even snowshoe treks.

The app sees your position and tracks you anywhere in the world. It records time, distance, speed, and maximum speed, along with altitude graphs and ascent/descent and gradient information. It includes nine map choices (more than other similar GPS apps) and includes NOAA experimental marine charts. You can save up to 500 personal waypoints for your favorite locations such as your home, end of a hike, or your favorite restaurant.

Handy extras include the ability to take a geotagged photo during your activity and then share the experience by posting it to Facebook or Twitter. Full Wikipedia integration means you have your own personal tour guide wherever you go.

MotionX GPS is available for the iPhone, iPad, iPod touch with iOS 11 or later, and Apple Watch.

Cost: $1.99 with in-app purchases available

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Gaia GPS

Gaia GPS app on iPhone

What We Like

  • Searchable trail database.

  • Downloadable topo and satellite maps for offline use.

  • Measures distance, altitude, and elevation changes.

  • Includes up-to-date weather forecasts.

What We Don't Like

  • Free level limited to default map service.

  • Subscriptions are costly.

  • Best features and maps require subscriptions.

Although Gaia GPS started life as a backpacking app, it expanded to embrace all types of outdoor recreational activities. Whether you're into hiking, hunting, skiing, camping, or mountain biking, Gaia can be customized to your interests.

Wherever you are, you can use the app's Discover tab to find hikes and nearby trails. Bikers can mount Gaia GPS to their handlebars for hands-free navigation, and hunters can distinguish between public and private land with state-by-state hunting information. Skiers find powder and avoid avalanche terrain with Gaia GPS.

This app is so robust, it is used by firefighters, land managers, and search and rescue teams.

Gaia GPS is available for iPhone, iPad, and iPod touch with iOS 10 or later.

Cost: Free level, Member level at $19.99, and Premium level at $39.95.