More people are using smartphones as their navigators, and there is an ever increasing supply of mapping apps vying for our attention. Bikesure, the free thinking motorcycle insurance broker, provides simple directions to enable you to reach your destination safely.
Especially for motorcyclists
There are a number of map apps aimed directly at motorcyclists, although for various reasons they may not be the most useful on a day to day basis. Most of them are mash-ups of maps and social networks, which in many ways are an ideal match given the social nature of bikers. The three main ones are Eat Sleep Ride (£1.99 iOS) Greatest Road (free, iOS) and RealRider (free but offers in-app purchases, iOS and Android), which all allow users to save information about routes, add tips and points of interest to a map or share photographs and stories with other users. RealRider offers a subscription based crash detection service that will send your details to the UK ambulance service in case of an emergency.
Going offroad, going offline
A lot of apps rely on having a constant data connection, which is not ideal if you’re driving away from urban centres in the UK. Luckily there are plenty of apps that don’t require this too.
Back in the pre-smartphone era, Garmin and TomTom were the masters of the GPS game. Both now offer apps – Garmin being represented by the Navigon brand. Going by the reviews, both are also plagued by outdated visuals and patchy routefinding.
It is, of course, unfair to judge any app based solely on reviews, and indeed there are plenty of five star reviews to counterbalance the bad ones. But it’s difficult to shake the impression that both brands are now relying on their previously established reputation. Buyer’s remorse is also understandable when you’ve thrown down £30-£50 pounds for something and it doesn’t work particularly well. Both apps also lean heavily on the in-app purchase model for unlocking a lot of features.
As an alternative, CoPilot (£19.99 iOS and Android) offers a free version with the opportunity to buy more features should you need them.
Both Android and iOS come with their own map programs as standard. Apple caused some hilarity when they switched from using Google Maps to their own, initially less accurate maps. The situation has improved with navigation being handled by TomTom, but there are still reports of incorrect information being present.
Meanwhile, Google Maps is able to draw on not only the information of its own databases but the real-time updates having so many active users provides, allowing for responsive route finding that takes into account current traffic conditions. The app also has a few less well known features that you might find useful. It won’t replace any dedicated offline maps but you can download selected maps by typing “OK maps” into the search bar.
The simple truth is that there is no single solution that will work for all bikers. We’re an individualistic bunch and everyone will have their own requirements, although there are plenty of options available. It’s a slightly simpler choice for iPhone owners, who at least don’t have to work their way through the minefield that is Android device fragmentation and the lottery of whether any particular app will work on their model of phone. The best advice would be to test drive a few of the free versions and see which works best for you.
And of course keep an old-fashioned paper atlas close at hand!