Scout: A well-executed and customizable mobile navigation app [Review]

Since the iPhone 5 arrived, it seems like everyone has been obsessed with maps. (You don’t know a good thing until it’s gone.) But while Google Maps has made its triumphant return to iOS, I think Scout could replace it as your go-to navigational app. The free personal navigation app works across platforms to help you discover new locations, get directions, and share fun-finds with friends and family.

Created by Telenav, Scout’s dashboard packs a lot of information into a smartly-designed package. Upon launching the app you’ll have access to your favorites, the local forecast, your current location on a map, nearby filters, quick links to home and work addresses, and your profile. You might think the screen would be cluttered with a list like that, but I assure you it’s not.

Let’s start with favorites. The awesome thing about this feature is that you can browse restaurants from Scout’s companion website, favorite something, and that location will automatically sync to your iPhone. Of course you’ll need an account for this, but your time is a small price to pay for convenience. If you’re browsing on your phone, that’s where the app’s Nearby feature comes into play. From your dashboard, tap Nearby to view a full category list. Here you’ll be able to scout practical locations, like fuel and lodging, as well as some more unique locations, such as Wi-Fi spots. Frequently-searched categories — Coffee, Food, Gas, and ATMs — will always be displayed on your dashboard.

Just below this section is Drive, which houses quick links (shortcuts if you will) to your home and work address. When traveling, whether local or national, nothing is more annoying than having to constantly input the same address over and over. Your dashboard will always display the current drive time to each location, taking traffic conditions into account. You can also manually input an address toward the top of the screen, just as you would on Google Maps.

Before the navigation kicks in, Scout will provide you with a few route options. You can also tweak your route settings in the top right corner — this is where you note avoidances, such as tolls or highways. Once you’ve selected your route, tap Drive. Scout will then provide you with turn-by-turn directions (depending on your settings) as well as an estimated arrival time. Just tap on the screen to access controls for traffic updates, route details, nearby searches, music (yes, you can listen to music at the same time), or to cancel the route guidance. If you accidentally close the navigation, you’ll have an option to resume that trip back on your dashboard.

Perhaps the coolest feature offered by Scout is Maps On My Device (found within your profile). As a Scout Plus user (a $24.99 in-app upgrade) you’ll have access to “Always There” maps that can be accessed even when there is no cell phone coverage. A Wi-Fi connection is required to download these maps, and you can only store and use one map region at a time. Most major cities have pretty good coverage, but this is a must-have feature for road-trippers.

If you’re looking for a robust navigation app, I suggest downloading Scout immediately. It might be hard to tear yourself away from Google Maps, but don’t let that deter you from taking Scout for a test drive, literally.

[iTunes]

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