Destination entry and routing
Navfree's main menu features nine buttons for Navigate, Find, Google search, My Route, Upgrades, Route overview, Route options, Home, and Advanced options. However, underneath many of these submenus, you'll find redundant links. For example, the Google search option is present on the home screen, under the Navigate menu, and under the Find menu. The home-screen option Route overview is also found under the umbrella of the My Route submenu, as is the Route options button. It's all very simple, but also very confusing to see the same icons over and over.
When beginning a trip, the user has the option of inputting an address, searching the app's limited database of locally stored points of interest, or -- on connected devices -- searching Google for a business. There exists an icon that should lead to your phone's list of contacts, but the functionality behind the button is not yet available. The locally stored POIs are fairly numerous, but I was unable to find certain small businesses (such as my barbershop, which has stood for decades) or the nearest Target department store. I'm thinking your best bet on a smartphone is a quick Google search or, on Wi-Fi only devices, saving destinations in advance in the list of favorites.
When pathfinding, drivers can choose to avoid highways, avoid tolls and ferries, and make other tweaks to the routing algorithm. Once under way, spoken turn-by-turn directions give audible cues for your next steps. The software doesn't appear to support text-to-speech street name announcements. The live map follows along, as should be expected, and the positioning around my testing grounds of the San Francisco Bay area seemed accurate. Rerouting happened quickly after a turn was missed or a detour taken.
Traffic data is nonexistent. There also doesn't appear to be any graphic lane guidance when approaching major highway interchanges and exits. As GPS navigation software goes, Navfree is about as simple as it comes. "Turn left. Turn right. You've arrived at your destination." No more and no less. In terms of features, Navfree is about on par with the Garmin Nuvi 200 that I used to navigate with half a decade ago and, for most users, that may be just enough.
Google Maps alternative
In the Android 2.0+ world, where Google's own Maps Navigation app dominates, it's difficult to even consider alternative navigation software -- particularly exceedingly basic software like Navfree. For the majority of Android users, Navfree is probably of limited use and appeal. However, those who are keeping a close eye on their data usage on limited data wireless plans may see the appeal of this free app's ability to navigate without a constant data connection. Users of Wi-Fi-only Android devices (such as the Motorola Xoom with Wi-Fi, the Barnes & Noble Nook Color, or the Google Nexus 7) will like Navfree even more, as its ability to calculate a new route without a data connection gives this app an advantage over Google Maps.
There's also a case for using this simple app to repurpose that old disconnected Android phone in your junk drawer as a portable navigation device. Just put it in Airplane mode, activate the GPS antenna, and you're ready to navigate with Navfree.
That there are localized versions of Navfree for over 30 countries also makes this app useful when traveling, when data rates for roaming can make any connection to the Internet exceedingly expensive or network incompatibilities make connection impossible.
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