In light of Apple's announcements about its Maps app, the idea of another navigation app for the iPhone might seem redundant, but Apple's program will have a hard time matching the route guidance capabilities and portability of Telenav's Scout.
This free navigation app builds on Telenav's extensive experience in mobile navigation. Telenav came up with a new interface design and made the app free as a way of competing in the increasingly cutthroat world of navigation software. Scout is primarily an online navigation app, although the latest version includes the option to download maps. Other features that keep Scout competitive are voice command and excellent route guidance.
Scout's basic navigation functions work well, but the device needs to be easily visible for drivers to use it for route guidance. An in-app purchase, for a $10-per-year subscription, lets drivers upgrade to Scout Plus, which adds voice prompts for guidance and downloadable maps, among other useful features. I found some aspects of the interface a little bit subtle, making it not always apparent how to find certain features or begin navigation.
Scout's main interface combines a small map, a search box, points of interest, and buttons for home and work addresses. These latter buttons automatically compute the drive time for the home and work addresses saved in the app, showing these times right on the main interface. This feature can be particularly useful for people who want to determine the best time to head for work or home, as the drive times will take traffic into account if the app includes the voice-guidance annual subscription.
When I first started using Scout, I didn't notice any favorites or recent destinations list, and found myself looking up addresses repeatedly with the search box. Poking around the interface, I finally found that touching the Drive button took me to a screen with a recent destination list, a link to my phone's contacts, and similar saved addresses.
Similarly, after finding a destination with search or its points-of-interest database, Scout brings up a nice little card for the place that includes the address, phone number, crowdsourced reviews, and a button for sharing the location through e-mail or text messaging. But there is no button that says "Navigate" or "Set this address as a destination." Instead, I had to touch the address on the screen, which caused Scout to calculate routes.
Much easier to use than the graphic interface is the new voice command feature, launched from a microphone icon on the main interface. I was able to say, "Find Fry's Electronics," and the app quickly recognized the business name and gave me a list of all the locations it could find. Likewise, when I said, "Drive to Macy's," Scout immediately calculated a route to the nearest Macy's department store. I was very impressed with how well voice command recognized the business names I asked it for. However, this feature only works when the app is online.
Once I found a destination, Scout offered three routes, then required me to pick one of them and push the navigate button to begin route guidance. It seemed like a lot of steps to go through to begin navigation, but it was nice to have the multiple routes shown right from the start.