MotionX GPS Drive Review: Hands Down the Best Value In GPS AppsS

People bitching about TomTom's $100 iPhone navigation app can either a) bitch louder or b) download MotionX GPS Drive by Fullpower. It's $3 per month or $25 per year, and it works just fine.

I am not going to tell you this is the best turn-by-turn road navigation app in the world. The designers made some funny UI choices, there's no multi-destination or point-on-map routing, it doesn't have text-to-speech, and it only runs in portrait mode, taking up awkward space on my dashboard. Still, there's almost no reason not to get it.

I still think Navigon is the slickest, and ALK's CoPilot is impressively full featured for costing just $35. But the commitment required for MotionX GPS Drive beats them all: It's $3 to download, and you get a month of turn-by-turn directions included in that. Then, if you want, you pay either $25 for a year of full turn-by-turn, or $3 for a month—and the charges are non-recurring. You can pay the $3 only when you actually need it.

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Compared to What?

Because it's a connected product, its closest comparisons are AT&T Navigator by TeleNav ($10/month) and Gokivo by Networks In Motion (recently reduced to $5/month). It doesn't come with 1.5GB in onboard maps like TomTom, Navigon, ALK and Sygic—instead it downloads them over the air—so you have to be in a service area when you are setting out on your destination. Still, if your phone has less memory to spare, it could be better.

Connected Services

Not only does it download Navteq maps on the fly, but it uses online search instead of stored points of interest. In theory this is better, because it means fewer wrong addresses of business who closed or moved. That's not always the case, but I did find MotionX to have a decent online search—the first in this class that I've seen powered by Microsoft's Bing.

Again, because it's online, it has access to traffic data. At the moment, though, the app only uses traffic information in its routing, says the developers. There's no way to check a traffic report like on other apps. However, the developers appear to be toying with a Dash-like concept too: A future version of the app may be used to gather and share its own live traffic data. There's nothing like that now, and Fullpower won't share details, but it sounds like fun. I also asked about live gas prices, which others offer: None now, but that will change.

Some Superficial Complaints

I did have a few cosmetic issues with the app. For starters, it doesn't have a landscape mode, so the phone is always upright. I want landscape mode because it fits way better when it's horizontal in the dashboard mount (which, like with all other GPS apps, will run you an extra $10-$100). That's a fact, though Fullpower goes out of their way to say they didn't add landscape because nobody's asked for it yet. Until now.

Oddly enough, Fullpower is proud of their in-app compass, which I find extraneous on two levels. For one, if I'm looking at a map, no matter whether north is up or the heading is up, I know which direction I'm pointing. Additionally, that compass only works with 3GS (I believe), and the 3GS already has a compass. When do you ever pull over to the side of the road and say "if I only knew where north was!"? Maybe in the days before GPS that was an issue, but now it doesn't matter so much. (Until the sky falls, at least.)

I would also love to customize the things I see on the main screen. At the moment, next to the upcoming turn information, it flips through assorted trip data: ETA, compass heading, distance remaining and time remaining. I really only care about ETA, so I'd like to freeze that up top, and may be get a speed indicator with speed limit warnings as well.

My final issue is more of a quirk than anything else: To view the list of upcoming turns, you have to tap the iPod button at the bottom of the screen. It's nice to have rich iPod access in the app (all apps have a rudimentary iPod access—as long as a song is already playing, you double-tap the home button—but this does more). Still it's weird for that all-important list of turns to be hidden under a button called "iPod."

How Is The Price So Low?

A guy like me could bitch about this app more, trust me, but the fact is, I've driven with it for almost a week, and it gets you where you want to go, quickly and simply. But it's going to sell like mad because the price of entry is the lowest around, and its two-year cost of ownership—$53 if you use it regularly—is competitive, especially when you consider that's the initial download plus two completely optional $25 increments. By allowing you so many options to walk away, MotionX actually has you by the balls.

I have asked Fullpower and its competitors how pricing could get this crazy, with $100 apps competing with $3 apps. Fullpower's best answer is that they're not in any other GPS turn-by-turn business, so they don't have to protect the price of earlier products the way TeleNav or TomTom might have to. ("If they offer a better value on the iPhone than to their existing customers, they may have challenges.") When I asked TeleNav, makers of the $10/month AT&T Navigator and Sprint Navigator, they said, "Honestly, at a $3-per-month price point, it is unclear how a company could possibly innovate, build out features and work on the quality of the app without losing money."

What they didn't say, but what you're already thinking, is that for $3 a month, it doesn't hurt to find out. [iTunes Link]

MotionX GPS Drive Review: Hands Down the Best Value In GPS Apps

Amazing price, and lowest possible barrier to entry

MotionX GPS Drive Review: Hands Down the Best Value In GPS Apps

Fully functional spoken turn-by-turn navigation app

MotionX GPS Drive Review: Hands Down the Best Value In GPS Apps

Connected to Navteq maps and Bing live local search

MotionX GPS Drive Review: Hands Down the Best Value In GPS Apps

No landscape view (which some, like me, prefer)

MotionX GPS Drive Review: Hands Down the Best Value In GPS Apps

Navigation screen could show more relevant data, or be more customizable

MotionX GPS Drive Review: Hands Down the Best Value In GPS Apps

No multi-destination routing or routing to point on map, as found in other apps

For more on iPhone GPS app, check out our iPhone Navigation Battlemodo Part 1 and Part 2.