Earlier this week, MapQuest released a new version of its app for iPhone and Blackberry users. MapQuest 4 Mobile 2.0 is now available for iPhone 4, and it can run in the background while you’re multitasking. It’s also a very competent navigation service. It’s like the iPhone’s Google Maps app on steroids. And it’s free.
There are two ways to use the app. You can use the “Map” screen or “Directions.” Both do exactly what they sound like.
The map shows some handy points of interest on buttons that can be turned on and off at will and in any combination. You can also pin places you routinely visit and save them. I’m not a fan of the map clarity on the iPhone 3G. I know, I really need to upgrade, but with the retina display on the iPhone 4 — I borrowed my wife’s — it looks better, but I prefer Google’s graphics either way. The points of interest, though, are so useful and easy to sort through that finding a lunch spot quickly is a much simpler task with MapQuest.
Directions work almost identically to Google Maps in terms of inputting the destination and starting the route. But — and this is a big but — the app will follow your car with GPS in real time and read street names (a new feature in the 2.0 version) and other directions to you as you move along. Yeah, that’s the turn-by-turn navigation feature Google Maps doesn’t offer. Another new feature is automatic re-routing if you go off course or take your own shortcut along the way to your destination.
The screen design is unique, and you can hide the points-of-interest buttons or direction overlay on top of the map using cool little sliders.
Multitasking allows you to play Pandora at the same time as using MapQuest. The navigation app will lower the music volume to read the directions and street names to you and then returns the volume to its previous level.
I like free apps, and Google Maps isn’t enough to replace true navigation apps or separate GPS units. MapQuest 4 Mobile 2.0 seems to do the job for those who don’t need stunning maps.