Smartphones are awesome. Thanks to their incredible on-board technology, they are able to to take on the role of everything from MP3 player to camera, and they even make phone calls. And they seem perfectly designed for sat nav – from the basic built-in maps of the iPhone to feature-packed paid-for apps, they make getting around and knowing hwo to get around a breeze, and now Bosch has joined the sat nav party with its new sat nav app.
Weighing in at £44.99 , which is in line with other paid-for sat nav apps, and about the half the price of a good stand alone sat nav unit the Bosch sat nav app gets off to a good start. It looks smart, with intuitive controls, plenty of options and some lovely mapping with 3D buildings. In terms of presentation, it’s hard to fault and the navigation itself is excellent. You can search by postcode or town and street name – it actually fared better at finding a small local village than my old TomTom – and you can check it’s sending you to the right destination on the map before committing to navigation. The Bosch sat nav app will then give you spoken instructions as well as directional arrows on screen and will show you your ETA, estimated journey time and remaining distance. The map colours are clear, there’s lane guidance to show you which lane to stay and bright and there’s a night mode as well. All good so far.
Sadly, the app has a number of inherent flaws that really spoil it and make navigation a frustrating affair. The biggest problem I experienced was the volume of the spoken instructions. There are three sets of volume controls on the iPhone – the ringer volume, in-app volume controlled by the volume buttons and in-app volume menu. Some apps allow you to control their volume using the ringer volume, some switch to the in-app volume and most will also allow you to adjust the volume independently of these using a volume option in one of the internal app menus. The Bosch sat nav uses the in-app volume and has a volume option in the menu as well but no matter what you do it’s so quiet you can barely hear a word of the instructions over normal road noise, even at full volume. Not only this, but the sat nav only allows you to adjust the in-app volume for a few seconds upon initial start-up, before inexplicably switching the volume button control to the ringer volume, which has no bearing on in-app volume. So if you’ve been playing a game and have had the volume nice low for whatever reason and then want to use the Bosch sat nav, unless you start hammering the volume up button from the moment the app loads, you will have to exit, shut it down and then reopen it in order to adjust the volume. And even then it’s still too quiet. So you have to rely on the screen to tell you where to go and here we come to the next problem… Whether playing games or watching video, the iPhone screen is brilliant and you feel like you’re really getting into the experience, as long as the phone is a few inches from your face. Attach it to your dashboard and try to read all the information on the screen in a moving car a couple of feet from your eyes, and you might as well give up. The map itself is fine, as are the directional arrows but trying to figure out how far you’ve got left to go or what time you’ll be arriving at your destination is virtually impossible. True, this isn’t the fault of the app as such, more the fault of the size of the screen, but Bosch could have done something to try and make this information more visible and clearer. I also have issue with the fact that the sat nav voice is more than happy to keep telling you that you’ve exceeded the speed limit, but the app won’t actually show you how fast you’re going.
In terms of appearance the Bosch sat nav app scores highly and there’s little to criticise as far as the actual navigation goes but there are too many niggling flaws and irritating problems that have slipped through and ultimately make the app frustrating to use. The biggest problem faced by the Bosch sat nav app, and any other paid-for sat nav app you may care to mention, is the abundance of good, free sat nav apps that are now available and while they may not be perfect, their flaws are easier to forgive when they haven’t cost you anything. Or if you’re willing to spend some money, it would be worth pushing the boat out further and opting for a new, or used, stand alone sat nav unit – more expensive, yes, but designed with a single purpose in mind and all the better for it. If it were cheaper or had the flaws ironed out, the Bosch sat nav app would be a worthy contender but, as it stands, there’s little to recommend here sadly.