iOS 6 has some great features but the maps are not one. Thankfully there are good alternatives available right in Apple’s own App Store for detailed directions and points of interest. Also a bonus tip: how to turn an old iPhone 3GS into a standalone GPS.

Apple Maps directions

While others have reported their woes with iOS 6 maps — some are downright hilarious — there’s hope. There are plenty of third-party iOS apps that mean you don’t have to use the new Apple Maps app to get around town. While Google hasn’t released a standalone Maps app for iOS 6, you can still use its web app for basic navigation. But if you still want turn-by-turn navigations, here are some great alternatives to the Apple Maps you can find in the App Store.

Waze (Free)

Waze is an extremely popular and free alternate navigation app. It allows real-time traffic updates from other users and can provide you search results directly from not just Yelp, but also Bing, Google, Yellow Pages and Foursquare, as well as your own contacts.

Waze relies on your data connection for some maps and real-time traffic updates, but can pre-load some data via a Wi-Fi connection to protect your mobile data plan. Short, sweet and to the point and for the price of free, it’s your easiest way of moving away from iOS 6 maps. (Waze is listed in listed in the iOS 6 Map app’s copyright notices, but Waze has not publicly described their integration with iOS 6 maps, and its CEO has his own opinions about Apple’s maps.)

Scout (Free)

This free app gets around the problems of data connections by allowing you to pre-load major parts of the U.S. for $9.99 via the Scout Plus in-app purchase, but as of this writing it’s free. For quick navigation to popular places like a Wi-Fi hotspot, an ATM, or a gas station, the app has easy-to-use buttons. The app also has voice recognition via structured commands (not natural language like Siri). Ask it to “Find Coffee” and it finds a local coffee shop. Very cool.

Low Cost:

MotionX GPS Drive (99 cents)

This app is 99 cents and uses Bing data instead of Google or Apple Maps. For $9.99 a year you can add turn -by-turn directions delivered via voice. Similar to Waze, the data can be partially cached and if you drive within the same area repeatedly that usually isn’t a problem. MotionX adds some additional features such as the ability to check you into places on Facebook (and navigate to recent check-ins) as well as walking directions. Similar to Scout, buttons in the app provide for easy navigation to popular destination types.


Navigon USA ($39.99)

Navigon was recently purchased by Garmin and is simply an outstanding app. Unlike Apple’s iOS 6, this app uses Navteq maps (instead of Teleatlas/TomTom). What the premium price buys you is the ability to load all the maps on your iPhone or iPad. If you only travel in certain regions you can buy regional version for $29.99. One unique feature I like about this app is that you can pick and choose which states to pre-load to save time and space on your iPhone, and the maps include additional information about your destination, such as local parking and points of interest. For locations that aren’t in the points of interest, direct searches of Google within the app are supported but you must have a data connection to use that feature. No filtering of reviews either, all the Google reviews are there for you to read.

Garmin U.S.A. ($39.99)

In-app purchases extend the functionality with such features as Live Traffic ($19.99), Public Transportation ($2.99) and Speed Trap/Red light camera info ($4.99)

This GPS program loads all the maps at once but is the truest representation of a traditional GPS and is identical in function to my Nuvi; I had absolutely no learning curve. Similar to Navigon’s app, in-app purchases support Traffic ($19.99) but safety camera alerts are built in.

My iPhone 3GS acting as a standalone GPS

Bonus Function: Use your old iPhone as a standalone GPS

Got an old iPhone 3G or 3GS lying around collecting dust? That 3GS can’t do much these days and has little resale value now, but if you hate the iOS 6 apps, especially if you upgraded to an iPhone 5, these premium apps work great to turn an old phone into a standalone GPS.

I tested this with my 3GS; all I did was log onto the App Store via Wi-Fi and loaded the Navigon USA and maps for my state. No SIM card was in the phone. Then I brought it in the car and away I went with an inexpensive standalone GPS. Talk about a great use for old tech! Now that your 30-pin connector in your car won’t work with your iPhone 5, this is a great way to get turn-by-turn directions and avoid the annoyances of the iOS 6 maps.

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  1. Nice list. I’d add Mapquest and Telenav GPS. Also great.

    1. Actually Scout is by Telenav. They are focusing more in that direction

  2. my workaround: buy a premium Android handset and have the best mapping app for free. ;)

    1. Sorry. Run the logic by me again. BUY a premium handset ($$$$$) for a free mapping app.

  3. actually a good alternative is the mobile version of Google maps http://maps.google.com or even that by nokia

    But quite frankly iOS6 is overly criticized and i anticipate it will get better as it gathers more data.

  4. The maps feature is what’s holding back me from upgrading to ios 6. Google maps with compass and transit info is indispensable in NYC. There are options though for people who jumped the gun and upgraded http://www.indiepundit.com/2012/09/20/5-free-alternatives-to-apple-ios-6-maps/

  5. iOS has best navigation on any platform: Motion X. Apple lucky. Users fortunate.

  6. what about CoPilot ??

    1. I evaluated it. Wasn’t impressed. What do you like about CoPilot?

    2. I tested it, but it didn’t even find my home adress (off by about3 miles)… so it was an instant nogo.

  7. Do you need to have a phone plan to have the navigon usa gps to work,so you can turn by turn directions on iphone 3gs

    1. No Plan, No SIM. Look at the picture it says “No service”. Kinda cool eh?

  8. The Apple maps are of course not bad at all. They will get better. Garmin on iOS is better than anything on iOS or Android including Googles maps on Android. I’m also sure Google will release a version of Google Maps for iOS as they lose a lot of money by not doing so. This time they will include all the features of Google Maps on Android. It’s a know fact that Google makes more money from their apps on iOS devices than on Android devices. Pretty pathetic but true.

    1. Interesting, do you have a link for that fact?

  9. Thanks for the overview, great tip for using the simless 3Gs as a standalone navigator. I have motionx and waze, a standalone Garmin and a few Tomtoms, have tried other ios navigation apps but really only use Navigon on my IPhone4 for all serious real-life navigating purposes.

    I live in the Netherlands and even though Navigon can do unexpected things like choose a different route on a return trip with no obvious reason it has the great advantage that you mention of being able to manage what maps you need. For instance I do not need all of europe, when I go to France I can download whatever countries I will be driving through effortlessly and when I no longer need them I can delete.
    I read the book by Guy Kawasaki where he explains the Apple strategy of Ship first, improve later.. As one commentor notes that is most likely what will happen, Tomtom is a new partner for Apple and they will get better with each update..
    Disclosure: I am a kitchen-table inventor trying to get the best magnetic iphone holder ever made out there :)

    Mike, Amsterdam

  10. What about iphone3G…doesn’t it need data connection?

    1. Not if you use the Navigon, Garmin USA or other apps that preload the maps onto the phone

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