Scout by Telenav
There's a lot of competition in the crowded GPS navigation app space, but this new offering won us over with its slick, modern design – mustard-colored helvetica fonts and universally understood icons for coffee, lodging, and the like – that would look right at home at a European train station (or a Lufthansa First Class lounge).
Need to find the nearest movie or WiFi hotspot? No problem. Part location-based travel guide, part GPS nav program, Scout lets you enter in any address (or just select the filmstrip or wireless icons, respectively) and get listings of hotspots and theaters near you. Then, click on the venue you want and the service spits back up to three different route options, along with estimated travel time for each, including real-time traffic updates and useful bits of information like the locations of red-light cameras (for $9.99 a year for Scout Plus). This is nothing that other navi apps won't do – Scout can certainly hold its own against the TomToms and Garmins of the world, seeing as it's actually powered by parent company Telenav's tried and true Navigator software – but the stylish veneer means getting there can be so much cooler. This is something you'll notice and appreciate the moment you get a spinning Swiss Railway style clock when the app is calculating something, versus, say, a tired old hourglass.
The app is only available for iOS devices, but it almost doesn't matter since a companion website, scout.me, essentially gives any mobile device or laptop – Android, Windows Phone, Mac, PC, or otherwise – the ability to play Scout's turn-by-turn voice directions. Scout.me also doubles as a listings website that not only gives you permanent points of interest (restaurants, golf courses, national parks, and the like), but also upcoming live events, some of which are quite quirky (like a craft beer tasting and sailing tour of New York harbor). The main advantage of using the iPhone is that you can sync up anything you find on the site with the mobile app and instantly navigate there.
One other bonus : If you have a 2012 SYNC-equipped Ford with AppLink installed, then Scout can automatically link up and display on your dashboard's touchscreen and even can be operated via that system's voice-recognition and touchscreen controls. All in all, Scout is a welcome and attractive addition to Garmin-meets-Yelp space that, at the very least, will enable you to travel in style – even if it is just to the corner coffee shop. [Free or $9.99 for Scout Plus, itunes.com; scout.me]