Scout sat nav app review

Scout's premium free GPS app is a winner in our eyes...

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Our Verdict

An able and likeable app, especially considering its basic form is free, and overseas maps are cheap too. There are a few glitches here and there but it's great for the (non-existent) price

For

  • Nicely set out, easy on the eye and brimming with options. Easy on the eye
  • Foursquare and TripAdvisor integration make it tops for tourists

Against

  • Traffic support costs more
  • Some map and speed-cam inconsistencies
  • navigation is solid rather than world class

If you're after this offering from the chaps formerly known as "Skobbler" it's best to search for this chewy mouthful of text: GPS, Navigation, Maps & Traffic – Scout (Sat Nav) to get this "premium free" app. And you'll probably be quite pleased you did.

Scout comes with one country map of your choice free, then you fork out for more, although they're all fairly cheap. The UK, if you didn't choose that is £1.99, as is France, Spain, and various other European countries of less note, or you can nab all maps for £7.49, all of which sounds pretty reasonable to us. You can also navigate offline, but any traffic help subsequently disappears if you do so.

Obviously you'll need a plug and something to attach your smartphone to your car. We like the Belkin USB Car Charger (£3.89) and the Montar Universal Car Mount (£17.49) - both available from Amazon.

Features

These chaps have signed up both TripAdvisor and Foursquare to provide point of information references, which will be delightfully (too?) exhaustive, but at least you can pick favourites. And for tourist needs, it's encyclopaedic.

As this is an app and therefore talks nicely to your phone you can delve into your contacts lists to set destinations or add addresses to favourites. Indeed, you can search for points of interest, addresses, local search (category search with a 5, 10 and 15 mile limit) and combination of pretty much all these via the "route" option. You will not tire of ways to find a destination here.

Traffic costs you more

But this is a "freemium" app, so extras cost extra. So international INRIX Traffic (traffic from INRIX, which adds colour-coded traffic flow) is another £7.49. But that's a one-off, lifetime charge. In-app purchases include having you wafted to your destination on the gossamer wings of Stephen Fry's dulcet tones, and all sorts of "comedy" voices which at £2.49 could get gimmicky really quickly. But knock yourself out, eh?

Performance

Once you've chosen a destination the maps (in portrait or landscape form, a nice "smartphone" touch) are great, as it turns out. Providing just the right amount of information, they are 3D, with a helpfully minimalist colour palette, with the top fifth-odd of the screen taken up by a big, yellow banner flagging up your next move, while a nice lady hollers out instructions.

Also on screen is a speed limit warning, current speed, distance to destination and time to destination, all laid out in an eye-pleasing interface. Visually, it's a winner.

You can also rate your route

It must be said, the first thing Scout did was send us towards a right turn on a road which hasn't been a right turn road for a decade at least, then sent us up towards a nice, long North Circular wait on one of our regular forays to Ikea.

This is mysterious, as Scout boast in their marketing about "FCD" – Floating Car Data, which anonymously sends your trip information to their servers every three minutes, ostensibly to improve their mapping and journey planning.

There are also inexplicable experience bounces. Once you've started your journey, there's no menu at all to stab to return to options (it's the miles-per-hour symbol, it seems). And when we swapped to 2D maps, the car arrow blithely disappeared off the map, leaving the area we'd just left stationary on the screen, which was jarring.

Also initially we couldn't hear the navigation at all, and had to IT professional off/on our device for that to rectify. Possibly, this could have been our hardware problem.

Speed cameras seemed to fall on and off the map, while the warnings seemed to be a bit arbitrary. Again strange as the app supposedly automatically updates its speed camera database, with 65,700 currently logged.

However, when you're on course, the voice direction is clear and concise and the screen is sound and helpful, with the next turn flagged up nice and early, with direction and time to turn included. A nice touch is that you can link to your car's Bluetooth (and Bluetooth HD) if that's an option for your motor, routing navigation, music – it interrupts the song with each direction – and hands free calling to your car's speakers.

So yes, there are some issues that make it feel like a free app, but all in all, it's a very pleasant experience.

Verdict

Although a "freemium" product with a few, important things you have to stump up for, this is an able and likeable app. Bluetooth linking is a smart and helpful touch, and integrating both TripAdvisor and Foursquare should appeal to travellers and tourists alike. £1.99 for maps and £7.49 for premium traffic is hardly going to break anyone's bank and in reality, it's another body blow for standalone satnavs.