iPhone Life magazine

Scout: The Great Maps App Alternative

I remember when Apple premiered its version of maps. It wasn't pretty. People were upset, really upset, and I couldn't quite figure out why, because unlike the majority of my iPhone-toting brethren, I'd never used Google Maps. I first moved to Los Angeles in 1997 to pursue an acting career. I was armed with a Thomas Guide and a prayer. As a directionally challenged individual who had taken one too many a wrong turns and ended up in Compton on more than one occasion, I bought the first GPS system the moment it came on the market. Tom-Tom, Garmin, I've used them all. When I purchased my first iPhone, I was excited to move my GPS from a fixture in my car to the phone in my hand (I'm a minimalist), but by that time I was so accustomed to having spoken turn-by-turn directions, I couldn't imagine using a system, Google Maps, which didn't offer that support. Enter Scout (free) by Telenav. 

Scout promotes itself as a daily personal navigator, and for the most part that's exactly what it is. Scout allows users to input addresses for home and work for easy access on the start up screen. It also will take addresses found in your calendar appointments and send you a reminder asking if you'd like Scout to help you navigate to your upcoming engagement. Great in theory, but the default time is an hour before the event or meeting. For my auditions in LA, I'm already on the road, and for my fitness classes right down the street, I'd be way too early. When in an especially foul mood, I've found myself yelling at the app, "That's right down the street! You're a GPS, how can you not tell that's right down the street?"
It's easy to forget Scout isn't self-aware considering all of the things the app does do. If you're running late, Scout will text your friends or family and let them know where you are, complete with a link that allows them to track your progress. The ETA (estimated time of arrival) is almost always dead on. I've found myself continually within five minutes of the navigator's prediction. And the ability to navigate around traffic is amazing. When I first downloaded the app, I would blatantly ignore the traffic suggestions (it's scary to get off the freeway in unfamiliar territory, especially when you have an appointment to keep). I finally caved while sitting stagnant on the 5 Freeway at 7 p.m., nowhere near home. I took Scout's alternative route and shaved at least an hour off my trip. I haven't doubted the app since. 
 
Of course the latest version of Google Maps does include spoken turn-by-turn directions and some people actually prefer Apple Maps, so why download Scout? There are two primary reasons I prefer Scout to all the others. First, the intervals at which Scout relays directions are far more frequent than Google or Apple's navigational programs. Everyone knows it's unsafe to look at your phone while driving, but Google and Apple practically wait until you reach the upcoming turn or freeway entrance to alert you. Scout begins giving you audio prompts miles before you need to make a lane change, giving you more than enough time to safely navigate through unfamiliar territory.
Some may claim Scout is a bit too intrusive. As one teenage occupant in my car so eloquently put it, "You're GPS is kinda a spaz." But, I'd rather be safe than sorry, and I like the fact that I never have to look at the screen. Scout is going to make sure I know that left-hand turn is 2 miles away, 1 mile away, 30 feet…
The second reason I love Scout is the ability to download maps for use offline. True, there aren't too many places in the United States that don't have a GPS signal, but there are still a few. In October, I rented a limo to take my parents from Pennsylvania to Manhattan to see a Broadway show. Somewhere along the back roads (I believe it was a short cut), the Limo driver lost his dashboard GPS signal. It was Scout who helped us get back to the main highway. With downloadable maps, I'm confident that regardless of the conditions or where my travels take me, I will have a reliable navigation service at my fingertips. 
 
Another cool feature Scout implements is the "Nearby" menu. The nearby menu lists local businesses by category so if you need gas, there's no need for typing and driving at the same time. You can find locations either by tapping on the icon for the service you are looking for or speaking "gas" into the microphone. My only complaint is that even the paid version, the first option in your search is an ad, which is more than likely not the closest or most convent place to go, so you have to pay attention the the suggestions. The latest addition to the nearby page is the yellow strip at the bottom highlighting "Things to Do," which offers up local events such as concerts, art exhibits, or weekend events. I've found this helpful not just when traveling to destinations unknown but for occasions when friends and family visit from out of town.
 
The fact is, GPS is an important part of our lives. The choice of a personal navigation system is unique to the user and what the user is looking for. I prefer Scout for its excellent traffic navigation, ability to text friends my ETA, frequency of spoken turn-by-turn directions, and ability to download maps for use offline. 
Email icon
Want more? Get our weekly newsletter:
Carolyn Grayson's picture
As an educator, I am always interested in new and exciting ways to engage my students and prepare them for life outside of a school setting. Technology not only improves the quality of education, it helps indoctrinate students into the professional world. As an actress in Los Angeles and freelance writer, I juggle the responsibilities and commitments of three careers. I depend on my iPhone and a myriad of apps to keep me ahead of deadlines, on time to auditions, and ready for each day ahead.