Apple CarPlay Satellite Navigation Apps

Apple CarPlay Satellite Navigation Apps

I have been looking at Apple CarPlay satellite navigation apps for iPhone (Sat Nav) to find the best one for me. There are loads out there and I have tried several of them. From an annual subscription sat nav app by TomTom to free ones by Apple Maps, Google Maps and Waze. I want to share with you a few of my thoughts.

For many years now I have been using a car dashtop Sat Nav. I have gone between Garmin Sat Nav to TomTom Sat Nav and then back to Garmin. My car now has the technology in it to run satellite GPS navigation apps from my phone.

What is Apple CarPlay

Apple CarPlay is like having your iPhone integrated into your car’s infotainment system. You can replicate much of your mobile phone screen onto the car’s infotainment screen.

You can use Siri very much like you would from your iPhone. For example, you could say “Siri, play David Bowie” and you will get a response from Siri saying, “Playing David Bowie on Apple Music (or your preferred music stream platform).” 

Apple CarPlay also allows Siri to read your messages, whether they are from a text message or a WhatsApp message. You can ask Siri to play your favourite radio station. You can just about do anything with Apple Carplay other than watch a video while driving.

What to look for in a sat nav app

There are several things that I looked for in Apple CarPlay Satellite Navigation apps such as speed alerts and speed camera alerts. 

Speed camera alerts 

One of the main considerations for me is Speed Camera alerts. I have not been found speeding in my car, but it is good to have a reminder not to go over the speed limit. In my testing, all the apps seem to have speed camera warnings 

Fortunately, a lot of sat nav apps have speed camera alerts and some have an alert if you go over the speed limit on roads without speed cameras, which I find useful as I don’t want to speed on our roads.

TomTom Sat Nav app has a tone warning you of a speed camera coming up. It only gives you one tone, but it does display the position of the camera on the map.

Like TomTom Apple Maps also displays the position of the speed camera on the map, but what I like about Apple Maps is that it will say “There is a speed camera coming up”. Maybe it is just me but for me, I prefer that to a random big coming from the car speakers.

Waze, I understand does have an alert built in too but I was never able to hear it and I want something easy to use and not risk missing an alert. I have been told that when you approach a speed camera Waze the alert appears on the left-hand side of the screen. I never saw that at all during the time I tested it.

Google Sat Nav also has a speed camera alert tone that sounds as if you are approaching a speed camera.

With all the above Sat Nav apps it does display the road speed limit as you are driving. Depending on which app you are using it will be displayed in different positions.

Sat Nav accuracy

Of course, one of the most important things about an Apple CarPlay satellite navigation app is accuracy. I found that some Sat Nav is more accurate than others.

I gave up in disgust with the TomTom Sat nav app as I have never been able to get it to where I want it to take me. Recently I went on a Journey to Wimpole Estate in Cambridgeshire, and it took me in the general direction but when it came to take me to my destination it failed miserably. It took me to an ‘entrance gate’ that must have been closed for many years.

It did try to redirect me, but it kept taking me in circles around a country lane. I eventually gave up and used Apple Maps instead.

I like Apple Maps; I didn’t think I would, but I do. On this trip, Apple Maps took me to Wimpole Estate without any problems at all. It took me to the correct entrance I needed. There isn’t much that I dislike about Apple Maps as far as accuracy is concerned.

I wanted to get to a particular car park in St Albans, I searched on TomTom for the car park, it could find the shopping centre but not the car park. When I did the same search on Apple Maps, I found it right away and I used that map to get me there.

Google Maps are accurate too with good directions. I found that on the display the maps seemed small and 2D, it could be that I have not understood it properly.

I could not get on with Waze Maps, I found the screen too busy and the default voice so annoying I had to switch it off and delete it.

Paid for Satnav App

TomTom Go

TomTom Go
TomTom Go

There are not many paid-for satellite navigation apps that work with Apple CarPlay on the iPhone. I am currently using TomTom Go which is subscription based. It currently costs £19.99 a year, which could change and it is automatically renewed annually unless you cancel the subscription.

I have had problems with TomTom Go recently. When I set my destination and drive there is no audible guidance and that frustrates me, even to the point of trying to find a fix on different websites, as a lot of people have had an issue with TomTom Go. I have never been able to resolve the issue.

SPOILER ALERT – I will be cancelling my subscription next year.

Free Satnav apps

There are several good satellite navigation apps for iPhone and Android phones out there. I am just going to mention a few and some thoughts about them and then I will tell which I think is the best overall sat nav app.

Apple Maps

Apple Maps
Apple Maps

I like the Apple Maps, of course, It is only available on Apple products such as the iPhone and there is a version of it on the Apple iPad too.

What do I like about the Apple Maps?

So far for me Apple Maps has a lot going for it when using Apple CarPlay. When you start to put your destination into Apple Maps it will offer you alternative routes. That is something I find useful if I want to avoid a particular place or area. This is something I found lacking in TomTom Go unless it is hidden somewhere.

On the subject of routes, I found that if you do miss a turning or get something wrong Apple Maps is very quick to reroute you. A lot of maps do rerouting but I found Apple Maps did it fairly quickly.

Voice navigation is excellent, the voice is clear and you can choose the language or accent of the voice. I have the standard female Siri voice, but if you prefer you can set it to male in your iPhone settings for Siri. If you want to know how to change the voice then click here.

There is also a voice warning when you are approaching a speed camera. I like that better than a random noise warning. TomTom Go make an alert noise when approaching a speed camera, whereas Siri will say “There is a speed camera 700 yards away.” For me, that feels better and more reassuring.

The way Apple Maps is displayed on Apple Carplay is nicely set out. you can read the road. not that I spend much time looking at the map while driving but it is clear when you glance at it.

The roads are coloured appropriately, by that I mean if the road is clear it will be displayed as blue, if it is busy it will be in yellow and if the traffic is really slow or stopped due to traffic problems it will be in red.

What don’t I like about Apple Maps?

As I said before, there is a lot to like about Apple Maps and very little to dislike. My main and probably only dislike is when I do miss a turning. I know I said it is quick to reroute but occasionally before it will reroute you will say, and continue to say “Please follow the route.” after about 3 times I am a little tired of being told to follow the route. It will then reroute me and it settles down into giving normal directions

Google Maps

Google Maps
Google Maps

What I like about Google Maps

Like Apple Maps, Google Maps does give you the opportunity to decide your route. It doesn’t just offer you one route and that is it. When choosing a route you can see clearly the approximate time it will take you to get there.

Speed cameras are displayed on the map as you drive and also you get traffic alerts when there is heavy traffic coming up.

What don’t I like about Google Maps

I don’t find Google Maps as easy to use as I can’t seem to find a setting to show the map in 3D. It is only in 2D which is like sitting above the road looking down, rather than driving on the road and seeing what is coming up.

I don’t recall getting an audible alert for up-and-coming speed cameras but that could be in a setting somewhere that I have missed. I know that sounds and voices are unmuted and guidance volume is set to normal. It could be that it isn’t as compatible with Apple CarPlay as Apple Maps are.



Waze is a community drive Maps app. My understanding is that people who use it can interact with one another and share situations on the road. Users can report on the app when there is a police vehicle sitting at the side of the road. Also, users can report mobile speed cameras, roadblocks and broken-down vehicles.

What do I like about Waze?

For some users of Waze, this might come as a shock but I don’t like much about Waze at all. It has the usual features such as alternative routes. It offers what it deems to be the best route, which isn’t always the fastest route.

It gives audio alerts when driving or coming up to a speed camera.

What don’t I Like about Waze?

I have found Waze to be the most annoying and confusing satellite navigation app I have ever used.

The screen is so busy, to begin with, the screen is full of symbols and emojis that mean nothing to me. I think there is an emoji on the screen telling me there is another Waze driver coming towards me on the other side of the road. I don’t think I need to know that. Some of the symbols or icons look like apple pies.

Waze users spend a lot of time Googling what a particular Symbol means. when you are driving you don’t want to be thinking what does that mean?

My last complaint about Waze is the voice selection for giving directions. You can choose which voice you prefer, but because the default voice, which is called Sarah was so excruciating I had to go choose another voice called Jane. They are all American voices. I would like to have been able to choose a British voice.

My choice of Satellite Navigation App for Apple CarPlay

From all the satellite navigation apps I have used my go-to app has to be Apple Maps. maybe because it integrates so well into Apple CarPlay and it does everything I want out of a sat nav without any effort on my part. I can plug it in and go.

A great thing about Apple Maps is that it is completely free for iPhone users. You don’t have to pay for the app and you don’t have to pay a subscription for map updates. Though you do have to buy an iPhone.

What are your thoughts?

Do you use any of the sat nav apps I have mentioned above? what are your thoughts? do use navigation apps I haven’t mentioned? let me know and I will have a look at them.

Read More

If you enjoyed reading this article about Apple CarPlay Satellite Navigation Apps then you can read more on Reviewing Life Experiences. You can read about my experience in buying my car from a car supermarket by clicking here.

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