(Great photo from the Highways Agency, via Flickr)

This could be the toughest year yet for the humble sat nav. It has had a good run, guiding us around the country for a decade or more, but with the increasing popularity of smart phones and the sat nav apps that are available, could this be the end?

The answer is simply no, this is not the end of sat nav as we know it.

Even though smart phones have come on leaps over the last few years, they haven’t got it quite right when it comes to using the device for satellite navigation.

This may be because the sat nav is a specialised device. It comes with a proper mounting system, a battery that can last the entire journey from Lands End to John o’Groats or is it because it has a dedicated voice pack that entertains and informs. The benefits of using a sat nav remain as strong as ever, but the smart phone is catching up… and fast!

Every year the smart phone gets better and better. The battery life is improving, accessories are more widely available and the future investment is being put in to developing the satellite navigation apps, rather than in the sat nav themselves. In addition to this, the smart phone is no longer just a means to talk to people, it is more of a portable communications tool. Who doesn’t carry their phone around everywhere with them nowadays? Show of hands please…

2014 is in the balance for sat navs, but if you want to use your smart phone which do you go for?

Android Apps

There are a variety of sat nav apps out there at the moment for Android devices, some of which you will have to pay for, and some can be downloaded without costing you a penny.

Take Google Maps for example. You may have used the app, or desktop version to find your nearest restaurant, but did you know it also doubles up as a sat nav tool and can direct you anywhere you want. The app is accurate enough, but it has its flaws. Its voice pack is poor and it is not always smooth, it also drains the battery very quickly so it is not ideal for longer journeys, but it’s free so can’t complain too much.

iOS Apps

If you are an Apple user you have a couple of choices:

NavFree is, you’ve guessed it, a free app that you can download to your device that offers a good sat nav experience. You can also choose to purchase extras, such as; safety camera locations and additional maps.

TomTom also offer an app for iOS devices. It is priced, much like a sat nav, at about £40. But, it is one of the best satellite navigation apps on the market. It is the complete package.

Traditional Sat Navs

You can pick up a great sat nav from online stores like www.247spares.co.uk or you can pop in to your nearest electrical store if you want to browse. Each model will offer you something different, from widescreen models to those with a subscription to travel alerts.