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To thrive as an Uber driver, you need a healthy flow of ride requests coming in. This requires ensuring that you offer your passengers a delightful user experience because down the line it means great driver ratings for you, which in turn means more ride requests.
So how do you keep the user experience high?
As a rideshare driver, it is important that you know how to get around and how to get your passengers to their destinations quickly and efficiently. The easiest way to do this is by taking your passengers to their desired destination without any navigation problems.
This makes having a GPS in your vehicle imperative, regardless of how well you know your city. Watch the video below for a few quick tips on how to best use this technology when driving:
But why is GPS SO important for the rideshare experience?
Driving can naturally be stressful, and when your passengers rely on you to get them to their destination quickly and safely, you don’t want to waste your (and their) time figuring out the best navigation route to take.
Some rideshare drivers have dedicated GPS devices like Magellan Roadmate, Garmin Nuvi, Garmin drivesmart, Garmin driveassist, in their cars, but many find it more cost-effective and convenient to use navigation apps that they have downloaded onto their cell phones.
When it comes to car GPS navigator apps, you have several options. Deciding on the app that is right for you will depend on a number of factors including the type of phone you use, how much (if any) money you are willing to spend, and which apps interface you to be most intuitive.
So without further ado, let’s first take a look at the best in-phone GPS units for Uber and Lyft drivers, and then take a look at the best phones to actually drive those apps.
7 Best GPS Apps for Rideshare Drivers
First in our list of the best GPS navigator apps for rideshare drivers are the free navigation apps. While somewhat limited on rideshare-specific features, these apps provide quick, easy, and accurate directions to and from a rider’s location. We highly recommend using one of these apps, but if you do have an external GPS unit like Garmin in hand, keep it with you as backup.
1. Google Maps
When it comes to free best navigation apps, Google is frequently referred to as the gold standard of navigating apps that many competing companies seek to beat. This GPS navigation comes pre-loaded on many Android phones, and several iPhone owners have found it to be superior to the Apple Maps that is the default GPS system on their phones.
Compatible with: Android and Apple wireless phones
Pros: This is the established industry standard for free wireless GPS mapping systems. It features one of the most sophisticated mapping tools available.
Some of its many benefits include a clean interface, turn by turn directions, indications when you are nearing your exit, the ability to reroute in the event of heavy traffic, voice guided navigation option, and the visual display of all lanes on the highway.
The lane assist feature is very important as it guides you to the proper lane before you miss your exit. With lane guidance, you can clearly see which direction each lane will take you.
If you are driving in an area where there is no wifi, you can save your location from Google maps to your cell phone and access the route offline.
Also, Google acquired Waze in 2013. While these two apps are still operating independently, this acquisition has enabled Google Maps to rely on great real-time traffic information as provided by Waze. It allows you to see the distance and estimated arrival time, along with informing you of crashes or construction works that might delay the commute. You can then use this traffic alerts to pick alternate routes seamlessly.
One other charms of this app is its simple design, which makes it the perfect choice for speedy location searches. It also offers spelling correction and auto completion feature to make the process faster.
Google maps also has a night mode feature that automatically gets activated at night (not just dark). This is very helpful to prevent your eyes from getting tired and strained from constant shifting between a bright screen and the dark road ahead.
Cons: Also, this app is not as compatible with wearable devices as the Apple Maps are. But it is available on Apple watch. It can be slow to load at times and uses a lot of system power to run, essentially causing the battery to drain quickly.
2. Apple Maps
iPhone loyalists tend to prefer Apple offerings over other options. But once upon a time, Apple maps was practically unusable! It was so buggy and unreliable that Tim Cook had to publicly apologize for releasing a subpar product. That’s not the case anymore. Since, iOS 11 update, Apple’s native navigation app has vastly improved with the addition of so many impressive feature set to the point where you safely depend on it instead of Google maps to reliably take your passengers to their location.
Compatible with: Apple iPhone
Pros: This app is compatible with wearable devices such as the Apple watch. Users wearing these devices can receive notification via a series of vibrations which will allow them to know that a turn is coming up, and which direction they will need to go.
It offers a lane guidance feature that aids driver to stay on the correct lane to make their turn or exits. It also has a speed limit notification feature, and a do not disturb feature that prevents distractions by blocking your device from receiving most notifications while you are driving.
Additionally, it offers a light guidance feature. If you would like to see the bigger picture of the navigation route you can easily switch to this view, and switch back to full guidance to get turn by turn directions.
To offer its users real time traffic data, Apple has partnered with Tom Tom, and acquired the mapping company Coherent Navigation. Using these two sources, Apple derives intelligent traffic data that its user can use to then identify congested road that’s backed up with traffic. The app suggests alternate routes options too.
Cons: When Apple Maps first launched, it was buggy, filled with user-interface problems, and often gave inaccurate directions. Much has improved since then, but many users who switched to alternate GPS units are wary about coming back. And while Apple has been working hard to improve this system, so too have its top competitors.
Not available on non-Apple phones
Get this app: App Store
Although Google purchased Waze back in 2013 and integrated several of its features into Google Maps, Waze has continued to operate independent to Google as a good GPS navigation app of its own still loved by millions of users everywhere.
While Google map is a comprehensive navigation system that serves multitudes of modes of travel including walking, Waze is hyper focused on driving. Many people love this app because it crowd sources real time data that helps users steer clear of heavy traffic situations and accidents.
Compatible with: Android and Apple phones
Pros: Users can make active contribution regarding traffic status and other road conditions. This keeps all the users within the network up to date on their commute, and gives everyone a chance to pick the best route to their destination.
The users also offer information pertaining to traffic backups, speed traps, and road other road hazards, and Waze uses this real-time information to offer alternate routes to those who are using the app for navigation. This app even allows for map updates to improve accuracy, and lets users find community-recommended restaurants and close-by gas stations featuring the cheapest fuel prices.
The interface is very easy to learn. It’s as simple as entering the address, and receiving the best route. The app does recognize voice commands, so you don’t have to manually input an address to it while driving.
And, Waze offers Spotify integration that lets you access Spotify playlists from right within the Waze app.
Cons: Some people find the maps cluttered, particularly on the small screen of a smartphone. Also, in less populated areas, the information offered may be less accurate or useful, though this is not typically a problem in locations where rideshare services are popular.
Waze does not offer lane guidance.
Also, this app also uses a lot of data resources, so unless you have it plugged into a car charger, it is likely to drain your battery very quickly—even when it is just running in the background.
4. Uber Driver
Uber Driver was Uber’s answer to all Uber drivers who would use external routing apps Google Maps, Waze and Apple Maps to figure out the best route to take the passengers from point A to point B without getting lost. Unlike other navigation apps that’s made for general consumers, Uber Driver is specifically made for the drivers to do their job better and more efficiently. This app is built into the Uber Driver App that you are already using.
Compatible with: Any smartphone running Uber’s Partner/Driver App.
Pros: Many Uber drivers rely on the Uber Driver system while working. This tool relies on data from several different mapping systems, including Google Maps, Bing Maps, deCarta, and TomTom in order to provide the most complete and accurate mapping system it can. Also, since Uber drivers are already logged into the Uber Driver app, it offers the convenience of not needing to alternate between the Uber app and a third-party navigation app.
This app is especially enticing for drivers driving UberPool, because it involves many overlapping trips, pickups and drops offs. This negates the need to toggle between external navigation apps to constantly update the next location. With Uber Nav, you can string rides together, which means the app will automatically show you a preview of where to go next in advance after you drop off or pick up a passenger.
Like other apps, it does offer basic lane guidance, night mode, and real time traffic data.
Cons: Only drivers with Uber have access to this navigation system. When this navigation system was first introduced, it was buggy, difficult to use, and often failed to provide the most efficient navigational routes. Since then, however, Uber has worked hard to improve this system’s accuracy and performance, and today it is the top choice of many Uber drivers.
It is not as detailed or sophisticated as Waze or Google Maps. So although not suited for a long distance road trip like USA to Mexico, with basic city driving, it will get the job done.
Available directly within the partner app
“You drive. We’ll get you there.” Navmii is a free navigation app that along with other basic route information also provides users with offline maps in cases where data is connection isn’t available. They sources their mapping data from OpenStreetMap.
Compatible with: Apple, Android, Blackberry and Windows Phone
Pricing: This app is, for all intents and purposes, free. However, this app is ad supported, and these ads can be distracting and annoying and can slow your system down. By purchasing the premium version for a mere $2, you can avoid this irritation; so many people opt to do that. You can also purchase a number of different upgrades to customize this app to your specific wants and needs.
How it works: Navmii GPS World (also referred to as NavFree) is headquartered in London. They are proud to have launched the first free navigation app on iPhone. This app offers users a free navigational tool with the option to customize the user experience for small fees.
Pros: Navmii features voice-guided navigation, which allows you to drive without taking your eyes off the road to glance at the map. Because the maps are downloaded and stored by the app, you can use it offline which may be necessary in spots where you do not have a solid data connection, or if you are trying to conserve data usage. Users can also purchase additional add-ons such as celebrity voice navigation (that includes Stephen Fry and Snoop Dogg) or live traffic updates.
Like Waze, it crowdsources real time traffic information from millions of other Navmii drivers, and the global SaaS company Inrix. This data can be used to avoid congested paths, road closures, and speed traps. It offers turn by turn voice guidance and presents users with alternate routes in case of road hazards.
When offline though, these real time traffic updates feature will not work. You can upgrade and get add on features that gives you information on speed lmt. and red light camera at traffic light.
Cons: Some users find the quality of navigational images to be somewhat lacking in quality. Also, because individual maps must be downloaded, you may use up data if you do that without a Wi-Fi connection.
“World class navigation for cars.” Sygic is car navigation app that’s best suited for drivers who drive in locations with poor data coverage. It does offer all the basic navigation features available in other apps. But its marquee feature is that by connecting the smartphone with your vehicle’s in-dash system, the app will projected onto the car’s screen.
Compatible with: Apple, Android and Window phones
Pricing: 7-day trial period: Free
Premium license for North America: $62.49
Premium license for the entire world: $99.99
Premium + Traffic license North America: $99.99
Premium + Traffic license for World: $124.99
How it works: This app runs on your android or Apple phone and the car connected mode displays its results on your car’s dashboard infotainment system. It is continually being updated as new roads are built and traffic patterns are changed. It is supported by all of the latest car models produced by major manufacturers but owners of older vehicles may not be able to use it.
Pros: This app features 3D maps, which many people find to be more intuitive when navigating unfamiliar roads. Also, because it works using the infotainment system on your dashboard, your navigation view-screen is larger and easier to see than the smaller screen of a smartphone.
Other attractive features of this app includes speed limit tracker which shows your current speed, along with the speed limit of the road you are travelling on. It provides drivers with real time traffic information based on your current location and road conditions, along with informing drivers of speed traps. It offers automatic rerouting, sharp curve warnings, dynamic lane assistance, speed camera warnings, points of interest, and route planning.
Turn by turn voice guidance is available in over 50 languages. It has a Head Up (HU) display feature that projects the navigation onto your windscreen in your line of sight. That way you don’t have to shift your focus from road to the screen constantly. This feature only works at night. Another unique benefit of this app is that it can continue to run, even when you are offline.
Cons: As far as navigation apps go, this one is rather expensive. However, the cost is a one-time fee and includes free-lifetime updates. Also, if you keep your eye open for sales and promotions, you may be able to purchase this product for as much as 70% off the listed price.
This app was created by a development team in Germany and was originally designed for navigation throughout Europe. Since then, they have opened their system to North America, Australia and New Zealand. Its navigation feature is designed to provide the fastest route to your destination.
Compatible with: Apple, Android and Window phones
Pricing: Free 7-day trial period
$4.99 per month
$29.99 per year
$59.99 for lifetime service
How it works: The Navigon navigation app focuses on getting you to your destination in the quickest time possible. Just like Sygic, this app caters to offline navigational guidance, and like Navmii, it offers different options based on your region.
Pros: This app can work online as well in areas where there is no internet connection. This lets you continue to navigate even when driving through remote backroads with no network. It also enables users to find the lowest-priced fuel in the area as well as free-parking close to their destinations. It is exceptionally good at finding points of interest and specific locations.
You can get 3D displays of the routes, live traffic updates but for an additional price.
It has a voice navigation feature that is very helpful, and with just a tap on the screen you can get the app to repeat the next turn. The app also mentions the street names, and it presents the driver with several route options and reroutes pretty quick during a detour.
Cons: For its price, the app should work better than it does. Some users complain about navigation directions that are impossible or downright dangerous. Additionally, this app is rather expensive; and many of its features, such as traffic updates and transit directions, must be purchased at an additional fee. Most people seem to find the free Google Maps app comparable or even better in many regards.
Best Smartphones for Rideshare Drivers
Now that we’ve talked about GPS apps for Uber and other rideshare drivers, let’s take a look at the actual device you’ll be running them on. Nearly all smartphones on the market today include some type of GPS receiver. However, not all hardware is created equally.
Some of the best GPS enabled phones feature enhanced capabilities including:
- A-GPS: This is short for Assisted GPS. It is fast and tends to work better at finding and using satellites than basic GPS receivers.
- GLONASS: This is short for Global Navigation Satellite System. It is a Russian satellite-based navigation system. Phones equipped with GLONASS have access to more satellites which makes them faster and far more accurate at pinpointing locations.
- BDS: This is short for BeiDou Navigation system. It is a Chinese satellite-based navigation system that has been mainly aimed to providers navigation services to those in China, but a more global version of it is currently under construction.
If you have an older, outdated phone, you may consider upgrading to a newer model in order to get the best performance out of your navigation app. If so, you may want to consider one of the following options:
Samsung Galaxy S8/Samsung Galaxy S7 Edge
Two great phones from an industry leader.
Price: Galaxy S8: $724; Galaxy S7 Edge: $790 to $800
Operating System: Android OS
GPS capability: GPS Capable with A-GPS, GLONASS, and BDS
Screen size: Galaxy S8: 5.8 inches; Galaxy S7 Edge: 5.5 inches
Unique Features: Galaxy S8 has a 5.8 inch screen that offers stunning visual display that stretches across all four curved corners. With its vivid, sharp, vibrant, bezel-less display, running navigation apps on this should be a joy. The viewing screen on S8 is up to 36% larger than its predecessor S7.
Both Edge and Galaxy S8 have excellent battery life and the screen on the Edge is larger than on the standard version, and therefore easier to use for navigation related purposes. This phone also features water resistance and has a long-life battery.
The audio output on S8 is very clear which is incredibly important when using navigation app with voice guidance.
Possible Downsides: The touchscreen works fine, but the fingerprint sensor on S8 is awkwardly located right next to the camera which makes it difficult to precisely touch without looking. The facial recognition feature is slow and doesn’t work too well in dark or direct sunlight.
One of the top android phones on the market.
Operating System: Android OS
GPS capability: GPS Capable with A-GPS, GLONASS, and BDS
Screen size: 5.7 inch screen with 18:9 FullVision display
Unique Features: The LG G6 is tall, sleek, offers excellent display for a much affordable price than Galaxy S8. It has quite narrow bezels, which keeps the display screen extra long and elegant, making it incredibly suitable for viewing directions on GPS apps.The screen takes up 80% of its front facade, and it’s a slim built phone that’s also dust and water resistant.
Possible Downsides: Its batteries are non removable, and has a weaker battery life.
The audio of this phone doesn’t match up to the brilliance of its screen display. It does have a headphone jack but the speaker output is a little weak
Apple iPhone 8s Plus
A must-have phone for Apple-product enthusiasts
Operating System: iOS 11.0 (can be upgraded to iOS 11.2)
GPS capability: GPS Capable with A-GPS and GLONASS
Screen size: 5.5 inches
Unique Features: iPhone 8s Plus has an elegant glass back but comes with wider bezels compared to the other phones. Where it shines the most is with its processing speed. It is up to 54% faster than Galaxy Note, and S8.
Its True Tone feature automatically adjusts the white balance based on the surrounding lighting. This can keep eye strains at bay. The image displayed returns in vivid and accurate colors making for a pleasing viewing experience. With its sleek performance, long-lasting battery, and helpful assistant, Siri, this phone is beloved by Apple-product loyalists across the globe.
iPhone 8 plus allows for wireless charging with Qi supported charging pads.
Possible Downsides: If you are a long-time Android user, you may find it takes a bit of time to get used to the iPhone. Also, this phone is bigger and heavier than many Android products in the same class.
It still doesn’t have a headphone jack but the audio quality is exceptionally crisp and clear.
HuaWei Nexus 6P
The latest version of the Google Phone.
Price: $450 to $500
Operating System: Android OS version 6.0 (Marshmallow)
GPS capability: GPS Capable with A-GPS, and GLONASS
Screen size: 5.7 inch
Unique Features: The HuaWei Nexus is not as well-known as the other phones on this list, but in many ways, it is a superior product. It offers a clean software experience, fast and easy updates, and great sound quality when using the phone’s exterior speaker. It is also less expensive that other phones of its caliber.
Possible Downsides: Many carriers do not offer this phone in their online or brick-and-mortar stores. You would need to purchase an unlocked version of the phone and then insert a SIM card from your carrier. It may be a good idea to contact your wireless service provider ahead of time to ensure that this phone can be supported on their network, and be aware that you may have difficulty getting user support if later issues arise.
Over to You – [POLL]
Now it’s your turn.
As you experiment with different GPS navigation apps, you will likely find that one stands out as your personal favorite. What you find to be the right choice for you may differ from your Uber-driving friend in another city. That’s okay. Just as rideshare services offer people choices in how they get around, GPS apps offer drivers choices in the product that will best get them there.
We would be interested in hearing about your experiences with various apps. Is there one that you can’t live without? Did you come across one that you regretted using? Let us know in the comments.
Before you input your thoughts in the comments below, give your input on which GPS app you use when you drive with Uber:
Jonathan Cousar began driving for Uber in 2013 when the ride-hail company first began operations in New York City. He has booked more than 7,000 trips. In 2014 he created Uber Driver Diaries, which was the first blog by an Uber driver describing the highs and lows of driving as well as offering tips and tricks and information on the industry as a whole. In 2016 Ridester acquired the site, and Jonathan began writing full-time about the rideshare industry and the gig economy. He has also done extensive research into driver issues related to pay and working conditions.