iPhone 5 vs. GPS

Recently someone else asked about using your iPhone 5 in Italy (in a different post) and it is my understanding that you can get a SIM card that would cost you about 10 euros and you can get about 1gb of data for another 10 euros or so. I am trying to figure out if anyone has done this sucessfully because I would like to know whether I should buy a GPS with European maps (my car came with an integrated GPS) since that would cost me close to $200 or if I should just plan to use my iPhone to navigate around Italy. Thanks!

Posted by Lisa
White Plains, NY, USA
491 posts

Is it a Verizon or AT&T iPhone 5? AT&T is a locked phone Verizon is not locked. I have used maps on my iPhone and a european SIM card.

Posted by Lydia
Madison, WI
34 posts

Verizon :) Aproximately how much did you spend (and for how long)? I figure I would be willing to pay up to $100 charges for the 2 week period I will be traveling. I will probably use GPS mainly while touring Tuscany (about 4 days). Thanks!

Posted by Lisa
White Plains, NY, USA
491 posts

In May 2011 I was in Italy 3 weeks and then it cost €30 but I was in Venice 10 days in February and it was €20 (for SIM card and Data). There is a TIM store on the San Polo side of the Rialto Bridge just past the stalls that sell gifts and souvenirs.

Posted by Ed
Pensacola
7954 posts

What's your objective? There are any number of free/cheap apps you can snatch where you preload maps. Your gps antenna doesn't require data (turn by turns usually do). What you get is a map with your location within six feet. It's not hard to figure out where you need to turn. You'll need a regular car charger since the gps and constant display will suck the battery down pretty quickly. Both of our phones always have international voice supplements since we wander so much. Neither phone nor neither tablet has ever had international data plans. Wifi works fine for the bulky junk. The rare switch to data roaming costs much less than a plan or buying a sim. The drawbacks to a sim switch are that it gives you a new phone number, you have to be careful not to loose the regular one, and you wasted time marching around to buy the new one and getting it fired up. Or, you could ace the whole mess and buy a paper map and read road signs. It's not nerdy/geeky, but it works just as well.

Posted by Lisa
White Plains, NY, USA
491 posts

There are maps and there is navigation. In the 90's I used to drive around Europe with maps but I now have 40++ eyes and world has changed. GPS navigation not only makes things easier, it tells you what is around you and can reroute. You could also buy a Garmin Europe Map but getting a €20 SIM card is probably your best and least expensive option.

Posted by Lydia
Madison, WI
34 posts

You guys rock! Thanks for all of the info and the advice... I think I am going to: - Buy the TomTom application. - Turn on International Data for my phone ($25 per 100MB). I have done this while in Mexico and although it is a bit pricey it is quite convenient. - Buy a Italian chip for my husbands phone (I will probably install the TomTom application in this phone, unless you guys recommend me otherwise).
- Bring my car charger (I regularly use a Mophie battery pack on my phone, too). It may sound like I am going overboard but we will spend 2 weeks in Italy and one in Slovenia (any advice about calls/data while in Slovenia?) so I would like to make sure we have a backup plan in case something fails. We got a pair of cheap phones while in Spain a couple of years ago and I was planning to take them with us but since our iPhones 5 are unlock (yay!) it seems like it may be best to leave them behind. I also have a Skype account (unlimited international calls) and phone number so we should be all set with connections! - Lydia

Posted by Nigel
East Midlands, England
8731 posts

The Tom Tom app gets good reviews, and their stand alone machines are market leaders with Garmin. Or, you could try the free NavFree app which I use. The Italian one (I just removed it to save space now that I won't need it again until next year) is 561 MB as I remember. It is extremely accurate and reliable, takes no data, but does use the GPS so for long trips will need to be plugged in. I use the England one regularly. Why don't you try getting the USA one and trying it out. They all work the same. Hint - install the app for the country you want. You can do in-app purchases for different countries but I'm cheap. Each country from the App Store is free. There are a couple of really cheap in-app purchases avauilable like traffic and different voices.

Posted by Andre L.
Tilburg, Netherlands
2171 posts

Lydia, with a TomTom app, no data plan is needed. Turn it off altogether (on the menu tab "cellular data traffic = OFF". An offline GPS app like TomTom works by loading all maps on your smarpthone (so it takes 1,7 GB on my case for a map of whole Western Europe + POIs + software). Then, it relies on free-for-all GPS satellite signals to locate and position you.

Posted by Lisa
White Plains, NY, USA
491 posts

This is something different and more expensive but it works and gets you going the moment your walk off the plane and it works in multiple countries. I get a SIM card from KeepGo.com (used to be called iphonetrip.com) it costs about $8.00 a day. I used to get unlimited data but now it's 50MB a day and it rolls over. It works in multiple countries I have used it in Vietnam, Cambodia and Laos as well as Italy and in a few weeks I will be using it in Italy, Greece, Turkey and Croatia.
I have my own small business and I need to return calls while traveling (I don't spend much time doing it just need 10 minutes a day). I forward my calls to google voice-I get an email when someone leaves a voicemail and can listen to the message then I return calls (to actual phone numbers) using skype and the $10 skype credit that lasts me several years. I have also bought SIM cards in country for making local calls and text.

Posted by Don
Santa Fe, NM, USA
110 posts

Does the TomTom have a pedestrian mode? How well does it do in cities with tall buildings or on small streets like in Taormina or Trastevere? Thanks

Posted by Nigel
East Midlands, England
8731 posts

Not to bang on about the NavFree app, I can say that I have used it in both Trastevere and Venice - both definitely on foot. The first time I tried to walk to the fabulous pizzeria in Trastevere "dar Poeta" I got misplaced and despite having a really good sense of direction I just couldn't find it. It didn't help that there 2 streets with the same name next to each other. Or that the church on the corner was disorienting. So I popped out my iPhone and pulled up the app. I used the Google feature of the app to plot the position of the restaurant and instantly saw the thin line from where I was, easily to the destination - a couple of minutes following the blue dot and I was there. In Venice it helped me all around the area of Cannaregio that I didn't know. I never lost the GPS anywhere in Venice. I'm sorry I can't give the answers for the Tom Tom or its app.

Posted by Don
Santa Fe, NM, USA
110 posts

@Nigel.....but doesn't the Google feature require a data connection?

Posted by Lisa
White Plains, NY, USA
491 posts

Google Maps require a data connection, TomTom and Garmin apps have preloaded maps.

Posted by Nigel
East Midlands, England
8731 posts

The Google search feature does use a very small amount of data. I always keepo a bit to use. The mapping part uses the very accurate and preloaded NavFree maps which take zero data to use. And the app is free, as opposed to the Tom Tom which is something like 50 $,£, or €. I was looking for a quick answer and didn't search the quite large POI database already loaded. Most places I look for are there. So, yes, a very small amount of data. If it had been using Google maps - it didn't - it would have used significant data, as would have Apple Maps (still don't use 'em).

Posted by stacey
Bedford, texas, united states
37 posts

Ok this is probably goingt o be a stupid question...but trying to understasnd the difference in GPS offline and online. If you want to know "where you are and it follows" you ..that would be online right and use data. If ou have a preloaded map..that is just a map that shows you the same type of thing you would see from a "paper map"...right? Can you have GPS without being online? what does that mean? :-)

Posted by Nigel
East Midlands, England
8731 posts

GPS - Global positioning System - looks up at the sky for satelites so that it can compute exactly where you are. It takes no data. If you are looking at maps such as Google Maps, for example, it will download a shed-load of data everytime it draws a map, and everytine you move, even a little it draws another map. It does use data. If you have previously downloaded the maps for an offline mapping app or offline gps app it will already have all that data and doen't need to download more. If you have traffic switched on it will either use the sim for data every so often or if it is a stand alone unit with traffic that is taken care of in the unit. helps?

Posted by Lydia
Madison, WI
34 posts

I just wanted to post a quick message since I am in Rome right now and I visited a TIM store yesterday. I paid 20 euros for a SIM card for my unlocked iPhone 5. This included 400 minutes (in Italy), 1000 text message (in Italy) and 2 GB of data! Apparently this is a special. I must admit the sign actually said 10 euros and I couldn't understand whether the other 10 euros were an activation fee but I couldn't care less for those 10 euros... especially since the guy at the store took the time (about 20 minutes per phone) to get our phones all set up and working. I activated Verizon's international data ($25 for 100MB) just in case we needed it... I don't regret having done so because it gave me peace of mind but I am also happy that I won't have to pay $25 for every 100MB. I am taking the risk and just using this to get around (Google Maps, Waze or Similar) and saving the 40 euros the TomTom app costs. I just wanted to post this just in case anyone is trying to figure out whether to get a GPS app and/or a SIM card from the US.