Beyond Traditional GPS
If you think the only GPS apps worth using are the ones that offer basic driving directions, think again. Today, tons of cool apps put your Android phone's location awareness to good use.
Whether you're climbing a mountain, hitting the links, or trying to hail a taxi, you can count on an app to make the process easier.
iOS users have had access to Nike's excellent running app for years, but now Android users can get their hands on Nike+ Running. This app uses your smartphone's GPS function to track your location and speed as you run.
You can set goals, monitor your progress, share results with friends, and more. Now you really have no excuse not to work out.
Nike+ Running | Free
If you're about to hit the highway, who do you trust for more-accurate traffic updates: a news reporter, or another driver who's actually out there on the road? I thought so.
That's why you need Waze, a social GPS navigation app that gets its power from all the folks using it. Drivers contribute information on traffic and road data simply by using Waze. You can also share details on accidents, speed traps, and more. It's like a backseat driver, only helpful.
Waze | Free
Sometimes you want to let other people know your location. You could send a bunch of texts or email messages, post status updates on Facebook, or make multiple calls to tell your relatives and friends where you are and where you're headed.
Or you could just download Glympse. This app lets you share your location with family and friends securely, as it sends that info out for you via email, SMS, Facebook, or Twitter. Better yet, it shares only for as long as you want; when you say that sharing time is over, Glympse listens.
Glympse | Free
You change your behavior when you're in different locations, so wouldn't it be nice if your phone could do the same? Oh wait, it can.
Locale allows your Android phone to change its settings automatically based on your location. For example, you can instruct the phone to silence its ringer as soon as you walk into your office, or tell it to activate Wi-Fi mode the moment you enter your house.
Locale | $5
In the mood for a quick bite, but unsure about the dining options in your area? Ask Where. This app helps you find restaurants, bars, stores, and other establishments that are close to your current location, and it also alerts you to deals that can save you money.
In addition, you can share recommendations with friends, and get their suggestions on places to go.
Where | Free
If you're an athlete who likes to spend time outdoors, whether your chosen activity is hiking, biking, snowshoeing, or something else, you'll like Topo Maps.
This GPS app offers maps of most of the United States, Canada, and New Zealand, and lets you track the distance you cover, your pace, the calories you've burned, your vertical ascent and descent, and other details. But be prepared to pay up.
Topo Maps | $15
Reluctant to use up your monthly data allotment by downloading GPS data? No problem: CoPilot GPS stores detailed maps right on your phone, so you can access driving and walking directions without relying on your cellular connection.
In this app, you get all the standard navigation features, including a points-of-interest database, adjustable routes, and multistop trips.
CoPilot GPS | Free
You don't have to worry about timeliness if you have NeverLate. This app tells you when you need to leave your current location in order to reach your destination on time.
It doesn't just rely on the distance of your trip, though, as it factors in traffic reports and provides alternate routes when needed.
NeverLate | Currently on sale for about $6; usually about $12
Using your cell phone while driving is a serious safety no-no, but adding Ulysse Speedometer can make you a safer driver. (As long as you don't operate the app while you're behind the wheel, of course!)
This app calculates your vehicle's speed, altitude, and direction, and lets you set warnings to indicate when you're driving too fast. You also can track your car's speed and performance over time.
Ulysse Speedometer | Free
GPS Status & Toolbox
True GPS geeks will appreciate the power of GPS Status & Toolbox, which helps you get the most out of your phone's GPS function by allowing you to see its raw GPS data.
You can view the position and signal strength of satellites, as well as the accuracy, speed, and other details.
GPS Status & Toolbox | Free
SkyDroid Golf GPS
Want to shave a few strokes off your final golf score? Download SkyDroid Golf GPS, which will show you the distance to the front, center, and back of every green on your course.
It also finds the location of some hazards on the course, and gives you a satellite view of the course so that you can plot your strategy.
SkyDroid Golf GPS | $2
Log where you've been with My Tracks. This Google app lets you record and share your GPS tracks, which include the route you've traveled, the distance you've gone, and any elevation you've covered.
You can share your stats via Google+, Facebook, and Twitter.
My Tracks | Free
Standing on a street corner, waving your arm to hail a taxi? That's so last century. Now you can use Taxi Magic, an app that finds taxis based on your location and includes an integrated online booking service so that you can request to have a cab come to you.
And if you don't have cash handy, don't fret: Taxi Magic lets you charge the ride to your credit card.
Taxi Magic | Free
iExit Interstate Exit Guide
Few things will irritate road trippers more than exiting a highway only to find out that their favorite chain restaurant is MIA. If only they had iExit Interstate Exit Guide.
This app tells you which restaurants, gas stations, hotels, and other services you'll find at each exit. Clark Griswold never had anything like this.
iExit Interstate Exit Guide | Free
Lookout Security & Antivirus
You may wonder why a security app earned a spot on this list, but if you've ever lost your mobile phone, you'll understand our appreciation for Lookout.
When you realize that you've misplaced your Android phone, you can instruct Lookout to use your phone's GPS function to pinpoint the handset's location on a Google Map. It offers peace of mind when you really need it.
Lookout Security & Antivirus | Free
GPS Tracking Pro
The ability to track someone by the location of their mobile phone can have nefarious applications. But it's also a great way to keep someone safe, especially when you're dealing with a child or another relative.
GPS Tracking Pro helps you track family members' location, offers alerts when they venture into certain locations, and lets you share secure messages within your family.
GPS Tracking Pro | Free
Audio Guide Toozla
If you're a frequent traveler, you know how hard juggling all of your tour materials can be. For instance, you may have a map of one place, a guidebook describing another, and an audio guide for yet another location.
With Audio Guide Toozla, you can lighten your load: This app uses your phone's GPS function to provide relevant audio tours, stories, local information, and more, giving you a complete travel guide to many locations around the world.
Audio Guide Toozla | Free
Taking a trip? Create your own digital scrapbook with Trip Journal, which lets you record your route with GPS tracking and allows you to add your favorite places and destinations manually or automatically.
You can geotag any photos and videos you capture along the way, and share the entire trip with family and friends via Facebook and Google Earth.
Trip Journal | $4
Put your phone's GPS feature to good use, and save yourself some money. GasBuddy searches near your location for gas stations. You can sort the results by price or distance, and you can get directions and details on any extra services a given station provides.
GasBuddy | Free
Here's a GPS app that's packed with TomTom maps and delivers voice-guided, turn-by-turn driving directions. Sygic is an offline navigation tool that will have you wondering why you'd ever pay for a stand-alone GPS device again.
Sygic | Free
Look around you—think you're seeing everything there is to see? Think again. Layar will show you an entire world that you never even knew existed.
This app adds layers of information to your real-world view, showing you tidbits such as details about the restaurants you're looking at, information on nearby apartments for rent, or tweets that people posted from nearby.
Layar | Free