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With buy safe wow gold heavyweights such as TomTom and Navigon gradually fine tuning their turn by turn sat nav iPhone apps, Mocal has taken a different approach to winning customers. Mocal offers turn by turn sat nav like the others, but its main focus is on finding local attractions rather than merely getting you from A to B. Even so, Mocal’s subscription pricing model means it deserves to be compared with the big guns.

Mocal is available as a 30 day free trial, after which you can subscribe with a 30 day pass ($9.99) or annual pass ($49.99). If you sign up by June 30, you can also opt for a $59.99 three year pass. In comparison, right now you’d pay a one off $100 for the Australian TomTom and Navigon iPhone apps. The key difference is that Mocal downloads maps as required and supposedly ensures you always have access to the latest maps. The obvious downside is that you’re chewing through your mobile broadband allowance, but I’m told the impact is minimal.

Mocal’s developers offered me the following example of mobile data usage which sounds quite reasonable, although it could present a problem if you’re on a flaky 3G network;

If you were travelling from St Leonards (Sydney) to Katoomba in the Blue Mountains, this journey would be 106km and would take just under two hours. The first time you make this journey Mocal will use 1.2Mb of data (Sent: 287KB / Received: 983KB). The next time you make this journey, Mocal will only use 110KB of data (Sent: 42KB / Received: 68Kb), because the maps have been stored on your phone and do not need to be downloaded again.

When it comes to spoken turn by turn directions, Mocal holds its own against the TomTom and Navigon apps although I’d say the big names are more polished. Each have their strengths and weaknesses and I’m about due for another side by side comparison. Mocal lets you specify an address, call up one from your address book or tap on the map and navigate to that location. For now I’d like to focus on Mocal’s key selling point finding local attractions. Launch the app and you’re presented with the “Find” menu (pictured above) which offers four options;

Business Listings (True Local)

Going Out (Restaurants, Bars, Gigs, Movies)

On the Road (Petrol, Parking)

As well as searching near your current location, you can also specify a suburb to search. This data comes through content sharing agreements with TrueLocal, Eatability and Motormouth. You can tap to dial a search result such as a restaurant, see its location on a map, read a review or navigate to that location. You can also share search results via email or Facebook. Apart from “Find” you can also select “See” to see where you are right now on a map, or “Go” to see your typical sat nav options such as Address, Contact, Favourite, Recent, Home and Office. While down the coast recently I decided to put Mocal to the test alongside the TomTom app and the Google Maps app. What I like about the TomTom app is that it offers four local search options search near me, search in city, search near home and search near destination. I’d love to see these added to Mocal, plus also something like search along route.

It’s worth pointing out that the TomTom app is a pain in the arse when it comes to GPS reception, so during testing I was forced to move outside even though the other apps happily worked inside. It’s no wonder TomTom sells a car cradle with a built in GPS booster. Anyway, here are the results using keyword searches;

It’s clear that different search providers favour different retailers. It’s also interesting that none of the apps picked up the two ANZ ATMs within 12km and Google refused to see the two Caltex petrol stations within 10km even when I searched for the word Caltex.

From these quick tests searching for five common points of interest in a major seaside town it seems Mocal is more trustworthy than Google, although results might vary from location to location. I suspect Mocal’s poor performance on Pizza is due to the tie in with Eatability, although perhaps they’re the five best pizza shops in the area (hmmm, a question worthy of further research). The TrueLocal listings seem accurate, although I found Mocal’s Navteq points of interest to generally be useless returning either no results or results hundreds of kilometres away. I also noticed that while the TomTom and Google Maps apps tend to return the same results, the TomTom app doesn’t always list them in order of distance.

There’s certainly a lot to like about Mocal and it’s a very impressive effort for a fledging sat nav app. Considering it’s available as a 30 day free trial, it’s worth putting Mocal to the test to see how it stacks up against your current sat nav options.
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