AA Sat Nav app: Get where you’re going (though not in central London)

I have to admit that I am a big fan of the AA – ever since they sent a massive lorry to transport our little camping trailer to our Peak District campsite, and the lovely lorry driver drove it through a farmyard and actually deposited the trailer at our pitch. It earned us a certain standing among our fellow campers and my four-year-old still gets excited when he sees an AA van.

AA-sat-nav

So, when I found that the AA (which, incidentally, is also the nation’s top-selling road atlas provider) had launched a new AA Sat Nav app for the iPhone I was looking forward to trying it out. My first impression, however, was that it looked pretty much like the Co-Pilot app I already have on my iPhone (and which costs a quid or so less), albeit with an AA-branded skin on top.

The new app – entitled AA Sat Nav UK & Ireland – offers 3D map displays, lane indicator arrows and speed limit alerts as well as ‘safety camera’ warnings.

On the plus side, it’s really easy to use – determining whether you’re on foot, car, bike or motorbike can be done simply in settings or from an icon on the side of your map – which is very useful.

I was also rather excited about being able to find the nearest petrol station/tourist attractions and so on – really useful when you’re away from home and missing your internet connection – and as we often are in quite remote locations where you need to know where the next place to fill up on diesel is, I thought this would be a bonus.

But I found it a bit of a let down. My first two attempts, which I tried at home, pinpointed a petrol station five miles away, when I know our local garage is less than two miles – and the nearest church it could find was nearly five miles away (we can see the church tower from our front garden).

However, I had no quibbles with the actual routing and sat nav functions – in fact it got a gold star because I am forever directing lost delivery drivers who have got lost by their sat nav which can’t cope with the fact that the road through our village has one name if you turn left at the T-junction and another if you turn right, but the AA Sat Nav managed just fine – so a big thumbs-up for that.

However, what was really slow was the app’s ability to lock on to the GPS location. In my little village it took a couple of minutes – but in the middle of London’s Soho it really struggled.

I checked on the app’s site to make sure I wasn’t doing anything wrong – checking my iPhone’s setting, and making sure I could see the sky – but it just seemed unable to hold on to a signal. For a penny under 27 quid that was rather disappointing.

The issue with locking on to the location in Central London aside, as a sat nav, the voice directions worked really well. I guess when a standalone sat-nav device costs around 90 quid it’s not a bad deal. But the extra facilities for finding local points of interest did not prove accurate enough for my liking.

The AA Sat Nav UK & Ireland app can be downloaded from the iTunes Store for £26.99.

AA Pub Guide iPhone App

You can travel all over the world but you will never find a place quite as cosy, hospitable and unique than relaxing with a pint of real ale and some tasty homemade food with chunky chips in front of a roaring fire in a good old British pub.

Good-Pub-Guide
Image courtesy of Flickr user Daxis

Despite its insistence of being the “forth emergency service”, the AA has long been the source of much more than a mere ‘emergency breakdown service’. For more than a century the Automobile Association has been recommending the best places to eat, drink and stay in the country – quite ironic really when you consider that the organisation’s fundamental role is to assist motorists in breakdown situations.

Nonetheless, the AA, with its inimitable and unambiguous black and yellow logo, has become almost as synonymous with Great Britain and our unique culture than as a British pub itself. It seems somewhat ‘appropriate’ therefore, that these two great ‘British’ symbols are intertwined, and the AA, in keeping with modern times, has launched the 2011 AA Pub Guide app for iPhone.

From cosy coach-house inns, brimming with character with real wooden beams and a delectable choice of fine local ales, to smart gastro pubs providing deliciously robust and hearty food in the most decadent of ambiences, the free app features over 2,000 pubs and accommodation in the UK. The pubs featuring on the app have all been selected based on their commitment to providing great food, real ale, character and comfort. The app includes a detailed description of each entry, price information, addresses, telephone numbers and website addresses.

If you are a lover of traditional British pubs, this app will prove invaluable. Not only does it enable you to search in the current location, or area of choice for a fantastic pub to ‘break up the journey’, but it is also fully installed so there is no need for a data connection, allowing you to search down the most remote of country lanes, where an internet connection is impossible.

The AA Pub Guide App is available for iPhone 3G, iPhone 3GS, iPhone 4 and iTouch from the iTunes Store.

Given the AA’s ‘pious’ commitment to providing its members with information on the ‘very best of British’, it seems somewhat believable that the “forth emergency service”, was originally formed in London in 1905 as a club to help motorists avoid speed traps!