/ Motoring, Technology

Can a ‘mapless’ sat nav get you to your destination?

Trafficmaster Companion app

Q. What’s the most important feature on a sat nav? A. A map, right? Maybe not, if a new smartphone app takes off. So can a sat nav with no map really help us get to where we want to go?

In the latest Which? sat nav reviews, we tested a range of models, including (for the first time) more smartphone sat nav apps than dedicated models.

One of the apps that caught my attention this time was the Trafficmaster Companion for the iPhone. Not because at £35 it’s pretty expensive for an app. Not even because to search Points of Interest to find your nearest petrol station you need to call Trafficmaster at a cost of ‘less than £1.20’.

No, the reason why this sat nav is especially interesting is that it doesn’t have any road maps! Yes, this is highly unusual for a sat nav.

Don’t worry though, you won’t have to navigate by the stars. Instead of a road map, the Trafficmaster uses an arrow diagram with your next turning to help you get to your destination. This is complimented by a bar to show the approximate distance to your turning, and of course the usual audio instructions.

Life without maps

This is better than nothing, but why would you choose this when you can use a sat nav with a map? A map provides a fuller picture of your journey and surrounding area to help you visualise your route and minimise any guess work. It also provides a bit of back-up, should the GPS signal fail.

You can zoom out to view a smaller scale and more of your onward journey. And when you’re zoomed in, you can see areas of greenery, water, and other landmarks that can help and reassure you along your journey.

Why rely so much on a single arrow as your main visual point of reference? Maybe because it’s just too tempting to look at a detailed on-screen map rather than keeping your eyes on the road, in which case the Trafficmaster Companion is an interesting product – but definitely not one for me.

Is there anyone who would prefer a ‘mapless’ approach on a sat nav and who gets confused by maps? Perhaps you already own the Trafficmaster Companion? If so, let us know your good or bad experiences of it…


It would be safer to glance at an arrow diagram than look at a map, so this could be useful in cars. Hopefully the information is up-to-date at this price.

As completely pointless now as somebody trying to flog brand new black and white TVs.

Agreed with Fat Sam.

It may be useful when on a mountain though. Sat nav requires more than just following arrows and/or maps, I forsee new claims of “my sat nav told me to walk into this lake/stop on this level crossing/jump off this cliff” etc etc.

Maps actually tell you what is there, it’s not some erroneous item you could do without, it’s the very core of navigation and guidance. I certainly wouldn’t trust it as I don’t have wings 🙂

rmo101 says:
17 February 2012

The clue is in the name ‘Trafficmaster’. Its sole function is to aid in getting you from a to b on public roads. For this you just need someone giving you verbal instructions. When a passanger guides you on an unfamiliar route you don’t fall to pieces becaue they don’t have an map showing you what to do. I’ve used it for a couple of years and its been pretty good. Its not perfect, though. At the beginning of the journey it tells you in some detail which route you will take (naming major roads and milages etc).
Positives: Easy to use and follow, excellent traffic warning and re-routing, Always up to date.
Negatives: verbose at the start, no points of interest info.

BanburyBoy says:
27 September 2011

As a user of this app, I maybe have more to add to this conversation than the last 2 contributors. The screen on the app is absolutey fine. No distracting stuff on there, simple and straightforward route guidance making it a good deal safer than your average TomTom type screen which can be so distracting and awkward to use sometimes that it must surely impact on road safety. The voice is clear and the mapping is pretty faultless. How many satnav units can that be said of?

My only issue with this app is that mine has taken to routing me only on minor roads and avoiding all motorways at all costs. I have not changed and indeed cannot find anywhere to setup preferences etc.