Cruising around with Yahoo Car Navi

Yahoo Car Navi app icon

Yahoo Car Navi or Yahoo!カーナビ , is a wonderful navigation app for those that live in Japan.  I never hear anyone talking about it and I thought people should know more about it. Yes, yes, I know what you’re thinking, “We have Google Maps, why would we need anything else?” Sit down, stay a while. 🙂

While Google Maps gets the job no problem, sometimes you want a second opinion or another take on the navigation UI. For me, Yahoo Car Navi does this really well.

 

Things I like about Yahoo Car Navi

First of all, this thing is free. Yeah, Google Maps is free too, but the navigation UI is pretty close to a lot of major GPS navigation systems in cars. It looks less like an app and more of something that should be mounted in your car. I personally like this a lot.

Yahoo Car Navi UI example

What I particularly like is the way it shows traffic signals. They’re pretty big and stand out a lot more compared to Google Maps. This has been really helpful when looking at a glance for turns coming up.

 

Another thing I appreciate are common stop points like convenience stores that show up with their own icon. It’s both helpful for navigating with landmarks and for times when I need to make a stop and grab something to eat or drink.

 

In addition, I have this feeling that the traffic and route data is much more accurate than Google’s. When using Google Maps, I sometimes get taken down some pretty random backstreets resulting in an arrival time that is much later than if I would have just gone on a main road.

 

Using Yahoo Car Navi, I can select the recommended route or other options that avoid tolls and highways. I have not once been disappointed in the recommended routes.

Yahoo Car Navi voice example

Sometimes you just want to have fun when you’re not in a hurry. Yahoo Car Navi occasionally has additional voice guide options. The current one is the cast of the anime/game? series IdolM@aster. I can’t tell you how odd it is to hear three different girls trying to direct me somewhere, each with her own speaking style. Now, if I was going on a trip or really in a hurry to find a place, I wouldn’t use these voices, but it’s pretty entertaining when you’re going to a usual place and want to listen to non-ordinary voice guide. I recommend anyone check it out just for this feature alone.

Comparing navigation apps

It’s really difficult to talk about these kind of things without seeing them in motion. I found a great video on YouTube that shows three different services being used at the same time. I’ve embedded the video here, take a look!
(Apple Maps= Top left, Yahoo Car Navi= Bottom left, Google Maps=Bottom right)

Things I don’t like about Yahoo Car Navi

I can’t use Yahoo Car Navi for all of my needs, mainly because the search feature is horrible compared to Google. If you don’t have the exact name input correctly with the right kanji/hiragana/katakana, say goodbye to your chance of finding it. It’s not an issue for main places, but when you’re trying to find a store that thought it was cute to have an odd name composed of hiragana or some random kanji, it can drive you crazy.

Google wins due to its forgiving search “is this what you mean?” features. Also, the voice search interface could stand to be updated because it looks like someone designed it in the 90s.

Another thing I thought of: with Google Maps, I can do some searching ahead of time from my computer and save destinations or share them to my phone. With Yahoo Car Navi, you’re basically restricted to its service on your smartphone. Sort of a shame here, but there may be legal reasons that prohibit Yahoo Japan from using the map/traffic data on their website.

My next issue is for the iOS version, but this might affect Android users too. Users that don’t have a Japan Apple ID/iTunes account are unable to find this in the app store. This happens a lot with apps from Japanese companies. Even if you know your main audience is in Japan, what about people that speak Japanese living abroad? Make your apps available for all countries! If someone was worried about brand confusion, how hard would it have been to just name the app “Yahoo Japan Car Navi” so that people would know it’s not from Yahoo US, etc?

Yahoo Car Navi- Final Thoughts

Even though I just finished stating some negative points, I really like this app for when I’m going somewhere. It’s super easy to see at a glance and I can trust the data for traffic and routes. That’s why I keep both this app and Google Maps next to each other on my phone. Give it a download if you happen to have a Japanese account!

Check out the main Yahoo Car Navi site for download links to iOS/Android versions.

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