I remember the very first time I used Verizon Navigator. It was driving back from the San Diego Comic Con 2009. After a long and eventful day and a heartfelt lunch (it was easy to work up an apetite after interviewing Tim Schafer about their heavy metal game Brutal Legend), my friend and I drove back to Los Angeles, a normally two-and-a-half hour drive, only to find ourselves stuck in traffic. I’d been in that hairy mess before; that particular drive can set you back two to four hours easily.

So I pulled out one of the latest smartphones of the time, a model now long forgotten, and opened Verizon Navigator. I quickly typed in directions home and a few seconds later — remember, this is before LTE even really existed — I had a full listing of how to get there. But that’s not special; any available GPS application could have done that. But Navigator did something that, even three years later, no other GPS navigation app has ever done: it kept us on the freeway while simultaneously avoiding a 5 MPH traffic jam five miles long.

How did it do that? I did a triple take when I realized what was happening as it happened. The longest stretch of road, the I-5, is filled with very long on/off ramps for commuters to safely enter and exit the freeway without the fear of getting stuck in or the inability to get out of the exit lane do to forceful, stubborn, or inattentive drivers. And because these are long, two-lane roads that are technically part of the freeway that also serve as the extended on/off-ramps, there’s no reason for drivers not to use them anytime. They’re not intended for drivers to jump in and out of them, but Verizon’s Navigator app told us to do just that. Thanks to the brilliant maneuver, we avoided traffic entirely (by diverting to five or more different on/off-ramps) and laughed all the while as the phone told us to keep doing it until traffic subsided. Because Navigator knew that there was traffic, and instead of taking the side streets it kept us on the freeway without causing any trouble on the road. An absolute stroke of genius.

Of course, most drivers won’t find themselves in such a situation, but Verizon Navigator is still one of the most useful navigation apps I have ever used. It’s far more robust than competitors like Apple Maps or Google Maps, and offers a much simpler map for directions, especially on tricky roads. Driving in downtown LA can be an absolute nightmare, and don’t get me started on LA freeways. It’s so easy to make a mistake and get stuck in a traffic jam that you’ll regret owning a car. But I’ve never had trouble when I used Navigator because it is programmed with those awful roads in mind. When there are three separate roads to take on a single exit, or a double exit and multiple directions to take, Navigator doesn’t just say which road to take, it shows it in a 3D diagram with an arrow pointing to the specific path you need to drive through. “Take the next exit” isn’t helpful when by the time you do so you realize you have to make a split-second choice between two or three new directions. Navigator shows the exact route when other navigation apps don’t. And it’ll warn you far in advance when to make that turn and even suggest the best lanes to use.

The full-fledged map application not only provides excellent driving directions, it also shows the weather, nearby gas prices, local movie times with ratings, and even local events. Navigator even offers roadside assistance in case something happens to your car, with everything from a battery jump and fuel delivery to a tow to the nearest garage for repairs. Just enter where you want to go, or if you don’t have a specific destination planned yet, scroll through the list of restaurants, stores, and places for entertainment or anything else right in the menus. It’s quick, painless, and will get you wherever you want to go really quickly and really efficiently.

You can download a 30-day free trial from Verizon.

This post is sponsored by Verizon Wireless – please see our sponsored post policy.

James Pikover

Spawned in the horrendous heat of a Los Angeles winter, James was born with an incessant need to press buttons. Whether it was the car radio, doorbells on Halloween or lights, James pushed, pressed and prodded every button. No elevator was left unscathed, no building intercom was left un-rung, and no person he’s known has been left un-annoyed.