The new AT&T Navigator v1.7i is probably one of the most significant updates in some time for the application. AT&T has improved the overall map graphics, enhanced the 3D framerate performance, utilizes iOS 4 multitasking, warns for traffic cameras, added a battery saving feature, provides lane guidance, and integrated speech recognition.

Even though AT&T Navigator may be one of the last to the party, v1.7i does now include more common turn-by-turn navigation features like identifying the correct lane to be in before reaching your upcoming turn or exit and disabling the GPS background tracking after a short period of time with no movement detected to prevent useless battery drain.

The user interface and general map view are now more subtle in color, and overall just fine tuned for an easier visual experience. Performance framerates for 3D animations, including map motion, have been notably increased thanks to the use of the latest OpenGL graphics processing engine. Along with the new lane guidance is an icon showing intersections with traffic cameras, plus an audible alert when approaching equipped intersections.

The biggest feature addition that AT&T, and their partner TeleNav, touts on this update is being “the first iPhone GPS Navigation application with direct speech recognition.” Tapping the microphone icon at the bottom of the main menu and at the top right of the search section allows users to audibly search for businesses, locations, and general points of interests by saying things like “Search for the library” or “Drive to Las Vegas, Nevada.”

AT&T Navigator is compatible with iPhone 3G, iPhone 3GS, and iPhone 4 running iOS 3.1 or later, but iOS 4.0 or later is recommended. AT&T Navigator is available in the App Store for free, but requires a subscription of either $69.99 per year or $9.99 per month to function. You can add or remove the service by contacting AT&T customer service, online, or using the Features section of the AT&T myWireless Mobile app.

The fine print, as I know it. AT&T Navigator doesn’t store the entire map and POI databases locally — the app is only ~12MB — but rather seems to acquire them on-demand. The Navigator FAQ notes that “data charges apply,” which could be something to consider for those without the unlimited data plan. I haven’t tested exact usage, so I can’t speculate on how significant it is. Maybe most importantly, deleting the app does not remove the service from your account.