I'm working on an iPhone app (early stage) and we had some discussions on the best navigation system:
Dashboard style (examples)
This would be the home screen. What I like: Good feature overview; a "hub" for all functions and information. What I don't like: All menu items have more or less the same priority; if there are many items they don't fit on one screen.
Tab bar (examples)
The bar would always be there, the home screen would be the most important functionality of the app. What I like: No navigation needed if you want to use the main functionality; many apps use this approach so I guess users are quite familiar with this pattern. What I don't like: You shouldn't put more than 5 items on the bar so we would have a "more" button and (see this article: The iPhone Tab Bar)
Could it make sense to have a dashboard (which would also serve as home screen) plus a tab bar with the main functions and the home button? This would mean that 2-4 functions would be available on the tab bar and on the dashboard.
Any thoughts on that? Or experiences? Or completely different approaches? Any feedback/input/critic/answer is appreciated!
Update: After reading the three great answers (thanks!), here is some additional information:
One of my main concerns is that actually only 3 sections are important for the user (the rest is account information, contact/feedback, legal stuff etc.). The most frequently used functionality would be search (think "find an apartment to rent"). Returning users might use pre-saved searches and favorites quite often as well.
Users would probably not switch a lot between sections.
In the combined option the tab bar would not be shown on the home screen.