Google Maps Navigation Review UK
December 2009 - UK
At last! Google has released proper sat nav features for Google Maps, imaginatively called Google Maps Navigation. It's available for Android 2.0, which at present includes just the Motorola Droid in the US. But fear not, it will very soon make its way to Android 1.6 handsets including the T-Mobile G1 and be available in the UK. And best of all, it's FREE! Will the Google Sat Nav App be the end of third party paid Android satnav apps, such as Copilot and the like? We will see...
21/04/10 - Google Maps Navigation Released!Superb! Google Maps Navigation has finally been released in the UK!
First, lets select a destination. Use the destination search, which is fantastic! Search by entering the postcode, address, company name, company type, or anything else you would type into Google. This is a major advantage over other sat nav apps. And then we have Search By Voice, which is a very clever feature and allows you to speak your desired destinion as you would type it into Google. In my tests, I've found this very inaccurate, although I guess this could be because it's currently designed for an American accent, being an American product not officially released in the UK yet.
Once navigating, you are presented with a very clean looking clear-to-read 3D map, turn by turn navigation, and full voice instructions including street names. This is a feature of some other sat nav apps, but a drawback to this is its reading of numbered roads. For example it reads B1135 as "B one thousand one hundred and thirty five", which is really annoying. The voice commands use the built-in Android text-to-speech synthesiser, which is clever as it allows the reading of street names, but does sound rather robotic compared to the sampled sounds in some of the other sat nav apps. The animation of the 3D maps is fast and smooth, probably among the best of the Android Sat Nav Apps.
Google Maps Navigation downloads the entire trip detail at the start of the trip, along with some detail either side of the route. If you add the satellite view layer, the satellite images are loaded as you move around. So if you lose signal, the maps and navigation will continue as normal, but the satellite view will suspend until the signal returns. Automatic re-routing will occur if you take a wrong turn, although that also needs a signal and Internet connection.
A minor feature which I think is is good is that the voice navigation commands of Google Maps Navigation stay at the volume you set, defaulting to maximum volume giving loud clear instructions, perfect when driving. Other sat nav apps use the default Android media volume setting of the phone, so you end up having to turn the volume up manually when using the sat nav. Which of course you forget to turn down again afterwards so you end up blasting your eardrums out next time you listen to some music.
Google Maps Navigation also provides Live Traffic Information along your route, updated every few minutes. A red/amber/green light in the corner shows if there are any traffic problems anticipated along your route. If there are, you can see where the holdups are and have the option to press to re-route which will find a route avoiding the traffic holdups.
A feature that's missing is a speed camera warning system. One way round this could be to load a list of speed cameras into a Layer via MyMaps. But that still isn't going to give you audible warnings. This is one area that other sat nav apps such as NDrive and CoPilot currently have an advantage.
Google Maps Navigation is an exciting new addition to the Android Sat Nav world. Certainly, some features are missing, such as custom POI lists, offline routing, speed limit and current speed display, but overall Google Maps Navigation is brilliant. And being a Google product, it's bound to be really reliable and foolproof, despite only being in beta at the moment. I'd expect it to force the other big sat nav companies to up their game or get out of the Android market!
But I Want It Now!
If you can't wait for the official release of the UK version of Google Maps Navigation, here is a "modified" Android apk file and tutorial that works in the UK, now. (UPDATE: Now Google have patched the security hole which has stopped it working in the UK again. DOH!)
8/4/10: Yippee! There is another way of getting this to work in the UK! Another tweaked version of Google Maps has surfaced which works in the UK, modified by Brut. It's a bit quirky in the the voice navigation works intermittently, and there's no next turn icon, but apart from that it seems to work well. You can get this version by installing Nav Launcher, which you will find in the Android Market. Have a play with that and you should get it working.
More info is on the official Google Maps Navigation page.