Google Maps Navigation review

When Google Maps first found its way onto GPS-enabled smartphones, one of the first questions on everybody’s lips must have been: “How soon before we get a satnav version?” We waited and we waited, but turn-by-turn navigation never arrived.

Then, last year, Google finally announced a proper turn-by-turn satnav upgrade for Maps, and last week it became available in the UK. It’s available for every version of Android phone from 1.6 up, which means owners of older models and not just recent phones can now get free satnav. The bad news is iPhone owners miss out, and we don’t yet know when or if that will change.

Google Maps Navigation impresses right from the offset. Installation is straightforward: just search for the update in the Android Market and you’ll be up and running in a matter of minutes.

Fire it up and it looks no different from standard Google Maps, which is a good thing. It’s as easy as before to browse the map for quick walking directions when you’re out and about, and the one-box search is just as simple.

The big difference comes when you perform a search and hit the Driving Directions icon. At this point, you’re given a choice: either Get directions, as before, or Navigate, at which point Google Maps Navigation fires up, calculates a route for you, pre-caches the maps along the route and changes to a 3D satnav view.

Google Maps Navigation

It’s a beautifully simple approach, and one that turns out to be Google Maps Navigation’s biggest strength. Finding points of interest, addresses or simply browsing to points on the map and then navigating to them is incredibly quick and easy, and you’ll be on your way a minute or two after jumping in the car. It’s fantastic for short journeys, where the speed of search and calculation really helps.

There’s also a voice search facility, but this is a little erratic and the success you’ll have with it depends on the quality of the pickup microphone in the phone you’re using.

The driving view is very effective. Unlike Nokia’s free OVI Maps, Google Maps Navigation doesn’t clutter the screen with unnecessary icons, keeping the screen clear and easy to see. As with the standard view, however, you can switch Layers on and off, such as satellite imagery and traffic, to add detail as required.

Details

Software subcategory Utilities

Operating system support

Operating system Windows Vista supported? no
Operating system Windows XP supported? no
Operating system Linux supported? no
Operating system Mac OS X supported? no
Other operating system support Android 1.6 or higher

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