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Google enables Android Turn-by-Turn Sat Nav for UK users

Google enables Android Turn-by-Turn Sat Nav for UK users

The Navigation feature of Google Maps on Android enables a fully-featured satellite navigation system for drivers.

Google has given UK Android users a pleasant surprise by enabling the turn-by-turn Navigation function in Google Maps.

While US users have been enjoying sat-nav style turn-by-turn directions - complete with a forwards-facing '3D' perspective and voice directions - for quite some time, it has previously not been available outside the US. This latest update - which is server-side, so doesn't require a new version of the client to be loaded onto handsets - finally brings the function to the UK, albeit in beta form.

While it's now enabled across the UK. the feature isn't yet live for the rest of Europe - although that will surely follow soon. Strangely for Google, the extension of the Navigation beta to cover the UK was carried out with little fanfare, with eagle-eyed HTC Desire users on the XDA Developer forums spotting the change and breaking the news last week.

The move will come as a worry to satellite navigation manufacturers such as TomTom and Garmin, as the availability of a completely free package which integrates into an already existing handset is obviously more tempting than spending not inconsiderable amounts of money on a dedicated device - especially if you need map updates in the future.

Google Maps on Android isn't likely to replace dedicated devices in the short term, however: because maps and directions are streamed to the device rather than stored locally, the service won't work if you're in the middle of nowhere and can't get a data signal on your phone - precisely the sort of situation in which you need a sat-nav most. Users on per-megabyte billing for Internet access should also steer clear of the feature, unless they want to be saddled with a mountainous bill.

The Navigation-enabled version of Google Maps is available now to all devices running Android 1.6 or above - although the dedicated 'car dock' user interface is only available to Android 2.0+ handsets. More information - plus screenshots for those who haven't yet decided to splash out on an Android handset - is available over at the official Google Navigation site.

Any Android users here planning on ditching their sat-nav systems now Google Maps Navigation is live, or are there features that still need to be improved before Google take the beta tag off the system? Share your thoughts over in the forums.

18 Comments

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Baz 28th April 2010, 15:35 Quote
Shame Hero owners have to wait until JUNE for this though :(
Sifter3000 28th April 2010, 15:38 Quote
Quote:
Originally Posted by Baz
Shame Hero owners have to wait until JUNE for this though :(

Sucks to be you, although you on holiday :p
EvilMerc 28th April 2010, 15:39 Quote
I'm loving these free sat nav apps. Ovi Maps on my Nokia 5800 rocks and it works just as well as any dedicated sat nav.
LJF 28th April 2010, 15:50 Quote
Quote:
Google Maps on Android isn't likely to replace dedicated devices in the short term, however: because maps and directions are streamed to the device rather than stored locally, the service won't work if you're in the middle of nowhere and can't get a data signal on your phone - precisely the sort of situation in which you need a sat-nav most.

Though I haven't thoroughly tested it myself, i've read that Navigation downloads the necessary data for your route to local storage when you set it. (Apparently) It only needs to download extra data if you stray from the set route.

Just while sat here at my desk (without a GPS connection) I plotted a local route. When scrolling along the route it only appears to download data when bringing up local street names. The map itself appears to be drawn differently to standard Google Maps and doesnt have the same level of detail suggesting it might be local.

Anyone else got any more of an idea about it?
msm722 28th April 2010, 16:03 Quote
It's a shame it has to download the maps/image as you go.
samkiller42 28th April 2010, 17:07 Quote
Wow, your only a week late on this news. TR announced this on the 21st

Sam
l3v1ck 28th April 2010, 17:10 Quote
Sweet! I now have sat nav!
l3v1ck 28th April 2010, 17:17 Quote
Or at least I would if my Desire could find a satellite :(
LJF 28th April 2010, 17:28 Quote
Quote:
Originally Posted by msm722
It's a shame it has to download the maps/image as you go.

... what did I just say?
Quote:
Originally Posted by l3v1ck
Or at least I would if my Desire could find a satellite :(

You aren't stood indoors are you?! :D
Combatus 28th April 2010, 17:40 Quote
It's great for short trips but even if you remember to charge your battery before you go on a longer trip, your phone will still be dead in a couple of hours as the GPS and A-GPS network triangulation take a heavy toll on the battery. I've got in the habit of using a portable battery pack in the car for my iPhone + CoPilot which keeps it going for about 12 hrs of navigation, but if you already have a dedicated sat nav unit, it's far from redundant imho.
Eccles 28th April 2010, 19:30 Quote
Hopefully the voices will be sorted out at some point as the TTS it uses on the Desire is rubbish and quite often it's too garbled to understand. Apart from that it seems to work well.
human_error 28th April 2010, 19:34 Quote
I've been using google navigation since it was enabled last week and before that i was using brutal's hacked verion of google navigation for use in the UK.

The data usage for maps is as follows - when you plot a map initially it stores the basic map data for the entire route, and about 100 foot of the roads along your route in case you make a small mistake. If you need to significantly re-plot, have sattelite view enabled (instead of the map view you get the google earth sattelite images as your map), if you want to see street view images of where you are and where you are going or if you have the traffic info up then navigation will need a data connection to enable those features (the sattelite image view is great to drive with, but eats bandwidth and needs a constant connection else you get low-res images or just the plain road map if you don't have any data bandwidth available.

I love google navigation - ever since i started using it my old tom tom pda kit has been sitting idle - nothing beats having fully up-to-date maps with the option to do a voice search for things you need on the way - low on petrol, ask it to display gas stations and it will show you all the petrol stations near you, with the option to get info such as phone numbers and user reviews with a couple of clicks.

As for battery life yeah it drains your battery fast, but if you are using it in a car why the hell would you not have it plugged into a car charger anyway? Even before google navigation i plugged my phone into the car charger just to keep the battery topped up.
TWeaK 28th April 2010, 21:20 Quote
Quote:
Originally Posted by Combatus
It's great for short trips but even if you remember to charge your battery before you go on a longer trip, your phone will still be dead in a couple of hours as the GPS and A-GPS network triangulation take a heavy toll on the battery. I've got in the habit of using a portable battery pack in the car for my iPhone + CoPilot which keeps it going for about 12 hrs of navigation, but if you already have a dedicated sat nav unit, it's far from redundant imho.

.... or you could just plug your phone into the cigarette lighter socket - just like the satnav, for that matter. Also if you need directions while you're on foot chances are you don't want to carry around a portable satnav, but you'll more than likely have your phone.

I've been using Ovimaps for yonks. A while back my N95 had free maps for a good while, and you downloaded the map files as well so you were sorted even if there wasn't a data connection. Lost that with the N97, but they made it free for all a few months back. It always used to come up with different routes than Googlemaps, though, and I tended to think that GM gave a better route - you just have to read it like a map if you haven't got an Android. Still, they both get you where you want to go.
l3v1ck 28th April 2010, 23:59 Quote
Quote:
Originally Posted by LJF
You aren't stood indoors are you?! :D
Technically yes, but I was right next to a big window so it should have picked up something.
I'll give it another test outside tomorrow.
Crunch77 29th April 2010, 09:42 Quote
Shame that it is not enabled in Scandinavia yet, just as paid apps aren't.
Would certainly be nice with an option to pre-download data for an area/county/country, especially when going abroad.
tonyd223 29th April 2010, 09:55 Quote
got my desire just as satnav in car packs in...
humdrumian_monkey 29th April 2010, 12:25 Quote
About time someone released free sat nav software
Denis_iii 30th April 2010, 12:59 Quote
any recomendations for a car mount that will support most HTC android devices?
I will def pick one up now, probabaly the incredible when its avilaable in the UK if ever else will be desire or legend
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