Google Maps Navigation: Free and Easy

By Robert S. Anthony, PC World |  Personal Tech, Droid, Google

An impressive feature of Google's new Android 2.0 mobile device operating system is Google Maps Navigation, a that's not only free to use, but is fairly easy to learn as well.

The application is included with Motorola's new Droid handset for Verizon Wireless, introduced earlier this week as the first Android 2.0 device on the market.

Google Maps Nav's Extras

While driving directions via Google Maps has been available on many mobile devices for years, including Apple's iPhone and iPod devices, Google Maps Navigation raises the ante by adding spoken turn-by-turn direction, something available only with extra-cost additions to the iPhone. Google Maps Navigation makes good use of the almost bottomless text and image resources of Google's search database and takes advantage of user input to make changes to its maps as necessary.

Turn-by-turn navigation solutions for the iPhone include products live CoPilot Live for iPhone from ALK Technologies ($35) and TomTom International BV's TomTom app for the iPhone ($100). Both products include maps of the U.S. and Canada that are stored on the phone. Maps of other countries and regions are available, but at extra cost. Both offer customizable voices and detailed 2D and 3D maps with thousands of points of interest, access to weather, and traffic data; and provide the iPhone with clear information with large fonts for easy reading.

Instead of generic maps, however, Google Maps Navigation can lead you to your destination using real overhead and street-level photos. You can allow the application to overlay your route over a satellite view -- a feature not available in most standalone GPS devices.

As you get close you your destination, the navigation screen switches to Google's Street View, an interactive, street-level photograph complete with arrows. This view can be reassuring in cases where, for example, you're looking for a specific building number but can't see the sign from your car.

Testing the Maps

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