Google Releases Free Turn-by-Turn Navigation App

Apple's iPhone will hit stores shelves on June 29, 2007. Courtesy of Apple

Google takes a lot of flack for getting involved in so many different aspects of our daily life, but frankly it seems like this should have happened sooner. Google announced a new phone app, called Google Maps Navigation, that provides turn-by-turn navigation with Google Maps street view, voice controls and constantly updated traffic data. Oh, and did I mention the price? It’s free.

You’ve got to love the classic Google pricing model, which should also cause a little anger among competing app developers. There are similar navigation apps out there for your phone, but none approach this level of features without charging $50 per year or more (in the iTunes App Store, for instance).

So what has Google Maps Navigation got to offer? There are a lot of features common in dedicated GPS navigation devices, like the touch-screen interface, updating maps, traffic data, address search and turn-by-turn directions. But the Google Maps Navigation app adds even more functionality by making everything searchable by voice. No more fumbling at the screen while you drive. It also uses the Google search engine so you don’t even need to give an address; you can just say the name or even what kind of place you’re searching for.

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Maps and traffic data are updated constantly and automatically, and the traffic data could potentially become even more accurate than that found in current GPS units because it uses government road authority data and the data from other phones using Google Map Navigation. Google can track your speed and location and use that to extrapolate data about what kind of traffic you’re in. The more people that use it, the more accurate it will become.

Potentially the biggest advantage of Google’s app is that it can use satellite and street view images from Google maps. Instead of just seeing a brightly colored map of lines representing roads, Google Map Navigation can load the images of where you are and overlay the direction arrows onto it. That means you can see the map exactly as you’re seeing the road in front of you and recognize landmarks and roads quicker. Of course, this could raise occasional problems where the Google Street View images are out of date, but on the whole it will be a vast improvement to turn-by-turn navigation.

And that’s probably the point. Google is showing, along with other navigation apps for phones, that dedicated GPS devices are already obsolete. Phones can perform the same functions without the need of a separate device.

Of course, despite the level of innovation, you’ll probably still be using separate GPS navigators for a while longer. The Google Maps Navigation app is only available for Android 2.0 phones at the moment. That means the only phone that can use it, the Motorola Droid, isn’t even out yet. However, more Android 2.0 devices will be coming next year, and Google has plans to bring the app to other types of phones. Some sites report Google might be working with Apple to bring the app to the iPhone, but that doesn’t make a lot of sense because offering such a useful app for free would undercut all the revenue Apple receives from the other navigation apps. If it is ported to iPhone, you can probably expect it to cost a dollar or two.

This article was provided by TopTenREVIEWS.