Home / News / Mobile Phone News / Android's Free Turn-by-Turn Navigation Hits UK

Android's Free Turn-by-Turn Navigation Hits UK

Gordon Kelly


Remarkably it has been almost six months since Maps Navigation was launched in the US, but now we Brits have finally gotten our... (wait for it)... turn.

Quietly launched to users last night via an OTA (over the air) update, all owners with handsets running Android v1.6 and above should now have access to the free service. This is the full fat version too, with vector and StreetView modes available, voice search and thousands of POIs (points of interest). There is also a car dock mode which displays a simplified homescreen with large finger friendly controls.

Why would Google give away technology which in itself has been enough to sustain multinational firms like TomTom and Garmin? Ads. Ultimately Google's business model is that of a slick ad delivery service and it needs to keep finding new and innovative ways to deliver these ads to users - the more context sensitive the better. Consequently bringing us free turn-by-turn navigation and POIs can in time be linked to sponsored searches for nearby restaurants, hotels and amenities. It's clever stuff.

Competition? Nokia responded by making Ovi Maps free in January, while the likes of TomTom are starting to licence out their more advance navigation features to third parties as seen recently with IQ Routes.

That said, the ubiquity of Google Maps and the seamless integration of Google Maps Navigation mean if I had shares in any satnav companies I'd be looking to ditch them asap...

Update: as many have pointed out, Google Maps Navigation gets around the issue of intermittent (or flakey) 3G coverage by caching an entire route once it has been planned. That way all you need is GPS reception. Clever.


Google Maps Naviation

Peter 20

April 21, 2010, 6:04 pm

"TomTom killer" Did you just honestly said that Gordon? I suggest you try navigating your way out the wireless network coverage your in and you'll see how quick the so called "Android Navigation" turns to useless crap. As far as I'm concerned unless people at google will come up with a feature that allows you to download or cash maps for when you're not connected to your wireless network all "Android Navigation" is is a gimmick.


April 21, 2010, 6:20 pm

Well I've just tried it out on the Nexus and am absolutely delighted - if you've got stock in TomTom or Garmin I'd be selling it quick ;)

Seriously - full turn by turn navigation with traffic and local information - for free - on the same device you carry around anyway to make phone calls .... what's not to like :)


April 21, 2010, 6:39 pm

The biggest flaw is of course the lack of stored maps and that you are therefore at the mercy of the 3G network. Also data costs abroad mean that a traditional sat nav, or Memory card based smartphone sat-nav (available only for WinMob it seems) is still required for that. I personally would also find a phone screen too small for everyday satnav use, but I think its great for people that only need satnav occasionally and would usually just print out google directions and then drive into a tree while trying to read the papers on the passenger seat. (I may have drifted off topic)


April 21, 2010, 6:40 pm

@Castalan - I totally agree. I found Google Maps to be smooth, even when i lost signal it continued working though signal outages were brief.

Tim Sutton

April 21, 2010, 7:00 pm

Wait, what? So if I buy myself a Desire I also get free turn by turn satnav? That's just.. awesome.

How does it perform outside of 3G areas?


April 21, 2010, 7:39 pm

On your phone Sat Nav for free is great, however you can be sure to receive an incoming call just when you least want one. That's why I stick with my TomTom

Martin Daler

April 21, 2010, 7:40 pm

@Malderon "Memory card based smartphone sat-nav (available only for WinMob it seems)"

I thought Ovi Maps also allowed map data downloads so that you could use the satnav without any data connection.


April 21, 2010, 7:41 pm

I have it on my Desire and it's pretty awesome. I do agree about the Maps being available offline, its the main feature Ovi Maps has over Google Maps.

Still though, for 99% of journeys, it will do a job and get you where you want to go.


April 21, 2010, 7:57 pm

Not just giving TomTom a run for their money but also iPhone OS too, no? I'm getting drawn closer and closer to Android with its flexibility, and upcoming phones like the Incredible and the Evo, but this is pretty damn cool too.


April 21, 2010, 9:10 pm

for those worried about 3g coverage try turning on the gps system in location menu and if someone can then come up with a car cradle bobs your uncle sat nav for free and i feel pretty sure google will keep developing it . i switched to android from iphone cos looking cool costs too much and apple seem to be trying too tie up developers in rules and regs


April 21, 2010, 10:01 pm

@Peter According to an interview on ZDNet the entire route is cached so the concerns about reception are unfounded. Also the abilty to pre-load reigonal maps will be available in the future (it is a Beta afterall). Tom Tom killer indeed!


April 21, 2010, 10:02 pm


I'm no expert, but I'd imagine this'll be on iPhones before the end of the Summer!

Martin Daler

April 21, 2010, 10:10 pm

@colin - not sure how switching on GPS is any cure for worries about 3g coverage - at least not until we get to download the map data direct from the GPS satellites?


April 21, 2010, 10:19 pm

Not seeing this on Vodafone Google branded Magic. But no surprise there Vodafone re *totally* indifferent to any upgrades blaming Google for delays.

Anyone seeing this update on Vodafone Desire? Not sure whether to jump ship for out of contract phones (T-Mobile?)?

Thomas C

April 21, 2010, 10:37 pm

You only need a mobile signal when you are planning your journey. After that it is stored. As from Pc Pro article.

""Google Maps pre-caches the entire route," said Mobile Maps product manager, Steve Lee. "It needs a data connection when you ask for navigation. But while driving to your destination, if you intermittently lose the connection, it will still carry on. As long as you stay on the route.""


April 22, 2010, 12:51 am

Oh My God - I just discovered it will navigate using the google street view images if they are available along your route with the route arrows overlaid - this is just plain awesome.

If google have any sense they won't be putting this app out there on the iphone - it's really just that good :)


April 22, 2010, 1:49 am

Just tried it and it seems to work ok. I'll give it a try on the bus into work tomorrow to see what the re-routing is like. A nice free perk of the phone though :)


April 22, 2010, 3:34 am

Working great on my Desire. The performance is very smooth and it does the job. Hasn't got some of the extra information that you get with the TomTom UI but for it's more than good for free.

Google should keep it Android only. It's definitely a selling point.


April 22, 2010, 1:20 pm

Tried it on my way in this morning. It's good, but not flawless, as expected for a beta. It would have had be go up a culdesac and perform a u-turn at one point, but don't all satnavs trip up and do that occasionally?

Peter, do you really mean that???

As far as putting this on the iphone is concerned, I don't think the marketing bods at Google are bothered about the superiority of the Android OS. As far as they are concerned, they just want their ads appearing on as many phones as possible, and as there are, currently, far more iphones than Android phones, they will want the navigation on those devices too.


April 22, 2010, 2:38 pm

"As far as they are concerned, they just want their ads appearing on as many phones as possible, and as there are, currently, far more iphones than Android phones, they will want the navigation on those devices too."

But the more Android phones, the more android apps, which i bet all the free ad supported ones share revenue with google?


April 24, 2010, 12:22 pm

Google have now confirmed they have no plans to bring Google Navigation to the iPhone causing my wife to ask how long she has left on her contract so she can swap to an android phone.

I love competition - come on Apple you need to up your game


June 1, 2010, 7:18 pm

Thomas C said it..."As long as you stay on the route". That's the point, as far as I'm concerned. I often stray from the recommended route, sometimes through stupidity but often deliberately. Until I can download maps so that re-routing without network coverage, I'll stick with TomTom.

Unlike Malderon, I have no problem with a 3" screen for my main navigation device, so I'll stick with my WM7 phone and TT Nav 7 until donwloadable maps are available.


July 16, 2010, 5:39 pm

@Malderon "Memory card based smartphone sat-nav (available only for WinMob it seems)"

Copilot is also available for Android. It's not free (but only £27 UK) and the maps are stored on the phone sd card so no 3G connection is required.

I use both Copilot and google nav on my HTC Hero (with a car cradle) and at a the moment I prefer Copilot but give google another year!

comments powered by Disqus