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Google Builds Free Turn-by-Turn Navigation Into Android

Gordon Kelly


I think we can believe this one...

Following the disappointing news that the Chrome OS beta was ultimately nothing more than a fanboy fake, Google has at least placated us with hugely significant news for Android: it's getting free turn-by-turn GPS navigation.

The move, which is likely to make the likes of TomTom and Garmin even more of an endangered species than they already are, sees its debut in Android 2.0. It will also debut in Google Maps for Mobile which means users of non-Android handsets may suddenly find the concept of paying £150 for the iPhone TomTom app and mount even more ridiculous than it already is.

From launch Google Maps Navigation will have support for plain English searches, voice searches, traffic views, satellite and Street Views. It also has a Car dock mode, which suddenly explains the Android Car Mode homescreen we saw previously. Of course Google isn't the first company to go down this route this Nokia Maps has been around for some considerable time and is already very popular with its customers.

Will other handset makers dare to integrate such a solution into their native Google Maps services or stick by their dedicated cash cow apps? It'll be interesting to see the fallout from this one. My tip: the first Android powered GPS devices within six months...

In related news Google has also brought its ‘Powermeter' energy monitoring software to the UK. The service is already available in the US and is designed to make us aware of the electricity we use and consequently help us lower our monthly bills.


Google Maps Navigation

Google Powermeter

notbenjamin 1

October 29, 2009, 2:51 pm

"Plan english?"

I like the sound of this! Makes me even more desperate for the motorola Droid now!


October 29, 2009, 3:02 pm


the first Android powered GPS devices within six months...


I was under the impression Google's Navigation needs a data connection?


October 29, 2009, 3:31 pm

@drdark ya might be.. infact all AGPS chip need that..(Am I wrong?) So there should be one sim slot too(in that unit)


October 29, 2009, 4:33 pm

Hmmm.... while this is clearly a big change for the sat nav industry I'm not entirely convinced it's the disaster that everyone's making it out to be. Google Maps needs a data connection, if you drop that connection then you've only got the cached data for the route. Go off that and you're blind. What it hopefully will do is force TomTom, Garmin et al to really think about what they're offering. TomTom's IQ routing data is a good example of value add for this but they need MUCH more. Include the current LIVE functionality for TomTom as a free service would be another great example.

Also, I really think we need to be a bit concerned with Google's power to utterly destabalise a market. Look at what happened to the share price of all Sat Nav companies yesterday when this was announced. Google may do many good services and make them free but they're not the final word in their respective fields and if its entry into a particular market makes it impossible for specalists to compete we will eventually end up in a position of no competition, precious little innovation and suddenly all those 'free' apps may magically get a price tag attached. By all means shake up established manufacturers but if they can kill competition then that's a problem.

Peter 20

October 29, 2009, 4:54 pm

Am I the only one to think that a GPS device that needs a constant connection to some kind of Data service is not a GPS device at all? If I travel to another country and my cell phone provider does not offer data plan across the nations (or at least not for a reasonable price) the so called GPS becomes a paper weight. The right move for google would be to come up with a navigation app that allows downloading or some kinna cashing of the map data for entire countries at a time so that you can go off the network and still be able to use your GPS for navigation. Well that's just my view.


October 29, 2009, 5:13 pm

Can someone PLEASE clarify if android 2.0 will only be for new handsets or not??


October 29, 2009, 5:48 pm


It's not hard to envisage a google-maps powered device which, upon loss of data connection, simply reverts back to normal garmin/tomotom/whatever functionality.


October 29, 2009, 5:51 pm



The clue is in the name - A-GPS is Assisted GPS. The data connection is used to assist the GPS unit - if you don't have a network connection then it should still work (my N95 8GB certainly does). Refer to http://en.wikipedia.org/wik....

Google Maps do require a data plan (otherwise expensive) as, unlike with Nokia Maps, there is no facility to download the maps for a country / region.

Having said that - I prefer Google Maps, but use Nokia Maps when there's no network connection.


October 29, 2009, 6:15 pm

HTC have already announced that they're working on an Anrdroid 2.0 update for the Hero. Can't wait to try this out. The reliacnce on a data connection is annoying but then it is free. The voice search demo in the video was very impressive.


October 29, 2009, 6:40 pm

@Kaurisol: Indeed you are correct on the AGPS front. And as a further comparison, my E71 around 1 minute to get a fix with assistance turned on, and around 5-7 without, which is about the average.

@BOFH_UK: As far as I know, Google's Traffic data only currently works in the US, so I'm not sure how good it is in terms of accuracy and regular updates, but if it's as well implemented as the video shows then it'll actually be better than IQ routes, as you're basically talking: Memory of previous Traffic (IQ) VS Live Traffic

@Williamn: I don't think anyone knows yet for sure, but give it about a week. There seems to be a lot of Android news coming... (Search YouTube for Acer Liquid, I have a feeling that'll ship with 2.0 too but be cheaper than the Droid)


October 29, 2009, 6:43 pm

@Williamn Android 2.0 should come to most Android models, though unlike iPhone updates that will be up to each individual network to decide.


October 29, 2009, 7:12 pm

What is the point of the data has to be streamed? There are areas in the UK with no mobile phone signals, much less HSDPA coverage...

"It's not hard to envisage a google-maps powered device which, upon loss of data connection, simply reverts back to normal garmin/tomotom/whatever functionality."

What is the point then? You may as well just use Garmin/TomTom the whole time if you have it installed on the device already. You'll save on data connection at the very least.


October 29, 2009, 7:13 pm

hmm... does Apple's license cover this?

Tim Sutton

October 29, 2009, 8:09 pm

Wow. Completely free, huh? Thankfully this doesn't make the 7/10 value mark given to the iPhone TomTom app look even sillier. At all :-)

I absolutely agree with all the worries over network coverage posted above. Devon has enough Lithuanian lorry drivers getting stuck under bridges due to sat nav errors already. If they're going to be relying on non-existent HSDPA for directions as well then they'll all end up lost in my garden.


October 29, 2009, 8:43 pm

@xbrumster: cover what?


October 29, 2009, 8:47 pm


What do you mean, what's the point? The point is that in cities and most other places, you'll have all the glory of google behind you. But when you head up into NW scotland for a jolly with your tent, you'll still be able to find your way.


October 29, 2009, 9:20 pm

As long as it relies on a data connection it's a backup / occasional use offering at best, since you couldn't rely on it, but hey it's free. I'd rather have it than not and it looks far more capable than any competition in the FREE satnav sector...


October 29, 2009, 9:28 pm

"What do you mean, what's the point? The point is that in cities and most other places, you'll have all the glory of google behind you. But when you head up into NW scotland for a jolly with your tent, you'll still be able to find your way."

The point made by people are it is free, and people would stop buying TomToms and Garmins all together. If Google Maps is free (it isn't because data stream via HSDPA won't be free), then what is the point of buying third party navigations or dedicated satnav any longer?


October 29, 2009, 9:59 pm


OK, I'm confused as to what you're trying to argue for now. I was simply saying that it would be nice if, upon loss of data connection, the google software started using a built in map, like the usual satnavs do and have done for years. That way it doesn't matter if you loose data connection every so often.


October 30, 2009, 12:49 am

@drdark, as the title reads: google is building free turn-by-turn nav for android, i'm just wondering if we would see this being available to iphone os as well... remember long time ago Apple mentioned they are not licensed to use google maps for sat-nav purpose. And this comes from google themselves, so i assume any phone with google maps should be able to use this function.


October 30, 2009, 12:51 am

ah, read the artilce again. here we go, now i can wait patiently for it to come on to iphone in ... 2010?

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