Google recently released free turn-by-turn navigation for Android 1.6 and higher. I figured the trip up to my parents’ house for Thanksgiving was a good time to give it a good test run.
Visually, the application is among the highest in quality (Not surprising). Upon first look, it’s nearly indistinguishable from standalone GPS devices.
Screenshot by Google
Overall use was easy. Just enter your destination, hit navigate and you’re ready to go. There are also layers you can add for satellite imagery and points of interest among others. GPS tracking was speedy with very little delay between the marker and my actual destination.
I chose to test this on a route I know very well. Springfield to KC is a trip I have made far too many times that I know it almost perfectly. At a few points, it wanted me to take roads that I would not normally take, nor understood why it would be advantageous to take them. Looking at desktop Google Maps afterwards makes me think that the mobile version will choose a route that has the least distance, not necessarily the fastest route. However, this was better than the experience I had with Telenav, which had me take gravel roads instead of more accessible and faster state routes/highways.
A couple times, the application freaked out, for lack of better term, once for Google’s map not being quite up to date. The other time was more cryptic as to why it happened. It just started “rerouting” for no apparent reason and continued that for a couple miles.
Power consumption was also a welcome relief from Telenav. Using Telenav, I had to shut off the application because it would drain my battery while plugged into the car charger. I was pleasantly surprised that Google Nav continued to charge my phone and stayed at full charge the rest of the way.
One thing that needs to be added is a nighttime display function. Using the app at night was slightly distracting with my eyes having to adjust to the brightness looking from road to my phone.
Google Navigation is a welcome update to the Maps application. It is obviously not perfect yet, but even with hiccups I had, it is by far the best GPS navigation I have used for Android. The real trick is driving smart and not following the route blindly, no matter what GPS device you have.