By Chris Scott Barr
Just yesterday I was commending Google for something as seemingly trivial as changing the way we check our voicemail. Today there is something far more significant coming from the company. As if we needed another reason not to spend a fortune on TomTom’s iPhone app and kit, Google has announced their new navigation software called Google Maps Navigation.
Imagine having traditional turn-by-turn navigation GPS functionality combined with Google Maps. That is essentially what you will be getting with Google Maps Navigation. This means not only will you have things like voice guidance and automatic rerouting, but a host of other awesome features. Hit the jump for seven that Google seemed most proud of.
The most recent map and business data
When you use Google Maps Navigation, your phone automatically gets the most up-to-date maps and business listings from Google Maps — you never need to buy map upgrades or update your device. And this data is continuously improving, thanks to users who report maps issues and businesses who activate their listings with Google Local Business Center.
Search in plain English
Google Maps Navigation brings the speed, power and simplicity of Google search to your car. If you don’t know the address you’re looking for, don’t worry. Simply enter the name of a business, a landmark or just about anything into the search box, and Google will find it for you. Then press “Navigate”, and you’re on your way.
Search by voice
Typing on a phone can be difficult, especially in the car, so with Google Maps Navigation, you can say your destination instead. Hold down the search button to activate voice search, then tell your phone what you want to do (like “Navigate to Pike Place in Seattle”), and navigation will start automatically.
Google Maps Navigation gets live traffic data over the Internet. A traffic indicator light in the corner of the screen glows green, yellow or red, depending on the current traffic conditions along your route. If there’s a jam ahead of you, you’ll know. To get more details, tap the light to zoom out to an aerial view showing traffic speeds and incidents ahead. And if the traffic doesn’t look good, you can choose an alternate route.
Search along route
For those times when you’re already on the road and need to find a business, Google Maps Navigation searches along your route to give you results that won’t take you far from your path. You can search for a specific business by name or by type, or you can turn on popular layers, such as gas stations, restaurants or parking.
Google Maps Navigation uses the same satellite imagery as Google Maps on the desktop to help you get to your destination. Turn on the satellite layer for a high-resolution, 3D view of your upcoming route. Besides looking cool, satellite view can help you make sense of complicated maneuvers.
If you want to know what your next turn looks like, double-tap the map to zoom into Street View, which shows the turn as you’ll see it, with your route overlaid. And since locating an address can sometimes be tricky, we’ll show you a picture of your destination as you approach the end of your route, so you’ll know exactly what to look for.
When it comes to Google, you rarely need to ask what the cost is. Like with so many of their other offerings, this one is also free. Unfortunately also like so many things Google produces, it is currently in beta. It will first appear on Android 2.0 phones, followed later by the iPhone and possibly other hardware. Something tells me that today isn’t a good day to be working at TomTom (or any other GPS maker).