Google Maps Navigation (Beta) hits Australia

Woohoo, finally your shiny Android powered device can be used as a GPS Navigation aid in Australia. As of this morning (17th November 2010), Google have turned on this feature that was previously enabled for the USA and UK. Now when you are using Google Maps and try to get directions, you get a choice of Driving Navigation, Walking Navigation or Directions (same as before).

So the downside is you’ll need a constant internet connection. But the upsides are huge!

  • Maps are always up to date
  • It’s free (apart from data costs obviously)
  • you most likely have your phone on you at all times, unlike a dedicated GPS device
  • You can search Google Maps data and use that to find what you’re after (e.g. if you’re out and about and looking for a service station, toy store etc).
  • Live traffic data overlay can help you determine which way to goI tested this out this morning (in Canberra).

So I gave it a test this morning on the way to work – here’s what I found:

  • It re-routes on the fly pretty quickly (I drove a different way on purpose to test this out).
  • The street names are spoken – OK pronounciation might have been a little off, but these are Australian street names like ‘Murranji’ :-)
  • If you’re playing an MP3 the music is muted when the next spoken direction comes along – pretty cool
  • You can run it in the background and the spoken directions will chime in as needed

I couldn’t test the live traffic layer because for reasons beyond my comprehension that isn’t available in Canberra yet (population approx. 320,000 – 350,000) even though it is in places like Wollongong (population approx. 180,000 – 200,000)! But I digress…

Overall this seems like a pretty handy feature – especially for occasional use. Personally I have never really had the need to get a dedicated GPS navigation device because I usually know where I’m going 😉 But having this available next time I’m travelling somewhere different will be tops.

Have you tried it yet? How have you found it?