Review from Edmunds, who have road tested Google’s free navigation application for the Android platform:
We tested the Droid over the course of about a month while driving around LA and Portland, Oregon, and were impressed with the app’s accurate voice recognition. The Street View feature makes finding a destination easier once you arrive, and the app also offers the ability to overlay Wikipedia entries on a map to get more information about Points of Interest and incoporates Google’s Latitude “friend finder.”
But we were disappointed that the Google Maps Navigation app didn’t have such basic nav features as lane guidance and the ability to choose a route based on the shortest or fastest method. And though Street View gives you a clear picture of your surroundings, the app’s map screen is generic. Like most phone nav apps, the icons for panning in and out are too small, and we found that the voice guidance for turn-by-turn directions sounded very robotic and was hard to understand.
The apps map data resides “in the clouds” instead of on the phone, which means it’s constantly updated, but also that if you lose a cell signal you lose guidance. But our biggest gripe with the Google nav app was that the map would often inexplicably shift while we were on route, and we had to go through a frustrating panning in and out process to find our position on the map. That never happened with the other apps we’ve tested.
Like most phone nav apps, Google Maps Navigation (Beta) will be frequently updated. Portable nav systems also have the ability to refresh maps and software on a regular basis, but for OEM in-dash systems, not so much.
In an ideal world, a nav system for the car would be portable, easy to update, have a large screen and free. But we’ll have to wait until Google figures out a way integrate a phone-based app into a vehicle. Unless Apple, which already has plans on the drawing board and at a patent filed, beats them to the punch. Until then, road warriors have plenty of nav weapons to choose from. And the arsenal keeps growing — and moving towards free.