Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Google Maps Navigation, First Impressions

So I've had a couple days to play with Google Maps Navigation now, and I have to say...I'm pretty impressed. It's not perfect, and for some situations, it still can't replace a stand-alone GPS unit, but for the vast majority of situations, it will work incredibly well.

Other sites have done great and extensive reviews, and I don't want to simply echo everything they said, so I'll keep this short and just give my impressions.

You must be connected for the maps to truly work. Maps and directions are cached on your device for long trips, so if you drive through an area of no signal, it will still work, but if you stray from your path, you're out of luck without a data connection.

Voice guidance is very good and easy to understand. The voice does sound fairly robotic, but most GPS units do. It does tend to babble on sometimes, especially with long road names or frequent turns, but that's not too bad.

The maps auto-zoom depending on your speed. This is one of those "duh!" features that I'm surprised every single GPS unit doesn't have. As you drive, when you're going fast on the highway, the map zooms out to show you an extended view of what's up ahead. But when you slow down at an intersection, the map zooms back in to show you closer details.

Satellite overlay makes it look like you're flying. It's not as helpful as having the maps up, but it's so cool and I could see it being really great in an area you're unfamiliar with.

Traffic data seems to be pretty accurate and is all summed up with a simple red, yellow, green light in the bottom left. Tap it and it brings up details of your route ahead. Remember, Google generates their traffic data live, so it should be more accurate than other traffic services.

The display in general is easy to understand and fairly intuitive. I wish it were slightly more customizable (displaying time of arrival, instead of minutes until arrival, for example) and a night mode would be nice. But these are very minor complaints that could easily be fixed with a simple update down the road.

So overall, I really like it and could easily see myself using it instead of my regular GPS unit (which I'm actually considering selling). Even on the memory-strapped G1, the Navigation doesn't hog resources and I can even listen to music in the background while navigation is running. It works very well. I can't wait to see how much better it gets down the road (pun very much intended).

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