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Gadgets & Home Improvement

Google Maps navigation now available

Voice-guided, turn-by-turn app free for download on Android phones.
The Straits Times - November 13, 2012
By: Seow Tein Hee And Tan Chong Yaw
| More
Google Maps navigation now available

STARTING today, Google Android phone owners can use free voice-guided, turn-by-turn navigation on Google Maps.

The beta app can be downloaded from the Google Play Store for devices using Google Android version 2.2 and above.

The service was initially introduced only in the United States in November 2009. A Google spokesman said exclusively to The Straits Times that the company took three years to launch the service here as it had to improve and bolster local content.

Mr Michael Tan, 43, an early user of personal navigation devices (PND), is elated that the service is now officially available. He feels that the Google Maps service integrated with navigation features is much more accurate in locating points of interest and providing travel times than PNDs.

"Google Maps is great because it is constantly updated, unlike my old Garmin device, which requires me to remove the SD card to update the maps," said the IT company director.

The app can be faster and more accurate than a PND. It determines location by using signals from cellphone towers and Wi-Fi points, in addition to the GPS satellite signals used by PNDs.

The Google app also has a more powerful search engine that scans the Internet.

Despite the advantages offered by Google and its free software, electronics chain store Challenger noted that although sales for PNDs have not been growing, they have remained stable.

"Even with the free app from Google, we do not foresee any drastic change in PND sales," said Mr Ben Tan, Challenger's chief operating officer, adding that the dedicated navigation device still has a few advantages.

While a PND uses maps stored inside the device, the Google app cannot work without a steady Internet connection as map and navigation data are not found in the phone but are downloaded on the fly to provide a result.

The drain on a smartphone's battery is a concern. The screen needs to be lit up to display the map, the speakers must be active to play the voice prompts and the phone must run the app continuously during a route.

Mr Matthew Chua, director of Eastgear, which is one of the top PND distributors in Singapore, said that many PND users have their device mounted permanently on the windscreen and powered by the car.

"It powers up with the car and shuts down when the car's engine is turned off," said Mr Chua.

"There's no fussing with mounting the device or worrying about battery life," he added.


Switching to the Android camp