Google Navigation: Free Garmin Replacement

Best Android Apps Book

Note: I’ve coauthored a book on Best Android Apps. I’m running this post simultaneously on my support blog for the book and at O’Reilly’s Answers site.

Last night, I needed my Garmin to get somewhere important, but when I reached for it in the glove box, I remembered I’d loaned it out to the other car in our family and hadn’t gotten it back yet. What to do?

No Garmin in the glove box, but I did have my G1 on me, and the directions on Google Maps had saved me on numerous occasions, so I fired it up and plugged in my destination:

Google Navigation

That Navigate option was new to me. I’d remembered hearing about Google Navigation coming to phones running versions of Android below 2.0 (my G1 is running Android 1.6, but note that Navigation is still not available for my Motorola Cliq, which is still back on Android 1.5), but I hadn’t had the chance to look into it yet. So, here was my chance. I pressed Navigate …

Google NavigationTurns out I wasn’t quite ready to roll yet, because Navigation required an additional (free) text-to-speech download to work. The download process was a little buggy, which forced me to install it a couple times, but I after I closed Maps and started back up again it seemed to work. I pressed Navigate again …

Here’s what my new turn-by-turn directions and route map now looked with Google Navigation turned on:

Google NavigationGoogle Navigation

Ready to get driving, I switched over to the turn-by-turn map screen, but I could have used Street View if I’d wanted (it’s neat to look at but not as usable for actually driving, especially since I actually had a real-time street view right in front of me):

Google Navigation Google Navigation

I also could have turned on a selection of layers to show gas stations, banks, traffic, and parking along my route:

Google Navigation Google Navigation

All of these bells and whistles are great, interesting, and good fun, but for my phone to actually serve as a viable replacement for my Gamin GPS, it would need to speak to me, telling me when to turn. Well, it does, and in my experience, it worked just as well as my Garmin, and all for free. If you’re looking to buy a GPS unit for your car but already have a phone running Android 1.6 or higher, at least give Google Navigation a try first. You might just save yourself a few hundred dollars.

But what does Google Navigation Lady sound like? Take a listen: