Google brings Android turn-by-turn sat-nav to UK

Summary:The UK gets free navigation six months after the US, with the delay partly due to roundabouts, but Google is circumspect about taking on Nokia with preloaded maps

Google has rolled out free turn-by-turn satellite navigation for some Android users in the UK and Ireland, six months after it did so for its US customers.

The new functionality was deployed in beta form on Wednesday. Google Maps Navigation can show traffic conditions and satellite or street views, and works with voice commands. It will work on any handset running version 1.6 or higher of the Android OS.

Speaking at a London launch event, Google mobile maps chief Steve Lee said Maps Navigation provided an "immersive 3D mapping experience".

Lee attributed the staggering of the US and UK releases to "a number of issues that came up during development", such as business and technical issues. He said one factor that had necessitated the later UK release was the relative popularity of roundabouts in road layouts.

When the user defines a route for navigation, the service precaches the entire route, so it will not be affected by the intermittent dropping-out of data connectivity that usually comes with constant motion, Lee said.

Handset giant Nokia freed up its own Ovi Maps service in January, after the US launch of Google Maps Navigation. The Nokia service lets users preload entire regional maps so they can avoid heavy roaming data charges when travelling.

Lee said while Google was evaluating the possibility of letting users preload regional maps, "what is really important is keeping the experience really simple for users".

"We don't think mainstream users will sideload [regional maps]," Lee said.

He added, however, that another feature of the new Ovi Maps — navigation for cyclists — would come out on Google Maps Navigation soon.

One question is how the service will cope with the UK's varied regional accents with voice commands. Google spokeswoman Laura Scott conceded that "if someone has a really strong accent, it's going to be a bit more tricky" for Maps Navigation to correctly understand the user.

Topics: Mobility

About

David Meyer is a freelance technology journalist. He fell into journalism when he realised his musical career wouldn't be paying many bills. His early journalistic career was spent in general news, working behind the scenes for BBC radio and on-air as a newsreader for independent stations. David's main focus is on communications, of both... Full Bio

Kick off your day with ZDNet's daily email newsletter. It's the freshest tech news and opinion, served hot. Get it.

Related Stories

The best of ZDNet, delivered

You have been successfully signed up. To sign up for more newsletters or to manage your account, visit the Newsletter Subscription Center.
Subscription failed.