One of the main reasons for choosing an Android smartphone is all the extra Google loveliness that comes in tow. Things like a better Gmail client, decent YouTube player and better integrated Google connectivity all enrich the Android experience. 

One of the main things that Android users often overlook is the dedicated navigation app, which unlike normal Google maps, provides turn by turn directions satnav style. It is useful, accurate and a surprisingly small strain on the battery.

Google Maps with Navigation



Android Market

Google Maps Navigation comes preloaded on just about every Android smartphone out there. Anything with the Google Maps app will have the separate navigation app, which looks like a small blue arrow. Once you tap the app you might be prompted to download text to speech software; you will want to do this if you want Navigation to be able to give you voice commands.

Prior to actually using the app we suggest enabling GPS if your phone has it, it will make the accuracy of the app and your location a lot better. Once you do fire things up, Navigation is very easy to use. It behaves like a conventional satnav, so you just enter whatever address you are after and the app will get you there.

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Being able to vocalise your destination is pretty handy and works surprisingly well. Provided you speak clearly it will usually get things right. You can also type in a destination, navigate by contact or go to starred places, which act like favourite locations you have saved. 

Settings include options to avoid main roads or tolls. The former is particularly useful for cyclists, who can keep a headphone in and use navigation to get them to places, whilst avoiding any unpleasant, busy roads.

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The actual mapping itself is very much like normal Google maps, albeit with a slightly slicker and less detailed map. It moves faster and follows where you are going turn by turn. You can, if you so choose, simply opt to use a directional arrow with distance countdown and time estimate. Otherwise the map will follow your location in a sort of third person view, tracking your movements and helping to give you an idea of where you are in your journey.

Layers from Google Maps are there, including traffic, a satellite view, parking, petrol stations, ATMs and banks and finally restaurants. The traffic is obviously very useful and would usually only be found on more expensive dedicated satnavs. In fact most of the functionality and behaviour of Google Maps Navigation is normally reserved for a paid-for satnav, but you get it all thrown into your smartphone package for free. 

For those yet to use Navigation, we highly recommend it. As a free app it is incredibly useful and for some, reason enough to pick up an Android phone.

Like the sound of Google Maps Navigation? Let us know in the comments below ...