Google has announced that all handsets running Android 1.6 will now be able to get Google Maps Navigation for free.

The news, which was announced on Monday, opens up the free GPS software beyond the Android 2.0 operating system and currently the only handset available, the Droid by Motorola.

The new release, which aims to take on services from TomTom, Garmin and Navigon will, as long as you have a data connection, let you route your way around the US using the same Google Maps functionality, however, with a more traditional style GPS experience.

The release also includes the new Layers feature, which lets you overlay geographical information on the map. View My Maps, transit lines, Wikipedia articles about places, and more says Google.

If you have a phone running Android 1.6, you can download an updated version of Google Maps from Android Market to use Navigation today.

Android 1.6 phones in the US currently include the T-Mobile mytouch 3G, the G1 and the HTC Tattoo, as well as the Sony Ericsson Xperia X10. However handsets like the HTC Hero, Droid Eris, Samsung Moment and the Samsung Behold II all run Android 1.5 so won't be getting the new feature.

Google Maps Navigation is in beta and is currently available in the United States.

Some features of Android 2.0 are not available on Android 1.6, for example, the ability to use the "navigate to" voice command as shown in our demo video.