Martin Ferro-Thomsen


Martin Ferro-Thomsen

Martin Ferro-Thomsen

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Testing Google Navigation for Android in Denmark (with an Old G1!)
Last night I finally had a chance to play with Google Navigation that was recently released in Denmark. It’s part of a Maps upgrade so make sure to get this first. You’ll need the GPS turned on, and also to increase the brightness of your screen (or it’ll be too hard to see in the car). If you’re using an old G1 like me you’ll need a power source or the trip will be very short, trust me. I have a cheap Garmin GPS that uses mini-USB so that was convenient, and also allowed me to compare results of the two very different navigation devices. Here are my impressions
It’s easier to find an address using gNavigation than the traditional GPS. First of all, there’s a decent keyboard and touchscreen. Secondly, the way Google thinks about search is so much more advanced and versatile than a GPS where you are limited strictly to addresses. You can of course also use Voice Search, but it performs very bad in Danish yet (a search for ‘Kålagervej’ resulted in ‘no virus’ (!) but it will get better). Once you find your destination, simply click it to bring up the sleek new information page, and the hit the navigation button. The app will ask you to install a synthetic voice app so it can guide you by audio. It’s a female robot voice with seriously bad pronunciation of Danish destinations. That’s OK though, as the main thing is distance and actions (“In 100 meters, turn left at [road] and continue at [road] for 2 kilometers).

The 3D map view is awesome and performs surprisingly well on this old mobile. You can add layers, such as gas stations and restaurants, or even choose to add satellite view (which is a little odd since the data images are shot directly from above, but I’m sure it has it’s use for sightseeing and more). Once your reach the destination you’re offered to switch to street view to see what it looks like - just plain cool! I noticed that gNavigation falls slightly behind the Garmin GPS. Just a few seconds/meters and it usually doesn’t matter much, unless you have to do a lot of advanced turning in a short period of time. Maybe that will improve on a newer mobile. I also noticed that Garmin doesn’t suggest u-turns, but Google does (which in one case was a much shorter trip).

Other cool features include a Navigation icon in the top menu, so you can always go back to navigation if you had use a different app. You can also explore your surroundings on the trip, simply by dragging the map across the screen. A navigate button will appear, click it to go back to navigation mode.

The bottom line

To conclude, I almost felt like I was rediscovering my G1 with this app. Seriously, it’s a killer and it clearly shows the kind of advanced web-world interaction smartphones can provide with the latest grade apps out there. I may never buy a singular GPS again - it’s purposed is being eliminated by the smartphone, just like it happened with MP3 players and is happening with point-n-shoot cameras. Yet, with the outrageous carrier plans for data roaming, a singular GPS device will still have a strong advantage once you leave Denmark and head for Sweden or Germany: The Garmin has all the European maps stored, my G1 doesn’t and needs to pull them over the 3G connection. Maybe Google will have to offer some kind of offline access? I think so… Oh, and don’t try this alone the first time! You’ll be very inclined to play around and that’s not cool while driving (I was a passenger).

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