Google has launched Google Maps Navigation, its free voice based navigation service in India. Users of android devices with an internet connection can now access the service which feeds live data from Google Maps.
Voice navigation allows full support for voice instructions and users can chose to ‘speak’ to their android devices to input the address of their destinations. Once directions have been fed into the app, a blue marker will show the way on the android device’s screen. Additionally the app will guide users by giving turn-by-turn directions by voice.
The app feeds off data from Google Maps, making it a comprehensive navigation system offering much more than just directions. It allows users to take advantage of the many resources that are a mainstay with Google Maps including local information fed in by users.
Announcing the launch, the search giant said "In India, you’ll have access to information about any of the thousands of cities, towns, roads, and points of interest that have been mapped by users in Google Map Maker" Effectively, users will be able to tap into Google’s search power and look for local places, business, eateries and a lot more.
Users are given the choice of selecting between directions for walking or driving, and can toggle between basic to more detailed views of the map itself. Had Google’s Street View been currently available in India, android smartphone users would have been able to access ‘actual street view’ while navigating.
Initially, Google will also give live traffic updates for 6 cities including Mumbai, Pune, Delhi, Bangalore, Chennai and Hyderabad.
The routes will be coloured red, yellow or green; signifying congestion, minor slowdowns and free flowing traffic respectively. Apart from live updates, users can also take a look at what Google calls ‘typical traffic conditions’.
Popular and branded GPS devices can cost anywhere in the range of Rs. 5,500 for a basic 3.5 inch TFT touchscreen device to Rs. 15,990 for a premium device with a 5 inch 3D display. Commentators have often said that a smartphone cannot replace a traditional GPS navigation unit.
That may be true to a certain extent, but with voice navigation backed by Google Maps’ exhaustive pool of local data, Google has given Indians one more reason to buy an android smartphone. And with the refinements Google is bringing in Maps and Android OS itself, the new tablets and smartphones can probably offer more features on navigation than a traditional device does.
The online community has generously welcomed Google’s voice navigation in India and many Twitter/YouTube users are questioning whether this is the ‘beginning of the end’ for traditional GPS devices.
While it may be too early to write them off, an urban dweller or a city commuter will now think twice before parting with hard earned cash - Is the money better spent on buying a feature packed android based smartphone with a 3G plan?