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UK Android users found a nice present on their handsets today - the maps application now has the long-awaited turn-by-turn satnav extension and it's all free!. It runs on Android 1.6 or later, so this means Hero users will have to be a little more patient as they wait for their June OTA update. The service is extra special too as it trumps the more traditional offering with its streetview overlay. That's right - your route is shown physically over the streetview image, so you see a floating ghostly arrow pointing the way down the road.

Steve Lee, head of Google Mobile Maps, said the reason the US got the service a year ahead of the UK was down to the UK road system being more complex, with many more roundabouts and one way systems. The system is mainly web based, as opposed to alternatives such as CoPilot which stores its maps onboard. Whilst this does allow much more up to date details, since they can be updated on the server, it has been criticised because if you lose your signal, you could lose your navigation ability. Steve explained that this is minimised, however, by the fact that the entire route is calculated and downloaded once when you first set up your journey, and since it is stored on the handset at that point a loss of internet signal will not affect the navigation process. Even so, the option to store maps locally is present.




The industry sat up and took notice when Google announced their intentions regarding their free turn-by-turn offering. Nokia, for example, released its own Ovi Maps service free, and Garmin announced they were moving the other way and producing location-focussed Android handsets.

However, this isn't the end of it. Google is first and foremost and advertising broker, and it makes no secret of the fact location-aware advertising plays a large part of its future. By rolling out such a massive service now for free, it hopes to lay the groundwork for future revenue streams resulting from all those "happy hour next left NOW!!" style ads as you journey down the countries roads.