Google Maps Navigation coming to Android 2.0

I’ve been saying for a while that I think Android will overtake iPhone in 2010, and recent news seems to be pointing that direction.  First you have the impressive-looking Verizon Droid, which comes out in early November.  By all accounts it will be an awesome device.  It will be the first phone running the Android 2.0 operating system.  Now Google has sweetened the deal even more.

Today they announced that Android 2.0 devices (starting with the Droid) will come with Google Maps Navigation.  This is similar to TomTom and other devices, but with a few big advantages.  The main one, of course, is that it’s free.

Not only that, but it has some cool features:

  • POI and road data loaded on the fly.  Always up-to-date, no need to run “updates”.
  • Search in plain English.  Don’t type the address (unless you want to).  Just type the name of your destination and go.
  • Search by voice
  • Traffic view.  They’ve integrated the traffic data, which makes obvious sense.
  • Search along route.  I’ve always wanted a feature like this on my Garmin.  Very cool
  • Satellite view.  I’ve always wanted this, too.  It’s weird on most GPS devices when you’re in a parking lot — it’s just like you’re in a field.  This will help.
  • Street View.  This is slick.  To get a preview of what your next turn looks like, just double-tap the map and it’ll zoom you in there to take a peek.

All in all, this sounds pretty sweet.  Not only does it sound like possibly the best GPS software out there, it doesn’t cost a thing.  Being Android-only will certainly hurt it in the short-term, but long-term it will provide a big boost.

Will they ever bring this software to the iPhone?  I’m sure they’d love to, but I doubt Apple will allow it.   Time will tell.  Check out the video below for a bit more info:

Very cool 3D navigation product released

A cool looking 3D navigation program called Navi2Go from 3DVU has just been released.  It uses real world imagery and terrain and puts it in the palm of your hand as a GPS navigation device.  It’s got the look and feel of Google Earth, with the usefulness of a TomTom.

Of course, the usefulness of a device like this is how well it routes, re-routes, and simply gets you from point A to point B.  I haven’t seen a real review of the device yet, so that remains to be seen.

As of now, it’s available on a wide variety of Windows Mobile, Symbian and BlackBerry devices, with iPhone support “coming soon”.

More information can be found at GISuser or on 3DVU.com.

Tons of new features in Virtual Earth

To go with the new ClearFlow traffic, Microsoft has just released a slew of new features for Virtual Earth.  They include:

  • Export collections to GPS using KML, GPX and GeoRSS.
  • Improved 3D cities.  Las Vegas, Dallas, Denver and Phoenix are now in “version 2″, which includes higher-res textures, more buildings and even rendered tress.  Other cities will be added/updated as time goes on.
  • Better 3D modeling using 3DVIA.  Microsoft’s answer to SketchUp, 3DVIA, has seen a handful of improvements.
  • Labels for Birds Eye imagery.
  • MapCruncher Integration.  MapCruncher allows you to do overlays in a similar manner to Google Earth.  It’s more complex than needed for simple overlays, but it’s very powerful for large or uneven overlays.  With this release you can add your MapCrunched layers to your Collections, then share them.
  • Capture hi-def movies of your tours, up to 1920×1080.
  • Improved KML display.

For more, check out the full post on the Virtual Earth / Live Maps blog, or read Frank’s write-up on the Google Earth Blog.

Microsoft launches “ClearFlow” traffic on Live Maps

Microsoft has just released “ClearFlow” traffic data on Live Maps, but it’s far more interesting than you might think.  While it shows the colored traffic speeds in a similar manner as Yahoo, Google and Mapquest, it also goes much deeper.

From Search Engine Land:

In addition to real-time traffic data, the service offers traffic predictions across highways and improved information on secondary routes and surface streets. Horvitz said that this predictive modeling has proven to be very accurate in Microsoft’s ongoing development and refinement of the program. Based on artificial intelligence, as well as dynamic traffic monitoring, ClearFlow appears to be quite a bit more sophisticated that competing systems.

This could easily become the best traffic data on your PC.  Of course, therein lies the problem — it’s chained to my PC.  It’s very useful to get traffic data when I’m at my desk, but it’s brilliant to be able to get it while I’m on the road.

Here’s what needs happen next:

  • Microsoft releases a version of Live Maps Mobile, with similar features to Google Maps Mobile.
  • One of them steps up and includes turn-by-turn GPS into their mobile software.  GMM is so close to being the killer mobile app.  I can get turn-by-turn directions.  It can see/follow my GPS.  It just won’t tell me how far until my next turn!  I have very high hopes for the next version of GMM, but it’s been very quiet on that front lately.  A push from Microsoft would be a great thing for us consumers.

Location information in Google Maps for mobile — without GPS

Google has just released a new version of Google Maps for mobile today.  This version includes a new feature called “My Location”.  By using cell tower triangulation, it can pinpoint your location to within a few hundred meters.  It’s not as accurate as GPS, but it’s pretty darn good.

In addition, it can assist with your location if you already have GPS.  It will typically kick in more quickly than GPS and works better indoors.

For more information, visit the Google LatLong Blog or the Google Mobile Blog.

GPS for the iPhone — sort of

Gizmondo has a nice write-up about a GPS-like add-on for the iPhone from Navizon.  Using cell tower data, along with any local wifi that it can find, the software calculates your location to within a few hundred feet.  While it’s not as accurate as real GPS, it provides a nice starting point for driving directions and will push your location to the Google Maps app so it will start at your current location.

The program is free for 15 days, then $24.99.  More details on the Navizon blog.