Thursday, July 19, 2012

3 Free applications for voice assisted navigation on Android smartphones

Migrating to Android smartphones has virtually changed my life in many aspects. One of them is complete abandonment of my Garmin GPS. Why bother having multiple gadgets in your car, when you have one, capable to perform multiple tasks simultaneously. Today, we will discuss the free applications on Droid platform, which are available on Google Play market to fill the need not to get lost.

Google Maps Navigation

Google Maps Navigation is an internet-connected GPS navigation system with voice guidance, which is installed by default on all modern Android phones. For a long time, it was my first choice. Actually, it was the only choice, since it worked smoothly, and there was no reason to look for alternatives.

Main Features

  • Search in plain English. No need to know the address. You can type a business name or even a kind of a business, just like you would on Google.
  • Search by voice. Speak your destination instead of typing (English only): "Navigate to the de Young Museum in San Francisco".
  • Traffic view. An indicator glows green, yellow, or red based on the current traffic along your route. Touch it to see traffic ahead of you.
  • Search along route. Search for any kind of business along your route, or turn on popular layers such as gas stations, restaurants, or parking.
  • Satellite view. View your route overlaid on 3D satellite views with Google's high-resolution aerial imagery.
  • Street View. Visualize turns with Street View imagery. Navigation automatically switches to Street View as you approach your destination.
  • Car dock mode. Car dock mode makes it easy to use your device at arm's length (Android 2.0 devices or higher).
  • Navigation shortcut. Select the Navigation icon from the launcher to start quickly; pick a destination by search (speak or type), contacts, starred items, or recent destinations.
  • Walking Navigation (Beta). Get voice-guided navigation for walking directions. Device vibrates for turn notifications.
  • Transit Navigation (Beta). Get navigation for public transit directions in 400 cities around the globe. Device shows location along transit route and provides alerts for when to stay on or exit public transit.
  • Offline reliability. Get continuous guidance and automatic rerouting, even if you lose your network connection after you’ve begun a route.


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  • Integrated Google Maps are highly reliable and have relatively few errors.
  • Google Street View is useful to recognize the target destination.

  • Navigation is still dependent on your data connection as opposed to being preloaded (though it does cache your route), which is translated to inability to start navigation from the point where there is no connection.
  • Live traffic is not exactly live, and the data occasionally outdated.
  • GPS voice is kind of too robotic.
  • Estimated arrival is on the bottom of the screen (subjective drawback due to my phone location on the car dashboard).


The free mobile navigation utility developed by the company, which is on the Navigation business for long, and there are many Internet users, who are familiar with the main features from the Desktop application. Deeming the standard Google Navigation as reference point, we will provide the features, which look slightly different. So, we will not mention the matching features, like turn-to-turn navigation.

  • Place Map Toolbar. Look for restaurants, coffee shops, gas stations, etc. with one 1-click.
  • Auto Re-route. If you take a wrong turn, it will your route will be automatically adjusted your route to get you to your destination.
  • Live Traffic Flow/Incidents. Extensive coverage that’s updated every 5 minutes, to help – to keep you on time.
  • Save any location as a Favorite from the Details screen for easy access later.
  • Touch-points. Long-press anywhere on the map to get a point you can route to.
  • OpenStreetMap (OSM) Map Setting. User-sourced maps can provide unique local perspective and detail.
  • Bug Logging for OSM. Standing in front of a new building? Report it to the community and they’ll fill in the missing pieces.

I just started to use the application, and it seems to be quality built, fast, and accurate. Some users report that it loads faster and works better, than Google Navigation, and other claim the opposite. Try it and decide for yourself.


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Waze is not strictly a navigation program; it is more than a navigation program. It represents a combination of the voice navigated turn-to-turn navigation with mobile social network. You can plug into the driving community in your area, joining forces with other drivers nearby to outsmart traffic, save time & gas $, and improve everyone's daily commute.
  • Real-time traffic. Community generated real-time traffic and road alerts including accidents, hazards, police traps, and more.
  • Auto Re-route. Automatic re-routing as conditions on the road change.
  • Self-learning. Learns your frequent destinations, commuting hours and preferred routes.
  • Warnings. Convenient warnings on the police speed traps, accidents, traffic jams, and hazards, generated by fellow ahead of you on the road.
  • Find the cheapest gas station on your route.
  • Redeem Wazer-only gas specials at participating gas stations. (currently in the US only)
  • Meet-up! Share your location/destination and ETA to easily meet up with friends.
  • Join or create groups to share info about your commute.
  • Earn points and move up the ranks in your community as you contribute road info.

  • Life traffic update depends on the route popularity. If there are many Waze members in the area you drive, the instructions might be more accurate than Google Navigation.
  • Police, red light cameras, and traffic hazards warnings are quite handy.
  • It is like a fun game, you see your fellows Wazers nearby on the road.

  • Maps are not so accurate as in Google Navigation.
  • Some people around trying to chat may be distracting to the driver.

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Image and video hosting by TinyPic

Lately, in more occasions, I personally prefer using Waze over the Google Navigation, so if you never tried it, it is recommended at least to try.

There are obviously more utilities for GPS navigation on the market, but we will limit our review by these three. Each one of them can be considered as really good and useful. Enjoy!

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