After more than three months of testing, the new Google Maps navigation controls have replaced the classic tabs. By default, Google shows a small preview of the satellite imagery and a link to the traffic layer, but you’ll get more options if you mouse over “satellite” or “traffic”.
Google lists the layers that are available (terrain, webcams, the confusingly named Buzz, videos, Wikipedia, bicycling, real estate, transit, 45 degree imagery, labels), including a list of previous searches and driving directions.
“When we launched Google Maps, we had one layer — the map. Since then, we’ve added more than ten different ways to explore the world around you, including photos, transit and traffic information, as well as satellite and terrain views. We’ve now updated the design so that you can more easily see and switch between the various viewing options that are available,” explains Google.
I find the new interface more confusing, but I admit that it will better accommodate the new layers that will be released. Until now, if you wanted to switch to the satellite mode, you clicked the “satellite” button and that was it. Now Google shows a lot more options when you mouse over the button and you might even forget what you wanted to do.
Google Maps Navigation for Android is now available for Canada, Austria, Belgium, Denmark, France, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands, Portugal, Spain, and Switzerland, in addition to the 3 countries that were already supported: US, UK and Ireland. It’s interesting to notice that Google still uses data from Tele Atlas for all the countries supported by Google Maps Navigation, except for the US and Canada.
“Google Maps Navigation is an Internet-connected GPS navigation or ‘satnav’ system that provides turn-by-turn voice guidance as a free feature of Google Maps. Google Maps Navigation (beta) with Search by voice is available in version 4.2 of Google Maps, on Android devices 1.6 and higher,” explains Google.
Free turn-by-turn navigation could be an important reason why people choose a mobile phone, so Google and Nokia try to make the most of Google Maps Navigation for Android and Ovi Maps for Symbian. Most likely, in the near future, all smartphones will include a free application for navigation.
In other related news, Google Search by Voice is now available for German, Italian, Spanish and French. Search by voice is an important feature of the Quick Search Box app for Android, Google Mobile App for iPhone and Blackberry. The nice thing is that you don’t have to download an update for none of the applications, as the new languages are automatically recognized.