Google Maps Transit Navigation beta for Android hands-on (video)
byZach Honig||July 6th 2011 at 5:57pmJuly 6th 2011 5:57 pm
Earlier this afternoon, Google pushed Maps v5.7 to the Android Market. The app's Transit Navigation (beta) feature brings GPS stop-by-stop nav to public transit systems in over 400 cities around the world, helping you find the subway or bus stop, then letting you know exactly when to get off as you ride. There are obvious benefits to using this in a foreign city, where alert-enabled (English!) directions could potentially save you hours of frustration. We left our office to brave the daylight in NYC, walking a block to the nearest subway station en-route to Times Square. The app worked well up until we reached the bottom of the first staircase, where it lost cell reception and its GPS fix. Jump past the break to see how it fared above ground, and check out our hands-on video for a Google Maps-led adventure through New York City's public transit system.
For now, let's head back down below. Our first train arrived early, just seconds after reaching the platform. Without adequate GPS reception, however, the app didn't even know we boarded until we resurfaced 10 minutes later in Times Square. Maps did provide a list of stops, which accurately reflected the on-train display (phew). After reaching Times Square, we decided to return to the office via bus. Unfortunately, Maps insisted that we ride the subway instead, refusing to provide door-to-door routing for any of the bus lines that would have enabled us to get home without losing GPS. The only option was to input a starting point too close to our destination for the subway to be practical, so we walked 20 blocks to catch the bus, which arrived two minutes early. Once we started moving, Navigation adjusted, swapping a bus arrival countdown for our destination stop, and an adjusted countdown. As we passed the second-to-last stop, our Nexus S 4G vibrated and displayed a "get off" warning -- so you'll know when to get off even if you're taking an unexpected snooze.
Once we hopped off the bus and made a turn off the bus route, the app switched to walking directions, which we followed for a few feet until we reached our destination. We imagine the same instructions would appear when riding other vehicles, such as trams and trains, though we couldn't test on the subway because of poor connectivity. Overall, Google Maps Transit Navigation (beta) worked very well, though we would have liked an option to choose to ride the bus instead of the subway (hint hint, Google!). We're especially excited about the growing availability of transit nav beyond New York City, and look forward to finding our destination without hassle on the next overseas adventure.