Google satnav finds a way into UK Androids

Free turn-by-turn navigation is now available to users of Android handsets in the UK with today’s roll-out of Google Maps Navigation 4.1.1 Beta

First launched in the US last November, the latest version of Google’s mobile mapping software lets users search in plain English. You don't need to know the exact name of your destination: just type "Thai restaurant" or "cinema", as you would in Google.

Directions are provided in list view, with a 3D road view when users click the route. Travellers can preview their route in Google’s controversial Street View or satellite views, with real-time traffic updates on the road ahead when users tap the red, amber or green traffic light in the corner of the screen. Along the way, they can pinpoint car parks, petrol stations and places to eat.

Users of the Nexus One handset can even ask directions using voice recognition – and needn’t worry about straying out of 3G network coverage, as the device switches between Internet navigation and its built-in standalone GPS.

The only bad news comes for HTC Hero users. Google Maps Navigation 4.1.1 Beta is only available for handsets running Android 1.6 and above, which leaves Hero fans in a jam after repeated delays by HTC in releasing Android updates have left them languishing with version 1.5.