So I am excited to see Google introduce a "GPS-less" Maps and navigation application. It looks up cell tower information from your device against a database on its servers and gives you your approximate location. Approximate up to 3 miles.
But start driving and the cell tower spots on your device jump around - and so do the map grids. While you have no trails to show streets where you are, have been or are going. Disconcerting.
And you have scenarios like on left - click to enlarge. (I plotted on Google Maps on the web the data that the mobile maps was showing on my PDA) The neighborhood I am driving through shows with the green push points. The cell tower is represented by the pink ones. As the crow flies about .8 mile - the pink line. Actual driving distance = 5 miles. I had 2 push pins for the start since there was a short distance from start to street, and 2 for the the cell tower since it is actually a bit out in the water.
So how useful is location information off by that much? Clearly, the fix would be more accurate in a downtown location with lots of cell towers in close proximity. Especially places with tall buildings where GPS signal acquisition can be a problem. But if you use it while driving through downtown the cell spots will jump around even more frequently.
So, I turned on my bluetooth GPS. And Google maps worked well with that. Not its fault, but the network slowness in some grids I was already out of range of that grid before the painting finished. Location Search worked well, and so did written directions. But directions superimposed on the map froze the grid and you had to manually move to the next grid. On a street where traffic was crawling, I tried the traffic update feature. It showed traffic status on a nearby highway, but not on the street I was at. And there are no nice voices to remind you to turn in a quarter mile - or to scold you when you do not. So, overall, not much better than my experience with Microsoft Streets and Maps. OK, the fact that you do not need to download maps on to your storage card is a big advantage. Till the network crawls.
One potentially nice use of Google Maps is it is supposed to work in 20+ countries without having to carry around a bunch of maps for those countries on storage cards. But...in about a 30 minute, 15 mile drive today the PDA must have downloaded over 1 meg worth of map data. At AT&T roaming data pricing overseas that could turn nasty quickly.
So I am going to stick with my Odyssey maps for a while. And avoid driving overseas. In the meantime, don't take a GPS like a Garmin or TomTom off your holiday shopping list. Google Maps will need a few more iterations before it gets there as a navigation app..