This is a true story: Two weeks ago I'm zipping along in southern England in the back seat of a silver VW Golf, listening for the better part of an hour and a half while my sister reads aloud directions to the car's driver from the screen of an HTC Touch.
The instructions are specific ("Turn left in 100 feet") but fruitless; we flip a U on the muddy one-track road and head back toward the village to blindly pick our way to our obscure destination, a farmhouse that brews traditional cider, using just wits and luck.
Had we had an Android phone with the latest version of Google Maps Navigation beta, we might have saved far more time, splattered far less mud, and threatened to turn far fewer free-roaming cows into hamburger. That's because on Wednesday, Google's mobile team released a U.K. version of the vocal turn-by-turn navigation feature that it announced for Android 2.0 phones in the U.S. last October.
Android-toting residents of the U.K. and Ireland don't need to wait for a 2.0 device to get to the most useful attribute: turn-by-turn voice guidance that reroutes you if you miss a turn. They can download Google's beta mapping software on smartphones running version 1.6 or higher. Real-time traffic reporting, 3D maps, and street views are also onboard.
British and Emerald Islanders can upgrade to the free improved map software through the Android phone's Android Market app.
There's no guarantee we would have made it to the cider house on our first try with Google's voice navigation as co-pilot, but at least we all could have blamed the phone for the failure instead of the messenger.