Urban dwellers and tourists exploring a new city now can get improved walking directions thanks to Google Maps for Android. Available on the application's 4.5 update, Walking Navigation offers many of the standard Google Navigation features, but tailors them to pedestrians.
Walking Navigation will use more than city streets to guide you on your way; it also will take into account pedestrian pathways and malls that can't accommodate cars. What's more, since pedestrians stick to sidewalks, it will send you on the most direct route regardless of one-way streets. And if you're interested in stopping for a coffee, you can consult the usual Google Search bar at the top of the map.
You can get voice-guided directions, but you can turn off the audible alerts and just have your phone vibrate when you need to make a turn. Walking Navigation uses the satellite map layer as a default, but you also can switch to a Street View mode and the map will turn as you rotate the phone. Also, when you're in Street View, you can drag the Google "Pegman" ahead of your current position to get a picture of your future steps.
Google's Walking Navigation is currently in beta, but I used it to run a couple errands this afternoon in San Francisco's Hayes Valley neighborhood. From my brief tour, it worked quite well. In particular, it was interesting to see the exact distance I walk every day from my house to the metro station.
The updated Google Maps works only with phone's running on Android version 1.6 and above. You can download it and the Street View on Google Maps from the Android Market. For more information, check out the Google Mobile Blog.