Ok, here's a short and sweet edition of APK Teardown coming your way. Prepare yourself.

What's the one remaining thing a standalone GPS unit can do that Google Maps can't? (Besides work offline) Lane guidance.


Right now, Google Maps would best be described as "Turn guidance." It will tell you when to make a right turn, but that's about it. Lane guidance is a step further: Your next exit is coming up on the right, and a TomTom (pictured) will better prepare you to make the exit by directing you to the right hand lane in advance. This saves you the surprise "turn right" command which suddenly means you need to cut across 40 lanes of traffic. Lane guidance also (usually) has information like the number of lanes, which lanes are turn-only, and things like that. It's great for complex interchanges.

It sounds like lane guidance is coming to Google Maps Navigation. In the latest update there is new, unused text for the "Report A Problem" feature, which is rather revealing:

<string name="da_report_lane_data_issue_prompt">"What's wrong with this lane guidance?"</string>
<string name="da_report_lane_count_issue">Wrong number of lanes</string>
<string name="da_report_lane_arrow_issue">Problem with arrows</string>
<string name="da_report_lane_routing_issue">Bad lane recommendation</string>

So, apparently there is a version of Google Maps out there (probably the internal dogfood version) that will display the number of lanes on a road and turn arrows for each lane, presumably during Navigation. This would let Googlers drive around and test this, and give them an easy way to report problems with it.

Currently, this text is the only hint of this feature existing. Maps is still missing all the UI parts that this would need to work, like arrows, and a spot to put them. They either don't exist yet, or, more likely, Google is testing this and they meant to remove everything from the public version, but they forgot about the text.

Update: As a couple people have pointed out, most of the lane guidance systems, including the one pictured, use a 3D display for lane information. I found a "3D" button in Maps a few months ago, maybe they're related?

Here's hoping for a release soon. We'll keep an eye on it.

Ron Amadeo
Ron loves everything related to technology, design, and Google. He always wants to talk about "the big picture" and what's next for Android, and he's not afraid to get knee-deep in an APK for some details. Expect a good eye for detail, lots of research, and some lamenting about how something isn't designed well enough.
  • letsplaaay

    Oh God, I hope this materializes soon.

  • Adrian van Nunen

    Sounds great - although, I'd have thought this would probably mean a pretty major Maps overhaul, wouldn't it? Given most lane-guidance GPS (eg, TomTom as pictured) use a 3D view which GMaps doesn't really have (yet)...
    Love the teardowns, Ron - don't stop! :)

  • mechapathy

    This plus a redesign would mean terrible things for my pants.

    • http://www.facebook.com/people/Dustin-Lehman/1321902066 Dustin Lehman

      LMAO!! I just almost literally fell off my chair. +1

    • anywherehome

      and what about to offline downloads of maps where it can copy country borders (plus region borders - all this is already in the google maps - checkboxes: copy country borders, copy region, copy district borders etc.) and increase maximum for offline locations? so easy to implement.....good programmer has done this all in 10 minutes without proper testing......pity that Google is not so final-end stage focused

      • andy_o

        What does this have to do with his pants?

        • anywherehome

          find the reason :)

      • mechapathy

        This already works for the US/Canada border. I saved a map offline on Tuesday that spanned Buffalo, NY and Toronto, ON.

        • anywherehome

          yupiii :)
          and what about the whole country? is it possible for you?

    • Fatty Bunter

      hahahahah well done

  • Asovse1

    Didn't Google have a program for their Street View images that could detect number of lanes + turns and exits up ahead? This would be the application of its use and I'm very excited for this!

  • Mike Loomis

    I'm surprised GM doesn't have speed limit notifications for each road, along with warnings when you are speeding. I would love that!

    • http://www.androidpolice.com/author/ron-amadeo/ Ron Amadeo

      They definitely need that, too. I feel like lane guidance and speed limits would be especially helpful for their self-driving cars.

      • Justin Winker

        One step closer to being able to sleep on the cross-country road trip without having to stop somewhere. Can't wait for those dreams to come alive.

      • mechapathy

        Good point. I feel like they must have a somewhat complete set of this data; At least in areas where they deploy self-driving cars.

      • Fatty Bunter

        I know it's possible, and I believe it's implemented, that the self-driving cars are capable of identifying speed limits signs posted on the roads and reading/interpreting them.

      • Nevi_me

        Speed limit data will most likely be available in the US and UK in the future, but for most other countries they'll take some time. I map on Google Map Maker in South Africa, speed limit data is terrible, even on some highways

    • http://www.facebook.com/Shinakuma George Millhouse

      um maybe you shouldnt speed?

      • DC

        Right... Which is exactly be the point of speed limit notifications and speeding warnings that he asked for.

      • Fatty Bunter

        How do you do that if you don't know the speed limit?

      • George Dillhouse

        ummmm maybe you shouldnt be so dismissive

    • Terry Cameron

      That would be good. But as a user of Google Map Maker, I can tell you the correct road speeds need to be entered before that can happen.

      • http://codytoombs.wordpress.com/ Cody Toombs

        Correct being the operative word. Before switching to Android Navigation, I'd tried a couple of other devices and they rarely had correct speeds for anything outside of the major highways.

  • bachinphx

    Yeah, like I need something to make my battery suck even more!

  • http://www.androidpolice.com/ Artem Russakovskii

    Who wants to bet they will announce this at I/O, finally putting that 3D button @ronamadeo:disqus found a while ago to good use?

    • PhineasJW

      Ah! You beat me by 60 seconds!

      I also think they're going to save some of these things for IO.

  • PhineasJW

    Nice find Ron.

    I know Maps is an independent app, but I wonder if they're saving some of these features for Key Lime Pie (or at least concurrent updates during Google IO)...

  • http://twitter.com/JorgeBranco_aus Jorge Branco

    This would be awesome.
    Is there any sign of something that fixes the terrible navigation volume issues? That's my biggest 'feature' wish.

  • http://www.facebook.com/adamparroyo Adam Arroyo

    Still no navigation of custom routes?

    Or even speed limit display?

  • Paul_Werner

    The other thing it needs is better rerouting options similar to Waze though I do remember a hint at that in a previous Android Police article

  • squiddy20

    As I understand it, the Navigation "app" is rolled into Maps.apk. So isn't it more conceivable that this would be used in the Nav portion of the app, where there's already a 3D interface?

    Also, is it really so hard to look at the screen after a turn to see how long you have before the next turn so you can prepare yourself? I've been using Google Maps/Nav for a few years (usually with the voice dictation off) and was in the wrong turnoff lane maybe 5 times.

    • http://www.androidpolice.com/author/ron-amadeo/ Ron Amadeo

      OK, I guess "3D" is relative. I mean Maps Navigation. When you look at Google Maps Navigation (which only shows a line) and the TomTom screenshot (which shows the entire road and every lane with textures and stuff) TomTom is more "3D" than Google Maps Navigation.

      I'll add "Navigation" to a few things though.

  • peter

    Isn't that illegal?

  • http://www.facebook.com/bron84 Bronislav Shtrom

    while this is nice, when is Google going to fix Maps always starting on it's own even after being forced closed manually?

    • FrillArtist

      Well, duh. Because they want to know when you're in your bathroom, when you're in your basement, when you're in your office, when you're in the airport etc so they can sell this info to marketers and govt agencies.

      • aaron cooper

        I freely give Google all my information and....... nothing has happened.... If the gov or marketers want to know when I got to go take a shit or when I am working or when I am flying, then so be it.... As a matter of fact, Google is about to observe me taking a crap........




        • http://www.facebook.com/bron84 Bronislav Shtrom


  • http://www.facebook.com/chris.moch.10 Chris Moch

    you shouldn't be cutting across lanes anyway it's called looking ahead and it's offered now. and as an added bonus if you miss the turn..(wait for it) it'll recalculate. Seen way too many morons stop dead in the middle of the road because the GPS said they had to turn right there.

    • http://www.androidpolice.com/author/ron-amadeo/ Ron Amadeo

      You're critiquing my driving based on reading an article describing the benefits of a future Android feature? Damn.

  • http://twitter.com/sic4672 Chris Maher

    I would like to see a feature where you can add destinations as a via point. My 5yo GPS can do this.

  • wrxpirate

    How about better HOV/express lane help? Seriously lacking in most standalone GPS units that I know of.

  • http://twitter.com/jusuchin85 Justin Alex

    Maybe I missed it if this was mentioned some time back, but why can't Google bring it's Navigation service to Malaysia? :(

  • deltatux

    I much rather they give me offline navigation than lane guidance. Not everyone has data constantly (especially when roaming) or in an area with no signal. I fail to understand why Google can't give us offline navigation which should be considered a basic feature. Nokia got it right with Nokia Drive (which works with any Windows Phone device).

  • Terry Cameron

    There's one more thing Google Maps/Nav can't do. Night mode all the time! I want the feature so bad.

    Actually multiple destinations is also missing.

  • Felipe13

    It would also be nice it google nav would tell us our current speed.

    • http://www.facebook.com/DeadPlasmaCell Dan Garcia

      That and current speed limit. My old Garmin did that and it came in handy quite a few times.

  • Sergio

    And please, let users send their routes with their waypoints from gmaps to android navigation. I need them!!!

  • http://www.facebook.com/RDJCook Rob Cook

    There getting closer to Navigon still not there yet. I use GM in town but with a limited (*gasp* the horror) data plan I switch to Navigon when I'm on a long trip for the offline maps and no data required.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100000003999549 Mike Harris

    "which suddenly means you need to cut across 40 lanes of traffic"

    A 40-lane highway sounds like heaven to me. So many drivers are way too slow and being stuck on a 2-lane highway with no way to get around them is beyond frustrating.

  • Jeremy Powers

    I could not care less about Turn lanes I want to know what the Speed Limit is. That is the only feature missing from when I used to use a Garmin. To me turn Right in 1 mile is a "Hey Dumb A** Get to the right"

  • http://www.facebook.com/nyczducky Albert Kim

    I wouldn't say it's the last thing. There is one thing that I wish Google Navigation had and it's live traffic reroutes. Once you search for a route, it will select the fastest route or shortest route based on settings but if traffic conditions change, it won't give you a notification or update.

  • Wesley

    At the very least they could add a speed indicator so that I can see my real speed and be able to drive a bit faster and still under the speed limit.

  • Asphyx

    Great feature! I have been hoping for something like this from the day I got my first GPS unit as I have had numerous occassions where I got caught in the right lane only to find the exit is on the left! LOL

    But until Google works on the only problem with using thier Map program (Offline maps) it's pretty much a useless feature for me. They need to at least allow you to download a country or region for those who don't have data or are in a place where service is not available.

    If Co-Pilot can get the entire NorthAmerica into a 1.8 Gig download then I see no reason why Google Maps can't and keep it up to date via Syncing when you are within a data service that works.
    Until they do I guess I'm stuck using Co-Pilot Live which is not as comprehensive as GMAPS but works without a data connection and gets me there...

  • Adam Benfer

    I still get better re-routing and police notifications via Waze so until the feature set merges I won't be using this. I love the idea, I just like spending less time driving in Baltimore and D.C. traffic more.