News: Google Local for mobile
Google released Google Local for Mobile. It's a Java application for phones that tie into Google Local and Google Maps. It looks somewhat like Mobile GMaps, but with directions and such. It's nice to see Google come out with mobile support., and here is my review from playing with it for an hour.
First of all it won't work on every device. You need a Java enabled phone, which really means almost all non-BREW phones. Then you'll need data access, and a mobile browser. You then simply go on http://www.google.com/glm to download it.
The application shows the map in full screen, with a menu on the right softkey allowing you to do searches and change to satellite view. One nice thing I noticed right away compared with MGMaps, is that the scrolling is smooth instead of being one screen at once, which is very nice. The zooming is also easy to use. Browsing the map is fast enough and the images are loaded like the web based version, one square at a time. It does however take a lot of bandwidth and a simple search will run you into over 100KB of data so make sure you have an unlimited data plan.
For the search function, it's also very nice. The search is basically run on Google's Local service so it's just as powerful, and I had no trouble finding my address. While the web site says it only works in the US, it worked fine in Canada. When trying to get directions, you can either enter an address, or select a point on the map that you already searched for. It will then show you a route and take you across every road one at a time, scrolling the map as needed.
Right now it doesn't support GPS, and really the solutions for real time positioning are rare and expensive. For example, many of the GPS devices that attach to phones sold on eBay do not come with North America maps. Also even if you do manage to get a device with the proper maps, no other application will work with it. For now if you need GPS you're better off with a dedicated GPS device. Hopefully it's something Google Local for Mobile will add in the future.
Overall I think it's a great program, and while many are reporting problems with installing it on their phone, which is to be expected with so many different phone types and providers, once you get it running it's a very useful tool.