Microsoft is the latest company to add free turn-by-tun directions to mobile devices. Google Maps can already turn some Android phones into mobile navigation systems. And now if you have a supported Windows Mobile phone, you can use Microsoft’s Bing App to do the same thing.
The new Bing App is available for download from m.bing.com.
In order to use the navigation feature, you just fire up the Bing app and hit the Navigate button. As you drive, Bing will track your position by GPS and give you up to date directions as needed. If you don’t feel like looking down at your phone while you drive, don’t worry. This is voice-guided navigation, meaning you’ll also hear a voice through your phone’s speaker telling you where to turn.
Bing has a few neat features up its sleeve, including the ability to select a route that will avoid toll roads or traffic.
Ready for the catch? The new navigation features is only available for US phones on the Sprint, T-Mobile, and AT&T networks. It looks like Verizon customers are out of luck for now. You’ll also need Windows 6.x to play. You can find a list of supported phones at the Bing blog.
While free navigation is a pretty nifty feature on a mobile phone, it’s not a complete replacement for a dedicated GPS unit — at least not yet. That’s because the maps aren’t actually stored on your phone. They’re on the web instead, and your phone pulls them down over a 3G network as needed.
If you stay on the path your phone draws out for you at the start of your journey, that’s not really a problem as your phone should keep providing directions whether your 3G coverage is spotty or not. But if you have to take a detour or if you miss a turn, your phone won’t be able to draw down fresh data if you’re in a 3G dead zone. Not that this has ever happened to me… like last week.
The new Bing app also has a redesigned home page, which makes it easier to search for directions, maps, movies, or other information from the main page.