It's no secret that we've been openly critical of the prices charged by automakers for built-in GPS navigation systems. Frankly, paying $2,000 or more for an in-dash system when you can buy stand-alone navigation units for as little as $100 is ridiculous. Even the newer, larger seven-inch screen units are now down to as little as $250, and even though they aren't tied in to a vehicles' wheel sensors, they tend to be plenty accurate. Now, however, there is a new option that is even cheaper – as in (sort of) free.
It's only "sort of" free because the Google maps turn-by-turn navigation app is built into the new Motorola Droid smartphone (see sister-site Engadget's full review of the Droid here) that recently became available from Verizon Wireless. In this case, you have to sign up for two years of mobile phone service, which includes a data plan. I've been a Verizon customer for a decade and just happened to be up for a biennial discounted phone upgrade. When the Droid appeared a few weeks ago, the plan to wait until the new year for a Palm Pre was discarded. We've now had the chance to play with the Droid and its new navigation software, so follow the jump to find out if it lives up to expectations.
Personally, I wouldn't mind this. I think the combination of Google Maps and a GPS is wonderful, although I wouldn't use the turn-by-turn navigation (map view is fine by me, with spot checks with the street view to avoid potentially bad areas). I would also like a larger screen, but hey, you can't have everything.