What Google Navigation Means for iPhone Maps App, and for Turn-by-Turn Competitors
So while the dust is by no means settling following Google's bombshell announcement of their free Google Maps Navigation app for Android 2.0, it's thinning enough that we can start to survey the landscape again.
In terms of the iPhone, Google is saying they're working with Apple to add the same or similar navigation features to the iPhone's built in Maps application that Android 2.0 now enjoys. TechCrunch thinks that, in light of the Google Voice situation, Google should make Apple beg for what they say is best car navigation software, with the richest feature set in the space (or at least the US space, since it's not international yet). They see it as a replay of when Apple had to beg Microsoft to keep Office on the Mac, with the cloud being the modern "killer app" equivalent of productivity software then.
Apple is in a terrible position here because the future of mobile apps are Web apps, and Google excels at making those. Apple needs Google, it’s most dangerous competitor in the mobile Web market, to keep building apps for the iPhone. Google would be foolish not to since the iPhone still has the largest reach of any modern Web phone. But it will no longer be a priority.
However, Google delivering Google services to Android -- Google's own OS -- makes sense. Android got native push Gmail before anyone else (something most handsets still don't enjoy, GoogleSync being the alternative). Likewise, Google Street View was first shown off on the Android during it's initial unveiling.
For arguments sake then, let's say Google does indeed work with Apple to bring Google Maps Navigation to the iPhone Maps app and to all those search-happy, high-value iPhone users' eyeballs -- again, for free -- where does that leave existing, premium priced, iPhone turn-by-turn software makers?
Navigon, one of the highest grossing apps in the iTunes App Store, told TiPb:
[Google's] app is not available for the iPhone yet and on Android it’s just launching, so we’ll have to see how professional the navigation experience really is and how well the map material supports navigation functionalities. We have over 18 years of experience in the navigation field which lets us develop unique and high quality features not found on other navigation software and we are using maps that were created specifically for this use case. We provide excellent features such as Text-to-speech, Reality View™ Pro and Traffic Live and are convinced that consumers will pay extra dollars for a better, and more premium navigation experience. Besides, their solution is off-board which means that the navigation is interrupted when there is no cell phone signal available while our iPhone app is on-board and therefore works like a traditional navigation device – you will continue to get directions even without cell phone signal. This is particularly relevant in Europe where you have to pay extra roaming fees when using an off-board solution and traveling from one country to another. In addition, we already have navigation solutions for Android as well as WindowsMobile and Symbian smart phones on the market in Europe and are currently evaluating the options for launching some of these in the US as well – including Android. Our iPhone app is currently the top 3 grossing app in the App Store.
TeleNav, which supplies the service behind the subscription-based iPhone's AT&T Navigator app, had this to say:
It's premature to assume that this will have any dramatic impact on the industry. We will see how many phones the service launches on, the content and usability, as well as consumer feedback before we make any assumptions or conclusions about any impact on the industry. We know that people value navigation and are willing to pay for a high-quality, differentiated service.
Certainly there are many industries where people are willing to pay a premium price for premium services. Will navigation software for mobile devices be one of them? Or is paid navigation software about to go the way of paid web browsers?