Wednesday, 28th October 2009
Google Releasing Free and Robust Mobile Navigation Tool
Lately, it seems like each day brings another new product announcement from Mountain View. Today, is no different.
Google is getting into the mobile navigation/turn-by-turn directions business and making the product available for free.
On launch day (November 6th), users will be able to access the service from only one phone, a new phone, the "DROID" from Motorola, and from one carrier, Verizon.
Obviously, more Android-based phones running Android 2.0 from Verizon as well as other carriers will soon begin to hit the streets along with users who can* upgrade their current Android phone.
* "Google is not sure whether Google Maps Navigation will work on older Android phones that will get upgraded to Android 2.0. That depends on the carrier and phone maker, [vice president of engineering at Google for mobile and developers. Vic] Gundotra said." (CNET)
Greg Sterling from SEL guesses most pre 2.0 phones will be upgradable.
Google is also interested in the iPhone as well as other smartphone platforms but made no commitment as to when the navigation program might be available.
Using the official blog announcement as well as articles from Greg Sterling at Search Engine Land (SEL) and Tom Krazit at CNET, let's compile some fast facts about the product and its many features:
+ Google Maps for Mobile Has Been Very Successful
Over 50 million global users (SEL).
+ Most Requested Feature Was Was Turn-by-Turn Navigation (SEL)
+ Products Official Name is Google Maps Navigation (Beta)
+ Seven Key Features
1) Automatically updates with new and updated maps. Google now provides their own data for maps in the US.
2) Search by entering text, even just a small amount, and then focus your results.
3) Search by voice (e.g. drive to San Francisco International Airport).
4) Current traffic conditions.
5) Search along a route (e.g. on your current route find the nearest drug store). You can also search by business name.
6) Satellite View provides a 3-D view of the route.
7) Street View. See what the street looks like (landmarks, etc.) before you get there.
This page provides a video overview of Google Maps Navigation as well as separate videos demonstrating each feature.
Much More After a Click
+ "Mobile platforms--Android and others--are so powerful now that you can build client apps that can do magical things connected to the cloud." --- Google CEO, Eric Schmidt
+ "Perhaps the most interesting and useful feature comes from Google Street View, allowing Google to provide a Street View image at every turn that the application suggests during your journey." (CNET)
+ "Google is also leveraging its PC-mobile crossover capability. You can set up a personalized “My Map” on the PC (say, for a tour of wineries in Northern California), which is then transferred to mobile, and quickly get directions to each point on the intended route." (SEL)
+ "As far as ads go, there are none in Navigation now but there will be at some point in the future, to correspond to ads on Google (PC) Maps today (and on the iPhone Maps)." (SEL)
Talk about the potential for hyperlocal advertising, wow! Imagine your driving between 6-10 p.m. and an ad for a restaurant just two blocks away in the direction you're driving appears and offers you a dinner special if you give them a number on the ad that's on your mobile device? Or you use the search along a route feature and ask for a gardening supplies. Drive just a few blocks off your route and a Google advertiser will offer you 20% if you supply the code placed on the ad.
+ "Google is not the first to offer a combination of turn-by-turn maps and Web services. Many different smartphone applications provide this type of navigation service, and companies like Garmin and TomTom are also working to embed Web-delivered data into their on-dash and built-in navigation systems." (CNET)
TomTom offers a similar product for the iPhone. Here's a link to the iTunes App Store to take a look. Even If you take differences in maps and features out of the equation, there is still a major difference. The TomTom product costs $99 (and includes Canada maps and turn-by-turn directions) while Google Mobile Navigation (U.S. only at launch) will be free. Btw, TomTom also offers iPhone apps for Brazil and Western Europe.
Verizon offers its own fee-based turn-by-turn service, VZ Navigator.
Questions. Will TomTom react to today's news? How long will it take Google to roll out Maps Navigation in other countries and regions. Will Verizon pull its service? If not, how will they market it against Google's free product?
Stay Tuned. This is going to be interesting.